You can break up the fishing this month into two main parts – BC and AC.
Most schools these days tend to start their holidays pretty close to the festive season and the weeks before Christmas can provide some excellent fishing with sparse crowds and some pretty hot action. After Christmas, particularly after Boxing Day when most people head to the coast for their vacation, it’s a whole new ballgame. But let’s just talk about the good stuff at this stage.
The ocean should be warming up nicely with some genuine tropical water working in close, particularly after a southerly has blown for a few days – and this year that seems to have been happening twice a week! Around the moon early this month there’s the chance of some baby black marlin and mahi mahi out wide.
There’s also the likelihood of an early influx of spotted mackerel into Shark Bay near Woody Head early this month, if they haven’t started already. The opening run of spotties are usually fairly small and are fixated on whitebait but that doesn’t stop the fleet high-speed trolling with pink plastic squid rigs. It’s the first taste of the season ahead and everyone wants to be first, so the crowds will be there if the fish are.
Stronger current could make the reefs a little tougher to fish for the snapper and trag but if you head inshore you might find a few refugees from the run. This is also not a bad month for a nice jew on some of the prominent pinnacles, especially around the new and full moon – just look for schools of baitfish hanging close to the pins and ledges and sit it out until the tide changes.
The beaches can fish well in December for quality whiting, dart and some after-dark school jew with worms the prerequisite for best catches. Early starts are best to avoid the sea breeze, which can become boisterous by mid-morning and it’s often pretty hot in the sun by then anyway.
As the warm current kicks in there should also be some schools of white pillies nipping around the place with chopper tailor in close pursuit.
About Boxing Day last year the bigger fish moved in, with greenbacks to 3kg raising hell at times and it would be great to see those guys show up again. The December tailor run mostly comprises ‘Christmas choppers’ but those big fellas would be the best present Santa could bring. Look for them when the surf foam is glowing white and the water crystal-clear with schools of baitfish around.
There should be a nice run of bream in the Evans River early in the month, it seems to be quite an annual event. The river below and around the bridge should fish well at night with yabbies, rock shrimps and cut bait while the slightly discoloured reaches upstream can often fish well during the way. There are plenty of bream in this shallow, mostly clear river for much of the year but they’re smart and tend to feed more freely in low light.
There’s often a great run of quality mangrove jacks in the Evans, especially around the Iron Gates reef, but they tend to get fished out pretty quickly so if you want a jack attack, get in well before the holidays – there’s not much catch-and-release practised by most of the guys who chase them.
The same can be said of the mud crabs, which hang out in numbers in the upper reaches around the golf course and cop a right royal belting once the school holidays start. In years gone by Fisheries officers used to drag the prime spots before the holidays and leave with a ute load of unmarked traps.
How the Richmond River fishes will depend a lot on water quality in the critical middle reaches. It’s been pretty poor all Winter and Spring and the BREAM grand finalists certainly did it tough in October.
Consistent coastal rains kept all the farm and flood drains full of rather toxic water and their run-off didn’t help at all. My guess is that the big spawners ran to sea during the March flood and didn’t bother coming back, leaving all the ‘rats’ to cope as best they could. That’s reflected in the very meagre average size of the fish encountered during the comp and it could take some time for the remaining fish to grow out (if they survive) or be supplanted by travelling schools next Winter.
Nevertheless, there should be some good catches of whiting, jewfish and flathead around Ballina and up to Woodburn, with the upstream catches dependent on how much rain we get in the meantime. A good indicator is to check for baitfish in the water, regardless of its colour, and fish where you find the bait The GTs seem to have come back into the middle reaches with a vengeance as well, leading to some exciting catches and tales of fast fish that got away.
The bass are all back in their freshwater haunts and have been performing admirably, belting surface and subsurface lures with abandon and even when the fish are laid up down in their snaggy lairs, a deep offering in their faces will still get a response.Reads: 536