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Clean, warm water
  |  First Published: February 2013



Peak humidity occurs this month, and that dampness in the air can often become a devastating deluge as onshore winds blow over warm, tropical water and a monsoonal low-pressure cell gets in on the act.

But let’s not heap moisture and misery on things just yet. It’s been relatively dry and the ocean has been tropic-warm, clear and clean – something we haven’t seen enough of in recent Summers.

The baby marlin showed up in patches over the holidays and moved on when the bait schools did.

Mahi mahi remain prowling the FADs and flotsam, especially when the current is running strongly, and the first dribs and drabs of mackerel started to show as January waned.

We should see more spotties turning up this month, especially as the sardine schools regroup after a strong blow.

The Spanish are already here in patches but they tend to be more cryptic. Unless you’re a diver you probably don’t know they’re there.

Snapper have also improved over the closer reefs, so there’s the chance of a mixed bag for those who berley and bait at anchor.

The beaches have been pretty tough, with little in the way of the forecast run of Christmas tailor on offer, largely due to the absence of bait schools in the beach gutters. It looks like there’s some relief in sight in recent days, with some white pillies working along the coast.

In the meantime, there have been a few whiting and dart, the odd patch of flathead and some school jewfish around the worm beds. Bigger jewies have been shadowing the early run of hard-gut mullet and live-baiters have been scoring a few.

ESTUARIES

The rivers have been variable, both in terms of water quality and productivity.

During the higher spring tides at full and new moon the Richmond River these days becomes murky and laden with sediment and fishing becomes tough.

That’s disappointing especially for the whiting-on-bloodworms anglers around Pimlico, who used to prefer the strong run. Over recent seasons their catches have declined.

During the neapish tides the flathead and school jew have been reasonably good all the way to Woodburn on fresh or live bait and lures.

Down at Ballina the luderick have made a resurgence, with some highly respectable catches along the Porpoise Wall and the breakwalls, although the big sea-run fish so familiar in Winter are hard to come by.

There have been the first mini-freshes coming down the Richmond and the Wilsons rivers, the result of storms up in the ranges. I’m guessing that this month we’ll see more of these even if we don’t get a full-blown drenching.

And as I always say to visitors to the region in February, remember to bring your raincoat.

BASS BLISS

After Summer wash-outs over the past four or five years, I’ve relished this rather dry season and revelled in the bass fishing in the clear rivers. In fact I’ve found it hard to make time to go and fish for anything else.

I’ve caught bigger bass in years past but I have to really stretch my memory to recall having ever caught so many, and I know I’ve certainly never bagged as many on surface lures.

From the tidal creeks to the headwaters of the Richmond and Clarence rivers, it’s been a champagne topwater bass season. Even though I’ve headed out at every opportunity and racked up lots of cricket-score days, I just haven’t been able to get enough of those slamming topwater takes.

Early in the season the fish were keyed in on herrings, then graduated to Christmas beetles and then an avalanche of cicadas and bass in fresh or tidal water are always been happy to belt a shrimp.

I’ve loved the Lucky Craft Sammy 65 as a herring imitation for some years but have only comparatively recently fallen for the subtle yet succulent splashdown of the Tiemco Softshell Cicada.

This lure doesn’t crash on the water like a brittle plastic bomb loaded with jangly hardware; it gently plops in and bobs up, alerting canny fish that something soft and delicious has just dropped in for dinner. I’m old enough to remember the miraculous pulling power the old hollow rubber Flopy had falling onto the water, and the Tiemco Softshell is getting up there.

Surface bass are smart enough to know what’s dropping in and if it sounds naturally tasty even before they feel, smell or see it, all the more reason to come up and boof it. And if it isn’t hard and rattly when they do smack it without hooking up, they feel more motivated to come back for another crack.

I’ve also been more than happy with the 12lb and 16lb Jinkai Premium leader material I’ve been using. It floats well, it’s very durable around timber and rock and even when it’s been ripped back through countless amounts of shrubbery after inaccurate casts, it maintains its strength and knot integrity,

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