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Fun at sunrise
  |  First Published: October 2003



It’s one of the best months to wet a line in any estuary in the region.

The weather seems to be warming up nicely and so are the rivers, from the bass heading upstream to their sweetwater haunts to the flathead gathering to breed in the lower estuaries. The water temperature is rising and there’s plenty of feed about, with increasing numbers of prawns growing bigger by the week and schools of herring, mullet fingerlings and plenty of other baitfish working upstream.

I think I must say it every October, but here I go again – there won’t be much in the way of rain until Lismore Show weekend, when the first storm of the season should build up. I think in the drought last year we missed out even then but, most years, it should be quite dry until around the 17th.

We can, however, expect some north-easterly sea breezes to spring up to chase in those working the inshore reefs for snapper and teraglin or the surf-casters looking for whiting or bream. That same morning breeze will also mean early starts will be best for almost all forms of fishing, so it’s best to be right there on the water as soon as you can see.

A glassy dawn on the Richmond from Ballina up to Wardell, with the tide just starting to fall, is as good as it gets for those chasing the local lizard population. Look for running flats and drains, channel edges, eddies and fringes of the weed beds or shallow rock walls, where flathead of all sizes lie in wait as the bait hurries by on the tide.

The flatties will be looking for prawns, yabbies, herring, poddies and small whiting, so let these be your baits of choice. Weight them just sufficiently to allow them to drift naturally down the tide and remain in frequent contact with the bottom, whatever the depth you’re fishing.

If you’re throwing lures, they’ll be swimming in fairly clear water so keep the colours natural and the sizes and actions similar to these baits the flatties are expecting. It doesn’t matter whether you’re flinging soft plastics or hard bodies, as long as your size, colour and presentation are to emulate the naturally-occurring food.

And the flathead are getting into breeding mode, with the larger female fish beginning to be accompanied by numbers of attentive smaller males. It’s those smaller fish you should keep if you’re after a few fillets for the pan and few fish taste nicer – just go very easy on the big ones.

While you’re chasing the lizards, there’s a fair chance of tangling with a few other species. Prawn imitations up to around 65mm long will also be readily taken by ‘soapie’ school jew, especially around the change of the tide in the deeper areas such as the holes just upstream of the Burns Point ferry, just downstream of Pimlico island, on the south-western side of Pimlico Channel or under the Wardell highway bridge.

Bream are naturally on the cards, especially with soft plastics below 50mm, and estuary perch are also a likely by-catch. The growing numbers of those chucking small plastics are frequently encountering EPs these days, although the bulk of these fish should also be moving to their haunts upstream, especially from Woodburn to Coraki.

There should be plenty of bass on offer in the Richmond and Wilsons systems upstream of Coraki, with fish all the way to Lismore and the falls below Casino. While most of the bass will be caught on diving crankbaits and spinnerbaits, there should be some reasonable surface sessions on still, balmy afternoons. And as those storms begin to form later in the month and the barometer begins to yo-yo, evening sessions after the storms go through could also produce some hot bites.

While tailor will be conspicuously absent from the beaches and headland washes, there should be some bream and ever-growing numbers of dart and whiting. There are likely to be a few school jew in the surf washes and live worms, or those preserved by a 30-second dunk in methylated spirits before freezing, are the way to go to entice these.

Snapper should also still be around the inshore reefs in small numbers and October is usually not a bad time to encounter some schools of teraglin on the prominent pinnacles they seem to love. A night session can account for bag limits of trag but those afternoon sea breezes can make such a proposition an infrequent occurrence.

While the champagne fishing of Winter is now just a memory, there is still plenty of opportunity to tangle with quality action in the estuaries, where the water quality should be about as good as it gets during the year. Enjoy.

1

More people chasing bream with plastics imitating prawns, meaning more people are encountering estuary perch as by-catch.

2

This bream shows that even the cheekiest tiddler is greedy enough to grab a plastic – that’s an atomic 1 3/4” paddletail and the fish can’t be more than 5cm.

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