Time for northeasters
  |  First Published: October 2004

AFTER a relatively cold Winter in these parts, things are finally warming up and this month the local weather should begin to fall into a regular seasonal pattern.

For the next few months we can expect plenty of sea breezes springing up around mid-morning as the landmass warms up and the warm air rises. Relatively cool ocean air then pushes in underneath and the breeze can get cracking quite early, meaning the best fishing conditions often are early and late in the day.

Rain at this time is almost entirely from storms that build as the updraughts over the land gather moisture and collect into afternoon thunderheads. Late this month and through into December, these storms can get pretty vigorous and certainly become a safety issue.

With limited rain likely, the fish in the estuaries can roam far and wide as saline water pushes up to tidal limits. Monthly rainfall totals haven’t reached double figures since March so there’ll be plenty of places for the fish to feed and hide.

Weed beds in the middle reaches should flourish this season and although the Richmond River has been slow to warm this year because of the late Winter, there should be an abundance of prawns, shrimps and bait schools as the weed flourishes.

Just what you can find feeding around the weed can cover the full gamut of estuary fish, from bass to jewfish and trevally. Those bass which did migrate to spawn downstream over Winter won’t be able to get back to the upper reaches until there’s a decent rise in the river, so they’ll just have to share temporary quarters with bream, estuary perch, blackfish and even whiting, which are already quite a distance upstream.

Perhaps the best way to approach the weed in the middle reaches is with soft plastics up to 3” long. Stickbaits, grubs, small paddletails and worms or Senkos can represent most of the forage that resides in the weed and a hook from a No 2 up to around 1/0 should be able to fit in most of their mouths.

Using such plastics can cover most of your bases and it’s often a lottery what sort of fish will take the lure next. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits will appeal to bass but the bream will be more hesitant to hit these offerings.

There should be some decent bass sessions on surface lures at first and last light, especially on those evenings when insect activity is high. Some nights the smell of the beetles hatching from the bankside kikuyu grass can be overpowering and the bass go crazy.


Back down the river, the flatties will certainly be worth chasing, especially from, say, Broadwater to Pimlico. It’s time for the big female lizards to assemble their harems of attentive buck fish and it’s easy to be selective about what size of fish you keep for the table and still liberate the big breeders.

I like fishing large sandbars at first light from full tide, working the shallows, the little channels and drains as the tide falls. The sandy fringes of the mangroves also fire on a falling tide but it doesn’t pay to cast too long – those spiky mangrove pneumatophores can snag up a lure so easily.

School jew, bigeye trevally and GTs are also on the cards and the odd mangrove jack should also come to the party, especially around the points and eddies along the rock walls. They’re not as abundant as they seem to be from the Tweed north but they’re always welcome.

On the beaches, it’s dart, whiting and bream, with school jew also likely in the foamy gutters around sunset and sunrise.

While the best whiting fishing is in half-light or darkness, they sometimes can come on with a vengeance just as the north-easter begins to push in and agitate the shore break, dislodging a bit more feed.

Naturally, nothing beats live worms for the whiting and jew, although those pesky dart can deplete the worm supply pretty smartly. It can be a toss-up whether to sit out their attacks in the hope of whiting or jew moving in, or to just move on and try somewhere else.

October isn’t a bad time to chase a few late-run snapper over the inshore reefs, although the wider grounds are usually a bit more productive. The inshore snapper season hasn’t been hot by any means, thanks to the drought, with only fair catches throughout most of the cooler months.

The current out wide can become a problem again this month but a look at www.marine.csiro.au/remotesensing/oceancurrents/SE/latest.html before you head out should give you an indication of how strong the run is and what direction it’s coming from. This web page will also give an indication of surface temperature and even relative heights of the ocean surface – handy.

The ocean will be warming up and there should be mackerel tuna and bonito belting up the bait schools, along with some cobia when these enigmatic fish decide to turn up.

October usually isn’t a bad month for teraglin over the pinnacles, with the best action after dark on those nights when the north-easter isn’t blowing hard. Strip baits of fresh yellowtail or slimy mackerel are among the best baits to entice the timid tap-tap of a trag.

There can be hordes of undersized fish at times and with a limit of only five per person, it can pay to search for a better school if they’re runts. Even an undersized trag can gulp down a bait half its size, so it usually won’t help to bulk up the bait in the hope that a bigger fish will take it.

The north-easter slopping against the outgoing tide over the river bars at Ballina and Evans Head can also make for some solid pressure waves and interesting bar crossings, so that’s something to watch out for if you stay out a little too long.

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