Tweed River – The Rockwall – Jewfish/ Tailor Round 2 – 29 Dec 2010

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Wednesday

With rain flooding into all our river systems, the estuaries are full of fresh water, mud and other rubbish. Therefore, the only real fishing option for a land based angler is to look for a river mouth rockwall or rocky headland, where you can still find some cleaner water. This is why I have been so focused on the Tweed River rockwall lately.

I arrived there on Wednesday morning, just before dawn and unfortunately there was a fairly fresh south easterly breeze blowing. As the sun came up I could see the extent of the milky tea coloured cloud that was pouring out from the mouth of the river. I started with a soft plastic but as the sun moved a bit higher in the sky a sizeable flock of birds started feeding on the surface about 125m north east of the wall. There was a school of something busting up out there and the birds started to move nearer with it. I tied on an 95g SPANYID Sniper and started casting as far as I could. It was the usual story – they stayed just out of casting distance.

I decided to put in a few casts off the end of the wall, into the milky tea. Half way through the retrieve I realised I had a small fish on. When I got it to the rocks I was pretty surprised to see a 30cm soapie Jewfish had grabbed the slug. Back he went and I continued to cast at the birds. Eventually after about 30 mins of arm stretching casts the birds came within casting range and after two or three more casts, into the middle of the boil, I was on to a fish. I had switched to an 85g SPANYID Raider by this stage.  The fish did not give me much trouble and I got him safely up the rocks – a Tailor around 40cm. He went back and after another ten minutes I had one more similar sized fish at my feet.

All along the wall land based anglers were picking up similar size Tailor on bait, slugs and even hard bodies. Just one or two every half an hour or so, as the school moved in close. It was great to see that when the fish are there and they are hungry, you can catch them with almost any technique.

At about 8.00 am I walked back to the car. Just as I was leaving a NSW fisheries officer arrived and walked off to the rockwall. The weather obviously meant he could not be out checking boats – there weren’t any, so he had decided to come and spread his good cheer amongst the land based anglers! I hope everyone had their fishing licenses with them!

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Tweed River – The Rockwall – Jewfish Weather – 27 Dec 2010

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Monday

Rain – will it ever end? You have to look on the bright side – Jewfish/Mulloway must be hanging around all the mouths of our rivers and creeks in that murky, turbulent water that they love. They also love big soft plastic lures. With this in mind, I decided to brave the rain on Monday and drive back down to the mouth of the Tweed River to fish the north rockwall.

It was the usual drill, up at around 3.00am and on the rocks (in the rain) by about 4.15 am. As the faint glow on the horizon began to illuminate the river I could see it was a caramel coloured soup, with plenty of debris floating out on the last of the run out tide. I set up my rod and reel – 11’Ft Rovex Bario (which I think is now called the Aureus) matched with a Shimano Stradic 6000 reel. I had filled the spool with 20lb breaking strain, hi-vis yellow Fireline, with 2 metres of 30lb fluorocarbon leader. Jewfish love a plastic right on the bottom so I put on a ¾ oz jighead, to make sure that is where my lure would end up. I think Jewfish are not too fussy when it comes to colour. If you can find them and they are feeding – pretty much anything will do. But in low light, a dark silhouette seems to work well for me, so I started with a GULP 5” Crazylegs Jerkshad in the watermelon colour.

I cast out, due north from the end of the rock wall. Before my lure hit the bottom I had a fish. The frenetic activity suggested a Tailor and a couple of leaps confirmed it for me. I tightened the drag and safely hauled it up to where I could grab the leader. It was around 45cm long. We have been spoiled with plenty of fish in my house lately and there is enough ham and turkey around to feed a football team, so I put it back. It would be catch and release today.

