Mackerel and raincoats for February
  |  First Published: February 2005

I always call this the Raincoat Month and although my predictions over the past year or so of drought have been faintly astray, this month is looking pretty true to type.

December and January humidity build-up has been solid with plenty of steamy days and lots of cloud and it looks like the Eastern Australia Current is strong and working close inshore. That means any time there is an onshore weather regime we’ll get rain and any time the monsoonal trough drops down into NSW we’ll get plenty of it. Mix the two with an upper-level trough and a flood is on the cards.

With the current putting plenty of warm water in close to the coast the mackerel should crank into gear. Spotties usually turn up off Evans around the first of the month and are likely to stay as long as the water is warm and clear. The local December upwelling did its thing pretty much on cue so there is plenty of feed for the baitfish and the spots should enjoy that as they work out of Moreton Bay and down to their southern feeding grounds.

There are plenty of ways to catch spots with the preferred local way involving a session on the bait jigs in front of Snapper Rock until a suitable supply of small slimy mackerel is secured. Some seasons the slimies have been too big for the smaller spots and it’s taken some time to find the right size bait to tempt them.

The fleet then heads somewhere between Kahors Reef and South Evans Reef, anchors up and floats out live slimies, usually under chunks of styrofoam which invariably end up on the beach after the hook-up. This is the way 90% of the Evans fleet, which can comprise up to 100 boats at times, fishes. That’s a lot of styrofoam and it won’t be long before someone gets cranky about it and starts pointing fingers at rec fishos, giving the extremist conservation movement even more ammunition to close off more fishing.

Balloons aren’t really the answer, either. Quite often they’ll bust on the strike and the broken rubber goes into the marine environment and ends up in some turtle’s gizzard.

I’ve experimented with a few float ideas over the years and reckon the soft plastic bubble float so commonly used on trout streams and inland waterways is reasonably recyclable and can take the weight of a small slimy.

Natural cork is also a good float and even the crankiest stud slimy has trouble dragging under two champagne corks glued together. You can either use a rubber band to adjust the depth or drill out the corks and make a running float rig with a stopper. While spotties are notorious for slashing at swivels and brightly coloured floats and severing the line, they don’t seem to be as aggressive – or suspicious – towards natural-coloured cork.

Some fair Spaniards should turn up around the full moon, with most fish around the north and south reefs on high tide or as the water starts to fall off the reefs. Don’t discount the headlands and behind the surf break, though; some of the best Spanish are ‘beachcombers’.

On the right days there should also be some fair snapper and maybe a king, cobia or even a billfish on the inshore reefs, too, particularly a few days after a rough southerly, so the fishing should be good if the rain keeps away.

When the cobalt water laps the shore there should be good land-based action for Spaniards, cobia and big tailor. Better spots include Goanna Headland at Evans Head, South Wall at Ballina, Skennars head just south of Lennox Head (avoid any swell at this killer spot), Broken Head and some of the rocks at Cape Byron. Poppers, slugs and livebait are naturally the go.

The estuaries have been fishing very well for elbow-slapping whiting, big flathead, school jew, some good bream and rather toey mangrove jacks, so the fun should continue there, too.

And if all hell does break loose with the weather, the walls will produce big jewies and the nearby beaches will also provide fun on bream, whiting and jew as the seas subside.

Just don’t forget that raincoat!

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