This is peak time on the beaches, inshore reefs and in the estuaries and if the weather plays the game, people are going to catch a lot of fish.
You could say it’s the fishy equivalent of human Summer holidays – life for local fish suddenly is all about feasting, travelling and scoring with the opposite sex! Bream, mullet, blackfish, estuary perch and bass head down the rivers and gather in popular seaside destinations to dine on the rich local seafood in the form of migrating baitfish, fat prawns and beach pipis and worms no longer protected by pounding swells. The westerly winds make the beaches and rocks mirror-calm most days.
There’s plenty of action on the beaches as the mullet, bream and blackfish head to sea and use the flat inshore water and northbound currents to move up the coast. There they encounter schools of tailor, tuna and (these days) salmon moving north and feeding on the migrating baitfish as they go.
It’s no easy ride on the current, with plenty of thugs around to mess up the fun. Sharks, dolphins, jewfish and plenty of other spoilsports, including professional and recreational fishers, take their toll.
And, a little farther out, snapper from the out to the continental shelf come to visit their inshore brethren for big gatherings before they, too, start their spawning rituals.
Toss in a few mackerel and other tropical species scurrying back to warmer climes, not to mention ever-growing herds of humpback whales, and you have an ocean full of life.
There’ll be plenty of vehicles on the stretches of beach between Ballina and Evans Head, Lennox Head up to Broken Head and from Black Rocks to Shark Bay. There’s also plenty of good water on most of these strips in the form of gutters, sink holes and patches of coffee rock, so it shouldn’t be too hard to spread out and find a quiet and productive place to fish.
Dawn starts will put you in the picture for a nice tailor session and there’s always the likelihood of bream feeding on the baitfish scraps and the chance of a nice jewie shadowing the school. As the sun climbs up the sky, the bream should continue to bite, along with the odd flathead and even whiting. A quiet beach, the sun warming your bones and a few nice fish – what more could you ask for?
But you’ll always get a few ‘seagulls’ – those anglers who aren’t confident of their own fish-finding abilities who suddenly descend in droves on anyone they see fighting a fish. They can be hard to hack when you’re the one hooked up and can be a blight on an otherwise happy outing.
If you’re one of these, at least give the original angler a bit of space and don’t go knocking off his or her spot when they walk up to their vehicle to bag the fish or re-rig. This isn’t an inner-city street where dog-eat-dog rules have any place and you won’t make any friends by just barging in. But if you’re polite and friendly and ask if the other angler doesn’t mind you fishing the same hole, you just might learn something from them and increase your own knowledge of finding and catching fish. Here endeth the sermon!
The rivers will also be lively and busy places to fish, with blackfish anglers lining the rocks at popular spots like the Porpoise Wall and Prospect Bridge at Ballina. Weed is now freely available and all the float-watchers are looking forward to the next few months.
There’ll be plenty of bream-chasers along the rock walls and deeper holes and reefs in the Richmond, Evans and Brunswick rivers. After an unusually dry Autumn, the estuaries are likely to remain very clear and daytime lure casters are likely to rely on long, light leaders and finesse techniques to produce good bags.
When the sun goes down, breamers conversant with mullet gut, mullet strips and other flesh baits should come into their own, especially on still, dark nights. Silence and stealth are the successful night bream angler’s forte and rattling anchor chains, gear clattering on decks and torches flashing into the water are anathema to good night sessions.
This might well be a time to catch plenty of fish but it’s also when the ‘red mist’ blinds some fishos and they take far more than they can reasonably use. Some of the DPI Fisheries bag limits remain quite generous and if you have caught 20 bream, 20 tailor and maybe a jewfish and a couple of flathead – quite possible in good conditions this month – that’s an awful lot of fish.
This, then, is also a good time to bone up on your catch-and-release techniques. Once you have a feed or two in the bag or ice box, try letting the rest go. Handle them with wet hands, extract hooks with pliers, keep the fish out of the water for a minimal time and carefully watch them swim away. Who knows, the feeling might grow on you.Reads: 453