The best of both worlds is available to local fishos this month, with tropical species lingering in the warm water as the temperate fish feed up in preparation for spawning.
Baitfish are often prolific now, with everything from glassies and herring to whitebait, frogmouth and blue pillies, and the first of the sea mullet, moving along the coast or schooling up in the lower estuaries in preparation for migration.
For a predatory fish, it’s the best time to bulk up before turning to the serious business of breeding.
From the beach out to the continental shelf, the water is as warm as it ever gets around here.
The hordes of mackerel from up north did eventually round Cape Byron as the Eastern Australia Current moved in closer, but that happened not long before the heavens opened and a half-decent fresh discoloured the water.
It’s just clearing up as I write, with masses of bait feeding freely in the dirty water and the clean current only a kilometre or two offshore.
So it’s typical Autumn stuff: Bream, whiting, flathead and blackfish in the bottom few kilometres of the river along with school prawns and plenty of bait. Mullet are schooling up in the estuaries or already in loose bunches in the surf.
Snapper are starting to pick up on the closer reefs and the mackerel, mack tuna, longtails and bonito are herding up the bait.
This is the best month for longtails, with the days leading up to this full moon prime time.
And the beaches just keep getting better from now until August.
Here’s a run-down on some fun I had last April in the Bundjalung National Park. It could easily be repeated this year.
I picked my way carefully over the rocks in the pool of light from my head lamp and switched it off when I hit the beach. The water was much warmer than the pre-dawn air and after walking about a kilometre, I reached the edge of the hole just as the first faint glow paled the horizon. Perfect!
Having caught school jew and tailor in that deep, sandy hole two weeks before, I had an each-way bet. I cast a 60g Surecatch Bishop with two assist-style hooks on knottable wire, one rigged with a small Guzzlerz Jerk Minnow.
With a quick rip and a couple of twitches, it came up solid and the Saltiga Blast smoothly conceded quite a few metres of 15lb SuperBraid, which it seldom did with most tailor. A battle ensued for some minutes until at the edge of the hole in the growing light I saw poking from the water a tail larger than a hand with splayed fingers – nice jewie!
I normally float a beaten jewfish into the shallows and then carefully slip my hand under a gill operculum, mindful not to go too far and contact the sharp gill rakers.
This fish was played out, with just a head-shake or two left in it, as I went to the water’s edge. For some reason, I felt someone was watching and turned to see nothing but sand dunes and spinifex.
As I turned back, the water around my fish became a threshing mass of fins, broad back and snapping jaws 30cm wide and I was left with my lure and half a jewie. I dragged the remains back to the edge of the hole and that bloody shark, well over 2m long, almost beached itself to get the rest of its meal!
In one effortless movement, I hit the Olympic qualifying marks for high jump, triple jump and multiple profanities as the leader mercifully popped against the whaler’s fangs, only an 11’ Loomis away.
I looked around again but there was no body to witness my angling prowess or adrenaline-inspired athleticism. Nor did they see my hands shaking as I tied on another slug and cast again.
In seconds I was hooked up to 2kg of tailor that jumped and carried on as if there were a shark in the hole, but I knew that noah was weighed down by 12kg of jewie.
I lowered the rod tip to within centimetres of the sand to prevent the chopper jumping to shake off the hooks and slid it up the beach, visions of smoked fillets forming already. I nicked the artery near the gills and left it above the wave line to bleed out.
I caught another, which I similarly despatched, then tied on a home-turned ‘Titanic’ popper – Tassie oak that floats like a brick but casts like a bullet. It was solidly crunched and the barbless trebles held; family and visitors would dine well tonight…
I released another tailor, lost a couple more and had the thrill of losing one fish, seconds later to have yet another climb on the popper in a red-hot session. Then I beached a school jew around 70cm that took the 15cm lure almost at my feet.
That fish took a bit of reviving and, once released, came ashore again about 25m down the hole. I revived it again and it swam off.
And then I turned around…
Trotting off with one of my prized tailor in its jaws was a young female dingo in prime condition down to the snowy tip of its bushy tail. I set a new PB for cussing and arm-waving but the dingo won handsomely and I named that fish Azaria…
The choppers tapered off as the sun punched through the clouds and they shut down completely when the first middle-aged surfer waddled down and launched his board right under my rod tip.
I don’t know whether he believed me about the shark, probably even less so when I loudly wished the bloody thing would bite him on the bum and teach him a valuable lesson about dropping in…
As I walked back to the car I encountered Tom Grassmeder, soaking a beach worm for a whiting at the same place I’d walked past a shadowy figure in the pre-dawn.
“Ya got a new dog?” he said.
“Yep, eight-week-old whippet bitch at home,” I said.
“So that dingo-lookin’ thing that followed you all the way down the beach this mornin’ wasn’t yours?”Reads: 920