A few more casts and then I decided to change soft plastics to the GULP 5” Jerkshad in the peppered prawn colour. The dirty, fresh water was running out round the end of the rockwall, where it met the clear saltwater water, to the left. There was a clear line marking the boundary between the two and this is where I was casting. There was a surface bust up every now and then and it looked like a school of mullet was breakfast for something. I decided to cast straight out the front into the dirty water for a while. The ¾ oz jighead enabled me to cast a good twenty metres or so. I let it sink and counted to 20 before starting the retrieve. On about the fifth cast I lifted the rod to start the retrieve and it was very heavy. It took a while for the fish to realise it was hooked and then it took off in a long solid run. I had the drag pretty tight but this was no real deterrent. Fortunately, initially it was heading out to sea. I let it go then started to get some line back. It began to come back to me but of course that meant it was also heading for the rocks. I had some success pulling it round to the left but it was too powerful and every time I got its head up, it just turned and, with couple of powerful tail pumps got back down into the rocks. After a minute or two the swell lodged the leader in the rocks and snap – it was gone. I only saw a flash of silver, but from the long slow runs and the rhythmic tail pumps I am pretty sure it was a decent Jewfish/ Mulloway. I checked the leader that had been rubbed through down near the jighead. It had also been thoroughly stretched, so I tied on another. I decided to stick with the same colour soft plastic lure but this time I switched to the 3” Shrimp shape. After three or four casts I was on again and we had a re-run of the first fight only this time, it was over even more quickly. It was a much bigger fish and the initial run was longer. But once I turned it round it paused in the current for ten seconds or so then dived straight down to the foot of the rock and ping – the leader was snapped.

I decided to go back to the clearer water. I put on a GULP 5” Crazylegs Jerkshad plastic in the pinkshine colour and was hit by a small Trevally right at the base of the wall. He managed to wriggle off. I carried on for a while and then decided to switch to a slug as there where now surface bust ups happening all around. I put on a 95g Spanyid Sniper metal lure and cast it out along the line between the dirty and the clear water. After about five retrieves I was on – another Tailor, about the same size as the first. I put in another twenty casts but could not find anymore. Back to plastics – it was time to try out the new GULP 4” Jigging Grub in the peppered prawn colour. I decided to go a bit lighter and rigged it on a 1/2oz 2/0 jighead. After a few casts – knock, knock and bang – I had a fish. It was another small Tailor. I released it and as the rain started to pour down again, I decided to give up. It was great session, I will land a jewfish in this spot eventually – I just need to find a smaller one!

NB – The end of the Stradic drag catch has snapped off again. The drag still works but now it is silent. Fortunately the chaps at Jones Tackle will fix it for me – but come on Shimano – they need to be made of tougher stuff – This is my third one in less than a year!

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Tailor & Queenfish – 23 Dec 2010

On Wednesday morning – the rain looked like it would stop for a bit and as the wind was forecast to come from the south for a while, I decided to go for one more Tweed rockwall session before Christmas. The couple of hours either side of dawn has always been the most productive for me in this spot, so I was up at 3.00 am again. I drove down from Brisbane and was at the end of the rockwall, watching the red glow on the horizon at about 4.15 am.
There was a light south westerly blowing and it was quite cool. There was a little more swell as a result. I started with a River 2 Sea 110mm Dumbell Popper in the Pilchard colour. I was blooping it back slowly across the front of the rockwall. Suddenly there was a boil on the surface so I cast out, in that direction. The popper was knocked out of the water by a marauding fish but there was no hook up. After several more casts and hits – but no connections. I quickly tied on a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the lime tiger colour. I used a ½ oz 4/0 jighead. As soon as it hit the water is was snaffled by a solid fish. I had the drag fairly tight and got the fish round to the left (north) side of the rockwall, fairly quickly. Its head was shaking and then there were a few leaps and I could see it was a Tailor. I got it up the rocks and it measured up at just over 60cm.
Then everything went quiet. I switched from popper to metal slug, to plastic, several times but I could not raise a bite. I could not find any Kingfish but after another hour or so, I had another hook up on a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the pearl watermelon colour. This time it was a tiny Queenfish. The range of species in this spot is amazing. After a quick snap I returned it to the water. I carried on for another ½ hour without success and finally headed home around 7.30 am.
Happy Christmas to all and I wish you the best of luck for your holiday trips. Get out there (in your rain gear) and find some good fish. Even if it is raining, the fish still have to eat!

