Good times go on
  |  First Published: July 2011

July should continue to be a time of plenty over the close reefs, in the surf gutters and in the lower estuaries but you’ll need to rug up, especially after dark.

The weather should become a bit more reliable this month, too, with more swell-flattening offshore winds and less of the rain-laden easterly misery that seems to have plagued us regularly in recent months.

The lower estuaries should continue to fish well for bream and jewfish, with increasing numbers of blackfish to add to the variety.

Flathead should be most active after sunning themselves on shallow banks and could be found from the river mouths to the mud banks well upstream where the school prawns are working.

The bream have been around in respectable numbers through the lower Richmond, Brunswick and Evans rivers with plenty of mature fish from 400g to a kilo or more.

Most of the good daytime river bites have been in reasonably deep water, where heavily scented soft plastics, blades and aromatic cut or gut (mullet or chicken) baits have done the job.

When the sun goes down, the bream tend to come into shallower water where there is less current and can be caught on lightly weighted live yabbies, prawns, worms and the usual flesh and cut baits.

Those calm, frosty nights under a canopy of stars can produce some fantastic estuary fishing for quality mixed bags. Live yabbies or live prawns drifted gently along the tide can produce a kilo bream one cast, a blackfish of similar size the next, then a whiting or a school jew – or a ‘WTF?’ bust-off.

Rug up and stay dry for this style of fishing, though – even in this relatively benign climate the thermometer gets down to single figures at night and if there’s any sort of breeze, you end up with a sub-zero wind chill.


Early in the month there should still be bream spawning events around the river mouths and along adjacent beaches, unless the net crews do their dirty work, pack the fish full of sand and send them to market to be sold off for a song.

The beaches have produced plenty of quality bream, quite often from water many anglers wouldn’t be bothered to fish. A pothole with a few centimetres of extra depth can be all that’s necessary to attract bream, especially if there are pipis, worms or soldier crabs in the sand.

Overharvested commercially for decades and illegally plundered by unscrupulous rec fishers and ethnic groups, there are still clumps of pipis from South Ballina to Evans Head, along Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head and on Ten Mile Beach from Jerusalem Creek down to Shark Bay.

There are even some on the beach south of Brunswick Heads that’s a sanctuary zone for the Cape Byron Marine Park, where they should be so thick that the shells are touching – dunno why they’re not.

Just remember, pipis are only for bait in NSW and you are not allowed to take them beyond 50m of the high tide mark. Come to think of it, the old pipi is the only creature in NSW it’s legal to harvest commercially for food, yet not recreationally.

In light of these rules, the bag limit of 50 per person is way over the top – take half as many as you think you could possibly need for your immediate beach fishing session and you’ll probably have to put back half of those at the end.

The breakwalls and headlands have also been worthwhile whenever the swells relent, yielding bream, tailor and jewfish. Tailor have picked up a little with the odd patch of greenbacks around 4kg mixing it with the choppers although, as usual, the biggest fish come in at night.


And now we come to the salmon.

They turned up in dribs and drabs in early May and they just keep coming. This month they should be quite abundant off most any beach, but still just in pods of up to a dozen.

Next month they should blacken the water as they gather into spawning masses, attracting dolphins and big sharks.

If you’re excited at catching a couple for a feed, please don’t leave the frames above the high tide zone like some idiots do. There’s still plenty of meat on the carcases and with the ghost crabs in hibernation and a limited number of carrion birds available, the frames just sit there and stink for weeks.

Because I’ve jumped up on my soap box, I haven’t space to talk about the snapper, which should hit their straps in close and get right into spawning mode this month.

And there should be some cobia about as well, especially when the whales come through – but please treat the whales as roundabouts, not speed bumps!

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