Use the weather windows
  |  First Published: February 2008

If the wind and rain of early January are any indication, this February looks like being a definite raincoat month.

Low-pressure cells off the coast generate plenty of wind and rain which can shut down almost all forms of fishing while the weather prevails but they can often set up some excellent conditions afterwards.

If there hasn’t been enough rain to generate the huge plumes of filthy water that come with a major flood, those boisterous lows can really enhance the inshore fishing for warm-water pelagics.

Incessant onshore winds, especially with a little south in them along this part of the coast, often push the tropical waters right onto the beaches. And that means all the fish that love the clear, hot water.

Some of the best action on spotted mackerel I’ve experienced has been after such events. It takes a few days for the ocean to settle, especially around the bar, and about as long for the baitfish to regroup.

But then all hell can break loose as the newly-arrived spotties start tearing and slashing at everything, including bare hooks.

Big Spaniards that have surfed the storm south also get in on the act at times, particularly so if the bait schools include small bonito, pike or tailor. Snapper also come in to help with the feasting and to clean up the scraps that flutter towards the bottom so the whole inshore reef scene can really come alive.

So when there is a break in the weather, be prepared and use it to your full advantage.

Mind you, in the past I’ve taken holidays for the whole of February to concentrate on mackerel fishing and have faced daily rain and strong onshore winds for the entire month, so it’s a case of being flexible.


Continuing storms and rain in the headwaters have meant the middle reaches of the Richmond River have ranged from the colour of weak black tea to that of strong white coffee.

Most of the limited action has taken place from Wardell to Ballina with whiting being the most active and heavily pursued targets.

Big spring tides pushing up around the deep flats from Burns Point to Pimlico have triggered very acceptable catches of quality whiting, especially on bloodworms. The popper brigade has done better around the weed beds and the flats while the bait fishers are concentrating their efforts in about 4m of water.

Apart from the odd flurry around the walls at Ballina, jewfish have been below average in the Richmond, as they appear to have been in the Clarence. Perhaps it’s a case of too much feed for them because there have been multitudes of prawns in both rivers and plenty of other baitfish to allow even the hungriest jewie to eat its fill without having to hunt far or for long.

The prolonged rough weather has triggered some jewie action from the walls and beaches, where fish to 30kg have been caught on live mullet and large lures.

This type of fishing is, however, not for the faint-hearted or the foolish. With waves often running white over the walls and surges rushing right into the beach spinifex, fishing in such extreme weather carries many risks and should never be attempted solo.

It’s no place to be washed in, with big, hungry sharks often getting to the live baits and hooked fish first and having their toothy way.

Big fish in powerful, moving water mean that light tackle has no place here, with a minimum of 15kg gear and more likely 24kg plus outfits the norm. Most locals go for 7” Alvey reels on nine to 12-wrap rods around 3.5m although there are many quality overhead and even a few spin reels that will handle this sort of heavy going.

For hungry fish in turbulent water the baits and lures need to be big and conspicuous. Big live mullet are the best but can be difficult to legally catch in such conditions. A fresh mullet slab can be OK but often draws more sharks but a fresh octopus is often a favourite from the walls.

There are plenty of lures, both hard and soft, that can do the job. The main thing is to ensure that they’ll create plenty of vibration and are built to cop a belting by the fish, the rocks and the rough water. And anyone who goes chasing rough-weather jewies from the walls without taking a long-handled gaff and a good mate to work it doesn’t deserve to land a fish.

And if by some miracle February turns on 29 days of gorgeous, stable weather, there’s every chance the fish everywhere will go crazy and it’ll be on for young and old in the estuaries, from the beaches and especially offshore. I’m hoping I live to see that again and I hope even more that I’m on holidays when it happens.

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