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Three Kings for Xmas – 20 Dec 2010

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Monday

Now I had the bit between my teeth. Land based fishermen don’t often get the chance to get amongst the Kingfish. So after a great morning on Saturday, I decided to put in another early start on the Tweed rockwall on Monday.
I arrived just before first light, around 3.45 am and was treated to a beautiful early morning sky and very calm conditions. A slight westerly wind was blowing and it was distinctly cooler than the hot and humid conditions on Saturday.
I walked to the end of the rock wall and started casting a 110mm River 2 Sea Dumbell Popper in the Pilchard colour. After twenty casts there was no interest, so I switched to an 85 gram SPANYID Raider metal slug. I put in another twenty casts without a touch. Things were not looking promising. It was now about 4.30 am and the westerly wind was getting up.
I switched to soft plastics lures. Specifically, I put on a GULP 3” Shrimp in the Peppered Prawn colour. Again I rigged it on a ½ oz 4/0 jighead. I cast out and let it sink down and counted to ten, to let the scent circulate a bit. As I lifted it off the bottom, it was struck hard by a fish. The fish came up to the surface fairly easily but then made a blistering run round to the front end of the rock wall. I gradually worked it back round to the left hand side, tightened the drag and lifted it up the rocks. It was a 50 cm Yellowtail Kingfish. It had a very recent looking wound behind its tail, where it had obviously had a run in with a bigger predator. After a quick picture, I returned it.
I continued fishing with the soft plastics and felt a few nudges and bites but no hook ups. I got snagged and lost my last GULP Shrimp plastic. I switched to a 5” Crazylegs jerkshad in the Watermelon colour. At about 5.30am the line came up tight again. I was now fishing with the drag very tight, to slow the initial dive down into the rocks. It was another Kingfish around the 50cm mark. Again, I brought it round to the left of the wall and pulled it up the rocks. Then I measured and photographed it and threw it back.
Another half an hour passed and I tried the metal slug and popper again, with no luck. I went back to plastics and put on a 5” jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. It was now around 6.30 am. After a few casts, I was on again. After a brief fight I pulled up another Yellowtail Kingfish, about the same size as the previous one.
Three Kings but nothing for dinner – I will have to come back again soon.

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Kingfish and Amberjack – 19 Dec 2010

