Lockdown at South Golden Beach – April 2020

I returned to South Golden Beach at the beginning of April. I realised how fortunate we were to be located in this small town, close to Byron Bay, on the Northern New South Wales coast. Our beaches were not closed, our fishing was not curtailed and social distancing was very simple. The outlook for any kind of paid work looked pretty grim, but there would be plenty of fishing time.

I spent most of April extracting myself from my contracts in Asia and ‘furloughing’ everyone who works with me. Realistically, none of us could work until I could leave Australia and visit our various projects again. And that prospect looked a long way off. Unlike here in the ‘lucky country’ none of my team would receive any welfare assistance, so it was a pretty depressing process.

In between times I had a few fishing sessions in the Brunswick River. For once the river was very quiet. The caravan parks had emptied out and no one was allowed to leave home except for essential activities. Fishing was allowed under the exercise category – which was a relief. I caught flathead under the highway bridge and down by the river mouth, at Christmas Beach. I fished GULP soft plastic minnows and shrimps, using light leaders (10lb fluorocarbon) and light jigheads (no heavier than 1/8th of an ounce). Only about one in five of the flathead was over the legal size limit in New South Wales, which is 38cm. I caught about twenty over three sessions.

I also fished the beach gutters, when the weather was calm enough. I caught a few flathead this way, but not many bream. The northerly winds gradually change over to southerlies and the air temperature dropped. One cool morning I noticed a few abandoned chopper tailor heads on the beach in front of the New Brighton.

Iluka – March 2020

I was in Singapore and Thailand in early March, finishing some work when suddenly the world seemed to go mad. Flights were getting cancelled left, right and centre and whilst my Thai colleagues were still smiling, they were doing it from behind surgical masks. It was clearly time to head back to Australia so I flew back to Brisbane on a virtually empty plane, just before the quarantine system was implemented.

I felt fine but the Mrs thought 14 days of self-isolation would be a good idea. She did not need to ask twice, I had a unit booked in Iluka in just under 5 minutes – this was possibly the only good thing to come out of the whole COVID 19 crisis.

I picked up my car at Brisbane airport, stopped by my garage to grab my tackle, collect a pre-packed box of groceries and the all important toilet paper. I gave a the family a wave through the front doorway and I was on my way.

The first few days were dark and stormy, both physically and metaphorically. I sat watching the tv, listening to the media whipping us all into a frenzy. I concluded it would be best to turn off the tv for all but 30 minutes a day. The cruise ships started to resemble 19th century leper colonies and everyone rushed home from overseas. In Iluka not much changed – except they ran out of toilet paper in the IGA! I realised I truly live in the ‘lucky’ country as the the NSW government clarified that fishing was definitely a ‘permitted’ form of exercise.

I decided to stay away from everyone, keep washing my hands and get on to some fish. The groceries were soon running low so if I wanted protein I was going to have to catch it. The NSW National Parks & Wildlife service decided to close the Woody Head campground (understandable) and also shut the access roads to Frazers Reef, Back Beach and Woody Head (less understandable). Shark Bay beach vehicle access was then also inexplicably closed. Fortunately our right to access the coastline and fish was maintained through the Bluff Beach carpark.

Iluka was the ideal place to isolate. I generally managed 200 metres of social distancing and did not see a soul. The rain stopped and the weather cleared a little. On a couple of afternoons I walked out along the beach to the Shark Bay rock platform and cast slugs out into the setting sun, as the tide approached low. The fish were not plentiful but I managed a couple of keeper sized tailor the first night and tailor, bream and a small trevally, on the next evening. I caught the bream early in the afternoon on a GULP soft plastic minnow and the tailor just after dusk on a 65g Raider metal slug

The swell was pretty persistent and I had to wait a few more days before fishing the headlands would be possible and safe. I decided that I would walk round to Woody Head from the Shark Bay picnic area. It was a fair old trek but when I got there I had the whole rock platform to myself. Low tide was just after lunch and I was delighted to see a very light swell out in front.

