After yet another damp winter there will be plenty of people hoping we get a typically dry lead-up to spring.
The rivers continue to carry plenty of colour and the ocean seems to have caught the disease as well, with inshore water rarely approaching that level of clarity we often associate with the drier months.
Regrettably, the fishing generally hasn’t reached any great heights, mainly due to that dirty water.
It’s been some months since saltwater fish have ventured much farther up the Richmond River than Wardell, and they’ve mostly been comfortable within only a few kilometres of the mouth at Ballina.
With every ‘dry spell’ of a couple of weeks, the flathead and school jewfish have worked upstream to about Pimlico. Then there’s been another rain-laden trough or even an east coast low to dump another 150mm or so of fresh water on the catchment, driving the fish back downstream.
The bass had a long way to travel to find brackish water this season and this month many of them will still be well downstream.
Some of the early spawners, often the bigger fish, will already be heading back through Lismore and Casino while others are loitering around some of the deeper holes between Coraki and Woodburn. They’re often around these holes because some of the more brackish water they need to spawn in remains in the deeper sections.
The bass and estuary perch will be back on the open season from the beginning of this month but there are likely to be plenty still in spawn mode, so just let them go – they have enough trouble surviving in this sad river.
Things haven’t been much more encouraging in the lower reaches, with bream trying to scrape up a feed to put on condition after finishing their spawning duties. There’s little to interest them upstream yet; the water is quite fresh and still very cold, so there’s not a lot of life in it.
The ocean around the river mouths has had a bit more life, with abundant mullet fry indicating a fairly successful spawning in early winter. The hungry bream and flatties have been taking their toll but you’ll still see plenty of 20-50mm ‘micro-mullet’ forging their way up the waterways, especially around the shallow fringes.
There has been one bright star in the estuary this winter: the luderick have been more plentiful than usual.
They arrived relatively early and it seems as though a good supply of sea-run fish entered the Richmond River and decided to stay. Let’s hope they prosper and keep away from the nets.
So far they’ve been mostly taken on cabbage weed, yabbies and prawns – green weed has been very hard to come by. The sea walls at Ballina have had a few and the more traditional haunts such as the Porpoise Wall and the western approach of Prospect Bridge over North Creek have been worthwhile. If there hasn’t been another deluge in the meantime, they should also be around old northern ferry approach at Burns Point, too.
If you do find some quality green weed, please harvest only enough for your immediate needs. Some greedy mongrels take the lot, just so they don’t have any competition from other anglers.
Out on the beaches, there have been a few patches of tailor when the baitfish have come through, and there has also been salmon. They’ve rarely been in the huge black schools that we’ve seen in recent years but there has been plenty of beach fishos drowning a bait for a bream or flathead who have bumped into these big, strong fish.
This month they should be at their peak, with spawning aggregations in the shallows when the westerly winds iron out the swell.
A series of east coast lows have taken their toll on the beaches, causing deep erosion in many places. Around Evans Head the dunes have been cut back to their 2009 profiles and in some cases, far worse than that.
Chinamans Beach, south of Evans, has been reduced to its 1989 status of a pile of pebbles and exposed bedrock.
Up towards Salty Lagoon, the wreck of the two-masted schooner Pilot has become exposed. The 101-tonne vessel was washed ashore in a southerly blow in 1874 and the sands have covered and uncovered it ever since.
The wreck straddles the beach, its bow’s still pointing towards the ocean and the canoe stern and stout rudder post almost abutting the heavily eroded foredune. Beach drivers should be respectful of this piece of history by avoiding the remains at all cost.Reads: 813