A lot of people celebrate the October long weekend by getting out for their first camp of the new season and it’s usually a good time to fish and relax.
There are plenty of places to choose from.
If you like it rough and ready, there’s always behind the dunes in the Bundjalung National Park at Jerusalem Creek (bring your own water), amid the banksias at Flat Rock north of Ballina (tap water and toilets) or on the upper Clarence River (cows crap in it, so boil it!), and plenty in between.
Or you can kick back in a tent or comfy cabin in caravan parks at Evans Head, Brunswick Heads, Lennox Head or Ballina, and cook your catch, dine out or eat takeaway.
Whatever your choice, there’s some good fishing to be had at this time of year and it’s a fine foretaste of the months ahead.
The October long weekend, like most long weekends, usually provides a mix of weather so it’s worthwhile remembering the rain gear, even if the forecast is promising. But you’ll also need sunblock and hats
It’s a changeover time on the beaches, with tailor and bream making way for whiting and dart, although the water is still a little cold so those bream could linger and if the baitfish are there, chopper tailor are always a possibility.
There’s still the odd pipi on the beaches for the whiting and dart but remember, even though you can now line fish on beaches (and rocks) in the marine park sanctuary zones around Cape Byron, south of Brunswick and at the southern end of Lennox Beach, you can’t gather bait there.
Mulloway of all sizes could also still be on the cards, although daytime catches will be well down on their Winter peak.
The salmon just didn’t make it this year. I’m no great fan of their eating qualities but they fight splendidly and I get more than the odd phone call and email from readers asking when they’re going to turn up here.
Since the netting north of Barrenjoey resumed in 2012 there’s a fair chance those fish have been shipped off to WA and turned into cray bait. If other plans go ahead, most of the rest of them could well be shipped to China. Another triumph in fisheries management fades into oblivion.
The estuaries should also fish very well.
We seem to be having the dry Spring that we needed and river life is flourishing as the water clears and plant and animal growth thrives. In fact, if it does rain a little over the holiday weekend or thereabouts, a lot of locals will welcome it, although maybe not the weekend prior when the big Ballina Bonanza comp is on.
The rivers could well be getting a little too clear and a touch of a fresh would bring things on – as long as it’s nothing like the 200mm deluge of the 2011 holiday Monday.
Most fish seem to have been moving upstream in good numbers and spreading out.
Mulloway, bass and estuary perch have been dining well on baitfish and prawns and there have been plenty of school flathead as well.
The bream have been late working up the rivers into their warm-season homes, with quite a few fish on the beaches still in roe in late August. But move up they will, unless we get a heavy fresh.
This month the perch seem to disappear, but it’s more that most upper estuary fishos keep chasing the bass farther upstream, leaving the perch to fossick around in the world of those two schoolies most inextricably linked – school prawns and school mulloway.
While there will still be flathead in those upper to middle reaches of the estuaries, it’s down near the ocean that will be the focus for the big spawning females and their harems of attendant males.
As the silky oaks gather their golden blossoms and a lilac mist descends over the jacarandas, most of these big flatfish will be headed for the river mouths, although some big mamas have already started doing what comes naturally.
As the big brown fish gather in the lower reaches they should be able to enjoy some tasty whiting dinners, and so should we.
Many of the larger whiting that wintered in the deep holes of the middle estuary are working downstream and there are also more along the beaches.
Peak local whiting time is this month and next, as the water warms in the shallows and the yabbies and worms come out.
The now commonplace poppers and stickbaits will be out in force over the flats but don’t discount a clear, compact polycarbonate blade. One with a flash of pink or orange scuttling across the flat and over the lip of a deeper hole has a hot chance of being nabbed.
A bit of chop on the water seems to be a lot better for any whiting fishing, mainly because these guys have keen vision and when it’s calm, they can see almost any threat.
After months of being strangled by bureaucratic red tape, it looks like the ANSA campaign for the release of 15 Angel Rings between Iluka and Byron is back on track and local rock fishers and their families can begin to rest a little easier.
This life-saving program, started in Sydney more than a decade ago by a handful of dedicated anglers, is now able to spread out along the Far North Coast unhindered by petty nitpickers.
The chances of at least one life being saved by an Angel Ring over the upcoming holiday period are extremely strong.