Bribie Island – A few Flathead – 26 Jan 2011

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Australia Day – Wednesday

Although I did not catch anything yesterday, I was encouraged by the conditions in the Pumicestone Passage at Bribie Island. I love estuary fishing in Queensland but Bribie Island is by far my favourite spot near Brisbane. So this morning I was up early and wading out from the shore, on the mainland side, under the Bribie Island bridge at around 4.15 am.

There was virtually no breeze and the tide was about half way out. Low tide would be at about 8.40 am, at around 0.6m. The area that is lit by the bridge lights always attracts bait and this morning was no exception. There were surface bust ups all around with prawns and bait fish jumping everywhere. The bottom is a mixture of sand, weed and rubble so you cannot fish too heavy. The run out tide starts to run fast over the rubble areas as the water gets shallower and this forms a few ridges, channels and drains that hold the Flathead. A 1/6th oz jighead with 1/0 or 2/0 hook is perfect in these conditions. I decided to fish my favourite soft plastic for Flathead – the GULP 4” Minnow in the pearl watermelon colour. I rigged up my light spin rod and waded along the edge of the mangroves heading south, so I could come back up and cast from the darkness up into the area lit by the bridge lights.

I was standing in about 400mm of water casting up into the run out tide. The plastic was spooking the bait schools and they would burst out of the water each time I jerked it off the bottom. After a few casts a felt a good crunch and let the rod tip drop. A few seconds later I lifted it and had a small Flathead around 30 cm. It was now about 4.30 am and the sky was brightening very slowly. I continued casting around the same area and about ten minutes later a caught another one on the same plastic – this time it was around 35 cm.
I continued casting – I still could not clearly see the colour of the water but it looked a lot dirtier on the run out tide, than it had when I fished the run in tide, yesterday. I moved into slightly deeper water and lost a couple of jigheads to the snaggy bottom. I re-rigged and on my first cast a Flathead more or less caught the lure as it hit the water. There was a good deal of tail splashing and head shaking but when I got it to the bank, I could see it was not much bigger than the others at around 40cm. I let it go, hoping for something better.
As the sun cleared the horizon the surface activity gradually slowed and I started to walk down to fish around the old oyster farm jetty. My plastic was getting plenty of hits but they were not Flathead and I could not seem to hook up. Finally I set the hook on one of the bites and pulled up a tiny Moses Perch. They certainly have an appetite for a decent sized lure (see photo).

I spent another hour fishing the end of the run out tide and as the water got lower, it got dirtier and dirtier. Finally at about 7.30 am I decided there was not enough water in this area, so I packed up. It was good to find a few fish – even though they were small. Hopefully the good weather will continue and the water quality will gradually improve.

Bribie Island – Plenty of bait – 25 Jan 2011

Tuesday

After a couple of disappointing sessions fishing off the rock wall of the Tweed River, I decided to go and have a look at the estuaries, to see if they are clearing up. I decided to fish the last few hours of the incoming tide at Bribie Island.

I arrived about 9.00 am and fished soft plastic lures around the weed beds on the mainland side, under the bridge and along by the old oyster jetty. There was a fairly big tide and you can see that the water is still holding a lot of sediment. There was also a lot of weed and other rotting vegetation floating around.

I fished a 1/6th 1/0 jighead using a very slow retrieve and tried both bright and natural coloured plastics – the 4” Minnow in the pearl watermelon colour and the 3” Minnow in the lime tiger colour. I soon found a few Long Toms. They are a mean looking, thin fish with a long, toothy jaw. They grab the plastic and play ‘tug of war’, only letting go just as they reach you. I rarely hook them as they have such a hard and narrow jaw. They were obviously getting stuck into the bait schools which were cruising around. I was surprised at just how much bait there was – I suppose it has been washed out of the rivers. There were plenty of Garfish and other small bait schools, so there must also be some predators lurking. After an hour or so of walking and casting, a good-sized Flathead grabbed the plastic. It has been a while since I caught one and maybe I struck a bit too quickly. The fish was on for about 20 seconds, then it was gone. All I was left with was a big bite mark in the back of the pearl watermelon Minnow, just below the hook.

