It’s a lottery!
  |  First Published: January 2010

To get a glimpse of future portents, the ancient Romans used to inspect the innards of sacrificed animals for omens or check out which way a passing eagle was heading. In more recent times soothsayers have read tealeaves, palms, auras and who knows what else. But nobody can pick exactly what’s going to happen here this month.

Maybe I could dig up one of my old PVC raincoats, worn out by the many soaking-wet Februaries past, and see if the mildew pattern is shaped like a mackerel, a marlin, a jewfish – or just a big pile of mud!

The Richmond River can flood any time from January to June, and often does.

Last year we dodged the east coast lows that regularly hit north and south of us until we took a direct hit in May. Fortunately, the weather was cool enough by then so the evil drain chemistry didn’t produce much of a fish kill.

However, a huge cool eddy that remained almost stationary off the coast for many weeks meant that the inshore water was green, lifeless and unfriendly to tropical pelagics, so there wasn’t a great deal of offshore fun to be had.

Add many days of onshore winds and sloppy seas and February 2009 really sucked. But that was then, this is now.

The warm current looks a lot more promising this season and the first few spotted mackerel have been caught down around Woody Head.

Bait schools, especially frogmouth pilchards, have been coming through reasonably regularly and there have been tailor, rat kings and even lingering salmon having a crack at them.

When the pilchards are pushed right to the coast there have been some school jewfish feeding frenzies, too, so the rockhoppers have been entertained on occasion.

And the weather often has had a promising hint of southerly in it, which bodes well for the pelagics.

Now all we need are some more of those froggies and maybe a few hectares of 20cm slimy mackerel and we could be in mackerel business. Sunshine Coast reports have been promising so there is hope.

Now if that dreaded cornflake weed that loves the warm water will go away…


Meanwhile, the rivers can provide enormous entertainment with all manner of lures and bait.

Bream and whiting are up on the surface and smacking at anything that remotely looks like a prawn.

They’re taking lures on the smaller tides and can be caught on bait when the big-running morning spring tides kick into gear on the new and full moons.

I was walking one of the excellent Bassday Sugapen surface lures down a tidal eddy near a rock bar for bream when I was distracted by a couple of pale-looking fish around a kilo. They were porpoising in some sort of feeding behaviour just under the surface not far from the boat and looked vaguely familiar.

I didn’t see the fish that hit my Sugapen just as the ‘vague familiarity’ in my brain registered where I’d seen these fish feed like that before – the Kimberley, Hinchinbrook, Fiji.,,

Foolishly, I thought I had a chance on 3lb braid and a metre of 15lb Platinum until my mate said the jack that hit the walker was well over 2kg, but I seemed to make some headway before the inevitable bulldozing run 6m back to the rocks.

There should be more of these short, nasty, see-sawing battles on the red devils this month, too, especially if the water stays clean and warm.

The beaches have been very hit and miss over the holidays, if you discount the huge numbers of shovelnose sharks everybody seems to be picking on.

Some have been left by wasteful idiots to become mummified on the beach, while others have taken far more than their legal five and others have carefully released these harmless but quite tasty rays.

The Christmas chopper tailor were patchy at best but some big greenbacks, especially at night, helped lift the spirits. There could well be some good tailor caught this month, particularly if the bait schools hug the coast in calm weather.

And that’s the key to any February around here – if there’s enough calm, fine weather, it’s a fantastic time to wet a line.

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