It doesn’t get much more fishy around here than it can this month – everything seems to be on the move and hungry.
On the reefs, snapper and kingfish rub shoulders with sweetlip and mackerel while longtail and mackerel tuna and tailor smash the coast-hugging bait schools and the first salmon show up to digest everything they can. Whether it’s in the ocean or the estuaries, it seems like every fish is frantically gorging itself to put on weight for spawning or migration as the days become shorter and the water begins to cool off.
Those who have been sharpening their hooks and holding their breaths since January for a lash at the mackerel are facing ‘now-or-never’ time after another fickle year on these fish. Last year it was murky floodwater that turned the spotties away, this year it seems to be fluctuating ocean temps and absence of baitfish.
But conditions are slowly coming together and the bait has turned up in the form of white pilchards and slimy mackerel and there have been reports of spotted mackerel off Evans Head and more regular encounters at Shark Bay north of Woody Head and at South Evans Reef. Spanish mackerel have been a little more consistent, albeit not in the numbers the spotties attain. Bigger livebaits are the key for them.
This is a pretty good month for snapper, too, as they begin to move inshore and form loose pre-spawn aggregations. A light berley over the inshore reefs can produce mixed bags including snapper, sweetlip, tuskfish, teraglin and tarwhine.
Surf anglers will be scanning the waves for signs of schooling mullet and the big jewfish that shadow them. Also moving along behind the break will be travelling blackfish, bream and pilchards, with schools of tailor not far away. There have been some good catches of tailor from the rocks and beaches when the swell has backed off sufficiently and there’ll doubtless be plenty more action this month.
Beanies and waders will be dragged from wardrobe bottoms as the temperatures drop and night sorties for jewfish and tailor become more the trend.
The pipis will be moving higher up the long beaches, making it easier to find them for bait but also more simple for the ‘snowbird’ visitors from southern states to over-harvest them. Regulations permit a maximum bag of 50, not to be taken more than 50m from the high-tide mark, but each year plenty of tourists seem to think that the law doesn’t apply to them. It’s about time some of them got busted.
The lower estuaries should be teeming with life this month as the mullet head to sea and the local bream gather to spawn. It looks like there’ll be no heavy wet season this year so bait-soakers will have good catches on mullet flesh and gut and casters will no doubt rifle through their boxes for ‘the secret lure’ that weaves its magic in clear waters.
Blackfish have already started pulling down floats in the Richmond River with improving catches from all the usual haunts, including the Porpoise Wall, Prospect Bridge and the Burns Point ferry. Weed availability has been a problem but there should be increasing quantities around in the drains as the sting goes out of the sun.
When the seas are up, the blackfish should be around the breakwalls at Ballina and Evans Head and more amenable to slurping in leaves of the more readily harvested cabbage weed.Reads: 1221