THIS MONTH is usually about as good as it gets around these parts and Huey had been kind enough to drop just enough rain to really fire things up.
As I write, the Richmond River is chocolate and running high from its headwaters near the Queensland border all the way to Ballina, with logs, rafts of hyacinth and other stuff floating seawards. Potent subtropical low-pressure systems have dumped just the right amount of rain on the region to really set up the season ahead.
There hasn’t been quite enough rain to put the rivers into a damaging full flood and blast everything way out to sea. Rather, after the initial flood front moved seawards, the tides have begun to push in some water salty enough for the estuary fish to return pretty promptly and get down to business.
As the rain was bucketing down and the region was buffeted by 50-knot winds and five-metre swells, the jewie brigade got to work from the Ballina walls and scored some nice fish on lures and bait. A few schoolies also came from the Evans Head walls, where preserved worms seemed to do the trick.
As the sea went down and cleaner water began to push in on the high tides, bream and whiting got down to feeding well. In the still-discoloured water, the most effective baits are those with a strong smell, such as cut mullet, mullet gut, chook gut and the like.
At these times, the bait with the widest appeal is probably a yabby and it doesn’t seem to matter what condition it’s in. As the up-river tidal flats become choked with fresh water for long periods, yabbies and worms are forced from their deep burrows and swept downstream. Bream, school jew and whiting reap the rewards, but so do blackfish.
Normally considered weed-eaters, blackfish dine out extensively on yabbies after a fresh and the bait doesn’t have to be lively enough to nip your cuticle to shreds. In fact, just as the yabs have died and are getting slightly on the nose, they’re probably at their best. The fish are used to the numbers of dead yabbies around and still don’t mind gutsing themselves on them. They might not stay on a hook too well but they normally get bitten within a few seconds of hitting the water.
The Evans River was spared the first wave of floodwater in late February because of the permanent barrage at Rocky Mouth Creek which replaced the vandalised inflatable rubber fabridam. After lobbying from the pro prawners, parts of the barrage were removed and the March fresh came down chocolate.
Those who have followed the saga of the Evans River bar will be dismayed to learn that the recent $250,000 dredging effort lasted exactly one month and the bar is back to its typical sandy, shallow self, as anybody who knew predicted. Back to the drawing board…
The rocks and beaches adjoining the swollen rivers have also been fishing very well and should also be set up for a fish-filled Easter. Closer to the river mouths there are bream, whiting, flathead and school jewfish, while a little farther along the surf line there have been schools of tailor working the bait that’s come in to the nutrient-rich water. After some very ordinary tailor water from Evans Head up to Ballina for the past couple of months, it’s a relief to see some improvement.
The tailor have been active in the better water from Brunswick Heads down to Lennox Head, with some fair sorts of fish among them at places like Seagull Rocks at Brunswick, spots around Cape Byron and along the smooth boulders on Lennox Point. We can expect more improvements as we get into the proper season for these fish.
There have been no mackerel to speak of and the dirty water should keep them away until it clears. If we are going to get a 2004 season on these popular fish, it will be this month and Anzac Day is usually Mackerel Day for many offshore anglers. If we get no further rain, the bait should move inshore and the mackerel should follow. If they don’t come, something is very seriously wrong.
Inshore reefs traditionally fish well after a good fresh and there should be some good catches of snapper, jewfish and trag. Offshore catches have been very ordinary so far but the ocean always needs quite a few days to settle things before the fish really get back into business. There also should be the northern exotics on the bottom as well – things like yellow sweetlip, red-throated emperor and maybe even a coral trout. Throw in the usual Anzac Day cocktail of cobia, marlin and sailfish and you can have a pretty interesting time offshore this month.Reads: 1003