A great time to be out there
  |  First Published: April 2006

With Easter and Anzac Day within a few days of each other there’s no doubt there’ll be plenty of fishing and camping this month and it’s a great time to be doing both.

Plenty of Summer species will be still on the go, traditional Winter fish should be firing up and the weather and the ocean remain warm enough so that you don’t mind spending plenty of time out there. And with the cooler months drawing ever-closer, this is the last chance of a seaside holiday for some.

About the only fly in the ointment is the full moon on Good Friday. The April full moon frequently brings some fickle weather so Easter should provide the typical mix of brilliant, balmy days and cold, blustery and wet changes. In other words, don’t forget to pack the tarp for the tent or the raincoats.

It’s traditionally a good time to fish the inshore reefs around here with generally good catches of spotted and Spanish mackerel, snapper and reef mixed bags, thanks to the bait schools that usually hang around as the first westerlies of the approaching Winter kick in.

The Evans spotted mackerel hadn’t really taken off as of early March, thanks to an incessant wet and sloppy onshore airstream. On the rare days when the conditions have been right the mackerel have been there and then the wind has come up again and that’s that for another week or so. With seas regularly topping a couple of metres and swell the same, the bait schools haven’t really had the chance to stabilise.

Reefs off Brunswick Heads, Byron Bay and, more lately Lennox Head and even Ballina, have turned up some mackerel and no doubt they’ve been off Evans as well when the inshore water has been clear and clean but that’s often coincided with some lousy bar conditions. However, that should change this month and the fleets will mass on the live-bait grounds early before heading to their chosen spots and the drags start howling.


This is also a good time to be chasing tailor, thanks to those bait schools amass for their migrations. While many local people focus their tailor efforts from June onwards, the quality of the early fish is often better with more greenbacks and fewer choppers.

Some of the better tailor spots include Seagull Rocks and North Wall at Brunswick Heads, the areas of Cape Byron, Broken Head and Lennox Head where the marine park allows fishing (see the March issue for details), the Ballina breakwalls and nearby headlands to the north, and the headland at Evans Head. Night sessions are sure to produce bigger fish, especially if you use a 15cm to 20cm fillet of tuna, bonito or mullet armed with two 4/0 hooks and a short length of mono wire.

Beaches worth a tailor session include Tallow at Byron, Seven Mile at Lennox, Angels Beach north of Ballina, and South Ballina, Boundary Creek and Broadwater Beach. The latter three spots are the bones of some contention at the moment after the Department of Lands released a management plan for the pied oystercatcher recommending a permit system for beach 4WDs and a full ban two hours either side of high tide. Protest meetings were being held at the time of writing.

While few begrudge some sort of long-needed regulation, it would be far more sensible to simply stipulate that all vehicles must remain stationary over the high-tide period. Easter is a classic time to see people driving over the dunes; the big tides don’t seem to matter to ill-informed people hell-bent on having their four days of fun regardless of the mess they leave behind.

Bream and blackfish should also come into their own this month with increasing catches of both in the estuaries and occasional schools moving along the beaches when the westerlies flatten the sea. There have been fair numbers of bream in the Richmond around Ballina since the flood earlier in the year and even the odd rather elusive school of blackfish.

With regular downpours keeping the whole catchment’s water table topped up, all the focus has been on the final kilometre or so of the Richmond and the prospect of further fish kills upstream remains strong. Oxygen levels remain critically low and pH levels have dropped to almost battery-acid standard in many of the 360-odd drains and the scenario has been labelled a ‘time bomb’ by veterans, especially if there is another significant rain event.

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