Building up to something big
  |  First Published: March 2005

If there can be anything classified as ‘normal’ these days then this March looks like being a normal season with plenty of warm-water pelagics in close, fish moving down the estuaries and the promise of plenty of rain.

The East Coast Current has continued to flow strongly southwards and the Evans Head spotted mackerel arrived right on cue at the very end of the Summer holiday season. The same current brought a smattering of Spaniards, which will improve further this month, along with billfish, cobia and a fairly good run of snapper.

With the 26°-plus current has come energy-sapping humidity which has risen to 100% and persistent showers whenever onshore weather systems have turned up. Occasional low-pressure cells out in the Coral Sea have generated plenty of swell which has meant many bar-bound fishos have left the boats in the shed and broken out the surfboard. But not everyone.

I was lying in bed at dawn one recent rough weekend, listening to the sound of the surf barrelling on the bar, when I heard the sound of an outboard buzzing down the river towards the entrance. Then there was the unmistakable shriek of an airborne propeller, immediately followed by the slam of a hull coming down hard. The sounds were repeated before the engine noise droned off into the distance.

A mate told me he saw the boat come back late morning through three-metre-plus waves pounding on the bar on an outgoing tide. There were two blokes aboard the medium-sized tinny and neither was wearing a lifejacket!

That’s not only illegal these days, it’s insane. It’s a shame that these thrill-seekers didn’t think through their actions because they went out and returned in a sea easily capable of wrecking their boat and also the local Coast Guard Kevlar Cat if they needed rescuing.

It’s all very well to believe in your boat-driving capabilities and the seaworthiness of your vessel but self-belief quickly can turn to self-pity if the slightest thing goes astray.


There has been a reasonable run of tailor chasing the moving bait schools in close with some quality fish turning up, especially around the headlands from Ballina to Broken Head. Tailor to 5kg are fantastic fish and they seem to be attacking lures and bait early mornings as well as during the normal time for big tailor – at night.

There should be increasing numbers of tailor as the days get shorter and the bait schools become more frequent. It looks like the boom-and-bust cycles of the tailor over the past 20 years or so seem to be evening out so that the catches become more reliable year after year.

Consistent rain over the local catchments has helped move the estuary fish, which had been spread far and wide throughout the rivers since last Winter. The lower reaches of the Richmond between Coraki and Wardell have been discoloured from the rains but there still has been plenty of life there, with bream, big-eye trevally, flathead and the odd school jew chasing the prawns and bait schools.

The old hands are tipping the strong possibility of a return to seasons of recurrent flooding and if we get big rain all those fish in these reaches would either be sent packing seawards or die en masse as ‘black water’ flows off the floodplain. If the river breaks its banks, pray that they get away in time.

Further down the estuary there have been good catches of whiting, larger flathead, jewfish and trevally as the latter three species hunt for the abundant schools of mullet and herring between Wardell and Ballina. The big tides early and late this month should produce the peak of the whiting season upstream of Ballina.


Easter is reasonably early this year and the full moon around the holiday weekend is always a time of very fair or very foul weather. If you’re camping over the break, the essentials are strong tarps for the tent, good raincoats for everyone and plenty of hats and sunblock if it keeps fine – fingers crossed.

My Easter tips are Spanish mackerel on the Lennox pinnacle, spotties and a few nice reds at Riordans and South Evans reefs, good tailor and whiting from the beaches and bream, flathead, whiting and jew in the Richmond. Remember that the tides will be very high and very low, so time your bar crossings and beach 4WD trips so that there’s plenty of water for the boat and plenty of firm sand for the 4WD.

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