I had some great sessions over the next few days casting slugs (mainly Halco Twistie and Streakers), big hard bodied lures and soft plastics. There were lots of tailor and trevally and I even pulled up a small kingfish. At one point I was losing fish to bite offs and after losing a couple of good lures, I swapped up to metal trace. I caught a couple more tailor and then witnessed a decent size shark cruise up behind my hooked tailor and take the fish, the lure and bite straight through the trace.

The swell soon came back up and I had to retreat to the river bank for a few days. Fortunately there were plenty of good bream to be had along the rock walls. Suddenly my fourteen days was up and I headed home to continue my lock down and fishing.

Ballina & Broken Head – February 2020

In February I started the month with a couple of morning sessions fishing along the Ballina river bank, close to the centre of town. If you follow the riverside walkway that runs parallel with the main high street you often see big schools of bait fish hanging close to the rocky banks. I worked my way along, casting soft plastics. I caught a couple of small bream and then a few small flathead. The air was still, hot and humid and the water was very clear.

A few days later the rain started and didn’t really stop for a week. The weather turned wild and fresh water poured off the parched paddocks into the estuaries. It looked like the drought was breaking. I went down to the Brunswick River but it was a brown frothy soup.

During a few breaks in the weather I drove down to Ballina to look around. The Richmond was also running brown, full of sediment and other rubbish. There were quite a few dead juvenile flathead, bream and other species floating in the flotsam and jetsam.

When the rain finally stopped it was clear I would have to fish in the ocean as the estuaries would stay dirty and full of fresh water for some time. By the middle of the month the swell had dropped off sufficiently to try fishing at Snapper Rocks at Broken Head. I started by trying to cast soft plastics over the froth churned up by the storms. There was also a lot of weed to contend with, especially when I let the soft plastic reach the bottom. Despite the obstacles, I caught a few dart using a 3 inch GULP minnow soft plastic weighted on a 1/4 ounce jighead. I stuck with the lime tiger colour as this seems to be a favorite with the dart.

A few days later with a light swell I was back in the same spot. I was casting soft plastics again and the dart were there again. I caught a few but then got bitten off by something more aggressive. I changed my leader from 16lb to 25lb flurocarbon and after a few more casts I hooked a tailor, which wriggled off as I tried to pull it up to my feet. Finally, about 20 minutes later I landed one, it was about 45cm long. I caught one more, a little smaller, but then they were gone. I tried a metal slug for a bit but did not get any hits. I swapped back to the GULP Minnow and started casting over to the south and letting the soft plastic float down slowly beside the base of the rocks. I had a couple of hits (presumably from the dart or bream) and then something took off with the lure. It was pulling hard so I tightened the drag a little and just wound in as fast as I could. After a couple of runs a decent trevally came into view. With the aid of the swell I pulled it clear of the rocks and up to my feet.

The next day I was back, to fish the last few hours of the run out tide. I started with a 40 gram metal slug but soon swapped back the same set up that had produced fish the day before; the GULP Lime Tiger Minnow soft plastic on a 1/4 ounce size 1/0 hook jighead. This turned the fish on and I caught a dart and then a couple of tailor in quick succession. I fished on and had a few more bites but after a couple of hours I was about to pack up. Just a few more casts and bang zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz – another trevally. This one did its best to bury itself in the cunjevoi covered rocks. We had a fair fight and I thought I had lost it but fortunately it untangled itself and I landed it.

That was it for the day but this is definitely a great spot to fish when there is little swell.

Flat Rock & South Ballina – January 2020

I was away most of January but I managed a couple of fishing sessions at the end of the month. The first was at Flat Rock, just south of Skennars Head and just north of Ballina. This area is best fished through a falling or low tide. I fished with my lighter rock fishing rig – this is currently a Shimano Stella 4000 matched to a Daiwa Crossfire Surf 1062 rod.

It was a great sunrise but not a particularly good mornings fishing. I caught a couple of very small bream on my first two casts and later I caught a decent sized dart. I got everything on the Gulp 3′ minnow soft plastic in the orange and lime green “Lime Tiger” colour. The dolphins kept patrolling the edge of the rock platform, so I am sure the fish were there. There was a fairly stiff onshore breeze which made casting tough and I snagged plenty of my jigheads.

