Iluka – Woody Head – Finally a Snapper – 13 December 2011

Tuesday

The weather was so miserable the next day that I actually had a lie in. When I say lie in – I mean, I woke up at sunrise, rather than an hour before! The grey skies and rain meant that sunrise was a little hard to pin point. The rain was coming over in regular, but not very heavy showers. By now there had been enough to make the river very dirty. The wind was dropping off so the swell was easing. On Sunday I had walked round to Middle Bluff. It was a clear dawn and initially things looked promising. But as I rigged up a couple of big waves came crashing through and I realized that it was not going to work. Every 20 minutes or so a really massive set would come through and completely soak the rock platform!

By Tuesday I was ready to try again and the swell definitely seemed to have eased. I walked out on to the rocks in front of Woody Head at about 4.45 am, as the sky was beginning to lighten. The swell had dropped right back and there was a very light south easterly breeze. Low tide had been at about 4.30 am. So I had a couple of hours to fish left before the tide started to get too high. I started with 65g Raider metal slug and cast it out, all around the area known as ‘the Barnacles’, on the eastern side of the Woody Head platform. After 25 casts, I had not had a touch so I switched to a 5” Gulp Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I rigged it on a ½ oz, 3/0 hook jighead. I was fishing with my heavy rod – the 9’6” Daiwa Demon Blood with 30lb braid and a 30lb fluorocarbon leader on the Shimano Stradic 6000 reel. I could not find any fish here and the swell was still giving me a soaking every now and then, so I moved south, along the front of the rock platform. I cast wherever I could and, predictably lost plenty of jigheads to the rocks.

I stopped for a while at an area known as the ‘Jew hole’ and swapped down to a shorter GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I was trying to put something out that was more similar to the Whitebait that I knew were everywhere. This got results almost instantly with a couple of solid bites and then a good run but no hook up. About ten minutes later I had a fish on, it was another Salmon and after a couple of jumps and a brief fight it shook itself off the hook.

I moved further south and rigged up a GULP 5” Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic in the Curry Chicken colour. I was still using the ½ oz, 3/0 jighead. I started to cast out as far as I could, to give the lure plenty of time on the bottom before it got washed in to the rocks. I felt a couple of grabs at the base of the rocks and then a solid bite but still no hook up. It was almost time to go and the swell was picking up again after the calm around dawn. I put in a long cast and counted to twenty. When I lifted the rod I felt a bit of resistance and then all hell broke loose and the reel was screaming. There was a long initial run, out to sea – and then it turned back towards the rocks and I had to wind hard to keep up. It was too fast for a Jew but not mad enough to be a Salmon or a Tailor.

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It gradually slowed and after a few more runs, I tightened the drag and got it up on a ledge below with the help of the swell. Luckily it wedged itself into the rocks and did not wash back out with the receding wave. I looked to see what was coming and then slid down slowly, grabbed the leader and pulled it up. It was a good size Snapper – 3.8kg and somewhere between 60 and 70cm long. I was delighted. After almost a week of pretty mediocre weather and limited fishing opportunities I was holding the biggest Snapper I have ever caught. I am told they are often caught off this platform on fresh squid baits and early morning is always the most successful time.

That was enough for one day and with my heart still racing, knees wobbling and hands shaking. I gathered up my gear and walked back, noisily, through the camp site.

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Iluka – The Harbour wall – 9 December 2011

Friday

The sea was too angry at Frazers Reef

I woke early to a very damp morning. There had been heavy rain during the night and I hoped it might have dampened the wind. I drove round to Frazer’s Reef, hoping to have a look for some Jewfish, from the rocks in that area. I stepped out on to the beach by the carpark and was greeted by a very angry sea. I gave up and drove down to the Iluka rockwall where the swell was also too lively to fish.

Still too much swell to fish the Iluka rock wall

I decided to give the Iluka harbour a try with a light spin rod and some soft plastic lures. It was now a couple of hours after dawn and the tide would be high around 8.00 am. I was fishing along the northern stretch of the rock wall that separates the harbour from the Clarence River. The water in the harbour was a dark, tea-tree stained colour but still clear and as the tide was running in strongly, the water on the river side was also quite clean.

The rock wall around the boat harbour

There were lots of Mullet in the shallows

Sometimes there are good Flathead in this corner - close to the wall

Small fish with a big appetite

I started with an almost see through Powerbait Minnow on a 1/8th oz, 1/0 hook jighead. This yielded a tiny Moses Perch and a 30 cm Flathead. There were a few good size mullet schools cruising up and down and a couple of dolphins came through the harbour entrance to chase them around. I swapped to a GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I walked along the rockwall casting into both the Clarence River and the harbour.

A small Flathead from inside the Harbour

Another small Flathead - this time from the Clarence River

After another hour, I had caught two more small Flathead – too small to keep. I tried a couple of hard bodied, sinking vibe lures – which produced nothing. I switched back to the soft plastic lures and finally caught a Flathead that was just over 40cm long. One small Flathead would not feed us, so I released it. At about 9.30 am I gave up. There was still nothing for dinner.

Iluka – Woody Head – More Salmon – 7 December 2011

Wednesday

Wednesday morning was windy again – a light south-easterly with squalling showers. I walked round to the rocks on the eastern side of Woody Head, at day break but the swell was still sending big sets crashing over the top.

I gave up on the mornings fishing and drove off into Maclean for breakfast and a chat with the helpful folk at Big River Bait & Tackle. They confirmed the presence of a few Jewfish around the rocks but also pointed out the weather would be my biggest obstacle for the next week.

