Relax, then fish!
  |  First Published: December 2003

PEOPLE who don’t fish can often say, ‘Oh, fishing must be so relaxing, just sitting on a river bank and watching the world go by’.

That sort of comment should be reserved for people who go fishing, rather than for those who catch fish. Those who ‘go fishing’ might just be out there for the tranquillity, the fresh air or simply to watch the world go by but often, unless by some fluke, they’re not the people who catch many fish.

There’s plenty of difference between going fishing and going out to catch fish, and the latter isn’t always relaxing, by any means. Exciting, hopefully; frustrating, frequently; lucky, sometimes, but relaxing? Not in the strictest, physically passive, sense of the word.

For many dedicated anglers the relaxation, if you can call it that, comes from getting away from the pressures of everyday life and into natural surroundings and trying to outsmart an often difficult finny adversary in sometimes adverse conditions.

Maybe this is a pretty long-winded way of going about saying successful anglers have to plan a fishing outing and work hard at what they’re doing while they’re out there if they mean to catch fish.

OK, so you’re on holidays and meant to be relaxing. Nothing wrong with that, but wouldn’t you like to catch a few fish, rather than just go fishing and take your chances? While you’re kicking back, pick up a tide chart and study it. The best ones, such as the NSW Department of Commerce 2004 Tide Charts and the Tide and Light Calendar indicate the height and time of the tide graphically and it becomes easier to understand the ebb and fall of the tides over a monthly cycle.

Here’s where the planning comes in. There are some nice early-afternoon quite low tides around the full and new moons this month. That means, if you’re around these parts, you might like to gather some pipis or worms along Airforce Beach at Evans Head, South Ballina Beach, Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head or along the stretch from Brunswick Heads to Tyagarah.

You could then use the bait to fish the smaller high tide as it rises around dark and watch the fat moon slide up from the ocean. It’s a great time for any fish and there’s a good chance of bagging a nice feed of whiting, bream and dart. And, if you’ve been successful catching the worms, a silver school jew is also on the cards.

Remember that you’re not allowed to take the pipis you’ve gathered more than 50 metres from the high tide line, so take only as many as you think you’ll use and return unused pipis for next time. If you’re not confident that you’ll be able to catch beach worms, you might have to order some from the local bait shop – you won’t be sorry, they’re top bait.

Or you could use these low tides to pump yabbies on the flats of the Evans River, the Richmond, North Creek or the Brunswick. While you’ll catch good whiting on the rising afternoon tide, the better fish seem to like the bigger tides so you might have to keep the yabbies alive overnight to fish the strong-running morning high. Places to try include the spit near the Ballina Sailing Club, Riverview Park, and Faulks Reserve at West Ballina, while boaters can also ply the running flats around Pimlico Island. Quality whiting are also to be had around the shores of the Massey Greene caravan park at Brunswick Heads and in the North Arm shallows. At Evans, try your luck upstream of the bridge or around Pelican Island.


With the same sort of planning, you could try the estuary flathead on lures or bait of your choice. The Richmond, Brunswick and, to a lesser extent, the Evans, have ready supplies of lizards and the best time to chase them is a falling tide at first light. The few days following January 1 and January 14 are suitable – look for channels, drop-offs and eddies.

First-light trips are best, too, for tailor and there should be adequate supplies of choppers around this month along with the chance of some thumping greenbacks like there were last January. It’s best to get everything ready the previous night so that you hit the beach or the rocks when you can barely see, meaning at least an hour or so of good action before the rising sun sends the fish deeper.

Why not have a prospecting drive the day before to work out the best spots? A drive along a beach at low tide, or a half-hour spent soaking in the view from high headlands, will help identify likely gutters and holes at high tide the following morning.

Most offshore anglers fully know the advantages of preparation. They’ll be on the water and ready to cross the bar as soon as they can see. There should be some squire and mixed reef stuff inshore early, along with the possibility of early-season mackerel. As the day brightens, most fishos try the deeper, wider reefs for more reds and possibly teraglin or jewfish. This is also prime marlin month and wherever there’s cobalt blue water and schools of bait, it’s worth putting out a livie.

Flathead are always on the menu in local estuaries but are at their prime around now.

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