A few days later, I fished the run out morning high tide for about three hours from its peak, at Mobs Bay, South Ballina. As I waded in the shallows, I found a few fairly small (25 to 35 cm) flathead. But it was the bream that were out in force. I caught 5 keeper sized bream and a few smaller ones. I was using my light spinning rod and reel rigged with 12 lb braid and about a metre of 10 lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader. I caught them on a Gulp 3″ minnow soft plastic in the watermelon pearl colour, rigged on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I was amazed at how happy they seemed to be, cruising around the mangrove roots and weed beds in less than a metre of water. I started to catch them as I slowed everything down. I would let the plastic sit on the bottom for as long as 30 seconds before starting the retrieve. They would often then strike as soon as I lifted the lure of the bottom.

I fished a few evening sessions in the Brunswick River without much success. The holidays delivered a fairly constant stream of paddlers and boats which made it hard to find an undisturbed stretch of water to fish. There were a few whiting in the shallows and plenty of tiny flathead, but I could not land dinner.

Brunswick River and South Ballina – December 2019

With bills piling up I had to disappear overseas in October and November to earn some money. There is no doubt that fishing is an addiction and an expensive one. Still, there are far worse things you could be addicted too and occasionally it provides dinner!

In December we had the continuing drought and the bush fires to deal with. I woke up several mornings to an ominous smoke filled sky at our place in South Golden Beach. Fortunately although I could smell them, the fires stayed a long way away.

It was hot and the winter species had long departed. The Brunswick River produced a few small flathead at the river mouth – especially on the very last hour of the run out tide. But, of the 10 flathead I caught over two sessions casting soft plastic lures, only one would have been legal to keep.

Just before Christmas I fished a few sessions in South Ballina, on the flats around Mobs Bay. My preference is to fish from the top of the tide through to about half way out, in this location. This worked fairly well and I ended up with three good flathead at each outing. I was fishing with my light spinning rig. This is a NS Blackhole 6′ SGII 602L trout rod. This rod is a true ‘Ultralight’ and picks up even the slightest of bites and touches. It does not have any grunt but it can handle a good sized flathead. I have recently swapped my 2500 Shimano Stella for a Daiwa TD Sol III 2500D LT reel. It is a bit clunkier than the Stella but I like the sturdier design, as I am always dropping it. The drag is good and I like the heavier bail arm. I had teh reel loaded with 12lb braid and about a metre of 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I was fishing with a 1/8th of an ounce/ size 1 hook jighead and the GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastic in the pearl watermelon colour got the flathead to bite.

Mobs Bay and South Ballina rockwall – September 2019

At the beginning of September I fished a couple of sessions at the end of the South Ballina rockwall. I caught a few good bream, chiefly on small minnow shaped soft plastics. I also landed a few luderick and a couple of small trevally. I am sure the tailor come and go around this headland but I have yet to encounter them.

For the rest of the month. I focused on wading the flats and fishing for flathead in South Ballina. I had success in two areas – the mud flats, just to the south of the Burns Point ferry landing and all around the sand banks and weed beds of Mobs Bay. This is a big bay near the river mouth with all the ingredients that flathead love; rockwalls, shifting sandbars, weed beds and good tidal flow.

Research suggests that flathead will spawn throughout the year, apart from in mid to late winter. Despite this I often catch fish full of eggs in August and September. They certainly still seem to school up with the bigger tides in the lead up to the full and the new moons.

I fished Mobs Bay with soft plastic lures. Typically I used a light spin rod and reel loaded with 10lb breaking strain braid and a 10 or 12lb fluorocarbon leader. My favourite brand of soft plastics are still the Berkley GULP range and if I had to pick my ‘go to’ pattern for flathead, it would be the 4″ minnow shape. In the pearl watermelon colour it looks very much like a small pilchard.

I fished about 5 times in September and caught plenty of flathead. The vast majority of the fish I caught were in the 25 cm to 35 cm size range and so they went back to be caught again when they are big enough.

