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Just not enough days
  |  First Published: October 2011



It’d be nice if October went on for longer than the stipulated 31 days – there’s just so much to fit in and it’s difficult to get everywhere worth fishing in the allocated time.

All those icy morning starts are over, the prospect of a warm bed isn’t as alluring as it used to be, and just as well – all manner of finned creatures are active.

It’s lucky everything starts with a holiday weekend to set the tone. For a lot of fishos, the Labour Day weekend heralds the start of their seasonal delights and usually the weather is suitable for a camping and fishing trip.

The stream trout season kicks off, the bass are nearing their summer homes and the estuaries and offshore grounds are humming along nicely.

Although the ocean is still quite cool – some years at its very coldest – the fish seem to sense that everything could change overnight.

Snapper become less amorous and many head off to deeper water but there are still good reds to be caught in 30m and beyond off Evans and Ballina. The gravel grounds hold the reds, while teraglin seem to frequent the higher rocky pinnacles in increasing numbers.

Out wider, the warm current from the north is gaining momentum, helping the migrating whales on their way back to their feeding grounds. Kingies and amberjack are viable targets on jigs and bait when the current is flowing evenly from top to bottom but if it’s running the other way underneath it all becomes very complicated.

It’s been a late season on the beaches, with bream still spawning in the surf at the end of August and salmon seemingly with no homes to go back to.

The ends of the breakwalls at Ballina, the rock platforms north to Lennox Head and the beach from Boundary Creek south to Broadwater turned up bream very late in the season, after everyone thought they were finished.

But this month we should see more whiting and dart about the place, so worms will take over as the preferred beach bait from the fish flesh, gut and pipis that the bream often prefer.

On sunny days the north-easters should kick in mid-morning and blow until after dark, so the best of the beach fishing will be from sunup until breakfast.

The Richmond River is trying to clear itself but just when things are beginning to look good, we get another 50mm of rain in a day and the murk returns and more rafts of water hyacinth come down.

The estuary fish that have been pushing upstream have two choices: they can run back down on the fresh or hunker down in the saltwater that persists in the deeper holes and wait for things to clear up again.

But October is usually one of the driest months around here so there’s a strong chance the river will clear up nicely and the predators will follow the bait upstream.

FLATTIES, JEW

The flathead will be heading in two directions this month. The big spawning females and their attendant male harems will hang low in the system and start to breed, while the schooling fish that don’t seem to feel the urge as much will find the bait schools and the prawns upstream and feed up big time.

Those big fish must be allowed to make more flatties, so if you happen to come across some, gently let them go and keep some of the smaller males for a feed.

Or go hunting school jew, which should hit their straps in the river this month.

One of the joys of digital images is the background data they carry, like the time and date. The majority of the pics in my library of quality river schoolies, those around 4kg to 6kg, seem to have been taken in mid-spring.

Time your October jewie expedition around the change of the tide and place yourself close to the concentrations of baitfish and you are well on the way to scoring a couple of quality mulloway.

The river whiting also start this month, with quality fish likely in the Evans River over the vast shallows and in the warming water of North Creek at Ballina.

And further upstream, the bass will be coming into their own, with sorties around Lismore and downstream of Casino quite worthwhile.

Bass anglers looking for a new über-lightweight baitcaster should check out the new Quantum Exo PT, with its interesting minimalist ‘exoskeleton’ alloy frame. On an initial test it cast and cranked spinnerbaits very well and it wasn’t the drag’s fault that the only bass it hooked buried me in a submerged tree root ball and popped 20lb leader like it was fine cotton. Oh well, next time…

SHOUTING (ABOUT) THE BAR

The Evans River bar has been quite good for the past few months, thanks to the swells mainly coming from the south. The headland breaks down the power of these waves, allowing natural tidal flow to scour a viable channel seawards. That’ll all change over summer when the waves come from the east but, for now, ocean access is good

Things are a bit different at Ballina, where the sad string of boat swampings and capsizes continues, triggering sustained calls for dredging of the bar, which has spread farther seawards and become shallower.

Dredging the bar itself might be a solution in the short term but offers no serious answer to the problem.

The Richmond River is silting up along much of its length. In the headwaters, cattle are allowed to erode the unfenced banks and dubious farming practices lead to increased field runoff and choked feeder streams.

Urban stormwater, with all its sediments and trash, is largely allowed to run into the river unchecked along its entire length and every time there’s a flood or a fresh, the whole shebang just moves downstream as a new lot comes in above.

When seagoing shipping used the river, it was dredged in all the trouble spots but that’ll never happen again; there’s no money in it. Even the mother of all floods wouldn’t scour out the river– it would bring down more sand and sediment and exacerbate the issue.

The answer probably will entail a compromise of cosmetic dredging and maybe some re-engineering of the southern breakwall but there’s unlikely to be much money for any real solution. – TZ

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