Bribie Island – Sandstone Point Drain – 27 Feb 2011

Sunday

Up early, 3.30am and back to Bribie to see if the Flathead were still around. There was no real wind but officially the wind direction had turned to a northerly. When I arrived at about 4.20am the bridge resembled Scapa Flow submarine base during WW2. There were about ten lines in the water from the north side of the bridge and a couple of cast nets kept splashing over the side. There were also a couple of crab pots hanging off the bridge further along. It was good to see so many land based anglers out fishing but a stealthy approach in this area, was out of the question.

As I was rigging up I ran into a local fisherman who also patrols this area with lures and we waded out under the bridge together. The tide was still running in but as there had been a lot of disturbance on the north side of the bridge, we decided to fish the south side. There were lots of surface breaks and tiny jumping jelly prawns. We both hooked into some Pike – I was also bitten off, but I think it was only and aggressive Pike. They can really chomp as I had a 16lb fluorocarbon leader tied on.

After 30 mins of fishing, neither of us had a Flathead so I decided to move south and my friend headed off to Pebble Beach. I continued south, casting along the shore line in front of me. The surface bust ups continued, but died off as the sun came up. The tide was slowing now and about to turn. I walked south and round the corner towards Sandstone Point.

As the tide started to run out, I positioned myself in the mouth of a big sandy drain that is just on this corner. I took out a GULP 2” Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour and rigged it on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead. I cast it into the run out tide and jigged it along the bottom of the drain with the current. A few jumps into my retrieve I felt the unmistakable ‘thud’ of a Flathead bite. I paused, counted to five, then struck – I was on. I pulled it clear of the Mangroves and walked it round the corner to a small bay where I pulled it up onto the sand. It was a 48cm Flathead and it was just after 6.10 am. I released it and went in search of more.

The Long Toms arrived and made a couple of impressive aerial lunges for the plastic, especially when I speeded up the retrieve. After half an hour or so of fishing with the same soft plastic lure, I swapped to a GULP 4” Jigging Grub in the Pepper Prawn colour. This is a fairly robust grub tail soft plastic. The tail vibrates nicely and when the water is not very clear I think this helps the fish find it. It worked this time as it was grabbed on the first cast. In fact, it had hardly hit the water when something ate it. It took a couple of turns of the reel to realise it was hooked and then it made a great tail splash and took a bit of line. Again I gradually walked it back to shore to unhook it. It was another Flathead, around 43cm long.

I photographed and released the fish and carried on for another hour without any luck. The water was very murky, as the big tide had stirred up the all the sediment again. I was pleased to see there were still fish around but I would like a bit of south-easterly wind to come back soon.

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Bribie Island – Sandstone Point Drain – 26 Feb 2011

Saturday

After a good session on Thursday, I headed back up to Bribie Island early on Saturday morning. I was wading out under the bridge, on the mainland side, just after high tide, at about 4.30 am. I decided to try some big GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshads, to see if I could find some bigger fish, under the bridge lights. I rigged a pink shine version on a 1/8th 2/0 jig head and cast out to the north side of the bridge. After a few casts, nothing was happening so I moved to the south side. The first cast came up taught as soon as I flicked the reel bail arm over. The fish held on until it was only a couple of metres away and then let the lure go. The same thing happened, a couple of casts later. I could not see what was biting, but I think they were probably Pike or Moses Perch.

As the sun came up I moved south, past the old oyster jetty to the big drain that empties round the corner from the direction of Sandstone Point. The tide was really running out now and I decided to try a 1/5th of an ounce Berkley Big Eye Blade lure. I cast it out let it sink briefly, and jerked it back towards me fairly quickly. To get the right action you really need to keep these lures moving fast. After a few cast, I had a fish. The small, soft hooks on these blades mean I often lose the fish before I can get it back to shore. There was no problem this time. I had a nice Flathead around 48cm.

