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Warm ocean water lingers
  |  First Published: August 2013



August marks a turning point in the fishing calendar around here: while the water gets colder over the next month or so, the air temps start heading up and we can hope for more protracted dry spells.

The ocean has remained comparatively warm this Winter. Clear water around 21°-22° has hung around for a lot longer than usual and there’s been an almost stationary warm-core eddy wide of the continental shelf for weeks.

When the icy southerlies blast up the coast, the warm water hasn’t been a problem but when the wind turns onshore and warm, the rain comes in with it.

I don’t think the snapper have been too keen on moving in very close yet, mainly because of that clear, warm water.

They usually gather in numbers in the shallow green water over the close reefs in June and July but I haven’t heard of too many good catches right in close.

Maybe the next east coast low (there have been plenty!) will do the trick, bringing the dark green, nutrient-rich cool upwelling and the baitfish that thrive in it. Then the reds won’t be far behind.

When that happens we also see those delicious pearl perch coming in closer, too, so everyone will be keen on that.

The whales have been plentiful as they travel to their wintering grounds and the numbers of cobia being encountered have increased correspondingly. There certainly seems to be a strong correlation between the two species and given the cobes’ fondness for ‘riding shotgun’ with sharks, mantas and other larger critters, it’s not unreasonable to suspect they do the same with whales.

There’s been plenty of swell to shut down ocean access through the river bars, sabotaging my offshore efforts and those of plenty of other fishos.

The swell has also thrown a spanner in the works for lots of rock and beach anglers, with rough water preventing many of the migratory fish like tailor and luderick from coming close enough to be caught.

Bream have been in the surf in reasonable numbers but they should be scattering this month as they complete their spawning rituals.

The warm ocean has been conducive to whiting, which have been reasonably plentiful in the surf if you can catch or buy beachworms to tempt them with.

The breakwalls at Ballina, Brunswick Heads and Evans Head have turned up some good mulloway at times, especially when there’s some baitfish to attract these predators. When the swell is pumping and the wind is up, at least there’s always one surf side of a set of breakwalls that’s relatively fishable.

WALL WOES

Ballina’s North Wall isn’t as angler-friendly since the NSW Government reinforced the last 100m or so with huge concrete ‘hanbars’.

Not only do these big units obstruct the view of the surrounding waters, they make it exceedingly difficult to gain a secure foothold to fish and they make gaffing a big jewie an absolute nightmare. A lot of locals and visiting fishos have simply given up going there – thanks, guys, the plan really worked!

This month we should see fishing in the middle to upper reaches of the Richmond, Evans and Brusnwick rivers improve further.

The Richmond has remained rather murky through the Winter but we’re now entering the dryer part of the year so the salinity levels in the mid reaches should rise somewhat. Fish like bream, flathead and mulloway should be heading up as far as Woodburn if the rain stays away.

The bass and estuary perch that have been hanging quite low in the systems should also be turning around if the weather holds.

Spawning bass got as far down the Richmond as Pimlico this year, while the perch were hanging off the deeper walls at Ballina in mid-Winter.

That made the perch almost inevitable by-catch when bream luring but almost all fishos did the right thing and quickly released them. By the time the season reopens on September 1, they will have all but disappeared until next Winter.

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