Fun stuff on the current
  |  First Published: December 2003

THE EAST COAST current should well and truly kick in this month, bringing with it all sorts of fun stuff.

With reports of a reasonable early run of spotted mackerel in Moreton Bay and off the Gold Coast, there’s every likelihood of a few turning up in Shark Bay at Woody Head on the full moon in the second week of this month, especially if the current kicks in further.

The widely accepted method of taking spotties in Shark Bay is to dash around like crazy, dragging weighted pink squid just below the surface at close to 12 knots. It’s not for the faint-hearted, nor for those wanting a tranquil day on the water, but it does catch fish on occasions. Don’t expect any niceties from other boats, nor any adherence to the collision regulations – especially when the fishless fleet sees a few birds diving on a busting school several hundred metres away. It’s enough to make you cringe!

Those spotties can also be caught by laying out a berley trail and using small live baits, but that’s often a technique which will work better later in the season. The early Shark Bay spotties have their hearts set on whitebait and will feed only when the water is warm, so sometimes they’re packed into a very small section of the warm, shallow bay and if you’re not right on top of them, you’ll strike out.

Casting small metal slugs to match the hatch can score some good catches and it’s also worth working small flies on the cast or the troll.

Around the same time we can also expect the first local run of billfish in the form of baby black marlin. While this area is nowhere near a South West Rocks type of fishery, there are days when the current runs deep blue close to shore and carries some bait schools.

Most of the handful of local trailer boat crews who target marlin, mahi mahi and striped tuna troll skirted lures from depths of 40 metres out to beyond the 100-metre line – a considerable distance on this part of the coast. But anywhere there are schools of bait in blue water is worth a try, especially if one of the baitfish can be towed live around the school.

Stronger current can make fishing for snapper, trag and mixed reef fish a little difficult this month, especially on the wider reefs. A quick examination of how many floats from the innumerable fish traps are on the surface can give you a fair indication of how much lead will get you to the bottom – and if you can just make out a float down below, give up and head back inshore or try some trolling.

Back in the rivers, everything depends on rain. At the time of writing, there hadn’t been much and most of the estuary action was between Wardell and Woodburn, with bream and flathead still mixing it with the bass as far upstream as well beyond Coraki.


Whiting have been the star performers of the lower estuaries, with catches and sizes increasing as the water warms. The usual spots have fired quite well: Ballina’s North Creek, around the sailing club, Riverview Park and Faulks Reserve. Out of the RFZ, the prime spots have been the running flats at Pimlico, just upstream of Wardell and, by the time you read this, maybe even the sandbanks at Rileys Hill. While there are still those who dig for bloodworms, the arrival of artificially bred tube worms has been a godsend for the rest of us, who don’t have to get covered in mangrove mud and despoil good river habitat to catch a feed of tasty fish.

Flathead have been spread throughout the river system but some larger hen fish have been setting up their boudoirs in the lower sections of the Richmond and no doubt holidaymakers seeking glory or a big feed of tough fillets will take a toll on these fish. Remember, would-be legends, it’s only one fish over 70cm you’re allowed. These fish are pretty easy to target if you know how and where and you won’t be impressing any seasoned anglers with your prowess, so go easy on them.

The bass should be well ensconced in their Summer homes by this stage, at least those fish which can make it back through low river levels and the weirs which block their further passage. With increased insect activity and more afternoon storms, there should be some good surface sessions around nightfall. That’s especially so in kikuyu grass country on those still, hot nights when the brown beetles hatch from the ground and do their thing. You can smell those beetles long before you see the first one and it’s always a good portent for the evening’s fishing.

Danny Robinson, of Alstonville, with a genuine 80cm of Richmond River flathead, taken on an Illusion soft plastic. The fish was released in good condition.

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