A 7kg Spanish mackerel with a lure in its mouth. Photo: The Sunday Mail
A 7kg Spanish mackerel with a lure in its mouth. Photo: The Sunday Mail

Expect a return to ‘normal’ summer conditions on the coast

SUNDAY'S southerly change might just turn around coastal conditions at last.

Until a year or so ago, you could depend on a "normal" summer southerly to last for three days, blowing in rain the first day, showers the second and clearing to sunshine the third, along with clear, warm water.

But lately they seem to peter out in a dry, asthmatic gasp within a few hours of puffing through, with none of the rain and hardly even any cloud cover.

But the Weather Bureau is saying this one could be different and if that means a wet end to the weekend, so be it.

That cold upwelling this week ran all the way down to Wooli, raising frigid water, nutrients, jellyfish, yet more cornflake weed and plenty of goosebumps.

It now looks as if it's on its way out by mid-week as the warm current heads inshore and becomes a little more established.

Let's hope the pelagics haven't gone out wide and bypassed our coastline on their way south, they're due by Australia Day.

There were some good catches of spotted and Spanish mackerel over the Gold Coast reefs earlier in the week but zip from Brunswick south in the cooler water.

Fortunately, the snapper have come to the party for those patient enough to lay out a good berley trail - the major advantage of having only a slight trickle of current.

Out wide, the strong southbound run has already kicked in, making deep bottom-bashing tough.

The Byron waverider buoy bottomed out at a nippy 18.6 degrees last Sunday but it's hovered between 23-25 degrees since then.

There's no word on when the Evans Head FAD is to be replaced, it's still missing according to the Fisheries website and the ones at Swansea and Sydney North have joined it.

Tidal run

COURTESY of last night's full moon, some of the biggest high tides of the year, around 1.9m and dropping to 0.3m, occur over the next few days and that means plenty of water will be on the move.

None of the river bars will be much fun when the sea breeze blows up fresh in the afternoon, running against the ebb tide and producing standing waves up to 2m tall.

Today's north-easterly is forecast to hit a near-gale 30 knots so water on all the river bars will look like something out of a washing machine as the tidal run collides head-on with the wind and waves.

Leave your run home from out wide too long and it's a very unnerving, and potentially unsafe, experience to have the boat surfing down the north-east chop all the way in, only to find those big pressure waves in the tidal race over the bar.

The boat's speed through the water might remain the same but its ground speed - the speed across the bottom - can drop to a crawl.

You need plenty of revs in reserve, a hand at the ready on the throttle and the engine trimmed out to keep the bow up so you can muscle your way through.


Frontal view of a blue crab with pincer claws in front.
Frontal view of a blue crab with pincer claws in front.


Crabbing joys

THE one saving grace of the drought has been the lack of runoff into the Richmond River catchment.

Sadly, these days runoff from just about any cropping or horticultural land seems to produce water incapable of supporting river life or harming its existence through turbidity or acidity.

With the estuary currently able to support much more life, crustaceans have become abundant.

School prawns are in numbers unseen for decades and the blue swimmer crab has become an attractive and tasty adornment to many a crabbers trap or dilly net.

Although it doesn't have that rich, strong claw meat that aficionados of the mud crab covet, the blue swimmer has many advantages over the muddie.

They're still cantankerous, but a grab from a swimmer's claw is likely to merely nip and slice rather than crush bone.

They're more easily handled for that reason, although their proliferation of body spikes makes them harder to disentangle from fine mesh.

They don't tend to "empty out" their shells as much as a muddie and that drumstick of delicate white meat that pops out with the rear swimmer paddles is heavenly.

For those who can't make up their minds, there's always the coral crab, a bit of a cross between the swimmer and the muddie.

It has orange/brown and white longitudinal stripes on its carapace, which can be up to 20cm wide, with strong orange/brown claws and legs with scattered white spots and similar paddles to a blue swimmer.

The claw flavour is a bit richer than the swimmer's but the body meat is about the same.

There's local concern that some of the crabs being encountered in the Richmond might not be corals, but the feral Asian paddle crab.

The DPI suggests that the best way to detect the difference is by looking between its eyes.

The coral crab has eight rounded teeth between the eyes, while the Asian interloper's teeth are sharp.

A male specimen of the Asian crab recorded in South Australia is thought to have hitched a ride in shipping ballast water.

At this stage none has been recorded in NSW but authorities are vigilant.