An extra hour in bed
  |  First Published: November 2004

Thank God for daylight saving! It’s been enormously tough to get on the water at first light, especially if you first have to travel for an hour or so – sometimes it feels like the alarm has gone off just after I’ve gone to bed.

With long, hot days and brisk north-easterlies the norm, it’s best to be on the water at first light to have a chance at good fishing, and that happens pretty darn early without daylight saving. Blundering out in the dark at 3am can play hell with your sleeping patterns, so it’s nice to have the sun come up at a more reasonable hour these days.

Things are really warming up around here, with ocean water over 20° for some time now, the current out wide rushing south quite briskly and dragging the trap-float bubbles under for days at a time. The first northern pelagics ride down the current this month, with the possibility of the first few spotted mackerel in Shark Bay at Woody Head around the full moon on the 27th.

Mahi mahi and the odd marlin are also likely encounters on the wider reefs, provided those trap bubbles give the dollies something to hang around. Those content with staying closer to home can pick up snapper, pearl perch, trag and probably some fair kingfish. Flathead are also on the cards for the drifters. It takes a fair lump of a boat to get to deep water off Evans, so most of the fishing effort is confined to the extensive reefs within three or four miles of the coast.

Whiting have been around the beaches in healthy numbers with Airforce and Chinamans beaches locally turning up good catches early mornings. South Ballina and Patchs beaches have also been worthwhile and those who frequent the beach from Byron Bay to Brunswick Heads should get in there while they can, before the Cape Byron Marine Park swallows up the area.

There has been enormous outcry from the angling public over the draft zoning and the local paper has published the best part of a half-page of letters a day from the principal adversaries. Recreational anglers have certainly copped a belting under the draft zoning, with virtually all of the offshore reefs verboten and a big swathe of the aforementioned beach proposed to be fenced off.

The strong local conservationist lobby self-righteously trumpets that these are only minuscule portions of the park, while the fishos rightly point out that these portions are the only ones that contains any bloody fish! That’s what happens when you take a pretty crappy section of coast and try and turn it into a feelgood farm for ill-informed whale-huggers and shark-kissers who wouldn’t know a whiting if it bit them on the bum. Anyway, we can all try to turn the tide by swamping the Marine parks Authority with submissions by November 29.


Back to the whiting: Naturally, live beach worms, especially slimies, are almost mandatory for the beach whiting. I say ‘almost’ because you can pick up good whiting after dark on yabbies, which are a whole lot easier to catch for most people. Don’t even think of using them after sunup.

Dart can be an enormous problem when using worms during daylight hours and are a real nightmare for those using yabbies during the day. Even a 10cm dart seems to be able to rip a bait from a hook within seconds – another good reason for hitting the beaches in the pre-dawn, or after dark if the north-easter relents.

Whiting have started early in the Richmond River with good catches in all their usual haunts, especially North Creek, around the sailing club and on the deep running flats around Pimlico. Bloodworms and tube worms are the prime estuary baits and the whiting aces don’t mind the big tides ripping along over the deep flats. These anglers are not afraid to use plenty of lead to keep the bait on the bottom and use long traces to keep the worms waving about tantalisingly.

Flathead are up to their usual frolics in the rivers as well, with spawning season in full swing. There have been reasonable numbers of big females taken (and sometimes released) from many spots in the Richmond. The Porpoise Wall, Burns Point, Pimlico and Wardell have all turned up fish to 4kg or so and some bigger.

Thankfully there have been enough smaller flatties around to provide a feed for those who don’t believe in trophy hunting.

School jew have also been doing their thing in the deeper holes and around significant structure all the way to Woodburn and probably beyond. I can recall as a kid catching a little soapie in Deep Creek, near Tatham – a long, long way from the sea. Find some bait, such as prawns, herring or mullet and jewfish of some size or other won’t be too far away.

Decent rain has still been at a premium, with the region receiving even less than further down the coast. But with the Lismore Show on this month, at least we can expect some decent storms to produce localised deluges.

The storms should also turn on the bass, not that they’ve needed much turning on of late. There have been some hot bites for a month or so now but there’s nothing like the passing of a solid storm to make these fish go crazy. I’ve camped on a river hole for a couple of days for very mediocre catches and then a storm has passed over and the water has turned to foam with bass appearing seemingly from nowhere.

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