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Plenty of fun stuff
  |  First Published: November 2006



Whether you fish offshore, along the beaches or in the estuaries or sweetwater, there’s plenty of fun stuff to get involved in this month.

The warm current starts to kick in fairly strongly, dragging down the snapper trappers’ headgear so that sometimes even the endmost buoy will be submerged for a few days at a time. That makes drifting the wider grounds for pearl perch, snapper, kings and samsonfish a far more appealing prospect than anchoring – even if the pick does grab, your bait will end up somewhere down off Yamba once the tide gets hold of it.

Braided line has certainly made fishing wider and deeper a whole lot more efficient, thanks to its minimal stretch and thin, current-slicing profile. When the current is belting along and there’s no wind, anglers can still plumb the bottom with bait or jigs and some of the more adventurous folks have even gone way out and come back with bass groper, hapuku and some pretty fish nobody seems to know much about. It’s only when the wind is going one way and the current the other, or there are differing currents at different depths, that you’ll get a bad belly in the line to make things difficult.

Back up on the surface, the pelagic visitors should be about in better numbers with dolphinfish showing up on the traps and FADs and even the prospect of an early billfish or two. All the local Fisheries FADs are now deployed for the season.

In closer there should still be a few decent snapper and the trag off Evans Head should pick up in the days leading up to the full moon, though the pickings won’t be as rewarding as they were a month or two ago.

The November moon also often heralds the arrival of a few schools of spotted mackerel in Shark Bay, down near Woody Head but you’d better pick your days – just after a strong southerly usually seems to do the trick.

It’s whiting and dart time along the beaches with these fish frequently biting well into bright mornings, although the northeaster usually tells you when it’s time to end your fishing session. An evening high-tide sortie with fresh or preserved worms can often reward you with a nice school jew, so the beaches are still worth fishing.

ESTUARY IN TROUBLE

Apart from their last few kilometres, the estuaries have been pretty hopeless, really, thanks to continual freshwater top-ups from unseasonable cloudbursts. I’ve rarely seen the mid-Richmond fish so poorly for so long and some of the prefishers for the Ballina BREAM Grand Final last month really did it tough.

Word is that the persistent rain over the farmland and swamps has dumped plenty of water which now has dangerously low dissolved oxygen levels. The fish won’t swim into it and anything that lives on the bottom or the bank is struggling to keep alive.

I’m just beginning to wonder what it will take before the authorities who have ultimate control over what goes into the river suddenly realise that they have a real problem on their hands that won’t go away until they start to do something about it. I thought that the symposium that marked the fifth anniversary of the dreadful 2001 fish kills might have been the start of something good but it now seems to have been nothing more than a gabfest.

Anyway, there are still a few decent fish to be had in the lower Richmond and Evans rivers, chiefly some quality flathead. Mind you, they don’t seem to have too many friends these days, if regular pictures in the local paper of blokes with big dead flatties are anything to go by.

As most good anglers know, catching a big female flathead doesn’t require an enormous amount of intelligence if you know where and when to fish for them. What does seem to require a bit more brain space is accepting that these are breeding female fish that hold the future of the local fishery.

Evans Head estate agent David Mason and mate Dave Sales are among the aware anglers who can see the fun of catching a big lizard and the benefits to everyone of letting it go. The lads emailed me some pics of their latest captures and releases, along with a message that deserves repeating: “These fish were released, as we always do, along with several smaller ones. You might be able to use these pictures some time to promote the catch and release of these beautiful fish. I get a sick feeling in my stomach when I open the paper and see 6.6kg flatties dead and held up like trophies.”

Amen to that.

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