Big change coming
  |  First Published: August 2001

We usually say goodbye to Winter quite early this month and it’s a bit the same with some of the seasonal fishing. This is often the most marked transition of the fishing calendar.

The weather can be icy one day and then hit 30° the next, with the first of the season’s north-easters breezing in one afternoon.

For everybody who loves chasing bream and tailor in the surf or throwing lures after bream in the lower estuaries, your days are numbered so get out there ASAP to avoid disappointment. Because this month (if the rain ever stays away!) there’s a chance for the fish to migrate upstream and spread out a little to forage.

The bream should be starting to get over their drive to spawn around the surf line and the river mouths and will be feeling more than a little peckish. They tend to lose condition during the spawn and can sometimes show more ribs than my whippet bitch.

Hence they can become very eager feeders for a while, chasing down anything that looks like a meal. That includes baitfish, burrowing molluscs like pipis and snails, oysters and mussels from the rocks and pylons and those clouds of larvae that are fast developing into school prawns as the water starts to warm.

Some bream move generally north along the surf line until they encounter an estuary with feed and favourable water quality, while others will just go back the way they came.

As the days get warmer and the river water begins to lose its chill, more plant and animal life appears and the fish are right in there. I can’t wait, really, the Richmond has been almost totally fresh water from Broadwater or Wardell up since the start of the year.

The spawning bass had to come down at least that far to find water with some salinity and some specimens were caught at Ballina not far from their cousins, the estuary perch.

However, the rain that clobbered much of the coast farther south didn’t really have a great effect on the Richmond, except for yet another fresh. Despite Evans Head receiving more than 340mm of rain in one continuous 60-hour deluge, the Richmond was spared any real flooding, although the water table remains millimetres below ground level.


Back out on the beaches, the salmon have kept everyone on their toes and should continue so this month as they band together for mass spawning events. Don’t go wading out too far when the shallows turn black with them, I saw some lumpy great white sharks patrolling in very close last August.

I don’t know whether it’s coincidental but the tailor season from Evans Head to Brunswick Heads has been quite shabby this year, with very few sessions to write home about and abundant reports from all my contacts about most tailor outings being converted into salmon-fests. This is not a fair swap!

I had high hopes of a hot tailor season this Winter, what with all the big greenbacks flushed out of the formerly landlocked South Coast lakes. Where did these fish go? If they’re all supposed to spawn off Fraser Island in early Spring then they’re running terribly late!


At least the snapper have been plentiful and co-operative and they should continue in spawning mode for another month or more. The reds appear to undergo a few spawning episodes over quite some time, rather than a single fling.

But most of the extreme shallow action peters away this month, although you might get lucky over some of the bommies around dawn and on cloudy days the action could continue for an hour or more after it gets light.

The serious spawning sessions occur over the beds of gravel and grit adjacent to the reefs in less than 50m of water. The experts say when the water temp is around 18° the females scatter the eggs around and the males dart through them to fertilise.

Some of the biggest reds caught locally seem to turn up from late August to early October, although the Evans area seldom sees fish over the magic 10kg mark, certainly nowhere near as many as are caught off Cape Byron or Coffs Harbour. Go figure.

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