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A ripper of a month
  |  First Published: September 2003



This can be a ripper of a month to fish the area: There are lots of small creeks to target, great headlands and beaches and an abundance of reefs that see very little impact.

After plenty of Winter rains, the Tweed River is in a very clean state compared with previous years and I am tipping a good Spring season for anglers.

Mangrove jacks begin longer feeding periods this month as the days become longer and the water temperatures begin to climb. They can be difficult to catch because of their shorter feeding times, but bigger fish can be accounted for.

Lures are a great way to search these fish out. Robust deep-divers work for deep rock bars and shallow-runners for casting or trolling the shoreline. Low light levels with a change of tide are the peak conditions. Again I urge anglers to strictly catch and release jacks – their numbers are being impacted on as more anglers chase them.

The bream season will be hitting its straps by the time this issue is released. I don’t think anything needs to be written about the effectiveness of soft plastics and the pleasure that this style of fishing provides. Certainly this month should see some big fish taken around the rock walls at the mouths of the estuaries.

Flathead, too, will make a big appearance in the systems this month, with the full moon urging the big females into their breeding areas. I don’t like targeting these fish at this time, as an extra few hundred thousand potential fish in a system certainly is appealing to me as a side effect. There will, however, be plenty of fish available to lure and fly anglers on the flats and by trolling the deeper sections.

The beaches and headlands have fished reasonably well with Black Rock, Hastings Point and Cabarita beaches, in particular, providing some great fishing.

The inshore and offshore fishing has also been productive, with some good catches of big snapper from the close reefs from Kingscliff south. There are also good numbers of big kingfish and cobia. The bait reefs have good numbers of slimies and yakkas, mostly small, so perhaps the end of the drought triggered a big spawn last season. Either way, it all looks good for fishing in close and anglers should fish fresh bait alive or dead this month, with better results attributed to fresh bait.

Out wide, pearl perch, red-throat sweetlip, morwong and snapper have been around in reasonable numbers and should continue to be at least for this month.

Jigging the deep water is also taking off, with the River2Sea range of lures, along with Raiders, proving inexpensive alternatives to losing $50 lures. I know Gold Coast Tackle have been moving a swag of these lures in recent times. These jigs, cranked at speed in deep water, have been accounting for everything from jew to samson, amberjack and, of course, the kingfish. It’s something I plan to do a lot more of this month.

Weather is generally stable through September, offering anglers comfortable conditions. The current will not have started with any real push yet, so try inshore early and the wider grounds after dawn.

The Tweed bar has undergone some serious dredging in recent months and has good access to the open water Care is the keyword, however. Don’t cross the bar without a lifejacket because the minute it takes to put on could save your family from a tragedy.

Check your safety gear is in good order, your battery is charged and don’t go fishing without a licence. NSW Fisheries has been going through an education process for the past year or more but no longer – severe penalties apply for infringers.

There are signs on all ramps on the Tweed and no shortage of places to by a licence.

GREED ON THE TWEED

My high anticipation leading into this new season was severely soured by recent events here.

Regular readers will be aware that there has been no shortage of water in the catchment, with a good flow over the Clarrie Hall Dam spillway for most of the Winter and many impoundment bass finding their way into Doon Doon Creek and on into the Tweed.

Prospects of a great bass season were rife, with the grapevine working overtime about big numbers of bass were holed up in the pools just below the dam. I had just returned from a dam charter which had produced some of the fattest, roed-up fish I have caught there in years. Unweighted soft plastics worked through the weed-entangled shallows made for some exciting fishing.

I had a phone call that night from a bloke in Newcastle who had just spent a week at the dam. He loved the place and vowed to return. Word had reached him about the two pools in question and he had caught and released 90 bass one day.

Here’s where things turned sour. On arriving at the pools one morning, he was greeted by a number of locals who had obviously different intentions for the fish. One very large esky was already full of breeding-sized bass, with estimates of between 50 and 100 fish. The question of bag limits and ethics was raised by our young visitor, who was quickly met with threats of violence.

I won’t go into the details but I’m sure you get the picture. These guys were spotted there a number of times over previous weeks and it didn’t take long to work out where they were from. I visited the pools to get some photos a couple of times over the following week.

On one visit, I had both of my children with me, relishing the opportunity to wander around the creek. Empty stubbies, discarded line and rubbish were obviously new to the area.

The first fish I witnessed getting caught was attached to a mass of line that the angler had hooked. The fish could be seen trying to escape with line running in every direction. The tangle and weight of the line were so great that the lure eventually broke off and the whole mess descended back into the pool, the fish still attached.

I headed downstream with the kids. There are some pretty pools downstream that I thought might be worth looking at, if only to be rid of the mess. We were greeted with a couple of cleaning stations where masses of scales indicated a large-scale kill. Human excrement topped it of for me.

I never expected to find so much discarded fishing line – heavy-duty snares for ground-dwellers. We did a major clean-up that morning before leaving, but evidence of people having fires was everywhere. One picnic table and benches were ripped from their mounts and had been partially burnt.

The local Fisheries office and the National Parks and Wildlife Service received a number of calls about the situation. Undermanned and under-financed, they were unable to mount any real operation while the carnage was occurring – a situation I find disgraceful.

Fish Care volunteers were on the job very quickly but they have no prosecuting powers, but they were able to pass on relevant fisheries literature. Many people who fished the area with young children didn’t know anything about bag or size limits, highlighting the lack of signage in the area.

The result is that if it can’t be policed, it could more than likely be closed to the public. The council is fed up with the vandalism, there are issues for native animals and Fisheries regulations are being blatantly abused.

The only losers will be those who love to fish and visit the area. To take a child and catch a few bass easily makes for a great family adventure, even if you take your bag limit home – after all, it is a put-and-take fishery.

The question is, will it stop those with the mindset to take as many fish as they can, leave their rubbish behind and vandalise public property? If differences in opinion lead to violent responses, it is only a matter of time before there is a risk to the public. There is nothing worse than listening to foul-mouthed drunks in a public area.

The council, the Australian Bass Association and the local community worked hard for a long time to allow access to fish the waterway, stocked with fish by local fundraising. It is a great resource that deserves at the very least that it is shared within the regulations.

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