Boom time in Ballina
  |  First Published: December 2016

It seems as if the end of the year has rolled around very quickly, and it certainly seems we rushed into summer at a great rate of knots. The water temperature has kept climbing steadily, and now the warm water has really gotten things going.


Offshore fishing has been in that transition from winter to summer, and only recently have we seen the latter really come through. A few snapper, big mulloway and trag have been haunting the close ground such as Lennox and Riordans reefs, and they have happily taken soft plastics, micro-jigs and live baits.

As the warm current starts rolling down the hill, we’ll see some mahimahi hanging around the FAD, and we may even get a few early season mackerel showing up around Christmas. From all reports, anglers are having a cracking mackerel run to the north, so it should be another good mackerel season down in Ballina. With reports of mahimahi from Tweed Heads to Byron Bay, they can’t be too far away from hitting our reefs.

The odd pearl perch is still hanging around the 42 and 48-fathom lines. Live baits have accounted for some of the larger models, but some of the heavier micro-jigs and bright-coloured plastics have also tempted plenty of the smaller fish.

Good numbers of small kingfish have been hammering live baits and knife jigs on the wider grounds. Most of the fish are between 60-90cm, but the odd larger fish has also shown up. A few snapper and small amberjack have also been mixed in among the kingfish, so it has been a bit of a lottery as to what you are going to pull up next.


While the odd gutter is visible on South Ballina and Angels beaches, the numbers of fish they are producing has been fairly low. Some of the better action has come from Boulders and Seven Mile beaches, with quality dart and bream taking pipis and beach worms during the run-up tide.

At this time of year, we usually see a few of the straggling tailor make their way up the coast. Late in the afternoon it will be worth throwing a pilchard, mullet fillet or bonito strip out in a likely looking gutter. You may not see any large numbers of these razor-toothed eating machines, but the ones that do come into the gutters at night are generally quality fish, so be ready and have wire traces handy because these larger fish can do serious damage to your rigs.

Some of the better-quality whiting have been coming from the beaches rather than the Richmond River of late. As with the dart, pipis and beach worms have been the gun baits for these tasty little critters, but if you can’t get your hands on either of those baits, then you could try strips of squid or peeled prawns. Just remember that when fishing the beach for whiting, they do not need a lot of water, so don’t get caught up with finding the deepest gutter you can, because quite often they are right at your feet in some of the skinniest water imaginable, particularly at night.

River fishing

We have still seen quality flathead from Pimlico Island to the mouth of the Richmond. Most of the larger fish have taken live herring and the smaller fish have fallen to dark-coloured soft plastics, prawns and white pilchards. 

The whiting have shown interest in surface lures in recent weeks, especially in some of the shallow areas such as North Creek and Mobbs Bay. Each day has been different, with the level of aggression towards the lures changing constantly and for no apparent reason. Bassday Sugapens are the lures that have been producing the best, and these can be retro-fitted with either Atomic Trick Bitz assist hooks or Gamakatsu Treble Wide Gap hooks to improve hook-up rates, so check them out next time you are in your local tackle shop.

One fish species that has been surprisingly numerous this season is the mangrove jack. Some good reports have been coming in of quality fish caught on both hardbodied lures and live baits. The Atomic Shiner 75, Lucky Craft Pointer in the 78 and 100mm sizes and ZMan 4” SwimmerZ have all been good options. Most of the rock walls from Wardell Bridge to the mouth of the river have produced at least a couple of fish in the past month, especially on the run-out tide in the afternoons. I’m not sure if more of these awesome fighting fish are around this year, or more people are targeting them, but either way it’s great to see them in our river system. The best part about most of the jack reports is that the majority of fish are being released to fight another day.

The bass are on the chew and are spread out all over the system. With the balmy evenings, the surface bite will really hot up towards Christmas time and all the way through the end of January. If you haven’t tried this style of fishing for our aggressive freshwater natives, get some poppers and have a crack! You might be surprised at how much fun and how addictive it can be. Look for any over hanging trees that have cicadas making an awful racket. You don’t even need to be accurate with your casting, as when the cicadas fall, they’re generally out from the bank, not right up the back in the shadows where you’d be casting your spinnerbaits or crankbaits.

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