Rivers flourish in the dry
  |  First Published: October 2012

What a difference some quality water makes! Fish and anglers have revelled in the first dry Spring for quite some years and the Richmond River and its tributaries and neighbouring streams have become worthwhile fisheries again.

If heavy rain holds off the brackish and fresh sections could become happy hunting grounds indeed. Already the prawns, shrimp, baitfish and weed beds are growing quickly after the weather finally began to warm.

School jewfish have already been caught as far upstream as Woodburn, while bream and flathead have been encountered by those chasing bass in the Wilsons and Richmond upstream of Coraki.

If it stays dry then the bass won’t be able to get much above tidal influence – Grays Falls just down from Casino and Boatharbour just above Lismore in the Wilsons. When this happens a lot of the fish then tend to move back downstream and take advantage of the burgeoning brackish aquatic life.

Just what happens in the bottom section of the river that’s almost pure ocean water depends on how much bait comes down.

This is a prime month for flathead spawning and the big females tend to take up residence in the final few kilometres of the estuaries. The ocean water has been around 20° and the river water, not too many weeks ago hovering around 15°, is almost the same and will soon be warmer.

The flathead population tends to fragment in these times, with the school fish eager to follow the prawns and baitfish upstream and the big females and their attendant males heading down to the mating areas.

Please go easy on the big mamas, the flathead got a hammering when the water quality dropped in the Richmond over the past few years and we need them to breed up a new generation.


At least for now the prospect of runoff laden with macadamia poisons and drain blackwater has faded into the background. But there’s an even worse shadow looming on the horizon – coal seam gas.

There have been hundreds of test wells all around the place and even some big evaporation ponds laid out but if and when some of the fields go into full production, the results could become catastrophic for the poor old Richmond River.

Laid over a coal seam that runs from Nymboida to Ipswich and coastal Queensland, almost the entire Richmond Valley is under survey.

Thousands of tonnes of by-product salt are one huge problem, and the other nasty is of course those fracking chemicals that the miners often claim they won’t be using or that are different from those used overseas.

One mistake or miscalculation and a bad spill at the wrong time could be the final nail in the coffin for the Richmond.


Back in the ocean, the snapper will still be in spawning mode but are likely to be out in deeper water than earlier in the season. No rain means a clearer ocean so and probing of the shallows with soft plastics would best be undertaken before the sun rises.

Snapper catches have tended to drop off markedly as the full moon in all its brightness comes around, but the action has resumed as the nights get a bit darker.

North-easterly winds have been common each afternoon, whipping the sea to a foam and preventing any evening sorties on all but a few occasions. Teraglin and school jew have been welcome additions, especially after dark or first thing in the morning.


With pic 3

Evans Head got into the news for all the wrong reasons a while back when a grey nurse shark with its fins cut off washed ashore. The female shark, about 2.8m long, was said to have still been alive when it washed up in heavy seas at Airforce Beach. I photographed it a few hours later, just as local Fisheries officers came along and gave me a right grilling.

Who knows what sick apology for a human did this and why but I do know that no vessel of any size had crossed the Ballina or Evans bars for some days beforehand – there was a 4m swell running and 30 knots of southerly. The poor bloody thing could have been like that for some time and could have been pushed along by the elements for days.

Shark fin soup tastes like crap and should be banned in this country, as should the sale or export of any shark fin. Sell shark for meat whole and destroy the fins, then bust the hell out of the infringers.

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