Broken Head – Dart and Tailor – June 2018

 

By June there were plenty of cold nights but the sea water temperature was not really dropping. We had a few crystal clear skies and beautiful sunrises but the swell was persistently too high to safely fish the rocks until the middle of the month. On the 15th I had a dawn session at Broken Head. I arrived at first light and walked down to the rocks. There was virtually no breeze and the tide was running in until about 10.00 am. The moon was in its waning crescent phase.

As soon as I arrived I could see a school of something feeding on the surface. It was only as it got lighter I realised it was a very big school of dart. I started casting a 40 gram Halco Twisty and winding it back quickly through the school. The fish followed it a few times but did not strike. I was hoping there would be a few tailor hanging around but if they were, they were not interested in a lure near the surface. After a few more casts I swapped to a 5 inch GULP Jerkshad in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I cast this out beyond the school and let it sink, paused for about 20 seconds then hopped it back along the bottom towards the rocks. On about the third attempt I felt a couple of quick bites. I dropped the rod tip and paused for a few seconds, then lifted it and hooked a fish. It was heavier than a dart and started shaking its head furiously. I played it for a minute or two. It was a decent sized tailor about 40 cm long. It settled down at the base of the rocks but as soon as I tried to lift it from the water the leader caught a tooth and snapped. I think I had a16lb fluorocarbon leader on so I upgraded to 25lb and carried on casting. I soon found the tailor again and this time the leader held as I pulled the fish up to my feet.

I fished on through the morning and dropped down to smaller soft plastic minnows and lighter leader. I end up catching plenty of dart on a 1/6th ounce jighead loaded with a 3 inch GULP Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. I also caught a couple of bream.

As the sun rose I could see that that the school of dart was about 30 metres long. Every now and then they would smash into small bait balls on the surface. The water was crystal clear and although the dart kept following my lures they seemed to loose interest in feeding by about 11.00 am, so I gave up for the day.

 

tailor

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Dunsborough Cape Naturaliste – Western Australia – May 2018

I had a quick trip to Western Australia in mid-May. Fortunately I was bunking at the Bunker Bay Resort which is perfectly located to explore and fish the rocky headlands of Cape Naturaliste & Dunsborough in the Margaret River region. I managed to arrive in the calm before the storm and had 4 days of great weather before a major front moved through. This coast gets some wild weather and very big seas. The signs recommending that rock fisherman tie themselves on tightly and the certified and safety rated anchor points sunk into the rocks, are a good indication that things can get pretty dangerous. As always –  take care and if in doubt, don’t.

According to local anglers the Australian Salmon had been working around the bays in the area and there was plenty of bait in close to the shore. I worked my way around each of the bays and headlands looking for anything I could catch. I fished the beach at Bunker Bay. I also fished around the headland at Seal Rocks. I fished in the channels at Canal Rocks and Yallingup. I climbed up the rocks to the ledges beside Sugarloaf Rock, where I saw the odd group of salmon swim by in the crystal clear water below. But wherever I went and whatever I fished with I caught herring after herring after herring. I kept a few of the bigger ones for supper one night and they tasted pretty good. The herring were so plentiful it was hard to fish past them. There were also salmon scales everywhere I went so they must have been around in significant numbers, not long before. At dusk one evening I saw a group of three samsonfish come up behind a hooked herring and I though I was in for a fight but they turned away at the last minute.

I was using my 4 piece travel rod – a MajorCraft Crostage CRK 964 ML 9 foot 6 inch in their ‘Sea Bass Game’ series. This is designed to cast a 10 to 30 gram lure and is rated as having a ‘regular’ action. It might have struggled to land a big salmon but in this case it was not tested. In fact throughout the four days of fishing I caught only one fish that was not a herring and that was a small trevally, known locally as a ‘skippy’.  I used this rod to cast soft plastics (which the herring completely destroyed), hard bodied minnow and vibe lures, metal slugs and even strips of fresh herring flesh. I generally started the day with a big lure and 25lb leader and gradually moved down in weight of both, as the sun got higher in the sky.

A beautiful spot and plenty of herring – I will be back.

 

 

 

Brunswick Heads, Skennars Head and Broken Head – May 2018

May rolled in and we finally got a few cold nights but the weather soon turned warm again. We had a good south-easterly blow and a few days of rain at Brunswick Heads early in the month. In the rough weather some good gutters formed at North Head on the north side of the Brunswick River mouth.

