Action moves upstream, offshore
  |  First Published: September 2006

In this traditionally dry month the estuary action begins to move farther upstream as bream, jewfish, blackfish and whiting make their way up the rivers, while snapper start to spawn.

Warmer days on land lead to slowly rising water temperatures in the rivers and with little chance of a fresh occurring, fish and bait make their way up to areas that were out of bounds during the fairly wet winter.

The bream in the Richmond didn’t really put on a great show around Ballina this year, possibly because many stayed at sea after the flooding and follow-up rain earlier in the year. A late showing of reasonable fish around the lower reaches didn’t meet great heights and there were few reports of travelling sea-run schools but there is now a fair number of bream upstream to Woodburn. From now on they’ll join forces with the bass returning to sweetwater and the estuary perch and jewfish heading up to dine on prawns, mullet fingerlings and other baitfish which are establishing themselves on the growing weed beds of the middle reaches.

There remain some reasonable numbers of bream in the Evans River but they, too, will be heading upstream as far as they can this month. There should be a few fair whiting and flathead to be had in the river, too.

The big talk around Evans Head at the moment is the plan by the local council to build an outfall for secondary-treated sewage effluent somewhere close to the North Wall, of all places, releasing it on the outgoing tide. The current antiquated and overworked plant dumps poorly treated effluent into a dying Salty Lakes system, which occasionally breaks out to the sea a few kilometres north of the town – something the NSW EPA refuses to let continue.

These coastal lagoons are usually nutrient-poor and the under-treated effluent has been killing the system but the new plan from the Casino-based council is likely to kill the town the minute the new multi-million-dollar plant inevitably breaks down. It’s not going to be drinkable-quality effluent at the best of times and the worst-case scenario is that it breaks down during heavy rain over a holiday period when the town’s normal population of 3,000 is quadrupled. A consultant’s report claims that the load on the plant during such periods will increase by only 30-50%, so I guess there must be thousands of constipated holidaymakers.

Tests by local activists show that floating objects in the water released at the proposed outfall will end up on the main surfing beach! It’s near-sighted lunacy at its highest level.

Meanwhile, back in the Richmond River, where the treated effluent from more than 50,000 people from Kyogle to Lismore and Casino has been flowing for decades, the bass will be heading back to their summer ‘sweetwater’ homes. Much of the action initially centres around the Coraki area each year, where the Wilsons River and the Bungawalbyn system join the main river. It’s a bass intersection as the fish from the three major catchments turn left, right or keep on going and your success each day can be determined on which system you head up and which direction the latest run of fish has turned.

As the tidal influence pushes further there will be jewfish, flathead and whiting also pushing upstream, leading to full use of the typical spring river angler’s arsenal of spinnerbait, plastics and crankbait outfits. It’s varied fishing and it can be variable, too. The secret is to find the bait, whether it be prawns or baitfish, and the target species won’t be too far away.


Offshore action centres well and truly on snapper as they work over the gravel beds to spawn. Most of the reefs in 15 to 40 fathoms will have fish around their perimeters, especially if the bottom has deposits gravel or shell grit. Anchoring can be a chore on such features but it pays to get it right. Persisting over the high ground usually results in the inevitable sergeant bakers, rock cod and other undesirables.

Some of the more popular reefs, especially those out wider, will be easy to locate without a GPS – just look for the forest of trap floats. The first north-easters of the season will begin to puff mid-morning on the warmer days and there will be fewer opportunities to fish the evenings as a result. Current also becomes an issue later in the month and the main run of humpback whales begin to head south, usually at a lot more leisurely pace than they made their way north to the breeding grounds. Whatever you do, avoid getting your boat between a mother and calf!

Beach fishing tapers down considerably over September with far fewer tailor, if any, diminishing bream numbers and more whiting and dart. After the equinox we’ll see the higher tides occur in the mornings but the night highs should still result in some reasonable catches of school jewfish on worms.

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