Quality eating-size flathead are in good numbers from Wardell to Woodburn.
Quality eating-size flathead are in good numbers from Wardell to Woodburn.

Some belated Christmas cheer for offshore fishers

THE swell is predicted to drop by Sunday morning, so offshore fishers might have reason to perk up a little after a pretty lean run from Christmas.

With the dreaded northerlies springing up from mid-morning, it'll be an early start but that should mean the morning tide leaves plenty of water on river bars made shallow with incessant onshore wave dumps.

The dampener on all this is that the BOM sea surface temp charts predict the formation of yet another cool (20 degrees) upwelling off our coastline in coming days.

That's a shame because the mahimahi were becoming more plentiful and eager to play out wide, although the early run of baby black marlin up the coast simply vanished overnight.

Still, there should be reef fish enough to keep the bottom-bashers happy and the fillet knives busy back at the ramp.

The big female flatties appear to have taken up residence in the lower sections of the rivers, according to Brett at Ballina Bait and Tackle. They're succumbing to live baits and large soft plastics.

Quality eating-size flathead are in good numbers from Wardell to Woodburn and taking a feed of them is less likely to make a dent in the future stocks of baby flatties.

Whiting are fairly spread out in all the rivers, although not in great numbers anywhere.

Mangrove jack are fairly well upstream at this point and are best hunted in the twilight or darkness.

There has been a good run of bream along the breakwalls at Evans Head, along with a run of chopper tailor.


Without a trace

THERE has been no sign of Valla Beach local Tim March, 70, and 37-year-old Far South Coast resident Jarrath Hillyer since they launched their 4.4m centre console tinnie from the Coffs Harbour boat ramp early last Sunday.

They apparently intended to fish no farther than the Sawtell Bommie but nothing has been seen of them or their boat since they left the ramp.

March was said to be highly experienced in local conditions.

It is not known whether they were wearing lifejackets.

The alarm was raised when they failed to return on Sunday night and the two-day search, encompassing 7500 square nautical miles from Coffs Harbour to Forster, found nothing.

Aircraft, boats and shore-based searchers scoured the coastline and adjacent waters for two days but operations have been scaled down, with little hope of finding the pair alive.

The same goes for Gold Coast jetski rider Tony Schilperoort, 54, after his Seadoo was found by a passing vessel about 13km east of the Southport Seaway around 1.30pm on Sunday.

The very experienced rider was highly likely to have been wearing an orange and black lifejacket and his craft was in perfect condition, according to Gold Coast Water Police, who regularly saw him on their patrols.

Given the grisly find of a human leg at Mylestom, south of Coffs Harbour, late last month that was identified as belonging to a diver missing off Bundaberg in November, anything is possible.

Andrew Page, 38, failed to surface after a free dive off Elliott Heads, 750km north of where his leg was found.


Rescued fish spawn

FISH rescued from the Darling River have spawned and their progeny have been released into Burrinjuck Dam, on the Murrumbidgee near Yass.

Fisheries staff released about 80,000 Murray cod and 60,000 golden perch fingerlings which were progeny of fish rescued from the Darling River near Menindee in February and relocated to the DPI hatchery at Narrandera.

The 10 pairs of rescued Murray cod produced 11 spawnings between late September and mid-October, with an estimated 200,000 eggs collected.

These were incubated in the hatchery and hatched before going into larval rearing ponds.

They are now about 35mm long and have been stocked in a number of dams.

Meanwhile, 60 threatened native catfish have been successfully returned to the Ovens River in Victoria under a new community-led project to re-establish the locally extinct species.

Once common throughout the Murray-Darling Basin, inland catfish populations have significantly declined since the 1930s due to changed river management, habitat loss and impacts from feral species, such as European carp.

Now a population of the catfish from a drying refuge at Barham Lake in NSW has been relocated to Mullinmur Billabong on the Ovens River in Victoria.

"Barham Lake has a self-sustaining population of catfish. Rescuing catfish from the drying lake and moving them to Victoria to re-establish in their former range is a win-win possible because of great cross-border partnerships" said Renae Ayres from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning's Arthur Rylah Institute.

Kelvin Berry, of Wangaratta Landcare and Sustainability Inc, said work had been under way for several years to prepare the billabong to ensure the habitat was right for the relocation.

Native vegetation has been planted, more than 230 carp removed and pebbles delivered to provide nesting material for the catfish.

To ensure the billabong stays healthy, water quality will be monitored by the Landcare group and students from three local schools.