Estuaries fire up
  |  First Published: September 2003

This is more like it: Dependable weather, reliable fish in the estuaries and still a few good options in the surf and offshore await anglers in these parts this month.

I’ll be chasing flathead, bream and bass in the estuaries this month and I don’t expect many dud trips. While sorties offshore or from the rocks and beaches might be a little less reliable, there should still be plenty of action there, too.

The flathead in the Richmond River should be well and truly awake from their Winter slumbers, not that they really ever slacken off too much around these parts. While there have been numbers of good flatties through the cooler months around the flats, channels and seagrass meadows of the Ballina recreational fishing zone downstream of Burns Point, I expect the action to be upstream from now on. From Burns Point down is home to good schools of blackfish at the moment – if you can get some green weed

The sandflats from Burns Point up to Pimlico should be hitting their straps for the flat ones and there should be quality fish among the schools of smaller stuff. Pick a nice tide falling from high and work the edges and channels and you should have a few hours of entertainment and a nice feed to take home. Remember to go easy on the larger fish – there’s plenty of tucker on a 40cm to 50cm fish without diminishing the numbers of larger breeders.

Diving minnows worked slow and deep along the edges of the flats should work well, as will just about any type of soft plastic you care to throw. A fairly agitated stop-start retrieve should do the trick for the lizards. Don’t be afraid to experiment with sizes and styles. While flatties of all sizes will attack just about anything, you’ll get more quality fish with larger lures, such as the new Illusion 5” Mullet or the larger Squidgies or Atomics. Baitfish likely to be encountered are small mullet, whiting or herring.

Flathead also have a weakness for craw patterns which imitate prawns and yabbies, so they are worth trying, too.

School jew should also be on the bite in the deeper holes up to the Wardell highway bridge and they also like the above lures, while bait anglers would do well to use live herring or poddies, fresh squid or fresh prawns. The tide changes provide the best action.

The bream are also heading upstream and shouldn’t be too far from the prawn schools which are beginning to grow and prosper in the clearing water. Rain normally isn’t a problem this month, so the Richmond should be quite salty to Woodburn and beyond.


Farther upstream, the bass should be looking for fresher water as they make their way back from spawning in the lower reaches. Coraki to Tatham or Coraki-Wyrallah should be about the right stretches for these fish but they could take a bit of finding.

The bass run up the Richmond shouldn’t be as big this year because there were no stocked fish washed down from Toonumbar Dam in Autumn. Toonumbar has been closed to angling for the past four or five months and is still below the 50% level at which authorities might consider reopening it. With minimal chance of rain this month, don’t hold your breath.

The migrating Richmond bass no doubt will hit the dreaded wall, in the form of the Norco Weir at Casino, and be in all sorts of trouble from unscrupulous anglers there. Report all meat merchants to Fisheries immediately, we don’t need them there.

Off the coast, there should still be snapper in spawning mode on the inshore gravel and we probably will see a rise in water temperature, along with a little more current out wide.

It’s a time for large fish, rather than lots of smaller reds, so big baits of tuna strips, live pike or yellowtail, whole octopus or squid come into their own. Again, these big reds represent the future of our snapper stocks, so go easy on them.

In the surf the tailor action should be diminishing as September rolls by. There were some great tailor catches over Winter, particularly around Lennox Head to Broken Head, with greenbacks to 5kg frequent captures. There’ll be fewer of these fish but there should still be the odd school of stragglers to make a trip worthwhile.

Post-spawn bream should also be prowling the washes, eager to put on condition by picking up scraps washed in from the rocks or grubbing around the pipi beds along the beaches.

I can’t finish without mentioning the charming act by a beach-hauling crew who shot a net off Airforce Beach the day before the Fishing Classic – for the second year in a row, as I recall. They certainly didn’t win any friends among the 800-odd entrants and I think they set back rec-pro relations a few more years. Just because you’re legally entitled to do something doesn’t make it right. And if they were trying to make a statement of some sort, they said more about themselves than any number of words could.

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