The East Australian Current should well and truly dominate proceedings this month with all the tropical visitors in attendance offshore and plenty of activity in the lower estuaries.
Mackerel were very patchy up to early February with only sporadic visits but the over next month or so we should find out what our annual allocation of these welcome fish is going to be. Water temperatures continued to fluctuate considerably during January but should settle down to a comfortable 24° to 26° inshore this month, providing the mackerel with optimum water.
We’ll just need plenty of bait schools to show up and the fun can begin. The spotties usually prey on schools of white or blue pilchards but if we get a showing of small slimy mackerel, that’s what the spots will want. Live slimies around 15cm are the best bait and over the reefs off Evans Head the fleet will be spending as much care and effort on finding the right slimies as it takes.
There’s a solid chance of finding other northern visitors mixed with the mackerel. Some years it’s shark mackerel, last year it was cobia and so far this season it seems that wahoo have been the flavour of the Summer with inordinate numbers of these turbocharged macks moving closer to shore than in recent memory.
Most years there’s also an abundance of mackerel tuna and a fair smattering of longtails to give those chasing mackerel for food some disappointing moments and some big entertainment to those who don’t mind a good scrap from whatever fish.
There’ll also be bottom-dwelling tropical visitors in the form of red-throat and grass sweetlip, spangled emperor and maybe even the odd coral trout.
In the rivers the mangrove jacks and trevally will be at their most active, especially on those hot, still nights and on into the pre-dawn. Baitfish and prawns will cop an awful hiding.
Big flathead don’t seem to have slowed down much at all with the holiday anglers taking a heavy toll on the big females this year. It seems just about anyone who cared could go down to the Richmond and extract one or more big breeders and take them home and the local newspaper regularly displayed big dead flatties weighed in for its weekly competition. It seems that too many people just don’t twig to the fact that they’re limiting future flathead numbers just for the sake of feeding their friends and their own egos.
Jewfish have also been prevalent, although the size hasn’t been all that good. The early Summer fish tend to be bigger than the soapies that become so common later in the season and again the holiday anglers took their toll on fish well into the ‘soapy’ class and often well below the legal length of 45cm.
Whiting continue to provide some excellent results in the Richmond if you take the time to dig mud worms or are willing to buy bloodworms. There are more elbow-slapping jobs of 40cm and over than you think out there if you know how to chase them and the regulars are still cleaning up.
I can’t go on with predictions for March without mentioning rain. If the East Australian Current does kick in strongly, and it should, then only the faintest onshore airflow blowing over this warm, humid air is enough to produce a considerable dump of rain, often enough for a flood.
If Huey does indeed send ’er down, there’ll be plenty of activity around the breakwalls for up to a week or so afterwards. Jewfish will be the major focus although bream, whiting, flathead and blackfish will also be worth chasing with bait or smelly plastics in the murky water on a rising tide.
All the jacks will end up around the rock walls in the last kilometre or so of the river and there’ll be plenty of fun to be had there.
Beach action depends on whether the baitfish move in close in good weather or how the currents disperse any floodwater in bad weather. In clear water with lots of bait there’ll be good tailor and some jewfish or in the murky surf the jewies will be about in good numbers and sizes.
Any murky water that moves offshore will send the mackerel packing but the snapper should move in close to take part in the feeding frenzy, so all is not lost for boaties.Reads: 453