Ideal time for whale watching

THIS weekend is tipped tobe one of the best in months for whale watching and fishing, so grab the binoculars and fishing rod and head for the coast.

Professor Peter Harrison, from Southern Cross University's whale research centre, said the predicted southerly winds would draw the whales closer to shore today andtomorrow.

“The big swell and the strong winds keep them closer in,” he said.

“In particular, mothers with newborn calves will be looking for calmer waters.

“We saw a newborn calf off Byron Bay on Thursday.”

Prof Harrison said the best vantage points were the head-lands at Lennox Head and Skennars Head, as well as Cape Byron and the Lighthouse lookout at Ballina.

With a bit of patience and a sharp eye, you're bound to spot a humpback or two – at least 11,000 whales are heading north this year.

“The current estimate for the humpback whale population is more than 11,000 and possibly around 12,000,” Prof Harrison said.

“That's increased by about 1000 on last year.

“But what we have toremember is that this population of humpbacks came close to extinction due to whaling last century.

“The population has not yet fully recovered.”

Dolphins and sharks arealso out in force at the moment, feasting on huge schools of pilchards.

So don't worry if whale watching's not your thing – conditions are also perfect for a spot of fishing.

Gary ‘Squidgie' Palmer, from Ballina Bait and Tackle, said that's because of the huge schools of baitfish.

“There are plenty of pilchards out – they're everywhere,” he said. “They bring in the bigger fish, like snapper, pearl perch and trag.

“Fishing in the Richmond River and from the beaches will be really, really good.”

Surfing conditions over the weekend are also looking good.

Respected surfing website, Swellnet, has predicted ‘fun-sized' waves with light offshore winds.

The forecast is for a sunny weekend, with temperatures hitting 20 degrees at Lismore and Ballina tomorrow. It will be 19 degrees in Byron Bay.

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