Good Cop, Bad Cop
  |  First Published: March 2013

It’s another good cop-bad cop month. Good Cop is passing you dreamy postcard pictures of tropical water and hordes of big, hungry, colourful fish. Bad Cop, in a yellow PVC raincoat, is whacking you around the head with a dead mullet.

We had a taste of this bipolar season over the summer holiday break and there’ll be more to come.

Fiji-blue water lapped the beach and marlin, mahi mahi and mackerel bounced along the current lines. Chopper tailor prowled the beach gutters and, in the rivers, flathead, whiting and mud crabs provided holiday seafood feasts.

Then the cyclone formerly known as Oswald, cyclonic indeed in everything other than its official BOM title, smacked us hard around the chops and told us to toughen up.

As usual, Lismore flooded (although the levee kept the CBD dry) and downstream towns and villages also felt the results of the deluge up in the hills. Floodplain farm drains backed up and the inevitable fish-kill water started brewing before it was let go into the Richmond River after the flood peak went past.

Fortunately, the weather remained partly cloudy, so the extremes of the awful drain sludge chemistry might not get to do all their dirty work.

I sincerely hope they don’t, because an outing on the Mid-Richmond the day before Ossie hit town showed just how much life has teemed in this 30km stretch that almost inevitably dies off after a flood over the warmer months.

Before we even hit the pre-dawn water we could see packs of bream around 600g chasing 10cm-long school prawns right onto the dry edge of the boat ramp. Little balls of minnows cowered in the reeds nearby and nervous mullet dimpled the tidal run out wider.

Before the spring tide spilled across the muddy mangroves and turned the water turbid, we caught bream galore, flatties, the ubiquitous forktailed catfish and school mulloway to about 60cm. Some mates on the water a few days previously had also caught whiting, big-eye trevally and small GT.

Now we’re all hoping that this abundance of fish life was able to flee downstream before the dreaded blackwater did its dirty work.


Baitfish usually move in closer this month and bring all their predators with them.

Dirty water coming out of the rivers could well attract the coastal baitfish to join with the mullet, prawns and herring washed downstream and loitering around the river mouths.

So if Bad Cop doesn’t whack us again we could see some very impressive catches of practically anything around the river mouths and nearby beaches and headlands.

For the live-baiters and lure-chuckers from the walls and rocks, mulloway could mix it with longtail tuna and Spanish mackerel.

As the clean oceanic water pushes back up the river on the bigger tides the lower reaches should be packed with bream, flathead, mullet, luderick, whiting and school mulloway.

When Good Cop beams his sunny smile for a few days, the fish will move farther up the estuary on each high tide and hunker down in the residual saltwater in the deeper holes when the tide ebbs and more muddy fresh stuff comes down.

When Bad Cop brings down more dirty water, the fish will linger around the river mouth or along nearby beaches and headlands.

It’s a good month for tailor if the water stays reasonably clear and there are often some big greenbacks among them. There’s usually plenty for them to eat off the beaches or over the inshore reefs in the form of anchovies and small sardines (blue pillies) and small slimy mackerel.

Out a little farther the mack tuna, bonito and spotted mackerel will be tucking into the same fare where the water is clear enough.

And big Spanish mackerel don’t mind a feed of any of the above and can even tolerate slightly murky green water to hunt them down.

In that same green water there should be increasing numbers of snapper, especially after a fresh and a bit of rough weather.

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