It’s all hot to trot
  |  First Published: November 2005

The first of the good blue water should push down within range this month, bringing with it the initial welcome run of warm-water pelagics and boosting the estuary temperatures enough to bring the mangrove jacks and trevally well on the bite.

The current typically runs pretty strongly this month, often pulling the snapper-trap headgear under, but when it’s too strong to drift the bottom out wide there’s still the chance of some good fishing.

With three fish aggregation devices (FADs) now installed off this part of the coast there should be some good opportunities on the pelagics, with mahi mahi a certainty and the growing possibility of striped and baby black marlin and some decent mackerel and striped tuna and kingies, among others.

The Byron Bay FAD has been in for more than a decade now and was a pioneer in FAD installation and design in the State, thanks to the local fishing club which did all the groundwork and miles of paperwork.

It’s at S 28° 35.052’, E 153° 38.283’ in 42 metres. While that’s proven to be a bit shallow to catch the current all the time, the list of species which has been caught there is as long as your arm.

The Byron FAD is only a 9.5km run from the Brunswick bar and closer still if you have that rarest of all commodities, a boom gate ticket for The Pass at Byron Bay. That boom gate lends a new meaning to the place name, that’s for sure, but with the incessant dive boat traffic and the hordes of swimmers and surfers there these days it’s the only way to manage the area, I guess.

Over the past month or so DPI Fisheries has installed another two FADS in the area, bringing the State total to 21 once they’re all in for the Summer.

The Ballina FAD is the most easterly of the bunch and although it’s an unknown quantity at this stage, it should be a very good producer when things get cracking. It’s at S 28 °54.430, E 153 °41.189' in 70 metres near The 38-Fathom Mark 14km off the Richmond bar.

The Evans Head FAD is at S 29° 07.667’, E 153° 36.757’ in 60 metres, 17km off the bar out near The Patch. This should be another goodie and hopefully I’ll have some first-hand reports on this over the next couple of months. Anything that can take a bit of pressure off the inshore reefs can do only good around here, although the fleet of mostly small trailer boats tends to flog the reefs a lot closer to home, especially with the price of fuel these days.

My FAD experiences have been mostly confined to way, way offshore – like Fiji! I’ve fished three or four over there in the past 20 years and on one of the Kadavu seamount FADs I’ve seen striped tuna churning the water white in a 100-metre stream as far as the eye could see in either direction. There were also yellowfin, albacore, some huge blue marlin and the ubiquitous mahi mahi.

On other FADs over there the mahi mahi were also abundant but they can play hardball at times. I guess the ones off Evans, Ballina and Byron will see a whole heap of lures and baits over the Summer and become connoisseurs of the latest tackle and techniques.

One thing I have noticed with FAD mahi mahi is that they don’t just hang within 20 metres of the structure and often roam quite freely in the vicinity, using the float as a base camp and reference point in an otherwise featureless sea.

So if you see or catch nothing in the immediate area, don’t despair: Troll or drift a pattern anything out to a kilometre from the buoy and you might be surprised what you catch. That’s especially so with live bait but lures also work well.

Mahi mahi seem to cotton on fast that their mates have got into trouble and it’s seldom that one lure or technique will be effective for a whole session. Try casting poppers next to the buoy for initial visual fun, then burn chrome, twitch plastic or jig and when all else fails, a livie is irresistible.

We should also see the first run of spotted mackerel come through this month around the moon, chiefly off the Brunswick reefs and down at Shark Bay at Woody Head. They’ll most likely be pretty small and feeding mostly on white pillies. However, if the water over the reefs off Ballina or Evans is clear, blue and over 23° it’s worth trying for them.


You won’t need a boat of your own to head wide off Evans Head this summer now that local pro skipper Mick McGillivray has acquired The Pirate, a 12m Randell flybridge that will specialise in trips to the reefs in 32 to 48 fathoms for up to 12 anglers. Mick’s pro skippering background extends as far as North Queensland, although he’s been line fishing out of Evans for yonks and should have some hot numbers in his plotter for reds, pearlies, jew, trag, kings and mackerel.

The Pirate is well-found and comes complete with outriggers, fighting chair, loads of seating, shade and shelter and quality Shimano gear, fresh bait and light refreshments. Mick’s introductory offer until December 26 is $90 per person for a full day bottom-fishing charter. No doubt he’ll be hitting the Evans FAD on a lot of outings, too.

Mick also caters for groups, whether you’re planning an outing with the mob from work or you’re a jigging nut with a bunch of mates hell-bent on wrecking their backs on kingies and amberjack. I did a bit of jigging out wide around 20 years ago and knocked up well before the fish did.

I’ll slip out with Mick over the next few weeks and give you a detailed run-down on the operation in a forthcoming issue. In the meantime you can beat me to it and book your trip on 0428 828 835.


Back on the shore, the whiting should hit their straps on the beaches and although beach worms or white worms are mandatory, you’ll still pull good fish with live yabbies after dark.

The rivers should be interesting as the water warms, with the big flatties still in spawning mode and increasing numbers of mangrove jacks, big-eye trevally and GTs terrorising the baitfish. In the lower rivers the herring schools should be growing out nicely, while further upstream the prawns, whitebait and mullet should provide plenty for the bream, school flathead and school jew to chow down on.

The jewie god must be smiling down on me lately as I’ve had success on schoolies in the low 80cm range on a majority of breaming trips of late. Having come out and said that, I’ve probably blown my future chances but hopefully not.

It makes for some great fun and plenty of heart-stopping moments when you can flick out a 3” stickbait on 4lb Fireline and never know whether you’re going to connect to a bream the size of the lure, one of 35cm, a 60cm-plus flattie, trevally to a couple of kilos, a late-season estuary perch or a jewie that will provide the family with three meals.

Add the mangrove jacks to the equation and an estuary session becomes quite a nervous event at times.

It won’t be that quit on the bait scene, either, if you have a heap of bloodworms or tube worms. The Richmond whiting are already going quite well up to Pimlico with fish over 40cm already bagged.

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