I carried on for another 2 hours and covered plenty of ground. I had a few grabs from the Long Toms but I did not find another Flathead. At around noon I gave up. The water is far from clear and I was only fishing the run in tide but it is encouraging to see there is plenty of bait in the Pumicestone Passage. I assume that if we can have another week without torrential rain the water should be pretty clear. I will be out there again soon.

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Another Duck

My lure arsenal for the Tweed rockwall

Saturday

Oh dear , oh dear , oh dear – another morning with no fish. As I have said before, this is the worst time of the year for me. The main estuary species – Flathead & Bream – have long finished spawning and as the water temperature climbs and weather patterns get more unpredictable they get harder to find. Add to that – flooded river systems and constant changes in wind patterns and I get stuck focusing on the ocean rock walls and ledges.

In these locations the fish come and go with the bait and the wind. Tailor, Trevally, Kingfish, Queenfish and even good sized Mackerel and Tuna will all come in close to the rocks if the bait is around. The Tailor are particularly voracious in these situations and you can catch them on almost any type of lure or bait. The Trevally are sometimes harder to please, often limiting their feeding period to an hour or so either side of dawn and dusk. The other species require you to be in the right place at the right time and this means putting in the casting hours – and it can be a long time between fish!

This morning I arrived at the north rockwall, at the mouth of the Tweed River at around 4.00 am. The horizon started to glow just as I rigged up and I started by fishing soft plastic lures through the last of the run out tide. I switched to a surface popper for about 30 casts and put in 50 casts with an 85 gram metal slug. Nothing I used produced results. At one point a fellow fisherman caught a 30cm Tarwhine on a fresh beach worm, but that was the only fish I saw caught.

Apparently a few decent Trevally had been caught at dusk, on Friday and everyone was hopeful that this mornings session would produce fish – But it didn’t! I gave up around 7.30 am as another of this summer’s rain showers arrived.

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Tailor & Dart – 18 Jan 2011

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Tuesday

I went down to the Tweed River mouth again on Thursday morning hoping that the swell would have eased. As I arrived about 4.00 am (Qld time), the wind had dropped away and the swell had completely disappeared. The tide was running in and the water was very clear. It was a big high tide and the water was running around the end of the rockwall and up into the river with considerable force. For the first time in ages the sun came over the horizon like a great flaming ball and there was not a cloud in sight.

Conditions seemed perfect so I went through the usual drill. Just before the sun rose I tried a 110mm RIVER 2 SEA Dumbell popper for about twenty casts, with no luck. I then switched to a GULP 5” lime tiger jerkshad on a 5/8th 4/0 jighead for about 20 minutes – again no luck. Then I put a HALCO 70g Twisty slug on and put in about 40 casts, in all directions – again, nothing. Perhaps the conditions were too good.

I moved round to fish in the river mouth for the last of the run in tide. I decided to switch to a more natural coloured soft plastic so I chose the GULP 5”banana prawn jerkshad. I cast it out and let it sink to the bottom. I let it drift for about 15 seconds and then lifted it slowly off the bottom and let it drop again. The second time I did this I got a solid bite, but no hook up. On the next retrieve I tried the same technique. As I lifted the plastic off the bottom it was hit hard again. I dropped the rod tip for a few seconds and when I lifted it – I had a fish on. I landed it safely, after a short fight. It was a small Tailor just on 30 cm, so I threw it back. I cast back again in the same spot and over the next 20 minutes, I had a few more strikes but did not land any fish.

I carried on casting the plastics until the tide turned and started to run out. I used some lighter jigheads with smaller hooks and plastics and managed to catch a few small Dart at the base of the rocks. Overall the weather was great but the fishing was not so good. Perhaps it was the wind change, the lack of swell, the fullish moon, the big tide – who knows?

