A pleasant warm feeling…
  |  First Published: November 2011

No, I haven’t just wet the bed! I’m talking about the weather, the water in the ocean and in the estuaries and what it’s likely to do to the fish – honestly…

In 2008 we had a 40° heatwave and bushfires over the October holiday weekend. In 2010 there was a deluge of 250mm in 24 hours and this year an icy blast brought single-figure temperatures over the long break.

I can’t remember relying on the heavy doona for as long; it’s normally packed away by mid-September but it hasn’t left the bed yet. But I’m relying on November to warm my bones and fire up the fish a little, not to say that things have been too bad.

The relatively low daytime temps haven’t helped warm the rivers too much, resulting in some unseasonable fish activity.

There were bass spawning in the brackish reaches of the Richmond River well into September, while others that bred in June were well upstream and at home in the headwaters.

A couple of solid freshes probably trapped some of these lower-river fish in less saline water and they stayed there to feed up on growing school prawns. It was quite amazing to catch heavily roed fish that were totally stuffed with prawns, to the extent they had bunches of feelers protruding from their mouths.

Fortunately, they seem to have escaped the rapacious black-market filleters that have made such inroads on trapped bass in other times, and this lot of fish should now be well into the freshwater reaches.

The river at Ballina has produced decent bream long after they’re normally headed off upstream, again more to do with the cold fresh water coming down for much of Winter.


Flathead haven’t been as widespread as in many previous years but if ever there were to be a proliferation of lizards, it would be in November. There have been some larger females and their attendant males in evidence but this month they should be out in force as the water and their breeding program really warm up.

This is also a prime month for school mulloway in the Richmond River.

There have been plenty of captures of small fish in the lower reaches and some better jewies around the breakwalls at Ballina but this month fish around 80cm should become more frequent in the river up to Wardell and beyond.

Look for the bait schools and fish around the tide changes and you’re in with a decent chance, whether you use lures or live bait.

On the beaches, the salmon are still with us although there are also more dart and whiting as the water warms further.

Believe it or not, there were even bream spawning in September in the coffee rock holes at Broadwater Beach, so it mightn’t just be me who’s been feeling the cold.

It’s been a dud of a cold-water tailor season in these parts but I’m hoping our next influx of choppers is just around the corner, when the baitfish move inshore as the warm current becomes more established. Hopefully the warm water will send the salmon hurrying home, too.

That first run of baitfish, usually small white pilchards, often seduces the first pods of small spotted mackerel to swim into Shark Bay at Woody Head. The November full moon is the key, especially if there’s a bit of a southerly to drive the warm current in and keep the bait schools there.

In the meantime, there are still some snapper over the reefs, though the main run of bigger fish are now gone, leaving just the resident reds to form the inshore fishing backbone.

Fortunately they’re supported by reasonable numbers of teraglin of all sizes, with most fish a few centimetres either side of the legal 38cm. A 38cm trag isn’t a particularly impressive fish and the bag limit of five of these won’t get you a huge fish dinner so feel free to put the smaller ones back.

Out wider, there should still be pearl perch, kings, samson and amberjack around but as the current begins to take hold they will be harder to come to grips with, especially on those days when the tide isn’t running uniformly from top to bottom.

It’s hard fishing even with no-stretch braid when the current is bellying the line different ways at differing depths.

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