Hoping to dry out
  |  First Published: April 2013

As we head into Autumn we might even get a chance to dry out for a few days and maybe even catch a few fish – they certainly haven’t faced much pressure lately.

Easter always brings a mix of fair weather and foul so let’s hope everyone made the most of any good weather this time around – we all deserve plenty after the pasting we’ve had.

Now that the equinox is over, we’re gradually heading into longer nights and shorter days and the fish all know that. Almost every living thing on the planet responds to this cycle and for many fish this daylight-length change triggers the urge to migrate and or breed.

The north-south current offshore starts to lose its kick and breaks up, and those increasing southerly gales help by pushing cooler water northwards.

But that all takes months to get going and in the meantime, April offers the best of the warm-water fish and the beginning of some good cool-water species as well.

The Anzac Day Dawn Service at Evans Head is held at the riverside memorial near the tennis courts. Most years, the lone piper’s lament mixes with the buzzing of outboards as the fleet puts to sea in search of mackerel.

The season was developing OK until the two floods messed things up but increased numbers of baitfish should turn up to feed in water that now carries a high nutrient load from the flooding.

The first stop for the live-baiters is usually off Snapper Rock, in pursuit of slimy mackerel, which are then drifted out live under floats from anchored boats. You’ll know where there have been spotted mackerel caught lately by the dozens of boats bobbing about – not that every boat is successful, by any means.

This works OK for spotties, not that we’ve seen many yet this season, but the bigger Spanish are usually brought undone by those who troll baits on flatlines or off downriggers around the major reef complexes.

If the water is still discoloured by the seemingly endless weather events bringing heavy rain, the spots mostly head for cleaner water, leaving the inshore murk to the Spaniards.

And if the water stays dirty and rough, that won’t worry the snapper. Reds love to head inshore after the sea has had a good roll, cleaning up all the stuff that’s been dislodged from the bottom. Everyone is tipping a good snapper season this year, as long as we can get at them.


The Evans River bar has been quite shallow and rough, especially during periods of easterly or northerly weather, but it has nothing on the Ballina bar.

A State Government report released in February indicates that it could cost up to $5 million a year to maintain a 4m depth on the Ballina bar and the chances of anyone coughing up that sort of money are diddly squat.

A lot of the Richmond River’s problems start at Kyogle and go all the way downstream so there’s no hope of a quick fix. But I can’t see how a small-scale pumping operation that worked only in calm weather could ever cost that much.


Estuary fishers won’t have to travel far this month. Even if not another drop of rain falls, there isn’t likely to be much in the way of fish much upstream of Wardell.

Things were just picking up quite nicely in between the floods, with flathead, bream and some whiting firing up around Ballina and up to Wardell and then the river turned upside down again.

Col weather followed both floods and a lot of the fish managed to skedaddle before any blackwater killed them, so it was a ‘good’ flood in that sense. Some earthworks on a perennial anoxic hot spot at Rocky Mouth Creek, Woodburn, helped to save a bunch of fish and get them back in the main river, which was good.

A lot of the fish ended up around the breakwalls and out on the beaches and it is the beaches which should truly fire up this month for bream, flathead, whiting, tailor and mulloway.

Although there have been plenty in the surf after the floods, the mullet typically start to run seawards around Anzac Day as the first of the cold fronts arrives.

After a few months of messy and moist onshore weather, it isn’t just the mullet that will be looking for some dry offshore winds!

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