I decided it was time to look for some serious fish. This area is a ‘Mecca’ for land based fisherman looking to catch big pelagic species. The one place that everyone heads for when they are up here is the ‘Catwalk’.
The ‘Catwalk’ on the eastern side of 1770 headland is strictly a heavy gear fishing location. It is one of the best land based fishing spots on the east coast of Australia. This is because it is one of the few places where the East Australian Current comes within casting distance of the shore. On a clear, calm day you can see the current line snaking straight past the foot of the rocks. When the pods of Tuna break the surface they are almost always swimming near or along the current line, chasing the bait schools that move with it. This doesn’t mean catching fish here is easy. For one thing most of the fish on offer are big – 10kg and above. This means you need patience, heavy gear and a good gaff, to stand a chance of landing something. The food chain is also highly developed, there are plenty of lazy sharks around who will happily rob you of your fish, as you bring it in and if they don’t get it, the two or three enormous resident Groper will regularly snaffle big fish at the foot of the rocks.
My thanks to the various locals who fish these rocks – particularly Dennis and George who are always willing to give me an update on what has been happening and which lures, baits, tides are working best. When I arrived on the Catwalk this week, there had been plenty of big fish hook ups but not many successful captures. The Tuna had arrived in the second week of September and some big Spanish Mackerel had also been wreaking havoc. On the Sunday of my visit George had landed a monster 25kg Giant Trevally which he had snared with a 130mm fluorescent yellow, bibless minnow, cranked along just below the surface. The Spanish Mackerel had been grabbing poppers, slugs and bait and the best bite time seemed to be sunrise through to about 9.00 am.
On the morning I fished the Catwalk there was an experienced crew of land based fisherman from Byron Bay down there and a few others. Just after first light, one guy hooked up with what appeared to be a good sized Spanish Mackerel. He had been casting and retrieving a silvery blue, 140mm surface popper. He played it for a few minutes and began to make some headway. Then suddenly the line went slack as a shark swallowed the fish whole and bit clean through the wire trace.
We all started casting again – slugs, poppers and bibless minnow lures. Then the guys at the top of the rocks shouted that a pod of Blue Fin Tuna were heading our way. As they went by we all timed our casts and let rip. Six of us cast into the pod – one guy hooked up. He had a solid connection with a fish and after a few big initial runs, he started to put some pressure on it. It had headed back towards the mouth of Round Hill Creek. It was clearly a big fish as his attempts to get back line where met with more blistering runs. Unfortunately, it was now heading in shore over the rocky and reefy area directly north of the Catwalk. Suddenly the line went slack – the fish was gone – Shark? Rocks? We will never know.
I rigged a small soft plastic and caught a tiny Trevally which one of the Byron crew put out under a balloon. After 20 minutes or so, no more than 4 metres from the shore there was a huge swirl in the water as a Mackerel hit the live bait and almost simultaneously, was swallowed by a sizeable Shark. Miraculously the livebait was intact, but with a neat triangular Mackerel bite on its side.
After a couple more hours of casting, there had been no more hook ups so I decided to try some of the land based fishing opportunities in Round Hill Creek. I headed down a four wheel drive track to the edge of Toms Creek a small mangrove lined tributary on the south side of Round Hill Creek. There are a few openings in the mangroves where you can fish the creek. It is a shallow system with a strong tidal flow, so it is best to fish it around the high tide, when the water slows.
I arrived about noon and rigged a Gulp 3” Minnow soft plastic on a 1/8th 1 jighead. There were already plenty of midges around so I covered my head and gave myself a good coating of insect repellent. The submerged rocks and mangrove roots looked like good hiding places for Mangrove Jacks, but I suspect the water was not yet warm enough for them.
I fished across the sandy/ muddy bottom of the creek, occasionally getting snagged on submerged rocks and water logged branches. I caught Moses Perch, Bream, Whiting, a few grunter Bream and tiny Trevally, none where big enough to keep but I decided this was definitely a spot to return at dawn or dusk, when the tides were right.