Richmond River – Ballina in town – Early February 2021

More mad seas and wild weather came through in early February so I decided to fish the north bank of the Richmond River in Ballina. The only advantage of wild weather is that there are quite a few less boats on the water and that means that the fish are often not disturbed between several tide cycles. Typically flathead move up and down with the tides; following bait up as it comes in and and slowly retreating again, as the tide runs out.

I was fishing from the shore, not far from the Ballina Memorial Swimming Pool. I fished for four sessions over 7 days and caught flathead during all of them. The wind was swapping between south easterly and north easterly and the moon was a week or so away from new. The water quality was not too bad, but after all the rain it was very dirty on the bottom of the run out tides. Despite this, the back half of the run out tide produced the most fish.There was not much tidal flow.

I was fishing with my light spinning outfit and 10lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. My starter soft plastic was the GULP 4″ Minnow in the Smelt colour. As I cast and retrieved it, the bait scattered in showers, especially in the shallows close to the base of the rocks. In fact, this is where I have caught most of my flathead. It seems they like to sit in the sand/ mud just inches from the rocks, under the bait. The bait was thick and several times I pulled up a plastic with mini-live bait attached.

The great thing about this stretch of shore is that it is less than 5 minutes walk to the River Street and all the shops. A coffee/ lunch break is the perfect time to have a cast and you may catch dinner.

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Richmond River – South Ballina 25 January 2021

The fishing community both online and in person assured me that despite the big swells and significant rain the Richmond River at Ballina, was teaming with bait. So I decided to try fishing it in late January.

I arrived at the ferry to South Ballina at about 9.00 am. I crossed the river and drove back up river a few hundred metres and set up by the rockwall that runs alongside the south side of the riverbank. It was about an hour after high tide and the water was still fairly murky. Low tide would be at about 1.30 pm. It was 4 days to the full moon. The current runs fairly quickly along this stretch of river bend and it always looks fishy.

Bream, flathead and possibly a few trevally or a jewfish were my target. I would fish with my ultra light rod and reel. This is currently the Samaki Zing Gen II 562SXL matched to a Daiwa TD SOL LT III 2500D reel. It has a very fast action and the tip is ultra sensitive – it reminds me of my old G.Loomis GLII. You can even feel when your jighead is bumping along a rippled sandy bottom and suddenly hits flat sand or mud. You can certainly instantly tell the difference between a bite and a snag. I set up with a 10lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/8th ounce and, later a 1/11th ounce, size 1 hook jighead.

The mullet were everywhere. They were cruising close to the bank in big schools. I cast my small soft plastics and paddle tails in amongst them hoping there might be something bigger lurking underneath them. They would nudge and snap at the soft plastics on the way down. There were lots of jelly prawns and small baitfish hanging close to the rocks and the bream soon came calling. I caught plenty over the next few hours. The largest was just over 30 cm long. I only caught one flathead – just under 40cm long.

South Ballina – 17 August 2020

We had some wild weather and rain over the weekend, so I decided to fish on Monday. The swell was set to drop throughout the day. I walked out onto the rockwall at South Ballina just after first light but about 20 minutes before dawn. The wind was cold but light from the west. As the sky lit up, the birds started circling as did the dolphins, so the bait had to be there. Sunrise was at 6.15 am and high tide was at about 7.00 am. It was three days to the new moon.

I started fishing with my heavier Daiwa Demonblood 962 rod, Daiwa TD SOL III LT 6000 D reel, 30lb main line braid and 30 lb fluorocarbon leader, a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead, loaded with a 5″ GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I caught a couple of decent bream, but then I started losing the tails of my soft plastics at the base of the rocks. I then swapped to a 60 gram Halco twisty and threw that around until just after dawn. That lure did not elicit any hook-ups.

Once the sun was up, the birds started dive bombing but there were no surface bust ups.

The bait was back

I swapped back to soft plastics and a couple of times I saw decent sized tailor follow my soft plastics in and swipe at them but they always missed. I swapped down to Daiwa Crossfire 1062 with 20lb braid, 16lb leader and 1/6th oz size 1/0 jighead. Then predictably, a big tailor grabbed my Mad Scientist Lime Tiger jerkshad (I had finished all my GULPs in the Lime Tiger colour) at the base of the rocks, pulled for a few seconds and then bit through. I re-rigged with a 1/4 ounce jighead and put on a GULP 4″ minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour. This caught a solid 35 cm plus bream, followed by a few smaller ones, then they bit through the tail. I put another Mad Scientist Lime Tiger coloured Jerkshad on and, after a few casts I hooked and landed a decent 50 cm tailor.