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Tailor / Trevally – 14 Jan 2011

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Friday

Living on the north side of Brisbane – meant that I was thankfully completely unaffected by the floods. With the Gateway motorway now open and easy to access, I decided to make a trip down to the Tweed River mouth again.
I arrived to meet a fairly strong east south east wind and a good two metres of swell. I walked out to the end of the north rock wall at about 4.00 am. It was a beautiful dawn sky and as the tide was still running in – the water was not too discoloured.
I started with a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the lime tiger colour and rigged it on a ¾ oz 4/0 jighead. I am now using a ROVEX Aureus 9 Ft rod (the Aureus is just the new name for the old Bario) with the SHIMANO Stradic 6000 reel. I have loaded this with 20lb Fireline and a 40lb fluorocarbon leader.
The wind made it hard to cast but after a couple of attempts, I had the plastic just about where I wanted it – right at the base of the rockwall. As I was about to lift the plastic clear of the water it was slammed and I was onto my first fish of the day. I had no chance with this one. It put its head down and went straight for the rocks and a big wave washed the leader onto the sharp edges and ‘ping’, it was gone.
Another local rock fisherman had a couple of Taylor by now – on a slug – so I switched to a 90g slug for a few casts but then lost it to the rocks. Back to the soft plastic lures. This time I tried the same pattern in a more natural colour – sardine. This did not seem to tempt them, so I switched to the brighter lime tiger again. First cast I got a couple of hits and the tail was bitten off. I threw it out in to the surf again and as soon as it hit the water (minus the tail) it was grabbed. Landing the fish is always a challenge here and it is even worse when the swell is up. With a bit of luck and a fairly tight drag setting, I got the fish safely up the rocks. It was a Tailor just on 50cm.
I put a new soft plastic on and cast it straight back out in the same spot. There were plenty of bites and I thought I had a fish on at one point, but then it either let go or wriggled off. I pulled up the jighead with only ½ a inch of soft plastic left on it. I lost another two or three plastics in this way, over the next 20 minutes.
By now it was about 6.30 am. The tide was running out strongly and the brown slick of the Tweed River was gradually spreading out from the mouth. I put another plastic on, this time on a 1 oz jighead. I cast right out in front of the rock wall and again felt a series of knocks and nudges on the retrieve. I kept pausing but I could net connect with a fish. About fifteen minutes later the line finally came up taught and I had another fish on. I played it round to the ocean side of the rock wall and used a surge to get it safely up to my feet. It was a 40cm Big Eye Trevally. The swell gave me a couple of soakings and I lost a few more plastics, so at around 7.00 am I packed my bags and headed back to Brisbane.
With a cyclone passing out to sea, big swells are forecast for the next few days – the weather is not giving us many breaks this year!

Brisbane River in Flood – Jan 13 – 2011

As a Brisbane resident, fishing has been out of the question in the last few days. I have been watching the river which is now more of a mud slurry and wondering where all the fish will end up. It’s difficult to believe that there is anything left alive in there. I have been lucky enough not to get flooded as we live on higher ground. I have included a few pictures of the river and when things calm down I will be off looking for the fish again.

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Tweed River – The Rockwall – A bit better – 7 Jan 2011

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As a committed fisherman – or perhaps a fisherman who ought to be “committed” – I have to work around this awful weather. Mid week I thought I might be able to get back out in the estuaries but then the rain arrived again and everything turned to chocolate. So on Friday morning I was off down to the Tweed River rockwall again at 3.00 am.
The forecast was for 10 knot East South East wind but when I arrived it was considerably more than that and gradually building. There was a faint glow of red as the sun came up and then a three mad souls headed out over the river bar in what looked like a very small boat. I thought I was brave standing on the rocks!
The wind made throwing a surface popper lure too difficult so I started by casting an 85g SPANYID raider slug out in a semicircle around the end of the rockwall. I tried fast and slow and jerking the slug around a bit but after about 50 casts I decided to change tactics. I put a GULP 7” jerkshad in the pumpkinseed colour, on to a 1oz 4/0 jighead and started to cast it around at the base of the rocks. Even the 1oz head could not really hold the bottom, as the wind was catching the line and holding the jighead too high in the water column. It was, however, just heavy enough to get nicely snagged in the rocks. I put on a 5/8oz 3/0 jighead and switched to a GULP 4” jigging grub in the peppered prawn colour. I was trying to get the plastic in close to the base of the rocks without getting snagged. This was proving increasingly difficult. I was about to give up at around 7.00 am, when I got a hit, right in the foamy wash. I dropped the rod tip and when I lifted it, I had a fish. The drag was set pretty tight for a Tailor or Trevally so I did not have much trouble winding it in. When I got it to safety it was a Stripey Snapper. Not what I was expecting but at least it was a fish. It was just over 35cm long.
Next cast I was hopeful but the wind was now blowing the barnacles of the rocks and the swell was give me a soaking now and then. When the rain started I finally took the hint and walked back to the car. Another frustrating morning on the rocks but that’s fishing.

