Twas the night before Christmas and all through the House – not a creature did stir – not even a mouse – except for a man with rod – who snuck out of the house.
I found myself awake at 2.30 am dreaming not of sugarplums, but of big fish. I loaded up my gear and arrived at Fingal Head at about 4.00 am. There were already a few cars in the car park. Clearly, some other fisherman needed their pre-Christmas fix.
The wandered out to the rocks to find a cloudy sky, virtually no breeze and a very big south-easterly swell rolling through. The tide was running in and would be high about 8.00 am QLD time. It took a while to cross the causeway out to the fishing platform – I watched the wave sets carefully and eventually found a gap. There were some big swells crashing through. A couple of fishermen were already out there and as the sky brightened I could see rods sticking up all along the headland.
The big swell made it pretty difficult to fish the front of the platform and I soon got a soaking from a big wave. At this time of year the water is warm enough to not be a problem – the risk is getting knocked off your feet.
I started with my heavy rod – the 9ft Daiwa Demonblood. I was using 20lb Fireline and a 25lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a RAPALA XRS 12 in the ghost colour and cast around. The other fishermen pulled up a couple of 35 to 45 cm tailor. They were casting directly to the north of the platform. They caught their fish on lures, one on an XRAP hard body and one on a Shimano Waxwing lure. I could not find anything on the XRS12, so I swapped to a smaller, suspending YOZURI Crystal Minnow in a silver colour. This produced a bite – in fact I had contact with a few fish before I finally set the hook in one. It was only a small tailor – probably between 25 and 30cm long.
The swell was creating plenty of white water; a bird kept diving and coming up with fish so I knew there was bait around. We are now in the run up to the full moon so I was pretty sure there would be some jewfish / mulloway around. I stuck with the heavy rod and put on a ¼ oz jighead with a 2/0 hook and rigged up a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the New Penny colour. I cast around the south east side of the rock platform – withdrawing to a safe distance, every time a big wave set came through. As I started to cast more east than south, I felt a tug and then a bite and the rod bent over. The fish decided to swim north which immediately posed problem. With swell crashing straight against this side of the rock platform there was nowhere to land the fish. I moved it a little way north but as huge wave set was coming in I had to retreat, keep contact and hope for the best. I survived a few waves but now the fish was getting bashed against the rocks and soon, the line snapped.
I re-rigged, this time with a soft plastic that I have been meaning to try out for ages – a Powerbait 4” Ripple shad Swimbait. I had it in the black and white ‘natural’ colour. I wanted to try it because when there is lots of foamy water I think a paddle tail vibration can attract the fish more effectively than the simple minnow shapes. I also decided to use a heavier 3/8th oz, 2/0 jighead. I moved back round to the south side and cast into the mouth of the channel that runs up to the causeway. I let the soft plastic lure sink to the bottom and then retrieved it, in short bursts. The swell was throwing the plastic around but I could still feel the paddle tail vibrating. After about three casts I felt a solid hit and the drag went to work. This time the fish stayed in the channel and I gradually walked it back towards the causeway. In a big swell this was the only place I would be able to land it.
I let it play itself out as I did not want it thrashing around once I was pulling it clear of the water. I soon had it close to the causeway and, with the aid of a big surge, I pulled it up on to the rocks at the bridge. It was still in the swell zone so I watched the waves and then stepped down and grabbed it behind the gills and lifted it to safety. It was a nice jewfish/mulloway – just over 70cm long.
While I was re-rigging I spotted a rod bend over from the top of the cliff, on the mainland. Peter, a local fisherman, had a long surf rod/alvey combination and was fishing with worms. He clearly had a good fish on his line, but he was going to really struggle to find somewhere to land it. He played it for a few minutes from the top of the cliff then slowly slid down to a lower rock platform. A few more minutes went by and although he was now closer to the fish, the swell was crashing in and he was at least 3 metres above the water.
A big surge lifted the fish onto a rock ledge. But as Peter tried to lift the fish by the leader, the line snapped or the hook pulled. The fish was pretty tried, so it just sat on the ledge – Peter was not going to let this one get away. He climbed along the rocks and down to the fish. He grabbed it behind the gills just as he was completely obscured by a huge wave. It crashed over the top of him. Somehow, when the water drained away, he was there, drenched but still holding his jewfish and clinging to the rocks. He made his way to safety and we all breathed a sigh of relief. It was a good fish – I would estimate it was about 90cm long.
Landangler’s advice – don’t try this at home!
It seems the jewfish/ mulloway love the rough water and stirred up conditions, especially if it is near the full moon. It had been a very exciting morning and was not even 7.30 am. I left, off to find a Christmas recipe for stuffed jewfish.
Happy Christmas to all and please remember rock fishing can be very dangerous – so take sensible precautions, wear good boots and a flotation vest, fish with a mate and stay safe.