Winter fishing hits its peak around here this month with all the estuary, surf and offshore favourites fired up and feeding.
The bream, tailor and jewfish hit their straps on the long ocean beaches and around the headlands and breakwalls as the mullet and pilchard migrations reach a pinnacle of activity.
While there haven’t been too many days of westerly winds yet, they should kick in this month along with the odd strong southerly storm. When the westerlies flatten the surf, beach fishing can be very rewarding and, after the sun gets up, pleasantly balmy.
A large proportion of the longer local beaches are accessible by 4WD so finding the prime beach gutters is simply a matter of locking the hubs, lowering the tyre pressure and hitting the sand. There are reasonable to good beach access points between Ballina and Evans Head at South Ballina, Patchs Beach, Boundary Creek, Broadwater Beach and Airforce Beach. Further south in Bundjalung National Park there is vehicle access to Ten Mile Beach at Black Rocks near Jerusalem Creek and Shark Bay near Woody Head.
Best baits for the tailor are blue pilchards or garfish on ganged hooks for the choppers early mornings and evenings. Strips of bonito are the prime bait for the bigger greenbacks at night. The bigger jewies like live mullet or fillets of tailor or bonito and the schoolies just love beach worms, either fresh or preserved.
The bream love mullet or bonito strips and also devour the local surf fare, worms and pipis.
There are plenty of pipis and beach worms available almost everywhere, although you should be mindful that there is a State bag limit of 20 worms and 50 pipis. Every year the pipi regulations are flaunted by southern visitors who think they don’t apply to them or plead simple ignorance.
Here’s the crunch again: Pipis are not to be removed any further than 50 metres from the high-tide line. They make far inferior bait when salted or frozen and are available in the sand right under your feet on all but the highest tides, so it’s just plain stupid or greedy to take home huge numbers of them.
Speaking of stupid and greedy, no doubt the travelling gangs of pro beach haulers will make their annual attempt at some sort of vague statement by netting Airforce Beach in the days leading up to the 10th Evans Head Classic…
This is the time of year when the recreational fishing haven at Ballina comes into its own. In years gone by there was plenty of Winter net activity for jewfish, bream, blackfish and whiting in the area downstream of the Burns Point ferry but since the proclamation of the haven, net crews are allowed to target only mullet during their annual run.
This is a trade-off for closing off netting in a significant stretch of the Richmond which is prime bass habitat and migration territory. Call it a fair deal or a rip-off, the other species in the Ballina haven at least have a bit more security before making their dash to sea. When the fish are spread far and wide over the warmer months the haven really isn’t all that important but when fish are aggregating before or after moving through the entrance, it’s a highly significant area and offers rewarding fishing.
Southern Cross University is conducting research on the haven’s effects on recreational fishing so if you encounter someone with a clip board and a questionnaire at a Ballina ramp, feel free to give them details of your outing.
There are reasonable numbers of bream in the river at Ballina and their quality of late has been excellent, with relatively few undersize fish and quite a few around a kilo. School jew have been active at night around the RSL club lights and along the Porpoise Wall and it’s comforting to think those huge night net shots in Mobbs Bay are a thing of the past.
Blackfish have come on very well with good catches from the Porpoise Wall and cricket scores at times from the disused northern ferry ramp at Burns Point. I checked out the action one day recently when they were poling them in on a making tide. Although the fish weren’t very big there certainly were plenty of them for everyone there.
There are also fair numbers of big flathead still around and there’s still nothing quite like the first sight of a big lizard looming up from the depths on the end of your line to get the old ticker pumping.
Warm ocean water is lingering this season, with sea temps around 25° persisting not far offshore. The mackerel have become patchy but there’s still the chance of locating a school of spotties and these late-season fish are big and fat, averaging 5kg with some almost double that.
That warm water has meant a reasonably slow start to the inshore snapper run but as the sea cools down we can expect to see improved catches. The warm, south-flowing water has also pushed many of the migrating humpback whales a little farther offshore.Reads: 1321