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After a 15 minutes more fishing with the blade lure, it got snagged and I lost it. I switched to a GULP 3” Minnow Grub soft plastic in the pepper prawn colour and rigged it on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead. I was now fishing along the edge of the big sand bank that channels the water down through the drain. After a couple of hits I cast back in the same spot about 6 times before I finally connected with the fish. It was another, bigger Flathead at 52cm. I wandered around this area for another hour or so. I hooked up with a couple more fish but dropped them or they spat out the lure. Finally I connected with a good size Long Tom who jumped clean out of the water when it realised it was hooked. These really are ugly fish.

Another great morning fishing and as we have plenty of fish in the fridge, they were all released today, some unintentionally!

Bribie Island – Flathead under the bridge – 24 Feb 2011

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Thursday

3.45 am – Rain and wind – but at least it was a south easterly wind, this time. If you like to sleep in, land based fishing in Queensland, in summer, is probably not for you. I drove up to Bribie hoping that the rain would blow over. By the time I got there it was raining harder than ever. I pulled on the rain gear and waders, under cover of the petrol station, then drove down to the mainland side of the bridge and walked down to the bank. The rain had eased a little and I now had the bridge for shelter it was about 4.15 am. The tide was just a little more than half way out.

I was using my light spinning rod and reel – a 6’6” Loomis GL2 (Fast Action – rated 4 to 8lb) and a Shimano Stradic 3000 reel. The line was 6lb/ 2.8kg Fireline, with a 1.5 metre leader of 10lb fluorocarbon. I started with a 1/8th 1/0 jig head and rigged a GULP 4” Minnow in the pearl watermelon colour. I started casting along the line of the mangrove trees, to the north of the bridge, a couple of metres offshore. There was no more than 20cm of water, but after a few casts I hooked my first fish of the day – a 25cm Flathead. I sheltered under the bridge as another rain shower came over and continued to cast the soft plastic up into the run out tide and bump it down towards me. The rain was really pouring but it didn’t deter the fish. After a couple of retrieves, I had another undersize Flathead.

The rain stopped and I moved to the south side of the bridge and swapped soft plastics to the GULP 4” Minnow in the Vader colour. I was still close in to the bank but casting just south of the bridge pylons. The ground is a bit rocky here so you will lose jig heads, but the channels in between the rocks are where the Flathead lie, waiting to ambush the baitfish as they are washed out on the tide. After a couple of casts in this area a fish grabbed the plastic and swam with it, almost to my feet before letting it go. I cast back in the same spot and slowed it all down. After a couple of hops, bang! I had another fish. This one was a keeper at about 45cm.

Given how many sharks are around at the moment and how murky the water is, I decided to put the fish in the keeper bag and hang it on a mangrove branch, rather than slosh around in the water with it. It was now getting light and I started to move out into deeper water, to the south of the bridge, casting up, inside the rocky bommy that is next to the 4th or 5th bridge pylon. I caught another undersize Flathead on the Vader minnow soft plastic and decided to experiment a bit. I put on the GULP 5” Crazy Legs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour and cast it up under the bridge. A few seconds after it hit the water it was smashed. I started losing line but before I had even started to work the reel – ping! It was gone. I think it had pulled the leader onto a rock and rubbed through.

I put the same plastic on again and this time an undersize Flathead grabbed it. I released it, straightened the plastic and cast it back out. A few casts later, I had a better fish on. I carefully dragged it out of the rocky area, and then let it run off a bit of steam. As it was a decent fish I decided to pull it back to the shore. It was another Dusky Flathead – the best of the day at 63cm.

I carried on moving south over the weed beds and also fished the flats to the south of the old oyster jetty. I switched between a few different soft plastics and ended up concluding that they all work when the fish are there and hungry – not much of an experiment. I also caught a few small flounder that seem to like the minnow shaped plastics. I ended up completely soaked but with a full bag of five Flathead from 42cm to 63cm. I released another six undersize flathead and a couple of Flounder. That is a good mornings fishing!

Bribie Island – Old Oyster Jetty – Flathead & Cod – 20 Feb 2011

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Sunday

Back in Brisbane and it was time to go looking for some fish in the Pumicestone Passage at Bribie Island. Conditions looked pretty good for Sunday morning so I was wading out in the pre-dawn light, by the old oyster jetty, on the mainland side of the Bribie Bridge at around 4.45 am.