I caught the biggest flathead (about 60cm long) in the lead to the full moon on the 12th, at the base of the rockwall, near the river mouth.

A decent South Ballina flathead from the base of the rocks

Brunswick River, Lennox Head Beach & Flat Rock – August 2019

In August the weather had warmed up a little but the water had finally cooled down. I tried a few different fishing methods in the Brunswick River, where the bream can be easy to find but hard to catch. I started with small soft plastics, which would mostly just catch small flathead. In the end I worked out that throwing in some burley (small bread cubes) seemed to get the fish in the mood. Once a decent crowd of fish had assembled I would pull a jighead with some bread on it, along the bottom. This method caught a few fish. So I refined it and started floating an unweighted size 6 hook with a small dough cube down towards the fish. This worked better but, overall it was hard work and most of my catch was barely big enough to keep.

Brunswick River bream like bread
Clearwater and plenty of food makes the bream hard to catch
The Brunswick River

I was only fishing the river when the swell made fishing the beaches or rocks to tricky. Whenever I found a good gutter on the beach between the northwall of the Brunswick River and South Golden Beach, I would go down at dusk and try flicking soft plastic lures around. I found a few little flathead using this method (but not many keepers) and no tailor.

On a couple of calmer mornings, I fished the beach at Lennox Head. There is plenty of structure here and if the swell permits, it is great to fish the gaps in the rocks for flathead and bream. Over a few days I caught trevally, bream and flathead, all on soft plastic minnows. The back half of the run out tide was the most productive time to fish.

Lennox Head mixed bag

I also took advantage of the lighter swell to have a fish at Flat Rock, just north of the Richmond River mouth, near Ballina, in August. This is a great fishing platform but it requires wind, tide and swell to be friendly – to deliver the fish. I started off fishing the eastern side on a falling tide and caught a beautiful elegant wrasse on a soft plastic. A little later, as the tide turned to run in I caught a few bream on the same lures.

I then moved round to the southern side, where I have seen fishermen catch some very good tailor and jewfish. I was using my Daiwa Crossfire Surf 1062 rod matched with a Shimano Stella 4000 reel. I wrigged them with 20lb braid and a 16lb fluorocrabon leader. This rod is just big enough to throw a 40 gram slug and so I tied one on and threw one out over the reef ledge into the surf. After a few casts I hooked a fish which I though was a very solid tailor. It pulled really hard. When i finally go a look I was very surprised to see it was a small kingfish about 45cm long. I released it and carried on casting but did not get another.

I rounded out the month with a trip across the river on the ferry to South Ballina. I fished my lighter spinning rig along the south rockwall and caught a few flathead and bream. The end of the wall always seems to produce good bream and there are usually flathead around, as you move upriver and the water gets shallower.

Sharpes Beach, Ballina and North Head, New Brighton – July 2019

It took a long time for winter to arrive in 2019. In fact, the water stayed warm pretty much all through June and July. I persisted with exploring the beach fishing to the north of the Brunswick River mouth, whenever possible.

I also had a few sessions on the headlands between Lennox and Ballina. I did quite well fishing soft plastic minnows at the north end of Sharpes Beach. Over a few mornings I caught some 35cm + bream, trevally and even a few jewfish, one of which was just over 70 cm long and therefore big enough to keep.

As most of my followers will know I love to fish with soft plastics and light rigs. I was catching the odd flathead and bream in the surf on a traditional jig head rigged soft plastic minnows and shrimps, but I was putting in a lot of casts for very few fish. So in July I experimented with rigging my GULP 4″ minnows, unweighted on a regular baitholder or trueturn hook at the end of about 30 cm of 20lb fluorocarbon leader, running up to a small swivel and sinker. This seemed to be more successful and I had a few quite good bream sessions on the beach.

Bream on a soft plastic without a jighead

As we moved towards the full moon in the middle of the month, I noticed a few keen local anglers fishing for tailor on dusk, on the beach near North Head. On the evening of the full moon I decided to join them and with a GULP 4″ minnow rigged on a size 4 Trueturn hook with a size 1 sinker further up the leader. I was using my 3.6m / 12 foot Daiwa Crossfire Surf 1202L, 20lb braid and a 20lb flurocarbon leader. I was casting out as far as I could and letting the plastic waft around. I started about 40 minutes before sunset. Just after sunset I felt the rod tip start to bend and as I took up the slack I realised there was a fish on. This rod does not have much power so I had to be patient but after about 15 minutes of back and forth in the swell I pulled up a chunky tailor about 55cm long.