I drove back to Iluka to find the birds working, out in the calm waters off Woody Bay. They were staying too far off shore initially, but gradually through the afternoon, they moved closer in. The netters showed up on the beach at about 2.00 pm and as the whitebait came closer to the shore, they rowed out with a long net to encircle them. They clearly got a good haul as it was too heavy to pull up on the beach. They dragged it along through the water, back to the boat ramp. Then they winched the bulging net up.

The commercial netters row out their net

Another decent Salmon from the Woody Head Beach

Two more Woody Head Salmon

By about 2.30 pm the birds had followed another school in close enough to cast at and a group of beach fisherman had come down to try and catch a few. Suddenly the Salmon started to bash into the school, sending Whitebait flying everywhere. I put on a HALCO 65g Twisty and fired a cast over the boiling water. After a couple of cranks I had a fish on. It was another solid Australian Salmon which put on a great display of acrobatics. As I landed it I saw my son was stuck into another but was turning into hard work as he only had my light Nitro 6’6” spin rod. All along the beach the kids were hooking up. The fish destroyed plenty of gear, but the patient fishermen eventually landed a few decent sized Salmon. My son got his after an epic battle. The fish had grabbed a GULP 4” Pearl Watermelon Minnow soft plastic, attached to a 10lb leader. It was just under 50cm.

Australian Salmon on the light rig

A few more casts with the HALCO Twisty failed to hook up so I decided to try out some of the bigger DUO lures I had brought with me. The first one that had been calling to me from the tackle box, is called the DUO Tide Vib Slim. It is a 32g, 140 mm sinking Vibe lure. Once again, it is a beautifully engineered lure with a very high quality finish. It is comparatively light for its length but has a great action. Although it is very slim it still contains a decent internal rattle. I think this will prove to be big hit with the pelagic species – especially Tuna. I had it in the Qantas colours – red head with a white body. I cast it about fifteen metres off shore and played around until I found what I considered was the ideal retrieve speed – which was fairly slow. I was using the Daiwa Demon Blood rock/ beach rod with a 30lb fluorocarbon leader.

This one fell for the DUO Tide Vib Slim

Tide Vib Slim - weighting system

The Qantas colours often work well - DUO Tide Vib Slim

It did not take long to catch a fish – on the fourth cast a Salmon knocked it out of the water and then lunged at it again and was hooked. It took plenty of line on a very determined initial run and then put in a few leaps and rolls but eventually, I had it safely on the beach. It was a bit over 60cm long.

I caught two more with this lure and then things went quiet again. The soft plastics were still catching fish but I decided to try out another DUO hard bodied lure – the Tide Minnow 105LD. The Tide Minnow is one of their long established best sellers in Japan. It is also used extensively in Europe to target Sea Bass. It looks like a fairly standard sinking minnow but its internal ball bearing weighting system means it casts like a rocket. Consistently with the rest of the range, it is finished to a very high standard. I had it in a shiny purple colour with a dark underbody. It finds it rhythm easily in the surf and it has a rolling body with a wiggling tail action. The fish were thick and did not have to wait long. After about five casts another Salmon slammed the lure just a few metres from the shore. I landed it and cast out a few more times and then, bang I was on to another fish. This one was a little larger and took longer to subdue, but eventually I got him up the beach.

I should point out that these DUO lures have been provided to me at no cost to test drive but as with all freebies, I will only write them up positively if they catch fish. So far the DUO range have delivered fish for me and so I am happy to recommend them. If you want to know more about them contact Steve at http://www.swldistributions.com.au

Australian Salmon on DUO Tide Minnow

Australian Salmon on Tide Vibe Minnow

Another Salmon grabs the DUO Tide Minnow


Suddenly, after an hour or so of mayhem, the fish were gone. The birds were still circling and occasionally diving for the odd, wounded Whitebait, but the Salmon had moved on or stopped eating. It had been a great session and over the course of an hour I had witnessed five guys catch about 25 Australian Salmon between them and lose plenty more. They may be awful to eat but they are great fun to catch.

Iluka – Woody Head – Wild weather and Australian Salmon – 6 December 2011

I am just back from a week of land based rock and beach fishing at Woody Head, in the Bundjalong National Park, just north of the town of Iluka, in Northern New South Wales. As is often the case here, the weather made the fishing pretty tough. Heavy rain freshened the mighty Clarence River and big seas, wind and swells conspired to limit access to the best fishing platforms. But there were some good sessions and some good fish.

To the north-west of the Woody Head rock platform there is a sheltered bay that remains calm in all but the biggest gales. On the afternoon of our second day, there was a light northerly breeze blowing and the tide was running in. There was a heavy swell crashing on the rocks to the south, but the bay was calm. It had been raining, on and off, all day and the water was murky and the sky, overcast. The birds were working furiously, diving into bait schools close to the shore. Just on dusk, I walked down to the beach with my heavy outfit – Daiwa 9’6’ Demon Blood rod, Shimano Stradic 6000 spinning reel loaded with 30lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a 45g silver HALCO Twisty slug and cast it about 25 metres, towards the diving birds. After a couple of casts – bang – and line starts peeling. It was a solid fish and then it leapt clear of the water – an Australian Salmon. It did a couple of tail walks and even with the heavy rod, it was hard to subdue. I eventually got it to the beach and it immediately started spitting out mouthfuls small whitebait/anchovies (not actually sure which). This was clearly what had attracted the birds.

A 50cm Australian Salmon at Woody Head

It grabbed a 45g Halco Twisty metal slug - and spat up some Whitebait

It was now dark and raining so, after a few pictures, I released the fish and went to dry off. I have never been able to make these fish taste good, so I have given up keeping them for the table. It may not have been dinner but it was a great fish to open the account.