On a couple of nights Tailor reportedly turned up and everyone caught fish. Unfortunately, they were not the nights I was fishing. I did manage a couple of 40 cm choppers, just as the sun fell, using my trusty gold/brass coloured 40g Halco Twisty metal slug.

In the stormy weather I fished the north side of the north wall with a GULP 2” Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I was so desperate for a fish that I dropped down to 8lb leader and loaded the plastic on to a size 4, unweighted hook. I let it wash around at the base of the rocks and to my surprise I hooked a solid luderick.

A few days later I moved up river a little and fished at Christmas Beach (just short of the Brunswick River Mouth, on the north side). The tide was running out and the water was a tannin stained brown colour. I was fishing with my light estuary rod, with a 10lb fluorocarbon leader and was jigging a GULP 4” Pearl Watermelon coloured minnow along the sandy bottom. The jighead was a 1/8th ounce weight with a 1/0 jighead. As usual the fish were close to the rocks. The first flathead I caught was in a sandy gully between two rocky outcrops. It was just over 40 cm, so I kept it for dinner. It seems ridiculous that we can have different size limits for flathead in New South Wales (36cm) and Queensland (40 cm). I am sticking with the 40cm, as that is about the minimum size I would consider worth filleting. I carried on as the tide ran out and caught two more from similar spots. I also lost two or three jigheads to the rocks.

On one of the calmer days I had a morning session fishing from the rocks at Skennars Head. As the sun rose I hooked a couple of good sized dart, again using soft plastic minnows. These were quickly followed by two 30cm + chunky bream, close to the base of the rocks. I then put on a bigger 4 inch minnow soft plastic and after a few casts, caught a 40 cm tailor. I caught all the fish before 7.30 am, after which I did not get a bite.

In the light swell I also had a few afternoon sessions fishing down at Broken Head. In the first I found a few small trevally and in the second I caught good sized bream and dart. The dart were in big schools swimming up and down in front of the rocks. Occasionally they would break the surface to feed on smaller fish schools. I cast a slug around but could not connect with any tailor.

Not many big ones but there were plenty of fish on offer in May.

New Caledonia – Nepoui and Temrock – May 2018

New Caledonia – May 2018

In early May I had to visit New Caledonia for work reasons. I had never been before but had heard the fishing was amazing so I took along a rod, a few hard bodies and a few packets of GULP soft plastics. When travelling you are fairly limited in what you can bring so I chose my 6’6” 2- 4 kg Berkley Dropshot, two-piece rod with my trusty Shimano Stella 2500. This is not a very heavy-duty setup but it is a good all-rounder.

New Caledonia is a French territory in the Pacific. It is made up of one large and a number of smaller islands surrounded by fringing reefs. Between the outer reef and the shoreline, calm tidal lagoons hold plenty of fish amongst mini reefs, sandy bottom and sea grass beds. These lagoons can be huge but many are protected so you need to check where you can fish.

I was working near the town of Nepoui, half way up the main island on the west coast, for the first few days. On the instructions of the locals I took my rod down to the jetty after work, at about 4.00 pm. Their instructions were simple – cast anywhere off that jetty and you will hook up. It sounded too good to be true, but they were right. I put a GULP Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken (Black & Purple colour) on a ¼ ounce jighead and cast it out on 30lb main line and 20lb leader. I let it sink down to what I thought was the bottom and then bounced it along for a couple of hops.  On about the fifth hop, the rod bent over and line started peeling. I immediately realised I had brought the wrong rod with me. The fish headed away from the jetty and I tightened the drag but it hardly slowed. It soon became apparent I needed to tighten the drag more or get spooled. I wound the drag down and the leader snapped. I upped my leader to 30 lb and tried again. This time I started with much more drag pressure. I cast about four or five more times in roughly the same area and then I hooked up again. The fish swam out to sea but this time after a long initial run I got some line back and settled in to about 10 minutes of back and forth until I saw a small (50 to 60 cm) giant trevally coming towards the surface. It was well hooked but I was never going to be able to pull it up the side of the jetty and as soon as I tried, the jighead hook bent and it swam away.

I decided to change position and fish at the edge of the jetty, on the mainland, from the rockwall. This way I would have a better chance of landing the fish when I hooked up. There were thick schools of bait around the jetty pylons and I cast at these and let my soft plastic flutter down in the current. After about ten minutes I was onto a fish again. It felt very fast as it too headed straight for the open sea. It took about 15 metres of line on the first run then leapt clear of the water – it was a small queenfish. With the light rod I could not really put any pressure on but I manage to exhaust it eventually and grab it at the base of the rocks. I took a couple of pics and speared it back in to the water.

