We’ve had an early taste of winter this year but the worst of it will be over by the end of this month – no wonder so many people from southern climes move here.
The edge of the sea has been alive with large and small baitfish, migrating mullet, bream, tailor and blackfish.
The surf zone off the beaches and rocks has been the focus for anyone or anything keen on a feed of fish. The opportunists range from southern vacationers using their beloved Victorian or South Australian beach rigs to Alvey-bristling Queensland 4WDs, hordes of locals, gannets that have migrated on the early Winter storms from their New Zealand rookeries and even some small toothed whales hanging around the dolphins as they belt the pillies, mullet and chopper tailor.
This month as the ocean cools we can also expect other refugees from the south – salmon – but the less said about them the better. The ocean as I write is still 21° and we have been lucky enough to have a sensational run of spotted mackerel over recent weeks.
Spotties averaging 4kg packed the rise between Kahors Reef and the South Evans Reef, attacking live slimy mackerel, small live yakkas and on good days, anything. The mackerel fleet ballooned out to 100-plus boat at times but everyone seemed to get fish.
It’s unlikely the spots will linger and they could even be gone on the next southerly storm but they were good while they lasted. It’ll be interesting to see if the mackerel categories in the upcoming Evans Head Classic are filled this year as they haven’t really for a couple of years.
There should be a run of snapper on the inshore reefs this month but how many or how big remains a lottery. Local snapper numbers have declined immensely over the past 20 years, due partly to drought but also to a massive increase in effort by recreational fishers. It’s common for 80 to 100 boats to be offshore daily over a good weekend or holiday period, most of which concentrate their efforts within three miles of shore. This is recreational pressure on one area rarely seen elsewhere in NSW, apart maybe from South West Rocks at the height of the billfish season.
I managed to stay connected to one of the quality tailor that have persisted about the place since Christmas, thanks to a bit of tweaking on the 60g Sure Catch Bishop metals I’ve been casting. I added a couple of 4H split rings to the existing No 6 ring to lessen the leverage of a fish when it lifts and shakes its head in the shore break. The extra length between lure and treble doesn’t appear to alter hook-up rate but makes the heavy lure harder to shake free.
I’ve also been trying to minimise the opportunities for a fish to jump close to shore by keeping my rod tip within a few centimetres of the sand for the final stages of the fight and it seems to be working. For some reason I also took my camera one morning, something I mostly don’t in an effort to cut down on weight on the longer beach walks.
Anyway, the upshot was the pic of the greenback hereabouts, the best tailor I’ve landed off the beach. The big chopper pictured weighed 4.77kg on certified scales but would have been dwarfed by one I lost a few weeks previously on a conventionally-rigged metal, so I have to go back and try again.
The Richmond River at Ballina hasn’t really hit its straps this season. Blackfish are just starting to become reliable catches around the southern approach to the Prospect Bridge over North Creek, the gaps in the Porpoise Wall and the disused ferry approach at Burns Point.
Quality river bream seem to have gone AWOL so far this season, possibly because the February flooding pushed many of the resident fish out to sea early. These bream have been in fair numbers around nearby beaches and headlands and could come back in. There’s been no word of travelling schools farther south so who knows what will happen.
Long-time locals have been astounded by the unprecedented run of whiting in the Richmond at Woodburn. They appeared seemingly from nowhere not long after the rains eased in March, biting their heads off in the muddy water in their thousands.
Thirty-plus boatloads of anglers got their bag limits each outing for weeks and even multi-tonne hauls by pro netters didn’t slow down the action hugely. Nobody has ever seen anything like it and no one knows why they were there.Reads: 431