Although there’s the usual huge influx of holidaymakers wherever you go, there are still some excellent catches to be had if you fish smart.
That often means setting out at the opposite ends of the day to when Joe Average and family might be breaking out their $25 combos bought at Christmas 2005, their corroded reels left with only half-spools of line after their last outings at Easter 2006. These people tend to go fishing when the kids are bored or the weather isn’t quite good enough for the beach and there’s nothing better to do. We'll leave them for a moment to sort out their gear and talk about what the rest of us might get up to.
There’s nothing quite like seeing the summer sun come up over the ocean, especially when you’ve already got a couple of nice fish in the bag or box. Early starts are the go over the holidays to avoid the crowds and to give yourself the best chance of good catches.
The sunrise can look good from the beach, especially if you’ve been chasing tailor or whiting. It will be hours before the sea breeze kicks in and there’s still the chance of bagging a few more fish before the sun gets too bright and hot.
Tailor should be a good thing from the beaches and breakwalls so a long rod, an easy-casting reel, a couple of dozen blue pillies to rig on ganged 4/0 hooks and a few 40g to 60g metal lures should do the trick. Most of the time 4kg to 6kg line should be enough so you could even add a half-dozen live beach worms, light sinkers and a few No 2 long-shank hooks so you can turn to the whiting when the tailor go off the bite.
Likely by-catch when fishing for tailor will include bream and possibly a school jew, while the worms meant for whiting will also attract dart, bream and school jew. If you have trouble catching your own worms you’ll need to pre-order them from local bait shops to avoid disappointment.
Offshore anglers will also do well to be out well before the sun comes up. The sea will be at its best for travelling and fishing before the northeaster starts puffing. Those who anchor and berley over the reefs off Ballina and Evans will have only the current to contend with as they set the pick just right to allow drifted baits to sink down to snapper and trag detected on the sounder.
As there has been for the past month or so, there should still be quite a bit of current to contend with but it should be a lovely cobalt blue and around 23° unless persistent north-easterlies have chilled off the water close to the coast. The annual inshore cold upwelling seems to have arrived on time this year in late November so maybe the warm current should do the same.
Out wider, the blue water should be flowing uninterrupted and populated by some very welcome northern visitors. Especially in the lead-up to the new and full moon there should be baby black marlin and dolphinfish in good numbers. How far you’ll have to travel for them will depend on when the most recent southerly blow was, with the possibility of the warm current striking the shore straight after a change has petered out. As the north-easters take over again, the current line usually moves farther out. Check out which way the discoloured water is flowing from the rivers on the falling tide for clues to how the current is working.
This month presents probably the best chance for the average trailer-boat fisho to tangle with a billfish and every summer holidays a number are caught on pillies or livebait intended for snapper, jew, early mackerel or kingfish. In the right water, those who plan on targeting baby blacks should do well by finding bait schools and slow-trolling a livie around them or by prospecting with skirted lures at faster speeds.
Everyone is dead keen on mackerel at Christmas and although the odd Spaniard can be caught, the general run of spotties around Evans and Ballina usually doesn’t turn up until the Australia Day holiday or thereabouts. If you’re hell-bent on mackerel, try that blue water after a southerly, especially on the reefs south of Evans – the closer to Woody Head the better.
Meanwhile, back at the river, Joe Average and family have sorted out their gear, unfrozen seized reels, bought new licences and some line to refill spools back to within 3mm of the lip and are looking for action.
If they’re smart, they would also have lashed out on a yabby pump this Christmas, something which provides endless supplies of fresh livebait and a great source of entertainment for the kids in harvesting it on the lower half of the tide.
North Creek at Ballina and the Evans River are carpeted with yabby holes, as is the sandbar just downstream of the sailing club at Ballina. Upstream of the highway bridge at Brunswick is the place for yabbies because much of the banks in the North and South arms are in the marine park.
Joe and the crew might not be clued up enough to fish at first and last light or simply might be looking for something to do during the day and the answer lies in whiting. These fish don’t mind eating yabbies on No 2 long-shanked hooks in broad daylight, grow fat and tasty and are around in enough numbers to keep the family entertained.
There’ll be heaps of undersized whiting and the temptation is always s there, especially indulging the younger kids, to keep fish under the legal 27cm. Far better to buy a fish measure and make it an entertainment for the kids to measure every fish and release the little ones.
There are heaps of places the family can chase whiting. At Ballina that bank with the yabbies downstream of the sailing club is a ripper and the sandy bay adjoining the South Wall is also good. Further upstream, Riverview Park, off River Street about 400m east of the Fishery Creek bridge, is handy and has barbecues, picnic facilities and toilets. The same goes for Faulks Reserve at the end of Riverside Drive, turn off at the Big Prawn. Fishing with the older ones from the rock wall fringing Riverbank Road on the way to Wardell is also excellent and a ride on the Burns Point ferry is a bonus.
The lower Evans and Brunswick rivers are virtually all whiting territory.
And wherever there’s a lonesome yabby drifting along the bottom, even on the sunniest day with boat traffic of all sorts and swimmers about, there’s the chance of a nice flathead, bream and, in deeper water, a school jewfish. Come to think of it, Joe and the clan might just do alright…Reads: 612