The advantage of fishing from the shore is that provided you are prepared to wrap up, you can still fish in a 15 knot wind. Especially if you chose somewhere like the Pumicestone Passage which has a few, fairly sheltered areas. The other advantage of fishing at these times is there is almost zero boat traffic. All the wise boaties are tucked up in bed having lie in or just listening to Nugget’s fishing show and cursing the weather gods. I am not sure that I subscribe to the idea that there are less fish around in the estuaries than there were 20 years ago – but I do believe the massive increase in boat traffic and other noise and disturbance, has a big effect on our ability to find and catch the fish that are there.
On Sunday morning there was plenty of wind forecast but when I arrived at Whitepatch on Bribie Island, the water was reasonably calm. It was about 5.15 am and the wind had dropped away as the sun was about to come up. This hour around dawn nearly always produces slightly calmer weather. It was just on low tide and I started fishing on the slack water with virtually no tidal flow. I often find this is a slow time. I presume the fish are beginning to reposition themselves and are slightly confused as to where to lie in wait to ambush prey. Sunday was no exception and nothing of note happened until about 45 minutes later when the tide really started running in.
I was fishing a 3” GULP Minnow soft plastic lure in the Banana Prawn colour on a 1/6th 1 jighead. This is another great lure for bream but will tempt almost anything. There is a sizeable drop off all along the shoreline at Whitepatch – it is perfect to fish for about two hours either side of low tide. I had parked at the last car park before the entrance to the Bribie National Park and I was wading south, along the shore, casting up into the run in tide. I caught a few Pike and then a tiny Moses Perch and then I got a touch, a pause, another touch and then bang – the blistering run and head shakes that had to be a Snapper. Over the course of each year, in this spot, I catch perhaps two or three legal size snapper and many more just undersize. Unfortunately this one was in the latter category. He measured up at 28cm and I threw him back, after a quick mug shot. What is uncanny is the consistent way I get these fish when the start of the run in tide coincides with dawn.
I switched to a 2” GULP Shrimp plastic, also in the Banana Prawn colour. I was fishing with about a metre and a half of 10lb fluorocarbon leader, tied onto a spool of 1.8kg Fireline. About 40 minutes after catching the Snapper, I found a patch of Bream. I caught three fish in quick succession. The largest was approximately 30 cm long. Shortly afterwards I reached a large drain with weed beds on either side. These were now covered by approximately a metre of water. I cast out, methodically in a semicircle and caught several Pike and then a very small (25cm) Flathead. I moved on and about 30 minutes later reached a similar drain. I used the same tactics and was rewarded with another Flathead that was just on 40cm. Like all the other fish, I released it. By 9.30 am the water was now effectively too high to continue fishing over the edge of the drop off and the wind was steadily building, so gave up for the day.
Thursday morning did not look that promising with gusty, cold, westerly winds. I decided to fish at Bribie as you can usually find some reasonably sheltered spots by swapping from one side of the Pumicestone Passage to the other, if necessary.
It was a late start and I waded out in to the water just to the south of the old Oyster Jetty at around 9.30 am. High tide was at around 10.00 am, so the tidal flow had almost stopped. There a couple of good drains in this location that often produce a few Flathead. However to maximise my chances I knew I really had to wait for the tide to start running out. The water was probably the coldest I have felt all year. I flicked various shrimp and minnow soft plastics around on a 1/6th 1/0 jighead. I didn’t get a touch for more than hour. I was so cold I retreated to the car for more clothes. I went out again this time to the north of the old oyster jetty. I was wading back towards the bridge, about 4 metres from the edge of the mangroves. I put on a fresh GULP 3” minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour and cast it out towards the bridge at a 45 degree angle to the shore. I jerked it a couple of times and then felt the plastic stick. There are a few rocks on the bottom in this area and I thought I had snagged the line on one. As I lifted the rod to try and jerk the jighead free, it slowly started to come towards me. Then suddenly the line started peeling in a long, slow, deliberate rhythm. I knew it was a good size lizard. I started to wind and apply some pressure with no result. I thought the drag might have been set to light so I checked it, but it was good. I gradually tightened it and got a bit of line back, but the fish took off again. We went back and forth for a while like this – perhaps for 5 minutes or so. Big flathead can’t be rushed but they will eventually just saw through you leader, so you have decide on a plan pretty fast. I had a 12lb leader on but I was using my very light 6’6 Loomis GL2 spin rod so there was no way to force the pace. I just had to wear the fish out and keep her away from the mangroves and rocks. I gradually steered her towards a small gap in the mangroves and shortened the line down to about 3 metres. I then walked backwards, towards the gap, tightened the drag some more and in one long sweep, heaved her up onto the sand. The leader broke as I did that but fortunately, not until the fish was metre clear of the water.
It was a beautiful fish that measured in at 78cm. I took a few pictures and then sent her on her way. I cast around for a bit longer in the same area without a touch. I ended up fishing for 4 hours and apart from the monster flathead, I got no bites at all. The Pike, Bream and everything else just failed to show up. May it was the wind – maybe the water temperature – who knows?