For the next few days I was staying at the Sheraton Domaine De Deva Resort at Bourail. The lagoon and reef in front of the resort is a Unesco World Heritage site and fishing is not allowed but I followed a four-wheel drive track about 10 kms north of the resort to the Plage a Temrock, where fishing is allowed. At Temrock a deeper channel comes in close to the shore and the locals told me this was where the really big ‘carangue geante’ (giant trevally) hang out.

I arrived in the late afternoon as the tide was running out. I met a couple of local lads who were casting big poppers out into the channel. My French is poor but through broken English they explained they fished a lot here but rarely stopped the big ‘carangue’. They explained they fight too hard and there is too much coral for them to rub through a leader.  They were hoping to catch a mackerel which they like to eat and have more chance of stopping.

I moved back from the point and fished in slightly shallower water on the edge of the channel. I was casting in between big brain corals that were almost exposed by the falling tide. As the sun dropped I caught a small tea leaf trevally on a soft plastic shrimp and then another, this time it was a ‘big eye’. It was now dusk. I was retrieving the soft plastic fairly quickly and fishing with a lighter, 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and a Lime Tiger coloured Jerkshad soft plastic. On about my third cast with the new plastic, I watched as a huge bow wave came up behind it and a silver shape turned on top of it, swallowed and ran. The reel screamed briefly and then the leader snapped, either on the fish’s teeth or the coral. I gave up for the day.

The next morning, I was back with 30lb leader and my toughest jigheads. The tide was running out and from the first cast I caught fish. In fact, the fish were destroying the soft plastics if I let them settle for too long. I caught a raft of multicoloured reef fish; a Robinsons sea bream, a yellow tailed emperor, several brightly coloured species I could not name and then a few very thick and toothy barracuda.

New Caledonia fishing

As the tide receded I perched ankle deep in water on a coral bommy and started casting into a slightly deeper channel. The trevally soon turned up. It was now around midday but the bite did not slow. I was almost out of soft plastics so I swapped to a small hard bodied vibe lure. Almost as soon as this one hit the water it was slammed. I kept the drag tight and wound like mad, straight from the start. I lost the first one to the coral but I managed to turn the head of the second one and eventually, pull it to my feet. As I fiddled around in my fishing bag for some pliers to release it, a big eel poked its head up through a crack in the coral and grabbed its tail. I held the leader and pulled hard but the eel won the fight and I lost another lure.

I tied on another small vibe lure and started casting again. Things seemed to go a little quiet. Then I noticed a light grey shape swim slowly past the base of the bommy in front of me. It was a shark of some kind and was followed by two more. I assume the eel was eating the trevally in its lair below me and this had brought the sharks in. They were between two and three meters long and I was a little unsettled. The water beside the coral outcrop I was standing on was about waist deep and it was now about twenty metres to the shoreline. The sharks circled and then one smashed into something on the surface about 20 metres away. Then it all went quiet again.

Despite the excitement, I had suddenly lost my desire to catch any more fish. I waited on the top of the coral for another 15 minutes, and then decided I would slip quietly into the water and wade calmly, quickly and quietly to the shore. I waited another ten minutes until I was certain they had moved on. I then jumped off the bommy and ran as fast as I ever have, splashing loudly, until I had two feet in dry sand.

Wooyung & New Brighton Beach – April 2018

April saw no real sign of water temperatures dropping. I carried on fishing the beaches around Brunswick Heads. I increasingly started taking my bigger rod out and casting a 40 or 60 gram brass coloured Halco Twisty or bigger hard bodied minnow lure into the surf. A couple of times I caught small Tailor, just on dawn or dusk but I only really connected with one solid fish. This was at Black Rock on Wooyung beach. I was casting beside the rocks at dusk and I saw a solid (approx. 50cm Tailor) grab the Twisty in the crest of the wave. I was probably a little too excited and wound hard as soon as the fish took the lure, it ran for a bit and then spat the it out, or I pulled it free.

I continued to fish the beaches with soft plastics and found plenty of small flathead and a few dinner sized ones. I fished Mooball Creek and also found small flathead there. I was surprised by several solid whiting that swallowed a 4”minnow soft plastic on the beach at North Head. The dart and bream also grabbed lightly weighted soft plastics  in the surf.

I heard reports of a fishermen catching tailor in ones or twos, just after dark on the beaches, but no-one seemed to have encountered a big school.

