Warm water, rain and mackerel
  |  First Published: March 2014

For years now you could almost toss a coin on the bet that this time of year would either be a total washout with torrential rains and flooring, or it would stay dry enough to keep that warm water in close and the pelagics with it.

It never used to bother me as I would just grab my heavy spin gear and head to the walls for some great lure sessions on daytime mulloway. However, now that my old man is finally retired all we have been talking about lately is the chance of getting the boat offshore and catching a feed of mackerel for the BBQ.

Due to the constant southerly wind and big swell these last few weeks we haven’t had much luck on the mackerel, with the boat gathering dust in the garage, so I have been entertaining myself spinning up school mulloway off the walls instead. Nevertheless, the schools of small slimy mackerel and sea gar should turn up well and truly by the time this article goes to print, and the mackerel with them.

Productive spots include the reefs at Lennox Point, Black Head and North and South Riodans Shoals. Always remember while having a live bait in the water on first light is often your best bet, don’t discount putting the bait deeper in the water column as the sun rises. Often mackerel will display a burst of feeding activity on the top of the tide even during the middle of the day, especially those big beachcomber Spainards chasing chopper tailor and mullet.

While there has been plenty of snapper and pearl perch on the deeper reefs when we did manage to get outside in the last month we have been firmly focused on billfish. Unfortunately we haven’t yet been able to keep a hook stuck in one; they leave us with only some badly scuffed up trace and a hefty fuel bill to show for our efforts.

Mahi mahi have been as thick as thieves with our boat catching up to a dozen every day on the troll, it’s amazing the size of lure these voracious predators will hit. One thing I have noticed is the sheer amount of boats trying to catch these great little sportfish around the FAD and various fish traps, often up to six boats, will be in attendance. The trick here is to stop at one of the shallow reefs on the way out and stock up on yellowtail or slimy mackerel.

Mahi mahi become very well educated as the season progresses and will ignore almost everything you throw at them, however an unweighted live bait pitched next to the float on a 30lb fluorocarbon trace and 5/0 circle hook is rarely refused. On a light 6kg snapper rod these fish are fantastic fun.

The reason I use circle hooks is that they rarely miss a secure hold in the corner of the mouth and it makes it easy to release these great sportfish once we have a couple for a feed with no gut hooked fish and less thrown hooks.

In the river

Whiting have once again been the mainstay for the crowds of holiday anglers that have just departed Ballina in droves. They caught plenty of big fat fish and the occasional flathead on the bigger morning tides on the sand flats of North Creek and Shaws Bay.

I saw some absolutely gigantic whiting close to 40cm being caught below Prospect Bridge while yarning to a salty old fisherman on my way back from pulling in some mud crab traps. These fish were caught on a combination of yabby and solider crab baits with the crabs being threaded 4 at a time onto a size 6 longshank and drifted behind the boat on the tide.

In regards to my success on the mud crabs, it’s a rare night that I don’t return home without at least a couple of big bucks to show for my efforts. The reason I go out at night is that, like most people, I am sick and tired of unscrupulous low-life’s stealing the crabs out of my traps or even the traps themselves! Unfortunately this has become a common practise, especially in North Creek behind Lennox Head. Often the only option during the day is to anchor up where you can watch your traps and catch a feed of flathead and whiting while you wait for them to fill up or do as I do and drop them off at night and spend a few hours flicking structure for GT and mangrove jack before picking them up on the top of the tide.

One of my favourite summer activities of grabbing a flick stick and chasing some bass has been a bit of a hit and miss affair lately. There’s been a lot of small fish present but tough going to find anything above 30cm; most likely due to the low water levels.

In saying that, a few anglers I have been talking to have had a reasonable amount of success at night throwing soft shell cicada imitations and slowly walking them across the surface.

As well as the low water levels, I have also noticed a huge amount of bull sharks prevalent in the upper reaches of the Richmond, the average size of these sharks is 4’ and there are quite a few considerably bigger. I have had a fair bit of fun catching a few of these lately in the brackish sections as they round up schools of freshwater mullet and even carp.

As there is rarely much current or tidal movement in these brackish sections, a live mullet or a fresh slab bait on a pair of 7/0s with some nylon-coated wire to prevent bite offs on a 10-15kg outfit provides some fun on a summer evening. I normally fish these baits using a couple of bait runner reels with berley and often it is just a case of sitting back with a cold beer and waiting for the sharks to find you before a rod howls off.

While some people eat these sharks, I don’t really see the reason to kill them, especially as some sort of juvenile trophy to be dumped later. Just use a big barra style net and a pair of wire cutters to safely release them to fight another day.

A word of warning, these sharks can easily inflict a nasty bite requiring multiple stiches so please handle them with appropriate care. Until next month, tight lines and may the fishing gods smile on you.

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