Snapper, bream, blackfish, jew and tailor headline the acts for July and, if the weather co-operates, there should be some excellent performances from all five species.
Anyone who says it doesn’t get cold around here either hasn’t visited in July or goes barefoot skiing at Perisher in T-shirt and shorts. It’s time for fleece jackets, fingerless gloves, beanies and waders or a wetsuit in the mornings and evenings but when the wind eases off and the sun beats down, you’re soon back to one or two layers.
Remember that waders can be fatal if they fill with water so if you’re planning for a potential dunking in the surf or from the rocks, it might pay to invest in a warm and buoyant neoprene spring suit instead.
The beaches normally fish very well this month, especially when the westerlies knock back the swell enough to allow access to the plentiful gutters and holes.
Tailor chase the bait schools into the shallows at first and last light and readily slash at gang-hooked pilchards or garfish and metal lures. So far, catches have been down a little on recent years due to sparse bait schools and some outbreaks of rough weather but this month we should get the best of the annual run.
There haven’t been too many bag-limit catches of decent choppers but hordes of fish below the legal 30cm – and often below 20cm – have been about. Some anglers have fallen foul of the law by being caught using these smaller fish as live bait for jewfish but the jewies mainly have been chasing the mullet more than the tailor.
There was a fairly decent run of jew to around 15kg from the walls at Ballina leading up to the full moon a while back and the odd nice schoolie has been taken from the beach gutters on worms or soft plastics.
Some of the jewfish have been moving into the lower Richmond River but at the time of writing we experienced another mini-fresh so only time will tell if they stick around.
Bream have been working the beaches and lower estuaries in quite reasonable numbers although the quality has been variable, with plenty of fish just either side of the legal 25cm.
Night sessions along the breakwalls and rock walls of the lower river have been probably the way to filter out the better bream, with yabbies, mullet strips and mullet or chicken gut doing the trick.
I spent many memorable frosty nights in my early years accompanying my Dad on night estuary excursions for some quite awesome bream. Small yellowtail heads were the ‘secret’ bait and we seldom kept, or even caught, anything under a kilo on those nights when the Milky Way and the Southern Cross etched the experience into my memory – and the feeble warmth of a one-bar radiator afterwards never felt so good on numb fingers!
Daytime bream-luring has been quite reasonable although again you’ll need to sift through the prolific smaller fish, although better bream are there, often more wary and lurking deeper.
Blackfish have begun to move into the Richmond, although only in dribs and drabs as bouts of heavy weather drive them in. Over the next month or so, if the beach netters further south give them any rest, the travelling schools should move in and change from a diet of cabbage and start chowing down on local green weed.
Offshore, there was a brief frenzy on the mackerel grounds with some big catches of spotties in mid-May and an occasional encounter with a few early in June but it seems our 2008 season lasted days instead of months.
So it’s back to the snapper, which this month should be around the inshore reefs in reasonable numbers, with even the ‘meat’ fishos turning to the dark side and gearing up with soft plastics when they see the results of others using them.
The best mornings on the close reefs will be those leading up to the full and new moon but once the day brightens it will pay to head out into 30m to 40m.
On the full moon the fish seem to shut right down in the mornings, although they do come on the bite as the sun goes down.
When the westerlies start pushing though, morning outings tend to be quite choppy but the wind often seems to back off once the land warms up so evening sorties are frequently accompanied by glassy seas.
If your boat is big enough and you feel OK about a night session offshore, you should do well this month. Those evenings just after the full moon are pretty good, with the period from sundown to moonrise really providing short but torrid sessions on snapper, trag and sometimes jewfish.
With the water still 20° or more, you don’t realise how cold it can get after dark until you hit the bar on the way home.Reads: 550