The birds were really working now, but always just out of reach. I was casting and retrieving fairly quickly now. I saw a group of tailor follow the lure in and right at the base of the rocks a decent sized one swallowed the jighead and lure and bit through. I moved back to my heavy rig and tried the 60 gram Halco Twisty for about twenty casts with no luck.

I fished here a few more mornings later in the month, after the new moon. I caught and was bitten off by tailor during both sessions but it was long time between the fish. As usual I swapped down to my lighter gear when things got quiet. I caught a few good bream and then got monstered by something at the base of the rocks. Not sure when I will learn some patience.

Flat Rock and Whites Head – 14 August 2020

After weeks of heavy swell it appeared it would relent for a bit on Friday. The forecast was for a light north westerly breeze and a 1.1 metre swell. I arrived just on first light and walked out to the rock platform at Flat Rock, just north of Ballina. It was about a week to go before the new moon and during dawn I would be fishing off the southern side of the platform. I walked out as the horizon was glowing and rigged up. However, as I got to the south side I could see the swell was still pretty heavy and the tide was too high to fish safely, so I changed direction.

I walked back along Sharps Beach to Whites Head. The tide was running out and the swell had eased a little, but there were still some bigger wave sets coming through. I was fishing with my light rock fishing set up – Shimano Stella 4000 and Daiwa Crossfire Surf 1062 , 20lb braid and 20lb leader. For my first cast I tied on a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 hook jighead and loaded a GULP 4″ minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I cast straight out in front between a couple of bommies, after a few casts I was getting hits close to the base of the rocks. I slowed things down and let the lure sit about 1 metre off the ledge, for as long as I dared. This did the trick and I hooked and landed a bream, about 30 cm long. After a few more casts I landed a good sized dart. The dart are often around and seem to get fired up when the wind turns northerly.

The smaller bream kept trying to pull the soft plastic off the jighead and eventually they succeeded. I reloaded with a GULP 4″ shrimp in the Peppered Prawn colour and kept casting. I lost a couple of rigs to the rocks and then after about 30 mins of nothing I felt a solid bite very close to the base of the rocks. I dropped my rod tip, paused and then struck. I set the hook and the fish took off on a powerful first run. I was pretty sure it was a school mulloway/ jewfish and I soon saw a flash of silver. It looked around 70 to 80 cm long. After couple of decent runs it was pretty much spent, but I looked up to see a big set of waves coming. I tried to muscle the fish up the rocks on a smaller wave ahead of the set, but as I pulled I felt the rod tip snap. A few seconds later as I retreated from the big set, the line went slack and the fish was gone with the jighead.

I did not have a back up rod but I was determined to have another try, so I re-rigged with no tip, same jighead, same soft plastic. I waited for what looked like a fairly calm period. I cast out and tried to keep the soft plastic travelling along the same path as its predecessor. Once more I paused the lure as close as I could to the base of the rocks. When I lifted the rod there was a fish there. I had the drag fairly tight this time and after a quick fight I used the swell to pull a handsome looking jewfish up to my feet. Unfortunately it measured in at about 72 cm , so I released it, unharmed, after taking a few pictures.

I decided that I did not want an even shorter rod so I packed up for the morning.

South Ballina Rockwall – Early August 2020

I fished off the South Ballina rockwall for the first few days of August, in the run up to the full moon on the 4th. It had been consistently cold at the end of July but the weather warmed up for a few days and the wind and swell kept changing. Each morning, I arrived just after firstlight and was fishing before sunrise. The resident ospreys were always in position, above the gutter on the ocean side of the rockwall.

One morning I was taken for a ride by a couple of big fish that I could not stop. I presume they were jewfish/mulloway. I was fishing a 5″ Powerbait Nemesis paddletail soft plastic in the ‘bleak’ colour, on a 3/8th ounce jighead (see pic) on the first occasion and a 4″ GULP Minnow in the ‘smelt’ colour on a 1/4 ounce jighead, on the second occasion. They both headed out to sea around the end of the wall and rubbed through my 30lb leader.

