Maximising opportunities
  |  First Published: April 2012

Easter and Anzac Day allow us abundant chances to wet a line this month and there should be plenty of worthwhile results.

The greatest diversity of species is available now, as the tropical visitors linger to feed up and the cool-water local fish become more active in preparation for breeding and migration.

The ocean water is usually at its warmest early this month and the land begins to cool, with the first nippy westerly change often hitting around Anzac Day.

Moist air over warm oceanic water, when blended with incoming cooler air from the landmass, can make for some volatile weather. Throw in a full moon and the Autumn equinox and some pretty exotic weather events happen every Easter.

Considering we’ve had months of such wet and variable stuff already, this is a time to be prepared for anything and everything. But fishos prepared to adapt to the conditions will do very well.

The Richmond River has experienced a succession of freshes of varying intensity, with brown rises moving down from storms in the ranges and coastal downpours adding to the murk in the lower estuary.

Often the river fish have been pushed down below the Burns Point ferry, making their way up to around Pimlico or Wardell in between freshes.

Consequently most of the bream and flathead have been working around Ballina, but then the local sportfishing club holds a bass outing and some guys chucking lures around Lismore catch some flathead – go figure.

This month the mullet left in the rivers will be gathering for their spawning migration up the coast and the bream will be gathering in loose bunches as well. They’ll be easier to find and won’t want to head too far upstream even if by some chance it hasn’t rained for a week or so.

Mullet strips and gut and chicken gut will be the top baits day and night, especially if the water is dirty. Blades and smelly plastics will work down deep and crankbaits cast to the rock walls will also pull their fair share if the water is salty all the way to the surface.


These patches of cooler river water extend some way into the ocean as fresh runoff blends with cool-core eddies in the East Australia Current. They’ve combined to produce some pretty ordinary water for the seasonal run of mackerel and other tropical pelagics.

We’ve had water dominated by cool eddies and upwellings for the past couple of months but there’s hope that in April things will become more stable.

Mackerel have been reasonably reliable from Brunswick down to Byron but the further you travel south from there, the more patchy they have become.

Because they can better tolerate coloured water, Spanish have predominated over the spotties although if we’re going to see spots this season they’ll be showing up some time soon.

Fortunately the snapper have kept those dropping bait and lures over the inshore reefs entertained, as have schools of teraglin and the odd cobia.

Out wider, the water has been cleaner but those cool eddies have meant variable current so billfish and mahi mahi have been day-to-day propositions. It pays to have a plan B involving some jigging for kings and amberjack and bottom-bouncing for pearlies and reds if you’re going to burn plenty of fuel getting out wide.

This is the prime month for longtail tuna to work along the coast terrorising the bait schools. Longtails don’t mind discoloured water but aren’t so keen on the muddy stuff, so look for the cleaner water.

That’s probably north of the Ballina bar if there’s a current running to take the river water south. North Wall, Black Head, maybe Flat Rock and Skennars Head are the likely spots north of Ballina. The Iron Peg at Skennars is a proven angler killer in any sort of swell.

The ledge they call Fortyfoot at Joggly Point, on the Evans Headland, is a reasonably safe spot until someone has to get down to gaff a fish and the low front platform at Snapper Rock is also a longtail ledge. Just don’t go there in any sort of swell, especially on a making tide – unless you’re Usain Bolt there’s just nowhere to run to when a green one rolls over the rock.


Fortunately the beaches are just beginning to provide some of their most rewarding fishing for the year.

Around the river mouths there have been bream, flathead and school jewfish and larger ones. Tailor of all sizes are also just starting to show in reasonable numbers.

A lot of mullet that were driven out of the rivers by the fresh haven’t bothered to head back upstream, preferring to cruise the surf shallows in ever-growing schools. The jewies and, after dark, some big greenback tailor are nailing them whenever they’re vulnerable.

And there are encouraging signs that the pipi drought may be coming to an end. Although they’re far from prolific, the odd clump has started to turn up.

One of their main predators, the hole-boring moon snail (mostly Conuber sordida) has been pretty scarce since the pipi decline a few years ago. There was a time you’d see their furrowed tracks totally covering the beach at low tide and in 2010 I’d never seen more of their circular, sandy egg collars washed up.

Maybe those baby snails had nothing to eat when they hatched, because they’re pretty rare now.

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