Estuaries begin to repopulate
  |  First Published: August 2006

Many local fish start August with spawning and migration on their minds and end the month more concerned with setting themselves up for the rest of the year in a comfy spot with plenty of tucker.

Lots of baitfish, bream, mullet and blackfish should have done with their breeding activities along the coast by now and become more involved with eking out a living wherever they can. That often involves taking up residence in the rivers and backwaters, which become more saline as the chances of rain diminish over the next four or five months.

The middle sections of the Richmond, Evans and Brunswick rivers, left murky by floods and top-up rains earlier in the year, will become subject to increasing tidal push, allowing fish re-entering the rivers to spread out and forage farther each day. Following these fish as they move upstream can be a challenge for some anglers but for those who keep tabs on fish movement, the rewards are there.

Much of the estuary action early this month should still be around the lower reaches, where blackfish have been haunting the rock walls and weed beds in increasing numbers. The usual Richmond River spots seem to be working, such as along the Porpoise Wall, the western approach to Prospect Bridge over North Creek, and by now the northern disused Burns Point ferry ramp.

Most luderick fishers have their treasured spots and use the traditionally effective float-and-weed techniques refined in the middle of last century. Few locals have adopted the canny methods of some South Coast estuary anglers who fish the fringes of the seagrass beds with ultra-light tackle and live yabbies, squirtworms or prawns – but there are many opportunities here.

When stalking bream and flathead in the seagrass shallows lately I’ve been amazed at the numbers of quality blackfish we’ve seen and I’m still surprised that so few people target them there. My old science teacher Blue Trindall used to brain the bream, flathead, whiting and blackfish in North Creek and Mobbs Bay at night in water scarcely deep enough to float his boat. For many anglers this seems to be a lost art but with the high night tides lingering until the spring equinox, it’s definitely worth doing.

Bream should be in good numbers from Ballina up to Woodburn and the school jew that have been popular in Ballina’s Town Reach should also forge upstream with the moving bait.

Bass and estuary perch will also begin to head back to their summer haunts this month with most of the bass focus around Bungawalbyn and Coraki, while the EPs will share the same water for a while before they wave farewell to the bass heading upstream. The bass should be moving in small pods so if you catch one, there is a strong chance of more nearby.

The previously rewarding beach fishing for bream and jewfish can become a bit tougher this month although the remaining bait schools will still be hammered by those tailor which continue to head north for their annual spawning rituals off Fraser Island.

The late fish generally tend to be choppers but with continuing reports of big greenbacks down the coast, there should be the chance of some quality catches as well. Cut bait at night still offers the best chance of a big fish while those happy with choppers can cast metal or ganged pillies at dusk and dawn.

Beach jewfish should take advantage of the choppers to vary their diet from the mullet they’ve been so fond of lately, while school jew will still be worth chasing on worms around the tide changes in the dark. The flies in the ointment over the next few months will be the increasing numbers of salmon, which briefly raise the hopes of many beach anglers when they take a bait meant for more palatable species.

Offshore, the snapper should be in the throes of spawning on the gravel and shell grit, running the gauntlet of a forest of traps out wide and plenty of baits in closer. I’ve bemoaned the diminishing local catches of reds many times before but I can’t help thinking that if DPI Fisheries is trumpeting salmon hordes as an indicator of a successfully managed stock, perhaps it’s time the movers and shakers bit the bullet and turned to the task of managing a far more important species locally.

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