Missing out on the rain
  |  First Published: August 2007

Although the NSW coast further south has had deluges of rain, the Northern Rivers has remained comparatively dry and we’re now entering what’s normally the driest season of the year.

The low-pressure systems which have hammered the NSW coast seem to have been forming just off here and heading south, meaning only passing coastal showers for this district. The Richmond River most years runs fresh and murky through much of winter but in 2007 has been carrying saltwater up to tidal influence already and local farmers are talking about a ‘green drought’.

Lack of autumn rains meant many bass were unable to gain a free ride on floodwaters downstream to the salty reaches to spawn and plenty of fish would still be landlocked in billabongs and swamps. Places where we normally find spawning or post-spawn bass in numbers have become the realm of bream and flathead this season, along with the ubiquitous fork-tail catfish derisively known as ‘dogfish’ in these parts.

When bream in most other systems along the coast were gathered in the final few kilometres of estuaries or spawning just offshore, there continued to be fish in the Richmond to Coraki and beyond and not all were immature rats. Having said that, there has been a reasonable smattering of adult fish in the Richmond through to mid-July.

Blackfish numbers have steadily climbed to the point where most float-watchers are now feeling pretty pleased with themselves after each outing and the fun should continue this month as fish which have just entered the river become more accustomed to their surroundings. There won’t be as many big hauls from the seawalls as the fish work upstream and the baits of choice will progress from cabbage weed to green or black weed.

It’s been a windy winter already and here we are coming into what’s normally the blowiest month of the calendar. Chains of cold fronts and those east coast lows have produced mainly offshore winds, flattening the surf and making it easy to spot fish in the crystal-clear water off the beaches.


There have been a few schools of baitfish to keep the hordes of gannets and the odd passing school of tailor entertained and fed, although the tailor have been hit-and-miss around Evans Head but better north and south of here. The headlands from Ballina to Lennox Head and the Brunswick area seem to have produced some consistently decent hauls but this month the size will go out of the tailor schools and the choppers will take over.

Bream and dart have been quite common in the shore break on the beaches but there have not been many schools of mullet locally. Most of the Richmond run seems to have fallen prey to the netters at the river entrance and not many seem to have moved up from further south.

You couldn’t say that about the salmon, which have started their invasion, and word has it there are plenty of reinforcements gathering all down the coast. They’ll likely be a rather unwelcome part of the beach scene until November, going by the past few seasons.

Those offshore winds have made things uncomfortable on the ocean any wider than a mile or two, ensuring the deep reefs have been the province of only the larger trailer boats except on rare afternoons when the breeze has dropped.

The snapper have been worthwhile on the closer reefs, especially on those calm afternoons and into the dark, and cobia also have figured in catches. The offshore winds have brought very clear water and the best of the red action has been in the pre-dawn or as the light fades. When the sun is high in the sky you can see the bottom in 10 fathoms.

We can expect more of the same on the snapper this month with more fish coming in from the deeper water to gather on their gravel spawning areas in 20m-50m.

Unless you’re chasing snapper or a few beach bream, or willing to cover some miles in the estuaries for bream, flathead and school jewfish, this isn’t one of the greatest times to be wetting a line.

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