I KNOW it’s awfully early to say it and I hope I’m wrong, but this looks like being a long, dry summer.
Here we are in the driest part of our year – I think September is the only month when Lismore hasn’t experienced a major flood in the past century – and the country is frost-burnt, brown and dry, the rivers are frightfully clear and the prospect of rain is grim until the mid-November storm season. It reminds me of 1981 and 1994, both very dry years.
So we’ll see the estuary fish spread far and wide to tidal limits, while the beaches will settle into the early summer pattern of whiting, bream, dart and school jew. Snapper should also be getting into their spawning rituals on the gravel beds, providing some delights for anglers in close, and we should see a few cobia and mackerel tuna turning up as well.
While the rivers will run clear and slow, there should be some interesting fishing if you can find some bait and structure in the form of rocky holes, weed beds and sunken timber. As the river water warms, the season’s prawns will come out to play, so you can expect to find some good fishing around the weed patches.
And with salt water reaching ever-farther up the rivers, there’ll be some very interesting ‘variety fishing’ from, say, Woodburn to Casino or Lismore. It’ll be the sort of fishing where you don’t know which rod to pick up – do you use a spinnerbait or surface lure to stir up a bass, a small soft plastic to tempt a bream or a larger plastic to muster up a mulloway or a flathead? They’ll all be in the same water and, in some cases, competing for your offering.
Water clarity on the Richmond hasn’t been in the same class as, say, the Clarence, where visibility has often been at least 6-7m, whether you’re at Yamba or upstream of Grafton. Thanks to its muddy banks and high levels of intensive farming and large number of towns and villages, the Richmond is normally fairly murky at its best.
There should be visibility of a metre or three – plenty to employ natural-coloured lure patterns in preference to lumo attractors. The key is to try to find some forage for the fish, whether that be prawns and shrimps on the weed beds and reedy banks or snags and backwaters for baitfish. Insect activity should increase this month, too, and fish which may find the going hard won’t hesitate to look up for a feed on a still, warm evening as beetle and moth hatches occur.
The bass will be heading for their summer haunts and the lack of river flow could mean their passage will be halted or slowed in the shallows of the Richmond towards Casino and upstream of Lismore on Wilsons, Leicester and Tuncester creeks. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits and surface lures will get them when they’re frisky, while soft plastics, on jigs, dropshot rigs or weedless worm hooks will work better when they’re less active.
With the heady days of winter behind us, most beach activity will centre on early and late sessions. Tailor should have tapered off seriously as they head for their ‘sea of love’ off Fraser Island, leaving resident whiting and dart, and foraging pods of bream and school jew.
Some of the best beach whiting fishing around Evans seems to occur in September, although best catches occur very early and late in the day. Live beach worms, especially small slimies, are about the only bait worth using, although yabbies seem to work OK in the dark. Places to try include Main Beach in front of the surf club, New Zealand Beach and South Ballina Beach. Further north, you could try Seven Mile Beach at Lennox and the stretch from Belongil Creek to Black Rock in Byron Bay.
Off the rocks, there should still be some bream putting on as much condition as they can after spawning and the odd school jew, while those who throw lures might have to content themselves with jewfish and perhaps some GTs off the headlands such as Lennox Point and Broken Head.
It can be pretty hard to pin down spawning snapper because most of the fish won’t be on the hard ground where it’s so convenient to anchor. Drop the pick in the wrong place and you’ll have to contend with sergeant baker, red harrys (rock cod) and assorted dreadfuls, while the reds could be only 40-50m away on the gravel.
This is where diligent use of the sounder and GPS become crucial. Locate those schooled fish and you may have to also carry a sand anchor to work them properly. Or if you’re blessed with a still morning or (less likely) an evening, you could simply mark the schools on your GPS and drift over them.
Dropping medium-size (3” to 6”) soft plastics onto these fish will produce some champagne action at times but you may need some decent jig heads to do the job, as most of the snapper action takes place between 25m and about 40m – a long way to drop a light head. If you haven’t experienced the freight-train crash of a big red belting your jig, all I can say is hand on to your rod tightly at all times.Reads: 503