Landangler’s View – Tackle Shops

Like many other mad keen fisherman I am a complete sucker for a tackle shop. I can’t walk past without going in and once I am in, I rarely leave without a bag full of gear. Of course I don’t need it all but that never stops me thinking I do.
They say fish can only see light and dark – the lures are patterned and coloured to attract us – not the fish, and it works every time. On each fishing trip you convince yourself that if you had only bought that 150mm orange and blue, twist wiggle, walk the dog, kill the cat, deep diving dribble popper, you would have caught a bigger fish. And of course that’s the point – if the retailers only had a rod, reel, spool of line, bag of hooks, some frozen pillies, a grey soft plastic minnow and a metal slug, it would not be much of a shopping experience – would it.
I thought I would share a few of my tackle shop experiences. As usual, I apologise in advance to all those who work in them. I love you all really!
Tackle shops and those who staff them, come in a myriad of formats. The small independents are getting rarer as the ‘big box’ (BCF / Anaconda, etc) outlets make it harder for them to compete – but there will always be those of us who are willing to pay a bit extra for good advice coupled with some local knowledge.
Each type has its advantages – I like the big ones where, on a rainy day, you can buy a coffee and watch your way through all the stores’ fishing DVDs on the demo flat screen. Fortunately if your legs get tired, they also have camping gear so you can unfold a chair. No need to worry that anyone will bother you as nobody has worked there for longer than three weeks, so they don’t know where the fishing section is yet. The only exception to this rule is the manager, who is usually out making a fishing video with the professionals his store sponsors. But all the staff have shiny new uniforms and, thank goodness – that universal symbol of retail humiliation – a name badge. I used to think this was to assist us, the customer, so that when we brought back the really crap pink kids fishing combo that fell apart 3 minutes after we reached the beach, we could remember who sold it to us. Now I realise it is much more straightforward – the staff turnover is so rapid that this is the only way the manager can figure out their names.
Most of these chains also have shonky Japanese sounding, own brand tackle that is all actually made in China, like everything else. This is universally crap quality but it is also incredibly cheap. Reputation risk is not an issue for these retailers – they have such a bad reputation that quality does not worry them too much. In their defence, at least they never tire of exchanging their crap for new when it breaks, which is fairly often. I am currently on my twelfth own-brand fishing headlamp from one of them – they last about a week on average.
The independent fishing stores offer another set of challenges. It can be a bit like Mitre 10. You may think you know what you want, but first you have to get passed the “helpful” staff.
“I’d like some size 4 fishing hooks, please?” I announce.
“What are you chasing?” asks fishing shop man with a knowing smirk.
“Fish”, I feel like responding. “Whiting” I reply.
“You’d be better off with size 6. Where will you be fishing?”
“Mind your own business” I feel like responding. “The Nerang River”, I say.
“Forget it. At the moment, what you want to do, is go after Flatties up at Bribie Island – have you tried the Didgeridoo pinkshine Vicks vapour Rub flavoured 5” dancing stickleback soft plastic – their magic.”
“No I’m just after the Whiting hooks actually.”
“Whiting love poppers you know – How about these Kamakazi Sushi twinkle poppers, in the used toilet paper colour, there only $23 each – the Japanese swear by them.”
“Oh really” I say. What I want to say is “How the hell would you know – get a lot of Japanese anglers in here do you? I bet they don’t even have bloody Whiting in Japan.”
He pauses, disappointed that, like some kind of reluctant reef species, I seem to have gone off the bite. But then he gets that twinkle in his eye.
“Ok then – What bait will you be using, what sinker size, what size mainline, what size leader, run in or run out tide?”
If you hesitate, for even a moment at this stage, you are doomed. If your answers are not spot on you will have a lecture on sinker weights, the merits of regular vs lead free and a detailed run through of popular sinker shapes and sizes in common use, in Australian tidal waters, since 1923. You may even get sold the DIY make your own sinker set complete with zinc furnace. Before you know it you will have bought 5 mini snaffle snip death adder wiggle blades which you will never get out of your tackle box again and you will need to auction a kidney on e bay, to pay for them.
