After the good flush-out of a couple of months ago, the Richmond River should be a picture this Spring.
With just enough July rain to cause minor flooding but not enough to spark any major fish kills, the estuary scene promises to be one of plenty as the weather warms and we move to traditionally the driest season of the year.
The bream, blackfish, flathead and jewfish are gradually moving farther upstream from the stretch just above of Ballina and by the time you read this there should be good numbers of fish to Wardell and Broadwater.
Although the bream will be spreading out and a far cry from the concentrations of even a month ago, there should be enough around to make a sortie worthwhile. The big problem will be the variation in size as those post-spawners which opt to stay in the river mingle with the pre-pubescent rats.
Although they have lingered all Winter, it’s now time for the flathead to start to hit their straps and there should be plenty of school fish from Ballina to Wardell and even around Rileys Hill, upstream of Broadwater. And it’s almost time for the big female breeders to start gathering a harem to begin the next recruitment of baby flathead.
It’s a good time to drift the sandy shallows and cast lures as the tide begins to ebb and the lizards become active. They’ll relish the warming sun to boost their metabolism and there should be some rewarding action on hard or soft lures and bait such as frogmouth pilchards or live poddy mullet. There’s also the chance of a school jew in the stretch from Burns Point to Pimlico and Wardell as the prawns come to life for the Summer and the small herring school up.
The ocean water temperature will help determine just how fast and how far the fish work up the estuary. If it remains around 19° or 20°, as it has for some weeks, the fish might stay low until upstream temperatures equalise before they move up further. But as the daytime sun warms the river more they’ll be on their way.
In the meantime, those hunting blackfish have been having a bit of fun at their usual haunts in the Richmond – the main sea walls, the Porpoise Wall, the approaches of Prospect Bridge over North Creek and the old Burns Point ferry ramp.
Bass anglers will be out in force this month as the fish make their trek back from the lowest sections of the river – they had to go a long way before they found water of suitable salinity this season. The middle reaches to Coraki and beyond should have some good fishing as the fish make their way home.
Estuary perch have had a good run, too, with schools haunting their favourite deep reefs and snags in the lower river.
The beaches have produced some good catches of bream around the river mouths from time to time and there should be plenty of fish which have opted to stay at sea, trying to put on condition as they roam the surf along the sand and the headlands looking for feed. There have even been some hefty bream taken by snapper anglers over the inshore reefs.
Salmon have been a feature of beach catches this Winter although they seem to be in pods of fish rather than the big schools seen further south and are more likely to be taken on bait than metal lures. The tailor are tapering off a little now but there should still be a run of fish around Lennox Head, Broken Head, Cape Byron and Brunswick Heads, depending on the density of the bait schools.
In the ocean the snapper are in spawning mood, with fish feeding and breeding over the gravel beds in anything from 12 fathoms out to 40 fathoms, depending on the strength of the current. Sadly, the wider reefs will be dotted with lines of floats as the trappers take their toll on these fish as well.
On the more settled days there should be a north-easterly breeze coming up mid-morning but it’s still possible to cop a brisk early-morning westerly – not the sort of thing you welcome when you’ve just dropped on a wide mark and started to catch a few reds and pearl perch.
Ballina blackfish anglers have had a pretty good season with the fish biting throughout the estuary.
Small school jew should be around in the lower Richmond as the river warms up. This little bloke was released.Reads: 710