A classic NSW coastal holiday spot provides some great fishing for Steve Flockton while he’s on a family holiday.
Evans Head is a laid back country town, perched by the ocean on the NSW North Coast in the Richmond valley, 11 kilometres east of the Pacific Highway at Woodburn.
The town is surrounded by natural bushland with the Broadwater National Park to the north and the Bundjalung National Park to the south and the area has numerous bushwalking trails.
Razor Back Lookout, known as ‘The birthplace of the Bundjalung Nation’ by the local indigenous people, has excellent views and on a clear day Cape Byron Lighthouse can be seen to the north. It’s a great spot for whale watching and is also the site for the Evans River bar cam for the internet.
The Evans Head shopping centre is reasonably large when compared to the areas small population of 2631. There is fuel, a good supermarket and various levels of takeaways, butcher shop, real estates, a fisherman’s co-op, hotel, two clubs and a fishing tackle shop. There is also a small aerodrome. The main beach is patrolled by lifesavers during holiday season and weekends. There is plenty of safe swimming, bowls, tennis and golf.
Day trips include a drive out to the beautiful hills of the hinterland where you can see the alternative life styles of Nimbin, or check out numerous national parks and waterfalls. Ballina is only a half hours drive and has a huge shopping centre, cinema etc. Byron Bay is worth a look and if you wanted you could go tandem hang gliding like some of our group did, launching near the light house and landing on the beach.
We have camped at the Silver Sands Holiday Park twice during the Easter Holidays. It’s a great location with shady sites and easy walking distance to the beach, Skate Park, shops, kiosk and river. Both times our family were with a group of four or five extended families. We booked early and got a block of joining camp sites so we were like a tribe inside the park. Not everyone had a boat, but we managed to get everyone out fishing who wanted to.
With a large group there is always something going on such as a card game, nipper pumping, shopping, surfing and swimming, fishing or kayaking. We even had our own nurse to patch up the kid’s cuts and bruises, plus ‘The Elder’, the oldest bloke of our group who could fix anything from a cranky outboard, a leaking tent to a dodgy BBQ with a minimum of fuss. It’s handy having people who can smooth out the little disasters while camping.
The fishing options here are excellent and wide ranging. Offshore waters hold a large variety of quality sized sub tropical and temperate species. There is plenty of reef and a huge bombora down south called Kayos. There are nearly 40 kilometres of pristine beaches with four-wheel drive access where large tailor are reasonably common. The beaches hold good numbers of pipis and the worms are not too hard to catch. Bream, whiting and the odd Jew are also available off the sand.
The headlands are well known for big jew fish (mulloway) and locals cast large lures or big soft plastics to catch them. In 2010 a mate was at Evans Head fish Co-op when young blokes came in to weigh two Spanish mackerel they caught earlier that morning. They went 32kg and 26kg and both were caught land based at Snapper Rock, a headland south of the bar. These blokes had landed seven mackerel off the rocks in the space of eight days using live slimy mackerel caught on site. This is far from common, yet it shows what can happen when the fish are about.
The breakwalls of the Evans River are fairly short and very easy to fish. I preferred the northern wall although if you chase tailor the south wall is a better option. The north wall is an easy stroll from the camping area and fishes well for bream, whiting and blackfish. I didn’t land any, but this wall would have to hold Jew and it would rate as the safest place that I have tried for end of the wall fishing on the run out tide at night.
While fishing the north wall and getting a few good bream, each time the bait went close to the rocks I kept getting busted off by short hard runs into the wall. It could have been mangrove jacks, or simply big bream, however when I used heavier gear I didn’t get a bite. Another time after a 20 minute fight on bream gear I was finally spooled. I think it was a Jew or a stingray but I’ll never know. Either way, this wall is worth a try.
There are two good ramps at Evans Head. Both have excellent cleaning tables and toilets open 24 hours. The old ramp is easily seen on the south western side of the bridge and has a gentle slope into the water. It is ideal for smaller boats and those people who don’t mind getting their feet wet.
The new ramp is only a few hundred meters east of the old one and it is a very nice set-up with plenty of parking space for big boat trailers. This ramp is fairly steep going into deep water and has floating pontoons for easy access.
The cleaning tables at both ramps run the waste back into the water which works as burley. We saw some really big bream at both spots but if there is any pelicans about you can’t fish there, because these birds will quickly pounce on your bait.
