Dry weather and clear water
  |  First Published: September 2007

After the bizarrely icy Winter we’ve just had, everyone around here will welcome the change of seasons but it won’t be all beer and skittles on the fishing scene.

In a marked contrast to the lush greenery of last Spring, the region is a frost-blasted white, tinder-dry and heading into drought, bushfire and water restrictions. It never rains in September here, though I’d dearly love to be proved wrong in this case. Apart from the odd coastal shower, it’s unlikely we’ll receive even storms until November.

We’re looking at a few months of clear water on the beaches, offshore and well up the estuaries, almost to tidal influence.

This should be the pick month for bass in the rivers and with so much saltwater pushing farther upstream on every tide and no freshwater flows to allow upstream movement, they’ll likely be in a pretty confined area.

As freshwater flows decrease further it’s likely that the water quality in some of these areas, especially downstream of Casino and slightly upstream of Lismore, will decline and the fish become stressed. But there is some good news this season.

Because of the dry Autumn and Winter, many fish would not have left their sweetwater haunts upstream so there won’t be masses of bass marooned in shrinking pools – a scenario often encountered when a dry spell follows a significant Autumn flood.

And the removal of the old Norco weir at Casino will mean one less obstacle for those fish which did migrate downstream. The river there might be low but at least there won’t be a 2m concrete wall stopping those fish moving upstream.

Further downstream, the amount of life will be determined by the water temperature. Things could be a little slow early in the month because of the cool nights and rather cold oceanic water. But, as the days warm up, the expansive middle reaches should come alive as Spring takes hold.

Baitfish schools are already in good supply from Wardell up to Coraki and the new season’s prawns should become more active as the water warms. Flathead and bream should be spread out widely although the bigger female flatties start to think about spawning this month. They can often be spied sunning themselves on the shallow sandbanks during the day, a harem of smaller males often nearby.

These big mummas are very shy in the clear water and deserve a bit of a fair go, particularly from the glory-hunters who still believe they’re gun fishos because they can catch and kill these egg machines. Pity the new Fisheries bag and size limits didn’t stop all this egotistical rubbish.

The resident Richmond bream have been replenished with a few schools of sea-run fish and this month they should be spreading through the system, hunting around bait schools and budding weed beds.

I’m looking forward to the Spring run of jewfish further down the river around the schools of herring, juvenile tailor and mullet. Wardell to Burns Point is the chief focus for the schoolies though they can be found higher and lower in the river. Although the main run of fish is only around 2kg to 5kg, they’re great fun and the bigger fish make for some tasty meals.


Any bream that have decided to stay in the surf should be ravenous after spawning. Good spots to hunt for them include the headlands and washes from Skennars Head south to Ballina, around the headlands at Evans Head and the coffee rocks at Broadwater Beach and Jerusalem Creek.

Whiting should also pick up along the beaches although the water is likely to be super-clear so dusk, dawn and night sorties with live worms will be the order of the day.

Salmon have taken up residence as well if you’re keen for sport or absolutely desperate for a feed. This time last year there were quite a few great white sharks that didn’t seem averse to a feed of salmon, too.

Snapper should be in full spawning mode offshore with plenty of action on the gravel and shell beds in around 30m and wider although the leatherjackets are again on the prowl in big numbers. The wider you head, the worse they seem to get.

Closer inshore, things could be a little slow because of the clear water but there should be some cobia knocking around, especially as the whales begin heading south again.

I believe the cobes seem to swim with anything big and there’s not much bigger swimming in the ocean than a humpback! I’ve caught enough cobia when the whales are coming through to realise it’s no coincidence.

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