After a great week of fishing down at Iluka I was keen to get back out on my home patch around Brisbane. On Wednesday the weather was not too promising. With limited time and strong westerly winds I decided to try fishing along the Pinkenba rock wall on the north side of the Brisbane River. I usually access this spot by parking next to the QCL Cement Plant and walking around the plant to the river bank. There is a long stretch of rock wall that goes from the plant all the way to the mouth of Boggy Creek. It is fairly shallow all along here so I find it fishes best around high tide. My timing was good as I arrived right on high tide at around 9.45am. All along the rock wall there are areas where it has it has broken down and there is therefore plenty of structure at its base and as you move further out the lower rocks are completely covered in oysters.
My tactics here are to walk along the rock wall casting back up river and letting the soft plastic bump along the bottom with the current, with a few jerks every now and then. I have almost always caught fish right at the foot of this rock wall – I assume this is because the riverbed further out is fairly featureless and the bait stays close in. I walked slowly along the wall towards the river mouth but after an hour of casting, I had nothing to show for my efforts. I had been using my favourite GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/6th 1/0 jighead with a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I decided to swap it for a ¼ oz blade lure in a silver rainbow colour. Sometimes the blades can be more effective at getting reluctant fish to bite. I think they annoy the fish into an attack. They have a great action and fish will feel their vibration in the water long before they see them.
Buy this time I had reached the spot where the rock wall has water on both sides. The north side is a shallow, tidal inlet next to the refinery tank farm. The bottom is mud and weed beds and as long as there are a couple of feet of water, there are nearly always flathead in here. After a few casts with the blade I finally found my first fish of the morning – a flathead just on 40cm – I took a picture and put him back (we are still finishing the Jewfish from Iluka at home). I carried on in this spot for a while but could not raise anymore. The water was very cloudy after the recent rain. I then put on a smaller, GULP 3” Pearl Watermelon Minnow and decided to walk back along the wall, up river. This is an excellent soft plastic for Bream – especially when lightly weighted. I swapped the jighead down to a 1/8th 1/0. The tide was really running out hard now and I started to get a few touches close into the oyster clad rocks. After another twenty minutes with no hook ups, the lure was slammed by a solid fish. The initial hit was very hard but it was only a 30cm Bream. I put him back assuming there would be more but despite trying a few other weights, plastics and putting the blade back on, I could not find them.
By now it was just past 1.00pm and even though it was warm and sunny, the wind was really blowing and there was less than a foot of water at the base of the rock wall, in places. I decided to stop for the day.
On Saturday the swell from the big low that was moving past offshore, arrived. This was my last day at Iluka. The rocky headlands were a no go area and the key sign that fishing was out of the question was the arrival of all the surfers. I decided to have a lie in and fish in the afternoon.
At about 2.00pm I headed off up the Clarence to look for a good Flathead spot. I crossed the bridge over to Goodwood Island, at Woombah and drove past Browns Rocks and the Norfolk Island Jetty to a couple of weed beds that have produced good fish in the past. It was the perfect afternoon. The tide was running out, there was a bit of breeze and the water was about 2- 3 feet over the weed beds. The water was very clear and I have been told that the wild colours go best when this is the case – so I put on a 5” Lime Tiger Jerkshad and used a 1/6th 1/0 jighead and 12 lb leader. I would usually go lighter, but with all the choppers around, bite off’s are a common problem.
I put the waders on and wandered out until I was about waist deep and walking through the weed banks, up river, parallel with the shore. I was casting up into the run out tide and letting the plastic sink. I would then bump it along the sand beside the weed, at the edge of the main channel. I walked about two hundred yards like this, before I got a hit. I hooked up with a small (30cm) flathead. I released him and cast back in the same spot a few more times. Third time, I got another one, slightly bigger. I carried on for another 30 feet and got a decent, 48 cm keeper. On the walk back to the car I got bitten off by what I presume was a Chopper. I had to get back for dinner but I had that feeling that all fisherman get – if only I could have stayed a little longer the really good fish would have come on the bite!
Friday brought a slightly warmer morning so I headed back to Frazer’s Reef at Iluka to see if there were anymore Jewfish to be had. I was fishing with a mate who is yet to land one and expectations were high. The conditions were still very good but the wind had turned around to a light northerly. We started just in the pre-dawn light and predictably lost a few jigheads to the bommies. Just on dawn my mate’s rod goes off and he is on to a very solid fish. It had better be a Jewie – me thinks – but it looked a bit too lively and it was taking plenty of line. Then it jumped and we realised it was an Australian Salmon. The fun of the capture made up for it not being a Jew – well that’s what I told him anyway. He pulled it up via a few rock ledges and weighed it at 3kg. He was using the GULP 5” Crazy Legs in the Lime Tiger colour on a 3/8 3/0 jighead on 20lb leader. These fish taste awful but everyone takes the first one home just to see for themselves and this one was no exception – yes, it went home and yes, it tasted like rubber. However we made sure the kids were starving before dinner – so they scoffed most of it.
