January is a funny time. It starts with a party, there’s another big one around Australia Day and around here the month often ends with a washout.
With all the bustle and holiday hubbub on the coast and inland, it can be very hard to get away from the crowds early in the month. At times I’ve headed for the hills of the upper Clarence River and even there we have been greeted by loads of campers on every second bend of the river.
But there are a few hours when you can be guaranteed to be fishing almost alone and that’s on New Year’s morning. You’ll have to get up in the pre-dawn and be on the water at first light, which means low-key partying the night before.
But the results are often worthwhile and there’s a fair chance you’ll have the beach, the reef or the river to yourself, apart from a few party stragglers and maybe a handful of diehards.
This New Year’s Day there’ll be a low tide around dawn and you’ll probably be able to watch the moon set a bit later.
That tide change should be good for school jew in the Richmond River at Ballina, Pimlico, Wardell and even Broadwater, although it won’t occur at the upstream spots until a couple of hours later.
Drifting on a calm dawn from the Burns Point ferry down to the South Wall is pretty good at this time of year and you’re likely to pick up bream, flatties, whiting, school jew and even a mangrove jack. And as you drift down along the bank you’ll probably be left in no doubt where the biggest parties were held, too,
If recent catches are anything to go by, there’s a strong chance many of the school mulloway will be under the legal 45cm.
The little buggers pull hard on light gear and newcomers or occasional anglers are disappointed when they learn that their personal best fish, seemingly of a good meal size, is going to swim off free to grow up a lot more.
There’s always the temptation to keep ‘just one’ but there are likely to be plenty of people around to ensure you comply with the law. Of course, that also goes for things like fishing and boating licences, appropriate lifejackets and alcohol, too.
The offshore reefs don’t tend to be as good on the ‘back’ of the full moon (on December 28) but there could still be a few reds and trag biting on the morning tide change, so if the bar is good you could still spend a few hours out there and come home with a quality feed.
There should be better times on the reefs as the moon’s influence fades and if the water is clear and warm there’s always a chance of a mackerel.
The more baitfish there are, especially pilchards, anchovies and sardines, the greater the chance of a few spotties. More slimy mackerel, tailor and baby bonito mean more Spanish.
By the time Australia Day comes around, the tides and the moon should be great for the offshore brigade – just watch those bars, even when they look like a cakewalk.
It could be interesting on the wider grounds. Those baby black marlin everyone has been talking about for months should be interspersed with increasing numbers of leader-snipping wahoo, posing a wire/mono leader dilemma.
On the beaches there should be whiting, dart and chopper tailor to keep everyone happy. Get out there early and use live worms for the first two and metals or pilchards for the choppers.
The breakwalls will produce larger jewfish on the lead-up to the new and full moon and whenever there are chopper tailor about.
And in the upper tidal reaches of the creeks and in the sweetwater of the larger rivers, the bass will be going berserk on cicadas and Christmas beetles. Big beetle hatches have already led to some champagne surface fishing and as long as the water doesn’t turn to chocolate after heavy rain, the bass fun will continue.Reads: 754