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High hopes for a hot Winter
  |  First Published: June 2012



The mullet run began right on cue this year so there’s hope that some sort of typical weather patterns could get established for Winter and if that occurs, the fishing will be hot.

A local talkback radio caller the other day reckoned it’s been drizzling since November and there’s some element of truth to this. But then occasionally we get one of those balmy, calm Winter days when the surf is flat and you can almost see the trees on the foothills of the Great Divide and we are reminded why we live here.

It’s sure to improve further in June, with more good days and fewer lousy ones.

I’m planning on holidays this month and unless the weather turns really ghastly, I’m staying home – why leave fish to find fish?

I may need to find the fingerless gloves and the beanie, though: I plan to hit the water early in search of tailor and snapper whenever I can.

The swell should turn around to the south more often this month, making the north-facing Evans River bar an easy run most days so I should be on the drift over the close reefs when it’s barely light.

That’s prime time to chase snapper in the shallows but going on last Winter’s performance, I’ll need to take a variety of outfits to suit the terrain and the size of the fish.

There’s no doubting I get better hits and hook-ups on the lighter outfits, even down to a 4kg heavy estuary bream kit with 6kg leader, but battles with bigger fish over heavy reef can be short, one-sided and end sadly.

And there have been times when the old 24kg Saltiga red bass gear isn’t much more successful. I guess you just have to choose which battles to fight and hope for the best.

In among the kelp there’s a strong advantage to rigging plastics weedless.

I like to put 5” Gulp Jerkshads on 4/0 or 5/0 Gamakatsu EWG worm hooks and if I need any weight to get the lure down or to cast farther, I’ll Texas-rig a 1/8oz bullet weight in front and peg it in place with a toothpick so the sinker doesn’t run into some little crevice and jam.

I’m gonna try some of the Owner Beast swimbait weighted hooks this season, too – the Twist Lock centring pin spring is a great way to rig a plastic straight and weedless.

I don’t think the hook-up rate on these weedless rigs is too much worse than a conventional jig head and if you’re the sort of person who fishes with one rod in the hand and another in a holder, you’ll end up with fewer snags and lost lures.

On the mornings when I want a bit more vigorous exercise I plan to hit the beaches for those tailor. The easterly weather seems to be relenting every now and then and when a cold front comes through the surf gets down to manageable levels and the tailor chase the baitfish into the closer gutters.

Those same westerlies will draw the migrating mullet that have escaped the nets into the shallows, where big jewfish and the sharks can take their toll.

Often the biggest and baddest Spanish mackerel of the season also shadow the mullet and tailor, earning their ‘beachcomber’ label. You can get a drag howling by trolling a big bait or lure just behind the breaker line, even along some of the long beaches where there’s no reef structure.

BREAM, BASS

The huge night tides around the new moon this month bring the spawning bream right to the river mouths and there’ll be plenty caught along the breakwalls and training walls at Ballina, Evans Head and Brunswick Heads.

After dark is time to cast unweighted or lightly weighted strips of fresh mullet or other oily fish and let them drift around as the big tide slows its run towards the peak. Even big bream take these baits timidly, so make sure you let the fish run a few metres before lifting the rod tip, winding in the slack and bedding the hook.

Daytime luring is mainly focused on the deeper water along the rock walls and deep bends with blades, lipless cranks and soft plastics.

From Wardell to the Richmond River mouth it’s highly likely that you’ll come across estuary perch this month and somewhere from Wardell to Swan Bay the bass will be gathering. Don’t keep them and let them swim away in good health.

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