THE RIVER SCENE
Evans Head sits on part of the north coast called ‘Big River Country’ yet the Evans River is extremely short. There are large areas of sand flats that are home to heaps of pink nippers and soldier crabs. Right next to the camping area and oval is where we pumped most of our nippers as the access was too easy to pass up.
Bream, flathead and whiting are the main targeted species. If you want a challenge, then mangrove jacks can be added to the list. The rock bar, approximately three kilometres up river from the mouth is the place to target jacks with live poddy mullet their preferred bait. The rock bar is marked by a yellow safety boy and covers a few hundred metres. I don’t remember seeing any rocks out of the water, but on a low tide they might so care should obviously be taken when navigating this area. The current can run pretty fast through this gap and over the rocks, producing ruffled, choppy water on an otherwise glassy river. This is a very popular bream spot that often holds good numbers of fish. Using burley and short casts are the best way to fish the rock bar because if you throw a long cast it is almost guaranteed you will catch a rock. Our best bream from here went 38cm, caught on a pink nipper.
This river has some of the best whiting fishing I have ever encountered with quality sized fish reasonably common. Whiting can be caught almost anywhere but the pick of the spots we found was in the channel on the northern side of the island before the rock bar. We scored some real ‘elbow slappers’ fishing the drop-off from the sand flat to the channel. Good whiting go really well on light tackle and were great fun for the kids.
OVER THE BAR
To get offshore you have to launch in the river and then cross the bar. While not compulsory yet, it’s a good idea to log on with the Evans Head Coast Guard. The Evans River bar is reasonably tame when compared to many north coast bar crossings, yet you still have to pick your day and when there is any doubt, don’t go.
The main things I like about this bar is before you launch you can take a short walk up to the end of the north wall and see how the bar is working. Remember that the waves will look a lot bigger when you get there in the boat. The bar itself is very short with only about three waves to cross before reaching open ocean.
The shallowest water was basically in line with the two ends of the walls but this can change. We saw a few pro mackerel fisherman nearly come to grief as they banged the bar bottom with the outboard leg. They were momentarily stuck on their way in on a dead low tide. I was amazed why experienced fishos would even attempt to cross the bar at such a bad time.
I was impressed with the Evans Head offshore scene. Normally you go on holidays and by the time you are ready to leave, you’re just getting the place wired. Yet we scored quality fish on the first day. The fishing wasn’t always easy, far from it, but we certainly got some great memories.
While fishing the eastern side of Kayos reef, Graham’s boat was surrounded by a huge school of kingfish and spotted mackerel that boiled around them for an hour! To say the action was hectic is an understatement. I scored two snapper over 4.5kg (10 pounders when I was a kid) and Graham landed a snapper a shade under 6kg. Virtually everyone who tried caught spotted mackerel and for three of the anglers these were by far the biggest fish they had ever landed.
We still only scratched the surface because we never went north or even straight out. We fished south and out to about 40 metres depth. Reef was easy to find and we covered some great looking country.
One of the live bait grounds is out from snapper rock, roughly two kilometres south of the bar. In mackerel season look for a group of boats drifting in close, you can’t miss them.
Further south of the bait grounds is ‘Kayos’, a big bombora that deserves a lot of respect. We were told when the sea is up Kayos can be more than a square kilometre of wild white water. Being visitors we kept a very healthy distance from any white water and still caught good fish.
We caught snapper, spotted mackerel, teraglin, pearl perch, Moses perch, kings, sweet lip and bucket loads of red rock cod. At the ramp I saw a few giant sized amberjack, cobia and a few Spanish mackerel as well.
I really enjoyed Evans Head. The locals in the pub and clubs were easy to get along with and the shop assistants were pleasant and helpful. At the boat ramp everyone seemed to know what they were doing and there were no holdups and no ‘ramp rage’. On our last day while packing up we found my daughter’s box trailer had a tyre with a large bubble in it and there was no spare. I rang the NRMA and they organized for the local tyre repair centre to open and they fixed it. This was a Sunday morning so I was extremely grateful for the great service.
Being surrounded by national parks means that Evans Head will never be built out and I suspect it will keep its country character for many years to come. The people are good, the town’s good and the fishing can be great. Who knows, one day I might even retire there.
Community markets first Saturday of the month
Evans Head flower show – September
Triathlon – September
Evans Head long board competition – October
Woodburn bridge to bridge ski race – March
The Evans Head fishing classic runs over a week in late June or early July, generally during school holidays.