Beat the north-easter
  |  First Published: November 2003

IT’S the season of the sea breeze in these parts, so it’s best to be out there early and home before the north-easters begin to dish you out a battering.

That sort of schedule also fits in pretty well with the way the fish are behaving and it’s handy that daylight saving time has kicked in to make an early outing start at a relatively civilised time. Those 3am to 4am starts before daylight saving to be on the water at first light were real killers!

An early morning on the Richmond, Evans or Brunswick river should have enough action to keep you entertained, whether you use bait, lures or flies. The flatties have been going fairly well around Ballina and upstream and if we get a day or two of rain it should begin to push downstream those fish which have headed way up.

The bream, likewise, should be starting to head back downstream but they’ll stop and feed anywhere where they can find a feed, especially of river prawns. School jew have been pretty active in the Richmond, with the recreational fishing zone from Burns Point down to the mouth a happy hunting ground for increasing numbers of fishos. The deep section around the Ballina RSL Club has been quite popular, especially after dark. Live herring or poddy mullet have been the top choice although there are plenty of people flinging hard-bodied minnows and soft plastics with success.

Whiting should be a good bet this month in the Richmond. Best spots are between Burns Point and the top end of Pimlico Island, with bloodworms far and away the most effective baits. Beach worms are a distant second and live yabbies a lonely third.

Fish the bigger high tides in water to about five metres and you’ll need a fair sort of sinker to hold as the tidal run picks up. Long traces help and you might want to run a second shorter trace to give you two bites at the cherry (or whiting) before you reel up. Some of the gun fishos can take plenty of real quality fish using this method while the also-rans have to be satisfied with a handful of barely-legals.

Another way to knock over some quality whiting is to fish calmer shallows at night with live prawns. Some of the better spots to try are in North Creek at Ballina near the Ex-Servicemen’s Home, the North Arm of the Brunswick and around the wharf near the Evans Head RSL club. Pick a high tide after dark and us ultra-fine line and as little sinker as you can get away with. A live prawn or rock shrimp, pinned lightly through a tail segment and floated down a quiet flat, is an open dinner invitation to a big hungry whiting. With fish to 700g likely, it pays to make sure your reel’s drag is in top condition.

There should also be some nice whiting in the surf, where they will more freely take live beach worms. Again, the best way to tackle them is to start well before sun-up, having done your reconnaissance on the best shallow gutters or beach holes the previous day. A rising tide is the only one to fish unless you’ve found a gutter draining off a big sandbar, in which case that should fish pretty well on the early part of the ebb.

Dart could be a bit of a problem if you’re chasing whiting in the surf, with hordes of the little bait-stealers driving you nuts at times. One answer is to move on and find a place they haven’t found yet, but they can tend to be omnipresent. Sometimes you can get your bait away from them and have more chance at a whiting by working slightly deeper water, maybe a little farther from the shore break or channel drop-off, as dart seem to hang a little shallower. Or you can just tough it out and keep catching the little blighters until the whiting move in and hunt them away.

Offshore, the current can be a problem for bottom fishing this month, especially on the wider grounds as the gentle trickle to the south turns into a raging flood of warm, blue water. It’s not a bad time to target jewfish on the bigger tides in close and there are usually also some fair hauls of teraglin on their pinnacle haunts.

Many offshore anglers use this time to prepare their gear for the pelagic season ahead, which is only weeks away. In fact, back in the good old days, if the November full moon was late enough in the month, the first run of small spotted mackerel would hit the white pillies in Shark Bay at Woody Head. Maybe one day it’ll happen again.


THE FIRST round of zoning submissions for the Cape Byron Marine Park are under consideration at the moment. I don’t know about other marine parks in the State but I can’t help thinking that the Byron experience is a pretty sorry example.

I think the park process itself has almost entirely been political. Ecologically, the area inside the park is predominantly pretty uninspiring apart from the Julian Rocks area, which is flooded with divers every day of the year. The Julians have some interesting and significant coral and bottom structure with associated temperate/tropical marine organisms. This area is already under protection as a marine reserve and a grey nurse habitat. Being Australia’s most easterly point, much of the inshore area is subject to very strong geomorphology forces and features some pretty mobile sediments and not a lot else of great note. I’ve seen a whole lot of scientific underwater video of this area and it’s barren compared with footage of some other areas close by which are subject to no protection at all.

Why, then, is there a marine park from Brunswick Heads down to Lennox Head – and, in the view of the conservation lobby submissions, should there be one right into the Richmond River at Ballina? Is it because of what they’re trying to protect or the number of people in the area who just feel it would be good to protect something, whatever its dubious worth?

I reckon the Cape Byron Marine Park is there because there are so many people in the area who view themselves as conservationists. If they were true conservationists with a better understanding of the marine environment, they’d be better off protecting some of the other unique key habitats in the region, rather than chasing after the charismatic megafauna such as whales, dolphins, turtles and grey nurse sharks that give them that warm, fuzzy feeling.

Bass are actively hitting all kinds of lures as they take up residence in their Summer haunts.

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