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Saturday

As you may have read, my latest early morning foray on the Tweed River rockwall ended with no fish but a close encounter with something powerful. Predictably, I kept replaying the final moments of losing that fish in my mind and it grew and grew.
On Friday night I went to bed primed for an early start. I wanted to get back down to the Tweed River rockwall before dawn. Rain or shine, I was on a mission. The wind and tides looked good. I was on the road at 3.00 am and wandered out along the north rockwall at about 4.15 am, just after first light. Conditions were perfect. There was virtually no breeze or swell, the water was very clear and it was very humid and overcast.
This time of day is definitely the best time for a surface popper lure. I rigged up my favourite – the RIVER 2 SEA 110mm Dumbell Popper, in the pilchard colour. This time I had 40lb PLATYPUS Bionic Braid on the spool with a 40lb fluorocarbon leader. In my experience, the most likely time you will catch fish on poppers is during the first few casts in the pre-dawn light. If the water you arrive at has not been disturbed all night and the fish’s predatory instincts have just been triggered by first light, you have a winning combination. My theory was spot on. I cast the popper out about 35 metres and slowly blooped it back towards the base of the rockwall, pausing for a second or too, every few metres. About 8 metres from the wall there was a great surge of water from the left and the popper just disappeared, the line went slack as the fish swam towards me. I wound like mad, yanked the rod tip up to strike and then all hell broke loose. Line was peeling off the spool and I immediately started to try and pull the fish round to the north side of the wall, where I might have a chance of landing it. I soon realised that was probably not going to happen. It turned and headed in the opposite direction – round towards the Tweed River mouth. I still had not really seen it. I thought I was making headway but as soon as I got line back, it would just make another blistering run. I scrambled over the rocks at the front of the wall, in the vain hope that I could keep it clear and maybe land it round the other side. Now I could see it and it was a big Yellowtail Kingfish – perhaps around the 80 cm mark. Directly out front, it finally decided to dive down to the base of the rocks and successfully left the popper locked in the barnacles somewhere down below.
My next popper was the HALCO 105mm Roosta Popper in the pink fluoro colour. I had to wait for a moment to stop my hands shaking, so I could tie it on. I cast straight out in the same direction and there were plenty of swirls and lunges, but no hook up on this retrieve. Two or three casts later, I could see the fish following the lure in and again. There were several hits but no hook up. On the next cast, I slowed it right down and less than 2 metres from the wall the popper was completely snaffled. This time I had no chance. The reel screamed, the fish went straight down. I never even saw it and that was the end of my second popper.
I was out of poppers and now it was really getting light so I switched to a metal slug – a SPANYID 85g Raider. I cast round in a semicircle, off the end of the rock wall and most times I got a group of Kingfish following the lure in but they would not strike.
At around 5.30am I decided to switch to a soft plastic lure. I put on a ½ oz, 4/0 jighead and loaded a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the banana prawn colour and cast out as far as I could. I let the plastic sink down and then started jigging it along the bottom. It was hit almost straight away. I set the hook and moved down to a flat rock, as close as I could get to the water. I decided I was not going to mess about this time. After a couple of runs, I tightened the drag and started winding in as fast as I could. The fish tried to dive into the rocks several times but I eventually dragged him clear and up onto the ledge where I locked it down under my foot. It was a Yellowtail Kingfish, just over 65cm and therefore legal in NSW. About 500 metres north, in Queensland, the size limit is 60cm. I wonder if the fish know how long they are and where they are safe? I cleaned it and then put it in the bag.
I put on a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the pearl watermelon colour and cast this out. At about the same spot, it was grabbed and the fish charged off. Once more, before I could get any leverage, the fish was down in the rocks at the base of the wall and gradually it pulled and pulled, until it rubbed through the 40lb leader. I tied on another soft plastic in the same colour and after another three or four retrieves, I had a fish on again. This was a slightly smaller fish and with a fairly tight drag I managed to land it. It was another Kingfish – but at only about 55cm – it went back.
Things had now quietened down a bit and it was around 6.30 am. I was still casting the same weight jighead but now I had switched to the GULP 4” Minnow in the peppered prawn colour. Just before 7.00 am a fish whacked the lure close into the rocks. Again it tried for the base of the wall but, after a short fight, I heaved it out and got it safely up the rocks. It was a 48cm Amberjack and there is no size limit on these in NSW, so he went in the bag with the Kingfish. In Queensland, they have to be over 50cm.
After a about another ½ hour I gave up and headed home. It had been a fantastic morning of land-based fishing with plenty of action in calm, safe conditions.
I did conclude that the size and bag limits don’t seem very logical in this area. I think most fisherman want to do the right thing, but such small differences between the states only serve to confuse us. Surely it would be better to standardise the size limits for as many species as possible. I can’t believe that the science can support no limit for Amberjack in NSW and a 50cm limit further north in Queensland. If the intention is to protect breeding size fish, are the scientists saying that Kingfish breed at fewer than 60cm in Queensland, but they need to get bigger (65cm) to breed in NSW? If anyone understands the science behind it please add a comment.

