Seize the day
  |  First Published: December 2008

The Summer ocean pattern should begin tokick into gear this month but it might take a bit of suitable weather to get everything into proper alignment – and those who can take advantage of things when they happen will benefit.

Although the East Australian Current can flow strongly reasonably close to the coast this month, the effect of Cape Byron can mean inshore waters southwards can be quite cool at times. During a horrendous 40° plus Christmas heatwave a few years ago, the surf at Evans Head was a goose-bumpy 17.6°, thanks to the cold upwelling that occurred when the current hit the cape and eddied away clockwise.

Although it contains all sorts of nutrients which benefit the lower elements of the food chain, that cold upwelling turns away all the warm-water species heading south on the current and we have to make do with the type of water that’s been hanging around for months.

A few days of southerly weather can bring that current close to shore for a day or two and it’s then the opportunity arises to enjoy a brief early run of pelagics.

If there’s a run of small spotted mackerel it will be in these conditions, especially if sardines or anchovies are about. The same bait can also bring in good tailor, kingfish, mackerel tuna and maybe even a striped tuna or small billfish.

But it takes only a couple of days of north-easterlies for the inshore water to cool off again, so if the water is clear to blue after a southerly blow, get out there and enjoy it while you can.

The same bait-filled, warm water can also bring the tailor to the beaches and amp up the bream, dart and whiting until the surf cools again. At least the warm water will see the last of the salmon leg it (fin it?) south.


The rivers should be more consistent.

Whiting are already making their mark in the lower to middle sections of the Richmond, Evans and Brunswick and should hit a feeding peak on the big early-morning high tides this month.

These strong fish can feed well in even quite strong tidal flow. Many of the Richmond experts who bait up with bloodworms prefer these big tides, anchoring their baits on long traces with heavy ball sinkers at places like Keith Hall, Pimlico and below the Burns Point ferry.

The same high tides allow poppers and surface walkers to be worked right up to the mangrove edges and along the tops of the rock walls for bream. Even the shallowest sand flats and seagrass beds will also produce whiting on poppers at the top of the tide.

Flathead should also be high on the agenda with spawning females in the lower reaches with their attendant males and school-size fish farther upstream.

Remember, it doesn’t take much to knock around the local spawning population by taking fish over 70cm, even though DPI Fisheries allows one per day. It takes only a handful of ego-trippers consistently donging big flatties to really dent the numbers of baby flathead in following seasons.

The good news is that after a couple of lean years there appears to have been a good recruitment to the local mulloway population. I’d say that enough adult jewies survived the January fish kill to head offshore and breed, or that they had done so just beforehand.

Tonnes of baby mulloway under 10cm long were killed by crews trawling school prawns inshore in early autumn but it seems the survivors have entered the estuaries in numbers. There have been thousands of ‘soapies’ encountered heading upstream so let’s hope that water quality in the Richmond remains good enough over the summer to support them and allow them to prosper.

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