Back to work and we were still hopeful that the Jewfish would come back on the bite. I was now fishing with the GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour. When things get slow I often find switching back to the more natural colours can tempt a reluctant fish. Sure enough on about the 5th cast with this lure, I scored a solid hook up. The rapid head shakes and frenetic runs suggested it was a Tailor and with the aid of a big wave I had it up on the ledges before it could chew its way up the plastic to bight through the 25lb leader. It measured up at just over 50cm.
We fished on but the Jewfish did not put in an appearance. It was interesting to note that all the fish we gutted during the course of the week had virtually nothing in their stomachs. There was plenty of bait around so one can only assume they were not really feeding.
I decided to walk right around Frazer’s Reef putting in casts wherever I could. After half an hour, this strategy paid off and I caught another similar sized Tailor. I hooked him quite a long way out and through the very clear water, I watched his mates take several snaps at the plastic that was hanging from his mouth. They followed him right to the base of the rocks.
We retreated to stop ourselves from being caught by the tide and although we did not find the Jewies we had seen some good action.
On Thursday morning conditions were as near perfect as you can get on the rocky headlands around Iluka. There was a light (but cold) westerly wind which had flattened the swell and despite the rain earlier in the week, the water was fairly clean. I decided to fish the rock ledges around Frazer’s Reef, a rocky outcrop, located just to the south of Woody Head at Iluka. This is another spot you can only get to 3 hrs or so, either side of low tide. As the tide rises, it swamps the rocky causeway of boulders that you cross to get to the fishing spots.
At dawn on Thursday, the only other sign of life on the walk along the beach were the tracks in the sand made by the kangaroos. It was seriously cold. I was hoping for something more than a Tailor or Trevally. So again I rigged up a plastic on a 3/8 3/0 jighead but this time I went for a 5” GULP Lime Tiger Crazy Legs Jerkshad. This is a Jerkshad shaped plastic with twin curly tails and has a fantastic action both on the drop and when sitting in the current on the bottom. I not convinced about the colour, but I love the action.
I started fishing in the red glow before the sun came up and had a few bumps and nudges and lost the tails on the first plastic. As the great orange ball broke the horizon just on 6.00 am, I hooked a fish. It put in a solid run but it was difficult to follow as the Stradic’s (my expensive reel !!) drag ratchet chose this moment to give up on me. The drag was still working but I could not hear the clicking as the fish took line. It is a very strange sensation fighting a fish without the ‘zzzzzzzzzzzzz’ every now and then. I had subdued the fish but now had to get him up the rocks. I moved him to a corner where there are a few stepped ledges and used the swell to lift him on to the lower one. Then I jumped down one step, wrapped the leader round the glove and lifted the fish clear. It was a beautiful school Jewfish. It was in great condition and measured just on 80cm.
I bled the Jew and put him in a keeper rockpool (one without a wobbegong!). I then got straight back into it. This time I got snagged on a bommy. Next cast produced another, smaller (65cm) school jewfish which I again landed with the aid of the swell. Now I knew they were obviously right on the bottom just behind the bommy. This kind of fishing requires deep pockets – I must have lost 10 more jigheads to that bommy over the next hour. I had a couple of runs with decent fish which I judged from the headshakes were Tailor, but I failed to hook up with either of them. Finally, as the tide was going to force me off my spot I was on to a fish again. This time I had swapped to a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Pumpkinseed colour. This fish felt big but when I got him up the rocks he was actually the smallest of the day at around 60cm – another school jewfish.
I now had to wade, waist deep, through the water to get back across the causeway to the beach, but I reckon getting my nuts chilled was a reasonable sacrifice for some great fishing.
Tuesday was a washout with 24 hours of almost solid rain. Fortunately the tent kept me dry throughout. By the lunchtime low tide on Wednesday, the sky was still overcast but things where brightening up. The ‘Barnacles’ at Woody Head, where I had been fishing the day before, were out of bounds due to the swell. I decided to try fishing the northern side of the Woody Head rock shelf which was a bit more sheltered. I started with the same terminal tackle as the day before – 3/8 3/0 jighead, 25lb fluorocarbon leader and a 4” Pearl Watermelon Minnow. Fishing these spots is always difficult. You need the plastic down in the water column, but leave it too long or weight it too heavily and you will just get snagged. On the first three casts I lost three jigheads to the rocks. This was the price of getting a feel for the swell and terrain. After a few more successful casts I felt a distinct hit but no hook up. Two more casts and just as I was about to jerk the jighead out of the water, at the end of the retrieve – bang! I had a solid fish. It tried to dip down and bury itself in the rocks but fortunately the swell was on my side. I tightened the drag and towed him straight up to my feet with the rising water. I had a nice trevally, about 45cm. I fished on for an hour or so and lost two similar fish to the barnacle covered rock ledges.
I then decided to clean the Trevally in a rock pool. I gutted the fish and started tidying it up when I noticed a splash a few feet away. A decent sized Wobbegong had turned up hoping for a free meal! I retreated, in case he mistook my foot for a fish and made a mental note to check the content of the next rock pool before I start gutting.