It was just after low tide and there was no real current flow. The water was very murky with plenty of sediment stirred up by the big tides of the full moon (which was the night before). I started with a 1/8th 1 hook jighead and a GULP 3” minnow soft plastic in the lime tiger colour.

There is plenty of debate about the use of bright coloured soft plastics for murky water. I am yet to be convinced that they work better than natural colours, in these conditions. I think darker, natural colours, which create a clear silhouette in the water, probably work better. I am also a convert to using bright colours in extremely clear water, although this is somewhat counter intuitive and has taken a while for me to accept. Today the lime tiger had produced nothing in the first twenty minutes and as this was the bite window around dawn, I switched to a more natural coloured pearl watermelon minnow in the 4” size.
I waded slowly south, parallel with the shoreline casting in between the patches of rocky reef that are exposed on a low, low tide in this area. I got a couple of bites from what felt like Bream, or perhaps Long Toms, but no hook ups. At about 6.00 am the tide started to flow in with a bit more power and the water began to clear slightly.

At a point about 50 metres to the south of the old oyster jetty, I felt a light thud as I jerked the soft plastic off the bottom. I waited and then struck, but there was no fish. I cast back in the same direction and in the same spot, another thud. I dropped the rod tip slowly and then struck and I got the fish. It was a very small Flathead, around 20cm long, but at least I was off the mark.

The tide was really moving now and it was covering the weed beds very quickly. I found a patch of weed in about one metre of water. I cast up current and let the plastic hop across the bottom. As it reached the weed patch – thud. I set the hook and realized this time I had a better sized fish. I walked it back to the shoreline – it was another Flathead – just over 40cm long. With plenty of fish in the fridge I decided to let this one go.

I waded back out to the same area and over the next hour or so caught three more similar sized Flathead and a 40cm Estuary Cod – all on the same 4” pearl water melon coloured soft plastic. The water had been quite clear for a while at the beginning of the run in tide but now it was full of stirred up sediment again. By 8.45 am it was already around 30 ° C so I stopped fishing and headed for the air con.

Iluka – Final Session – Jewfish – 14 Feb 2011

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Monday

Monday morning was my final fishing session on this trip to Iluka and I wanted to make it count. The northerlies had set in on Sunday and the result had been a couple of really disappointing sessions on the rocks at Woody Head. It was really frustrating. All of the good fishing spots were safely accessible on an afternoon low tide and there was a very gentle swell, but I could not raise a fish.

Around midnight, Monday a southerly change came through and when I got out to Middle Bluff, about 30 minutes before first light, at around 5.15 am, there was a light swell and a cloudy sky. I started fishing with the bright coloured GULP 5” Jerkshad soft plastics that had produced fish all week, rigged on a 3/8th 4/0 hook jighead. I fished like this for about an hour with no success and then switched to the GULP jigging grub in the nuclear chicken colour. After a few casts, the soft plastic was grabbed and bitten off, just beside the big bommy in front of Middle Bluff. I was out of jigging grubs so I put on a 4” minnow in the pearl watermelon colour and as I pulled it past the same spot it was grabbed again – this time it was a smaller fish – a tailor around the 30cm mark. As I was lifting it out of the water it wriggled off the hook and won its freedom. I carried on with this set up, but could not find any more Tailor – they must have moved on.

I switched to a GULP 4” minnow in the vader colour. I have been told these are a great lure for Jewfish/ Mulloway but have not had much luck with them. They are black on top and a crème colour underneath and look pretty much like a pilchard or hardy head. I put a few casts in but did not get a touch. I decided to just drop the plastic in close and just let it wash around at the base of the rocks. This worked – I hooked up and a solid fish took line on its initial run. I turned it round and pulled it towards the ledge. It took off again but without much power. I waited for the swell to lift it to a lower ledge and then pulled it up by the leader. It was a beautiful 58cm Jewfish. It was time to go so after a few snaps, I let it go and headed back to Brisbane.

It had been a good weeks fishing in Iluka. It is a great spot with so many options. The main species this week had been Jewfish but there were also quality Tailor, Bream and Flathead. I will definitely be back.

