Fair or foul, it’ll be good
  |  First Published: December 2008

It’s difficult to predict what will happen this January, after the previous two have turned out mostly cloudy, cool and wet.

Time was, you could count on the first few weeks of the New Year starting with calm, sunny mornings and then cooling north-easters, with the occasional southerly change for a few days. New Year’s Day 2008 kicked off with a full-scale flood followed by a massive fish kill in the Richmond and holidaymakers heading to the hills, so who knows what this year will bring?

But judging by the amount of wet weather the region has experienced in November and early December, it would be wise to bring a raincoat if you’re holidaying here this year.

That isn’t all bad, providing the awful flooding rain stays away, and even then there are some opportunities. Cloudy, cool days are far better for fishing and the traditional crack-of-dawn starts before the sea breeze kicks in aren’t so necessary.

The water along the beaches should hit 23° as the month progresses and out wide there should be some nice northern pelagics in water a few degrees warmer. Stuff like mahi mahi, striped tuna and baby black marlin can show up in reasonable numbers and there’s the chance of some spotted and Spanish mackerel if the inshore water stays clear and the baitfish turn up.

And if we get a few days of genuine southerly weather around Australia Day, as soon as the sea backs off, get out the mackerel gear and get serious.

A lot depends on whether the bait turns up and decided to hang around. White and blue pilchards are the key to all this and when they turn up, life is good – unless you’re a baitfish.

On those wonderful days when the current runs clear to the coast and the bait schools ripple, there’s the opportunity for just about anything, including tailor in the surf gutters and spotties, kings and squire on the close reefs.


If you’ve hit the beach for a holiday swim or for a fish and the water is bath-warm and clear, try to see if you can get yourself offshore by fair means or foul, because it will be worthwhile.

Whiting and dart are good prospects from the beaches with worm baits and pipis and, around the tide changes and at first and last light, some school jew will also like those worms.

If the days are sunny and the rivers are crystal-clear near the mouths, the lower estuaries won’t fish that well during the day. Try from sunset onwards or take a trip upstream to water with a little more colour in it to tangle with some bream, whiting, flathead and school jew.

Remember, school jew well under the legal 45cm are likely to remain abundant in the estuaries. Treat every one as if it’s going to grow to 10kg and climb on your hook in a year or so, because that’s what they’ll do if gently released.

Whiting will be among the best targets in the rivers and on the beaches.

There have been some good fish around taking bloodworms, beach worms and live yabbies, in that order of effectiveness. Popping has been a little sporadic, thanks to recurring freshes from the regular rain, but get these fish on a good day and they’ll provide plenty of fun.

Mangrove jacks should be about as viable as they can get around here, with reefs, bridges and rock walls in the river good spots to try with live bait or lures, especially in the humid, still pre-dawn.

And if the heavens do open and the rivers run upside down, concentrate your efforts where fresh and salt water meet, because that’s where the fish will be.

The breakwalls and nearby beaches will hold plenty of fish and the inshore reefs will attract sea fish intent on a feed on what’s come out of the rivers. It’s been a good year already for school prawns in the rivers and inshore so these tasty crustaceans will act as magnets to hungry fish.

Smelly baits like oily fish flesh, dead yabbies or gut will work for bream, whiting, flatties and jew, as will heavily scented lures and those which put out a lot of vibrations or rattles.

And mud crabs will concentrate in the last kilometre or so of the estuaries, where they can be picked off pretty easily. After big floods they can even be picked up along the beaches and crabbing doesn’t get much easier than that!

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