High hopes for a real Summer
  |  First Published: December 2012

The summer pattern should really kick into gear this month as the East Coast Current does its thing and the rivers are warmed further by the sun.

After several cloudy and decidedly moist non-summers, there’s general optimism of a return to the hot, sunny times of old. But even in the best of days gone by, once the New Year came along all bets were off and the rains came, so make the most of things now.

Reports of abundant baby black marlin north of the Tweed are getting the locals excited and if the current and the winds do the right thing, there’s a small window when they pass through here.

In the past, bottom fishers soaking blue pillies used to get blitzed and occasionally a beakie belted a hooked teraglin or the like, but with a few more sport anglers around these days, some of the small boats could well be trolling lure spreads this season.

Bottom fishers should get a bit of joy as the current activates the local snapper and brings a few more cobia to the close reefs.

There’s a strong chance of a mackerel on the southern reefs leading up to the full moon on December 28, especially if we get a couple of days of southerly weather to blow the clean water in to the coast. They might even be there over the new moon a couple of weeks earlier if conditions are right.

The South Evans Reef and the warm, shallow reefs down to Shark Bay at Woody Head can hold plenty of baitfish, especially white pilchards, anchovies and slimy mackerel. The spotties in particular feast on these and there’s sure to be a trolling fleet heading out each morning from the beach ramp at Woody Head.

The Woody trollers tow 3”-5” pink squids at up to 12 knots, while the Evans mackerel flotilla prefers to anchor, berley and feed out live slimy mackerel. Somewhere between Shark Bay and the South Reef, the two schools of believers meet…


We could also get some of those Christmas chopper tailor this year. They used to be ultra-reliable but it’s been a few years since they visited. We didn’t have much of a winter tailor season but a few unseasonable fish have showed in late spring so there’s some hope.

The choppers (legal size 30cm) provide some great action for the holidaymakers and make a good introduction to fishing the surf with lures or bait.

Anyone casting around for a Christmas present for a beach or rock angler has to check out some of the new lightweight graphite surf rods that scale down the tackle and scale up the sport.

There is now a great selection of 4kg-8kg carbon rods around 10’ that can throw lures from 8g to 50g. Major brands include Daiwa, Rovex, Lox, and Nitro, with prices from $100 up.

These rods are comfortable to use all day and can throw light plastics, hardbodies, metal slugs or bait. They’ll catch tailor, flathead, bream, whiting and dart, and a nice surf school jew is a thrill to battle.

Just don’t try to dead-lift a 2kg chopper up the breakwall with one of these; they deserve all the care any 100% graphite rod demands. If you’re someone who’s hard on gear, stick to the heavy stuff.


After such a dry spell, the lower estuaries slowed right down as the fish explored to the limits of tidal influence. Bass fishers have been catching flathead and bream at Lismore, Mullumbimby and near Casino, and even school jewfish have been up the Richmond and Wilsons rivers beyond Coraki.

However, the warming ocean current has now brought new bait schools into the lower river at Ballina, Brunswick Heads and Evans Head and the big flathead have moved down for spawning.

It’s unfortunate that a lot of the visiting fishos still think keeping a big flattie is a mark of their angling prowess, rather than a sign of their ignorance of the importance in keeping these big breeding females alive.

Real heroes show their mates photos of the big flatties they release.

Whiting have hit their straps in the lower estuaries, with the best catches on live bloodworms if you can get any. Beach worms are just okay and yabbies are a good fallback but don’t last when the pickers are about.

Mangrove jacks are very active in the warmer water, too. They do most of their hunting in the half-light of dawn and dusk around the rock walls and reefs.



When the ocean is calm and tropic-warm you often see vast powdery slicks that commonly are misnamed ‘coral spawn’ or even ‘sea sawdust’. Sometimes they are even mistaken for oil spills.

It’s actually a filamentous cyanobacterium called Trichodesmium and the tiny cells join up into long strings or clumps. As the cells age they rise to the surface, sometimes aggregating into slicks big enough to be visible from space.

Cook described the blooms during his 1770 voyage along the east coast.

The colours of the slick can be vivid due to the photosynthetic pigments in the algae, including the green chlorophyll and purple phycoerythrin that drive photosynthesis.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science calls Trichodesmium a major contributor of nitrogen to the ocean during its photosynthetic stage.

It does not survive for long in these surface concentrations and soon starts to decompose and give off a fishy, or even an ammonia-like smell that can be carried some distance on the warm breeze.

When it turns red or brown and washes up in a gluggy scum on the beach, some people have even mistaken trike for an oil slick – little do they know just how nasty an oil slick really is! – TZ

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