North Head Beach tailor

So on reflection there was plenty of variety on June and July, especially in the run up to the full moon

Brunswick River – Broken Head – Dart, Flathead, Tailor – May, June 2019

There was no time for fishing in April but May and June saw me back down at my new HQ near Brunswick Heads on the Northern New South Wales coast. I am still finding my feet in this area so my sessions are often hit and miss. I still have not found any consistent spots where I can catch supper. Its almost as if there is too much choice – the beaches, the river or the rocks? I keep my ever expanding tackle supplies and a few rods in the boot of car and I am generally driven by the wind, swell and tides.

I fished the area near the mouth of the Brunswick River on a few evenings in the run up to the June full moon and I caught a few flathead on each occasion, but they were all around the 30 cm mark, so I released them. There must be plenty of fish around here as the dolphins are frequent visitors. The last hour of the run out tide was most successful.

On other days I put in the hours in the beach gutters to the south of New Brighton for pretty poor results. I was chucking a slug just pre-dawn and after dusk which was not very successful and then big plastics with light leaders, which did land the odd bream and small tailor, later in June.

I clambered down the cliff at Broken Head (south of Byron Bay) on a couple of afternoons, but the swell made fishing quite tricky. I persisted and ended up with some good sized dart on soft plastic minnows.

I am still working it out, another 50 years and I will have mastered it!

Iluka – Woody Head – March, 2019

I had a fair amount of time fishing the rocky headlands around Iluka in March. Many of them are situated just north of the town in the Bundjalung National Park. The typical wind pattern was a southerly in the morning turning to a northerly in the afternoon. It was very warm and the water temperature was consistently warm. There were a few storms early in the month and we had had the tropical storm pass through offshore, at the end of February, so the water quality was pretty average. I caught all the usual species; dart, bream, various types of trevally, tailor, flathead but I only caught and released 1 small 45cm Jewfish during the whole trip.

Tailor were the most prolific and I caught plenty when the swell was low enough to fish Woody Head, Iluka Bluff and the Shark Bay rock platforms. I got them on metal slugs from 40 to 60 gram. The colour or type did not seem to matter much.  They were either there and you got four or five good fish in a session or they just weren’t there. I also had success with big bibless sinking hard bodies (see pics). I tend to stick with a 30lb fluorocarbon leader when fishing for tailor. I lose the odd fish but I find anything heavier makes good casting hard. My favourite rod for throwing a big hard bodied lure is my Daiwa Demonblood, which is now looking very battered.

I had a few early morning savage bite offs, which I assumed were mackerel. There were a few Spanish mackerel and tuna around and I saw one good sized Spaniard landed minus its tail, at Woody Head.  The tuna appeared from time to time but pretty much always just out of casting range.

 

South Ballina – Richmond River – Flathead – December 2018

In December I did not get a lot of time to fish. The weather was windy and so when I did get time for a session it was not on the headlands or beach. I drove down to the Richmond River at Ballina and decided to fish the shallows on the south side, near the river mouth. There are good tidal sand flats – lined by oyster covered rocky shore and mangroves.

I waded around with a light spin rod, 10lb fluorocarbon leader and a few of my favorite soft plastic lures. I generally used a 1/8th ounce, size 2 hook jighead loaded with a small 3 inch GULP Minnow or Shrimp shaped soft plastic. I was fishing the run out tide through the middle of the day. I did not have very high expectations but its is always good to explore for the early morning and dusk sessions, which are when I am most likely to catch supper.

My session started with a couple small bream in close to the shoreline. As I waded around and the tide headed for low, I started to catch small flathead. I caught about 8 in a few hours but only one would have been just about legal size. So they were all released today.

In summary this looks like it will be a productive spot in the cooler months and I will definitely be back to fish it.