He is only doing his job, but sometimes it’s enough to drive you straight back to the ‘big box’ outlet. Never ever let your wife visit this shop in the week before Christmas. The wife is the perfect target for the fly rod combo sale. As if it is not hard enough to catch fish with regular tackle! She mentions she is looking for something for her husband for Christmas and you can hear fishing shop bloke rubbing his hands together. She leaves with the complete fly rod combo and a whole bag of pink feathers, cotton and other lint (which she could have just picked up from under the sofa) and a bag of ludicrously expensive tiny hooks, so her delighted husband can learn to tie his own flies. He doesn’t want to tie his own flies, he wants to go fishing!
Then there is the riverside fishing shop located in the middle of a top tourist location. The bloke who runs this one is the ultimate frustrated fisherman. It must be torture. A steady stream of customers wanders through the shop all day. But they never buy anything because they’ve already stocked up with the pink and blue kids combos from the ‘big box’ Boasting, Crapping and Farting chain store at home. This means he cannot flog them his slightly poorer quality, more expensive combo, that he has also had made up in China. All day long they arrive asking where the fish are biting. It’s a miracle he doesn’t eventually respond with the only truly appropriate answer: “In the f***ing river”. Instead he has a generic fishing guide, that he mumbles to them as he slips into a coma of desperation. “Flathead on the weed beds, Whiting on the sandbanks, Bream from the jetty. Dawn and dusk are the best times to fish and they like fresh bait”. His worm man is constantly on the grog during holiday periods, so despite the blackboard saying otherwise, he has no live worms and can only offer a bit of frozen squid and a cheerful – “Good Luck!”.
Then there is the tackle shop at the rarely visited, but excellent fishing spot. The bloke who owns this one is in fishing heaven, but somehow he has to pay for his habit. He usually opens late and closes early. Or, if the fish are really biting, he does not open at all. The shop is stocked with a selection of extremely out dated but, consistently overpriced tackle. You find extinct lures, and brands that perished long ago. A bag of ice goes for around $9.00 and it is just under half the size of a normal one. Tide guides are $2.50 each and it’s only when you start fishing that you realise they are last years. This chap knows what you need – so he has simply scrawled a mud map on an A4 sheet showing three fishing spots – one on the beach, one in the river and one on the rocks. He has photocopied it and sells these at $2.50 a pop. If it’s pouring with rain and blowing a gale and you ask about the weather it’s always ‘looking good for tomorrow’.
All these outlets share one thing in common – their ability to separate anglers from their cash. We are like lambs to the slaughter. If the fish had any idea how much we spend on trying to catch them, it would be a major boost to their self-esteem. I couldn’t live without the tackle stores, but my catch would certainly work out cheaper, if I bought it at the fish and chip shop.

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Zilch! – 3 Jan 2011

Monday

At some point you have to be reminded that fishing is a dark art and certainly not a science. It was my turn this morning, I was up early and fishing at first light (4.15am QLD) off the north wall of the Tweed River mouth. Conditions were good, with a slight northerly breeze, forecast to change to a southerly later. There was no rain, no swell, a run in tide and the water was really clear. It was hot and humid.

I started with 110mm Popper and got nothing from 20 casts. Then I put on a GULP 7″ soft plastic jerkshad – no joy. Then I put in about 100 casts with a 70 gram slug – still nothing. I witnessed one surface bust up, close into the rocks at about 6.30 am. Finally I got one hit, but no hook up, on a GULP crazy legs jerkshad in the watermelon colour, at around 6.45 am. I tried every weight of jighead from 3/8 oz to 1 oz and I tried all the slugs from 40g to 95g.

By 7.30 am I decided it wasn’t going to happen and so I headed home. Every now and then you have to score a duck! What a woeful start to 2011!