Brunswick River – Flathead, Bream – March 2018

It was back to work in February so there was little time for fishing. In March the hot days continued with no sign of autumn on the horizon. The usual wind pattern was a light south easterly or south westerly in the morning, turning around to a strong northerly in the afternoon. The water stayed pretty warm.

The Brunswick River was crystal clear. In the transparent warm water, I resorted to casting out almost unweighted 3 inch minnow soft plastics on very light 6lb leader, in order to entice the bream to bite. I caught a few keepers this way but I lost plenty of soft plastics to either bigger bream, cod or perhaps mangrove jacks. There were a few flathead around but most were about 30cm to 40 cm long, so I released them.

There was about a week of heavy rain later in the month. The water running off the surrounding swamps turned the Brunswick River brown for all but an hour around high tide. This increase in fresh water in the system changed things and I had a few sessions where all I caught were grunter bream. I caught them all on 3 inch soft plastics, using a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. They were mostly too small to keep, but one or two were close to 35 cm.

So there were plenty of fish in March and the river had plenty of bait but there were not many big enough for supper.

 

Skennars Head, Brunswick River – Flathead, Dart, Bream and Tailor – January 2018

The Brunswick River turned into a water park for January with kayaks, canoes, tinnies, paddle boards and anything else that floats, ploughing up and down from dawn until  dusk. I caught a few flathead and dart at Northhead and out on the beach but fishing was tough

On my explorations of the northern New South Wales coast I had driven past the rocks at Skennars Head a few times and seen people fishing them. This is not a spot for big seas. In fact, it is very dangerous when there is anything more than a metre of swell, so be very careful here. There is rocky outcrop in front of the headland and at the end there is an old iron pole driven into the rocks and a cement set rod holder. At low tide on a very calm day you can fish from this spot.

As the water cools I think this would be a good/ jewfish tailor spot. As I needed to fish at low tide my first few sessions were during the day time. I caught bream, dart and the odd butter bream on light leader and 1/8th ounce jighead mounted minnow and shrimp soft plastics. On one morning a school of mullet thick enough to walk on cruised by, finning on the surface.

Later in the month dawn started to coincide with low so I fished a couple of sunrise sessions. These were much more successful. I started by spinning with a fifty gram Halco Twisty in the gold colour. I use a Daiwa Demonblood 962H paired with a Shimano Stradic FJ 8000. It is getting old now but this rod and reel combo has caught a lot of big fish for me. It is a great set up when you need a chance of landing a big fish from the rocks. When casting a lure or slug I rig up with 30lb braid, and a short 25lb fluorocarbon leader.

I arrived pre-dawn and I could just see the birds working a long way out.  It is Landangler’s first law of fishing that feeding schools of fish will remain approximately 10 metres clear of you casting range for the duration of your fishing session.

It was a fantastic sunrise and I cast the slug all through it with no result. My shoulders get sore pretty quickly now and it was hot, so I swapped down to the lighter Daiwa Crossfire 862 rod which I have been using to cast plastics and light lures from the beach. I match this with a Shimano Stradic 4000 reel. This is rigged with 12lb braid and 16lb fluorocarbon leader and I started with a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 jighead and a Gulp Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour.  After a few casts this one did the trick and I felt a good grab and short run, but no I did not hook up. I cast back in the same direction and almost as soon as the lure hit the water the rod bent over. It was fast and furious but not very big. It was a tailor – just about 40 cm long. I bled it and dropped it in a keeper rockpool. I cast out again in the same area but they had moved on.

As the sun rose, the schools of bait and birds remained mostly out of reach. I swapped down to a more natural GULP Peppered Prawn coloured, shrimp shape soft plastic.  At one point a spinning wheel of what looked like bonito came within casting distance and I landed my plastic close by, but they were not interested. The next takers where few good bream, caught close the base of the rocks on the GULP shrimp. As the day warmed up the bream disappeared but a few good dart took their place.

I cooked the tailor whole for lunch, a few hours later. My view is tailor are pretty good for 24 hrs from capture, as long as they are bled and cleaned in the saltwater, soon after landing, after that even my cat turns its nose up.

Overall a great session – no monsters, but it was a beautiful morning and there would be fish for lunch and dinner.

 

For anyone who fishes the rocks please note – this is a dangerous environment so wear a PFD, good boots with a decent grip and watch the surf all the time. Finally, remember the old adage, if in doubt…… don’t.