Estuaries kick up a gear
  |  First Published: October 2005

It’s another month of change as the water off the coast begins to warm further, the estuaries kick up a gear and the bass head back to their freshwater homes with keen appetites.

Another big change takes place this month – since the spring Equinox on September 21 the larger high tides have moved to daylight hours and those big highs after dark become another memory of the winter past. That means more water movement during the morning tides and fish moving with them.

As the current begins to kick in, snapper should be in peak spawning mood on the inshore gravel patches. The fertilised eggs drift south on the current for several days before the fry gain mobility and head for the bottom.

This means that the offspring of reds that spawn off Evans Head or Ballina might end up settling on reefs off Coffs Harbour or further south, depending on the current. Fry that make our region home may be from Moreton Bay or the Gold Coast.

So anglers all along the coast rely on their colleagues further north to leave the snapper well enough alone at this time of year so we can all have improved catches in two to three years – the time needed for one of these fry to become legal size.

In the best of possible worlds there would be a DPI Fisheries biologist on hand in every major port to assess the fecundity development of local snapper and once a large proportion of the fish are deemed to be in spawning mood, they should be put off-limits for pros and rec fishers until the reds have finished their job. Maybe our licence funds will one day extend to that sort of positive management before there’s a need to artificially stock fish.

Snapper numbers in this region have been in a very poor state for more than a decade now – funny that this should correspond with the opening of the Southport Seaway and easier access to those reefs. And with the hammering that the local reds get, there must be lower recruitment numbers south of here.

Local beaches are starting to assume a summer feel with mid-morning north-easters springing up and increasing catches of whiting and dart, although there are still some patches of nice bream coming in occasionally from Airforce and Broadwater beaches, South Ballina and the strips around Lennox Head and Cape Byron.


In the estuaries it’s the usual dry-season lottery as fish of all kinds spread up the rivers on the increasing saltwater push and follow the bait as it prospers and multiplies.

It’s a prime flathead month, presenting a great opportunity to tangle with some big female lizards as they gather their harems of smaller males to produce the next generation of flatties. With so many compact cameras around these days, it’s almost unforgivable to see pics of self-proclaimed fishing legends in the local paper holding up big dead flathead.

The big fish tend to lie at the edges of the deeper holes in the Richmond and along the rock walls from about Wardell down to the mouth. They can be an easy target at times so there’s little skill in catching them and only ignorant, false heroics in killing them.

There should be plenty of fish of all kinds further up the rivers, with school flathead, bream, blackfish, school jew and trevally hammering the prawns and herring and the odd mangrove jack should also be stirring and sharpening its fangs for the season ahead.

While the Richmond from Pimlico to Broadwater gets plenty of attention this month, a lot of this action tends to happen farther upstream in water which is also holding late-running bass and estuary perch. So it can become a real lottery in these sections as to what will take your lure or bait next.

If you’re spinnerbaiting for bass, for instance, and you get a series of taps which fail to produce a hook-up, it might be worth flicking in a small soft plastic and you shouldn’t be surprised when you come up fast on a bream or flathead. You have to love it…

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