Balmy T-shirt afternoons and plenty of nights on the rocks, beach or offshore in Winter woollies make July a fish-filled time in these parts.
While the post-frontal westerlies often make mornings miserable, spray-driven and tough, these winds often die back during the afternoon to turn the rivers and the ocean to glass. And the fish seem to enjoy the calmer conditions almost as much as anglers. There’ll be plenty of stuff to chase, too.
Tailor should be a good thing from the beaches as they herd up the schools of pilchards in the surf gutters and the washes off the rocks. Whether it’s the result of the pro netting restrictions or merely a peak in the ever-fluctuating numbers of tailor in their boom-and-bust population cycle, there have certainly been plenty of tailor all along this strip of coast.
The size of the tailor has also been exceptionally good, with plenty of 4kg-plus greenbacks and the normal run of choppers around a kilo. Naturally, the bigger fish have been taken at night on big garfish, slimy mackerel, yellowtail or whole squid. But those who venture out at first light or late afternoon have been scoring plenty of nice school fish on the perennial pillies or metal. And on those glassy afternoons, there’s nothing better than cranking a hefty popper or shallow-running minnow over barely submerged rocks and seeing it slammed by a solid fish. Don’t be surprised if it’s a jewie instead of a tailor, either.
The heavy coastal rains of May certainly gave the bream season a real kick-start and, as the mud gradually settled in the lower Richmond estuary, the bream really came on around the rock walls. This month most of the action should be in the last kilometre or so of river and from the walls and nearby beaches. The travelling ‘snowies’ have shown up sporadically and a few schools should still make an appearance over the next few weeks.
Blackfish have settled in on the lower Richmond in good numbers and are changing their preferred diet from the readily-available ocean cabbage to infuriatingly variable forms of green weed. Murphy’s Law of Luderick states that they’ll bite best on the type of weed the bloke next to you has, but you should still be able to score good numbers from such places as The Gap in the Porpoise Wall on the southern side of the river at Ballina, Munsies Wall on the western Prospect Bridge approach over North Creek and the northern Burns Point ferry approach. At Evans Head you could try the Bream Hole, the northern upstream bridge approach and both walls when there is a bit of a sea on.
It’s a good time to target snapper and there have been some encouraging catches from the inshore reefs off Evans Head and Ballina. More fish will come from the wider grounds and from this month they’re pretty easy to find – just look for the endless lines of trap floats from 38 fathoms out due east of the Ballina bar. There’ll be trap floats aplenty around The Patch due east of Evans and probably all the way into the beach from a couple of pro drongos who can’t line-fish to save their lives.
Floatlining into a steady berley trail is the tried and proven method in close, while those fishing the deeper water often rely on braided lines to minimise the effects of current. By-catch will include cobia, samson and pearl perch, as well as some nice maori cod.
And on those sunny afternoons at high tide in the river, you could do a whole lot worse than fling a few plastics around in the shallows for sunbaking flathead. Just like us, they don’t mind lying about in the sunshine, recharging their batteries.
John Roache, of Lismore, had a motor problem on a fast run-out tide and helplessly dragging his anchor into a mountainous Ballina Bar in late May. He was lucky to be rescued. So far he hasn’t got his boat back but his GPS unit floated onto the beach nearby. Two weeks later, John went out on a mate’s boat and caught a coronation trout around 45cm – unheard of around these parts, although a Casino angler did catch a ‘standard’ coral trout off Evans Head earlier this year. While it’s certainly no compensation, it’s nice to have a win sometimes…
Ben Sandman, Editor of Australian Fishing Tackle Retailer, Fishing NSW, Fishing Queensland and Fishing Victoria, with a 37cm fork-length Clarence River bream that liked an Atomic 13/4” Paddletail.Reads: 777