Skennars Head – Jewfish – November 2018

In November I spent a few sessions exploring the rocky headlands around Lennox and Skennars Heads in Northern New South Wales. I was fishing soft plastics lures on my new favorite outfit – a Daiwa Crossfire 1062 matched with a Shimano Stella 4000. I generally rigged a 12 to 20lb fluorocarbon leader and 20lb braid, for main line. As usual I was losing plenty of gear to the rocks as I felt around the rocky outcrops and bommies. My soft plastic of choice is still the GULP 4″ Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. It is as close to a pilchard as anything and pilchards catch plenty of fish. I keep the jighead as light as I can – a sixth of an ounce or even an eighth, if the swell will still let it sink.

On most sessions I found a bream or a dart or two, but on a couple of occasions I found some Jewfish/ Mulloway, hugging the base of the rocks. They appeared to be schooled up under the overhangs. Only one was big enough to keep but I was glad to have made contact.

Skennars Head fishing spot
Skennars Head

Brunswick River – Mullet and flathead – August 2018

In August the almost non-existent winter continued with warm water and not much rain. There were lots of mullet and small flathead in the Brunswick River. I fished around with soft plastics and light leaders and occasionally snagged some of the mullet. Even the smallest flathead seem unable to resist a soft plastic, pulled across the sandy bottom in front of them.

The river is a beautiful spot but is best fished at dawn or dusk, mid-week. The rest of the time it is quite busy with boats and swimmers and the fish tend to settle in the quieter areas. Of course, there is always one inconsiderate knobhead who decides to put his jetski in (they are prohibited in the river). I console myself in the knowledge that karma being what it is, jet skiers will be reincarnated as baitfish in the next life, and give them a wave.

Iluka – Woody Head – July 2018

Ok, I once again apologise for an ancient report on last winters’ fishing at Iluka, but better late than never.

I managed to get down there for a few days with my kayaking friend, Andre. Conditions where prefect with a very light swell and not much wind so we managed to spend plenty of time out fishing in all my favorite spots. Andre fished in his Kayak while I focused on the rocks.

I caught a range of species from the usual dart, bream, tailor, trevally and flathead, to the less usual tuskfish and what looked like a small queenfish. The jewfish/mulloway were hard to find but I eventually caight a small one off the rocks at Frasers Reef.

I was mainly fishing with light leaders and soft plastics and then switched to a heavier leader and slug or lure, around dawn and dusk. As usual in this spot there were a few big runs, bent jigheads and straight bite offs.

Andre managed some good fish out front in his kayak, including a decent snapper that grabbed a big deep diving minnow hard bodied lure.  This spot never ceases to amaze me!

Woody Head – Fisherman’s paradise in calm weather

Bribie Island – Flathead and Pike – July 2018

In mid-July I had a great winter afternoon fishing session at my favourite old stomping ground – the flats of the Pumicestone Passage at Bribie Island. It was a beautiful clear afternoon and the tide would be running out. I waded out to the north of the Bribie bridge, to a point where the water was about waist deep. I was fishing with a 2 metre long 12lb fluorocarbon leader and a fast action 6’6” spinning NS Blackhole spinning rod. I was using a GULP 4“Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour which I loaded on to a 1/8th ounce, 1/0 jighead.

I cast in a semi-circle to the north of me. The tide was running out and I hopped the soft plastic along the bottom with two or three second pauses between each hop. The idea was to make my lure look like a wounded/ drunk baitfish wobbling along the bottom with the run-out tide. After about three casts the strategy worked, and I felt the solid thud of the flathead bite. I dropped the rod tip for a few seconds then pulled it up and set the hook. I let it take some line and the fast action rod absorbed its initial lunges. I slowly walked it back the beach under the bridge where a handy Woolworths shopping trolley provided a good spot to unhook it. It was about 47cm long and would be dinner.

I carried on the technique moving south under the bridge and caught 4 more flathead through the afternoon.  Of these two were just under 40 cm and one was a little bigger. I also hooked a couple of pike who seemed to be hanging around over the weed beds.

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

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.

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