Tweed River – The Rockwall – 14 Dec 2010


Tuesday

I had seen a few recent reports of anglers catching good fish off the Tweed River mouth rockwall. I have always loved fishing this spot, so on Tuesday I decided to give it a try. The problem with the Queensland summer is that early starts need to be really early. To be at the Tweed for the best fishing, you really need to arrive just before dawn. That means a 3.00 am departure from Brisbane at this time of the year.
The Tweed River (like just about all the rivers in Queensland and New South Wales at the moment) is in flood. It’s brown and murky, like the colour of strongly brewed tea. Theoretically, the most likely time to get fish around the mouth is the end of the run in tide, when the water will be at its clearest and saltiest. However, fish hang around the mouth all the time in these conditions, as the surge of fresh water washes down all sorts of potential food for them. There is often a clear line on the surface were the brown river water mixes with the clearer blue/ green ocean. This is usually my target area.
The rockwall on the north side of the Tweed is easily accessible and has a number of rock ledges that make for great casting platforms. I walked out to the end of the wall at around 4.30 am. Unfortunately I had missed dawn, but I rigged up as quickly as I could and got started. I have caught fish here on soft plastics, metal and hard-bodied lures, but at this time of the year I prefer to use slugs and surface poppers. The surface poppers seem to work best for me, just before dawn, in the half light. I believe it is the combination of slightly lower light and hungry, feeding fish that makes them successful. I have caught plenty of Tailor and Trevally at this time, in this spot.
As I had missed dawn I decided to fish lower in the water column and use a metal slug. I like to use the HALCO Twisties in the 85gm weight or the SPANYID Raiders/ Snipers in the 85/95gm weight, but just about any metal lure will catch fish here. I use my trusty 11Ft ROVEX Bario rod with a SHIMANO Stradic 6000 reel. For line I use 40lb PLATYPUS Bionic braid in the hi-vis pink colour and tie on a two metre, 25lb fluorocarbon leader. The knots need to be good and the reel needs to be carefully spooled. The long rod and relatively heavily weighted lures means you are putting a lot of pressure on the terminal tackle with every cast so, it needs to run smoothly.
I started with an 85gm HALCO Twisty in the chrome colour. I generally cast the slug about 30 to 40 metres, let it sink (count to ten) then wind it in very fast, keeping the rod tip down as close to the water surface as I can. The idea is to keep the lure sub-surface for as long as possible. If I believe the fish are in close, I may stop the retrieve twenty metres from the wall, allow it to sink back down and crank it up again.
I cast all around the end of the wall with no result. The tide was running out and it was around 8.30 am. I started putting in big casts, along the line were the dark water from the river meets the sea, directly off the end of the rockwall. About 25 metres out, half way through the retrieve – whack! The rod tip bends and line starts peeling. Initially the fish is running out to sea – ok, at least it is not heading for the base of the rocks. I look around for where to try to land it and conclude that I have to get it round to the side of the wall. The front is too rocky and there is still too much swell. I opt for the ocean side as this is a little more accessible. The fish has made a couple of solid runs but a couple of minutes into the fight it decides to head towards the wall. All the work I had done trying to get it round the corner is instantly undone, as it dives down towards the base of the rocks. The first surge of water lodges the leader firmly in the barnacles and on the next one – ping, the fish is gone.
I don’t know what it was. I doubt it was a Tailor as there was no mad shaking – my guess would have been a Trevally or possibly a Kingfish. I will never know. I carried on until my shoulders burned from the casting but I could not find another. At about 10.00 am I was drenched by an incoming shower and so I gave up. The fish definitely won today – perhaps I will try a forty pound leader next time!

Yamba – Jewfish – 3 Dec 2010

Friday
As the rain poured down I headed in to Yamba, mid morning, to visit the local tackle store and replenish my supplies. I stopped for a coffee and the rain eased off. I decided to have a look at the fishing off the rocks, down below the light house in front of Yamba.
It was about 11.30 am and the sea was doing a good impersonation of a washing machine, but the rock walls at the mouth of the Clarence River provide some shelter for this area when there is a north easterly wind. I found a safe ledge on the rocks and watched the swell for a while.
I rigged up the big rod – a Rovex Bario 11”. I put on a 1/2oz jighead and a GULP 4” Pumpkinseed Minnow soft plastic lure. I cast around and lost a few jigheads as I got used to the terrain. After about 50 casts, I hooked up to a very small Soapie (juvenile Jewfish) around 30 cm long. After a quick snap, I released it.
The rain started again and by now even I had reached the end of my weather tether. With no dry clothes I decided it was time to pack up camp and head back to Brisbane.
So overall, the good news is the fish are there. The bad news is the weather may well make them very hard to get at this month.