Bream & Flathead from the Clarence River – Browns Rocks – 12 Feb 2011

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Saturday pm

I decided to have a fish in the Clarence River on Saturday afternoon. I had been concentrating on the rocks and beaches at Iluka, as the river water still looked very dark after the recent floods. I decided to try and fish the north bank of the river just to the east of the Norfolk Island dock, near Browns Rocks. You get to this spot by turning left off the Iluka road at Woombah. There is an area of weed beds and sand flats here. There is also an old oyster farm and a few drop offs into the main river channel.

I arrived about 4.30 pm. The tide was about half way out and it was hot and humid. There was a light northerly breeze and it was fairly cloudy. This area is best approached in a pair of waders. I pulled mine on and rigged up my light spin outfit for soft plastics. It is a 6ft Loomis GL2 spin rod matched with a Shimano Stradic 4000 reel. I had spooled it with 6lb (2.8kg) Fireline and tied on a 1.5m long 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I started fishing with a 1/6th 1/0 jighead, but almost immediately changed down in weight and size to a 1/8th 1 hook jighead when I realized there was not much current flow.

I waded out to the point just short of where the sand flats drop off into the main channel and then turned and waded up river, parallel with the river bank. I was therefore casting up, into the run out tide and bouncing my soft plastic over the bottom, along the edge of the weed banks, right along the drop off.

I was looking for Flathead and that was what I found, in almost plague proportions – I caught twenty in an hour and a half. I was using the GULP 2” Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour and the 3” Minnow in the Lime Tiger and Pear Watermelon colours. They were all catching fish. The problem was size. The vast majority of Flathead were under 20cm long. There were few around the 30cm mark, but only three over 40cm. The best fish was just over 55cm.

There were also plenty of small Bream cruising above the weed beds. Initially, they definitely preferred to hit the Pearl Watermelon minnow but as it got later and darker, they got less fussy. I caught 9 in the session of which three were over 25cm – but I released them all.

Finally around 7.15pm I gave up and drove back to Iluka. It was a great session and shows that there are still plenty of fish in the Clarence River.

Iluka – Frasers Reef – Jewfish/Bream – 12 Feb 2011

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Saturday – am

I woke around 4.30 am Saturday to meet a very sweaty dawn. There had been a northerly wind change overnight and it had brought warmer temperatures. Fortunately the wind was light so I decided to head back out to Middle Bluff to see whether the fish would still be biting.

I arrived on the rocks in the dark and carefully rigged up and edged out for my first cast. I was full of anticipation as the first few casts had produced some good results over the preceding few sessions. I was using the GULP 5” Jerkshad soft plastic in the lime tiger colour as I had run out of the ‘crazy legs’ version. It was rigged on a 3/8th oz 4/0 jighead.

The first cast produced nothing, nor did the next. In fact, after an hour of fishing, I had not registered a touch on the lure. I switched to a 70g HALCO Twisty slug to try and spin up a Tailor, but that technique was also unsuccessful. I reverted to the lime tiger soft plastic and at about 6.30am I connected with a fish. It was a small Jewfish/ Mulloway, just under 45cm so I released it.

I decided to move along the rocks to Fraser’s Reef. You can only reach this rocky outcrop about one to two hours either side of low tide. When the water is calm, there are a number of great spots to fish, particularly on the front of the promontory. In a number of places the waves break into narrow cuttings in the rocks which are constantly filling and draining. These provide great cover for the fish.

It was now around 8.30am and I decided to fish a paddle tail plastic. I chose the GULP Jigging Grub in the Nuclear Chicken colour. I put it in a 3/8thoz 4/0 hook jighead and fished it in as close to the rocks as I could. I would put in a few casts every few metres or so. The water was quite murky at the bottom of the tide – probably because of all the sediment that has been washed out of the Clarence River by the floods.

I cast down into a v-shaped channel between the rocks, as I lifted the rod I felt a double tap, I let the plastic sink again and when I lifted it for the second time, I had a fish on. I played it with the swell and eventually lifted it clear of the water. It was a monster Bream – around 39cm long. I continued fishing all around these rocks for another half an hour, but I could not find any more. At 9.30 am I gave up.