I caught plenty of bream in the first few mornings of the month but they slowed down a little on the day of the full moon. The were nearly all decent sized, with most measuring over 35cm. I filleted a bagful for our weekly fish pie.

The tailor were completely absent. We had some rain and then a north westerly wind for a few days. This flattened the sea and perhaps it pushed the bait away for a while. The surprise catch was an Australian salmon, on a 5″ GULP Jerkshad soft plastic in the ‘lime tiger’ colour rigged on a 1/4 ounce jighead. It was part of a huge school that floated around the rivermouth for an hour or so. I tried everything in the lure box to get another one, without success.

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Mobs Bay and South Ballina rockwall – September 2019

At the beginning of September I fished a couple of sessions at the end of the South Ballina rockwall. I caught a few good bream, chiefly on small minnow shaped soft plastics. I also landed a few luderick and a couple of small trevally. I am sure the tailor come and go around this headland but I have yet to encounter them.

For the rest of the month. I focused on wading the flats and fishing for flathead in South Ballina. I had success in two areas – the mud flats, just to the south of the Burns Point ferry landing and all around the sand banks and weed beds of Mobs Bay. This is a big bay near the river mouth with all the ingredients that flathead love; rockwalls, shifting sandbars, weed beds and good tidal flow.

Research suggests that flathead will spawn throughout the year, apart from in mid to late winter. Despite this I often catch fish full of eggs in August and September. They certainly still seem to school up with the bigger tides in the lead up to the full and the new moons.

I fished Mobs Bay with soft plastic lures. Typically I used a light spin rod and reel loaded with 10lb breaking strain braid and a 10 or 12lb fluorocarbon leader. My favourite brand of soft plastics are still the Berkley GULP range and if I had to pick my ‘go to’ pattern for flathead, it would be the 4″ minnow shape. In the pearl watermelon colour it looks very much like a small pilchard.

I fished about 5 times in September and caught plenty of flathead. The vast majority of the fish I caught were in the 25 cm to 35 cm size range and so they went back to be caught again when they are big enough.

I caught the biggest flathead (about 60cm long) in the lead to the full moon on the 12th, at the base of the rockwall, near the river mouth.

A decent South Ballina flathead from the base of the rocks

Sharpes Beach, Ballina and North Head, New Brighton – July 2019

It took a long time for winter to arrive in 2019. In fact, the water stayed warm pretty much all through June and July. I persisted with exploring the beach fishing to the north of the Brunswick River mouth, whenever possible.

I also had a few sessions on the headlands between Lennox and Ballina. I did quite well fishing soft plastic minnows at the north end of Sharpes Beach. Over a few mornings I caught some 35cm + bream, trevally and even a few jewfish, one of which was just over 70 cm long and therefore big enough to keep.

As most of my followers will know I love to fish with soft plastics and light rigs. I was catching the odd flathead and bream in the surf on a traditional jig head rigged soft plastic minnows and shrimps, but I was putting in a lot of casts for very few fish. So in July I experimented with rigging my GULP 4″ minnows, unweighted on a regular baitholder or trueturn hook at the end of about 30 cm of 20lb fluorocarbon leader, running up to a small swivel and sinker. This seemed to be more successful and I had a few quite good bream sessions on the beach.

Bream on a soft plastic without a jighead

As we moved towards the full moon in the middle of the month, I noticed a few keen local anglers fishing for tailor on dusk, on the beach near North Head. On the evening of the full moon I decided to join them and with a GULP 4″ minnow rigged on a size 4 Trueturn hook with a size 1 sinker further up the leader. I was using my 3.6m / 12 foot Daiwa Crossfire Surf 1202L, 20lb braid and a 20lb flurocarbon leader. I was casting out as far as I could and letting the plastic waft around. I started about 40 minutes before sunset. Just after sunset I felt the rod tip start to bend and as I took up the slack I realised there was a fish on. This rod does not have much power so I had to be patient but after about 15 minutes of back and forth in the swell I pulled up a chunky tailor about 55cm long.

North Head Beach tailor

So on reflection there was plenty of variety on June and July, especially in the run up to the full moon