Everything’s on the move
  |  First Published: May 2012

Some time soon we should see whatever passes off these days as ‘normal’ weather make a welcome return, helping us to keep track of all the fish likely to be on the move now.

The beaches, reefs and lower estuaries are all worth a solid effort this month as the bream and mullet gather to spawn and the blackfish and tailor continue their northward migrations, with hungry jewfish, mackerel and sharks following them.

It’s also when the main run of humpback whales hurries northwards on their migration to their breeding grounds, so you can imagine just how much marine life there is in transit at the moment.

So there’s plenty out there to catch, it’s just a matter of getting the weather right.

That’s a big ask. We’ve successfully avoided a major flood on the Richmond so far this year but don’t put away your raincoats and gumboots just yet, there have been plenty of major floods in May and sometimes even two.

Typical weather patterns this month include the early dry cold fronts of Winter, wet onshore southerlies usually lasting up to three days and, you guessed it, east coast lows that can dump half a metre of rain in 36 hours.

Since Easter we seem to be getting more frequent calmer, sunny days, although the swell and wind have mostly persisted from the east, making fishing difficult at times.

Those easterlies mean moderately rough conditions at sea for trailer boats and messy river bars at Ballina, Evans Head and Brunswick Heads. Not many have ventured across but when the tide is high and the waves a little smaller, those who have made it out there have brought home mackerel, snapper, cobia and jewfish.

Until a couple of big southerly storms (read east coast lows) start pushing cooler water up the coast, the mackerel should hang about and at last there is plenty of bait locally for them.

A couple of days before Easter the whole bay, from the bar to Joggly Point, was full of blue pilchards and slimy mackerel but the biggest predators seemed to be chopper tailor and mack tuna, at least while I was watching. The sad thing is that while the bay was so full of life there was about 2m of easterly swell cracking down on the bar and the ocean rocks, so nobody was able to fish the right places.

A week or so previously I had a ride with Evans Head veterinarian Rod Blake up to South Riordans Reef, which was loaded from top to bottom with slimy mackerel that were just bite-size for the spotties that were warily hanging around.

We didn’t add any new chapters to that very lengthy book on how to miss a mackerel but we reread plenty of the existing ones before coming up trumps on the troll.

While anchored over a shallow pinnacle I scored a quality red around 6kg on a fingertip-sized chunk of fresh sardine floated down amid the berley pieces and there’ll be plenty more snapper coming in close this month.

After giving the plastics a flogging for snapper over the past five years or more, it was nice to pin one on the old floatlining gear and I might even be tempted to take a block of pillies to sea some time soon. It’s a definite rush when you’re free-spooling an unweighted chunk that takes off fast enough to backlash any overhead reel that isn’t immediately thumbed down.

The vintage ABU 6500C3 2-speed was also a treat to use and despite sitting in the shed for almost a decade, performed flawlessly after a lube and a freshen-up with braid and fluorocarbon.


With those mini-freshes continuing to prevent much upstream movement, the river entrances have been the focus of much land-based fishing.

Bream and school jew are taking over from flathead and whiting to some extent, although there are still reasonable numbers of all these on the adjoining beaches.

Tailor have also been a bit more frequent and there should be better schools around this month, especially if we see some more sardine or anchovy schools taking refuge inside the surf break.

Some big tailor have been taken in the calmer large gutters and holes after dark, with 15cm strips of bonito or fresh mullet doing the trick. Rig them on 5/0 suicides about 80mm apart on 50lb mono wire.

Bream are starting to get together for spawning, with loose packs in the Richmond River up as far as Pimlico in the relatively dry spells and down along the rock walls in the Town Reach when there’s been a fresh.

School jew and flathead are likely by-catch, especially in the deeper water.

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