Winter species switch on
  |  First Published: July 2014

I recently had one of those fishing sessions that remind me why I love this sport so much. I only had a couple of hours up my sleeve so I wandered down to Flatrock headland intending to cut some cunje and fish the low tide change for bream and drummer. It had been a long and tough week and I really needed to scratch the fishing itch.

My plan was immediately abandoned when I arrived and saw a flock of seagulls and terns dive bombing several schools of baitfish pushed up hard against the southern side of the headland. Over the next two hours the action was frantic as I threw metal slugs to big greenback tailor of 2-4kg, and in total I think I must have landed over 30 fish. Many more jumped off, including one thumper that looked close to 6kg.

In addition I did manage to briefly hook up to a big ‘something’ that peeled about 50m of 20lb braid before the hooks pulled. I have a sneaking suspicion it was a big mackerel as I saw a decent sized Spaniard come over the side of a boat that looked to be slow trolling live bait further off the headland.

Not only was I particularly pleased at such an action-packed session, but I had earlier been actively trying to spin up some tailor for the smoking box of a good fishing mate without any luck. In fact, I was beginning to doubt whether the big greenbacks were going to appear at all, and my scepticism did account for my original decision to chase some bream and drummer.

I particularly like this style of fishing over the winter months and I commonly carry a ‘do it all’ outfit when I have only a few hours up my sleeve and want to maximise my chances to catch a feed of fish off the rocks. For me this outfit consists of a Penn Spinfisher V 4500 model and a 10ft 5-9kg Daiwa Aird rod. The high speed retrieve of the Spinfisher and 12kg of drag makes it an ideal tool for throwing metals for tailor, soft plastics for school mulloway and pulling drummer out of their hidey holes, The extra length and light weight of the Daiwa Aird rod makes it an efficient casting tool and a pleasure to fish with all day.

I would recommend every angler try this style of fishing. Pick an appropriate tide on a rocky headland and plan to fish either dawn or dusk. You can bait fish the daylight hours, spin the twilight for tailor and throw lures for mulloway in the darkness. It’s a very effective technique to target multiple species. I have a feeling I am going to hook a large groper or mulloway on this outfit one day and I’m confident it will be more than a fair fight.


As I write this the warm water is still lingering off Ballina. In fact, it has been one of the best and most productive seasons for spotted and Spanish mackerel in years. I’m not going to make any predictions as to when they will disappear as I have been wrong in my last two columns; fishing acquaintances further down the coast at Coffs Harbour and South West Rocks have mentioned the macks seem to have moved a bit further out once the water started to cool and they have been commonly catching them in 40m of water. It makes me wonder if we will still be catching them in August.

Snapper and pearl perch have been remarkably quiet on the shallow inshore reefs though nobody seems to be complaining while the mackerel are around. A few of the keener local fishermen have also caught big mulloway on the reef off Blackhead fishing at night with live slimy mackerel and tailor. Just remember to only venture out when there is a very small swell. The Ballina bar has claimed enough lives during the day in big seas and I would hate to think what it would be like crossing it at night in a heavy swell.

The usual winter suspects of luderick and bream have slowly started to trickle into the river as the weather has started to cool down. It won’t be too long before the bait shops start seeing an increase in the sales of herring jigs and mullet gut as local anglers prepare to target these bream. If you have access to a boat you can often score a good catch of bream by locating schools in mid water in the lower sections of the river and tea bagging blades on top of their heads until you get a bite. The Ecogear VX35 seems to be the most popular model, though I always end up reverting to trusty bait once I have donated a few VX35s to the fishing gods. They aren’t cheap lures but they are effective.

Despite some decent bream making their presence felt in the river I would concentrate my efforts on flathead if I was looking for a feed of fish by fishing the run-out tide with bait or lures. Flathead tend to bite a bit more aggressively on the run-out tide and can sometimes develop a serious case of lockjaw over the coming months when the incoming tide pushes the cold ocean water up the river.

If you can’t find any flathead in the deeper water try fishing for them on the very shallow sand flats on the top of tide. Like reptiles, they like to sun themselves in the warm, shallower water.

The expected cold water in the coming months will also start affecting the great mud crab season that we have had so far this year. I recommend placing your nets and traps further up the creeks to catch the last of that warm water.

Some larger mulloway have moved into the lower reaches of the river this month and been making some anglers very happy. The stretch from the RSL right down to the end of the walls all hold mulloway at this time of year and they are commonly caught on a large live mullet fished on the top of the tide.

I’ve noticed that more and more anglers are fishing for mulloway in the Richmond River than ever before. Please be courteous to your fellow anglers and refrain from shining your light on the water (this puts mulloway off the bite) and ensure you are an adequate distance from other anglers to allow them to fight a fish without worrying about tangling up your line.

Bear in mind that, similar to flathead, these larger jewfish are the breeding females so while I don’t mind keeping the smaller 10kg models for a feed I always let the big girls swim free after a quick photo. Good luck in the coming month and I look forward to seeing you on the water.

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