Not worth fishing – so here are a few pics of my favourite lures in action – 31 January 2013

Surveying the dirty brown waters of our estuaries and Moreton Bay – I have decided this week, and probably most of next, will be a write off as far as land based fishing is concerned. But there is nothing more depressing than not being able to fish and not having any fishy pictures to look at, so I have put up a few of my favourite captures and lures from the last few years.

If you have a sore back from cleaning the mud out of some flooded area of your house I hope these will represent light at the end of the tunnel!

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Singapore – Tekka Market – 22 January 2013

Apologies for the lack of fishing updates. Landangler has been working again – to pay for all those lures! I found myself in Singapore for a few days and decided to make a quick trip down to Tekka Market near Little India. This is the largest fish market near the centre of Singapore but it has the added advantage of serving one of my favourite Asian breakfasts – roti prata – Indian fried bread with a fierce curry sauce.

I walked around the market and looked at the fish stalls, first. I was struck by how small most of the fish (and crabs) were. We are very fortunate in Australia to have such healthy fisheries. Most of the fish on sale would not have reached Australian size limits. Most of the tuna I saw would only have been considered for Spanish mackerel baits back home! Some stalls had one or two decent size mackerel, a few reasonable sized reef species and plenty of small rock cod. There were piles of smaller fish, – pomfret (a bit like a butter bream), juvenile Trevally, milk fish and lots of tilapia (which is a big favourite).

Largely because of cost considerations and a preference for cooking fish whole – these small fish actually sell very well – which is not a good omen for the future of the local fisheries. Even the tiny fish fry do not escape – they are often dried and then added to curries and stir frys. The waters around Singapore are some of the busiest in the world. With literally thousands of islands off Malaysia and Indonesia, fishing regulations would be virtually impossible to enforce. Fortunately for the fish, poverty and seaways jammed with huge container ships keep bigger trawlers out – but it is certainly not a sustainable model. The authorities are understandably more focused on protecting shipping from piracy (which is a big problem) than developing a sustainable open water fishing industry.The prawns were a different story. There were piles of beautiful looking, huge fresh tigers and other smaller species. These are all farmed in Malaysia and brought in for sale in Singapore, where the best quality will fetch better prices.

I also visited a few supermarkets and was alarmed to see a tiny (20cm) whole NZ Snapper for sale – and lots more packs of very small fish. So next time you have a bad day or consider your catch of a few 28cm bream a bit disappointing – pinch yourself. This is still ‘the lucky country’ as far as fishermen are concerned.

Bribie Island – Bongaree – 8 January 2013

Tuesday

High tide at Bribie Island would be at 6.20 am. Conditions were still but the fires were getting going on the north side of the island and there was a strong charcoal smell and a hazy sky. I started at about 5.00 am.

I waded around on the sand flats beside the drain in front of the Seaside Museum and tried fishing with just about everything I had in my lure box.

The water was fairly clear and there was plenty of bait around. I cast over the broken ground with soft plastics and hard bodied lures, but I could not raise a bite.

At about 7.40 am I caught a 30 cm Flathead on a GULP Lime Tiger Jerkshad. I fished on for another hour but caught nothing.

The fishing in this area is definitely challenging at the moment!

Bribie – Oyster jetty flats – 7 January 2013

Monday

The fishing was still tough but I had found fish in one location, so that is where I returned on Monday. It was a pretty high high tide at 2.4m, at about 7.30 am. I started fishing the last of the run in at about 5.45 am.

I waded south from the bridge, casting parallel with the edge of the mangroves into about a metre of water. I started with a suspending YOZURI Crystal Minnow lure, as I am convinced a big flathead would happily attack one, in the right conditions. Unfortunately these were not the right conditions and this one came up covered in weed on each cast. I gave up swapped to a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour, rigged on a 1/8th 1/0 NITRO Saltwater Pro jighead with OWNER hooks.

There is a quite a range of NITRO stock in most shops and over the years it seems to have been called all sorts of different things. Basically, I like their jigheads that have black OWNER hooks (thin) and don’t much like their jigheads that have silver hooks (thick).

Jig head selection can be important when the fish are fussy. Generally, the less metal that is sticking out of the plastic the better – especially when you are fishing in the estuaries. This needs to be balanced with strength requirements.But as long as your drag is set correctly and you can be patient – even the softer (cheaper)hook styles will safely pull in very big fish.

I waded further south past the jetty, towards the drain that runs off the Sandstone Points flats. This often holds a few fish. I stayed close to the mangroves and cast round in a semi-circle, retrieving my lure slowly and methodically. Just before 7.00 am I found my first fish of the day – a solid 50cm Flathead. I released it and fished on.

The tide was running out now and unfortunately it was taking even more weed with it. I carried on fishing the drain area as I was sure there would be more fish there. At about 7.20 am I connected with another, slightly smaller Flathead, but it wriggled free before I could photograph it. At 7.25 am, I either caught it again, or caught another one, about the same size. I took this one back to the Mangroves to photograph and release. It was another handsome fish, just under 50cm.

By now the weed and wind were again making things difficult and although the tide run and the water level were ideal, it was just impractical to carry on. That’s fishing – too many variables. Just when you think it’s all falling into place some element of the environment changes and its back to the drawing board.

Bribie Island – old oyster jetty flats – 6 January 2012

Sunday

Between the wind and the increased traffic, finding the fish has been far from easy over the Christmas period at Bribie. All you can do is keep trying your favourite spots, on your favourite tides and hope things improve. As I look back over the blog and my dairies, which precede it – I see that December and January have been my toughest fishing months in the Pumicestone Passage for the last few years. Partly because if this, I have often run away to fish the rocks at Iluka or elsewhere, at this time of year.

The only spot that has been consistently producing fish for me is the area to the south of the old oyster jetty on the mainland side of the Passage, so this is where I started on Sunday morning. To add to the challenge high tide was just on dawn (3.57 am at 1.9m) and there would be a fairly strong south-easterly blowing at about 10 to 15 knots. This had the advantage of frightening off the boat traffic but would make casting less simple.

I started with a hard bodied lure as there was not much weed around. I love the DUO Realis Shad 59 MR. It is another of DUO’s finesse range, probably designed with bass in mind, but it annoys the hell out the flathead. It is 59mm long and weighs a little less than 5 grams. This is rapidly becoming my favourite suspending lure. It casts a mile and it seems to be able to just hang for ages in the water column. It’s great in this terrain, where you want to stay off the bottom. I was using an olive coloured model.

I was fishing a stretch of sandy bottom about 6 metres out from the edge of the mangroves. It was covered in about 80cm of water. I was retrieving the lure over the edge of a weed bed when suddenly something grabbed it. First it ran away from me and then it changed direction and hurtled back towards me. This must have left some slack in the line and as it came tight again, the drag screamed and the lure pulled free. Not sure what it was but it seemed a bit fast for a flathead – who knows?

I carried on working the same area and about 10 minutes later, there was a tug and a splash and an angry flathead appeared, shaking its head on the surface. After a brief fight I had it subdued and pulled it over to a gap in the Mangroves. It was about 55cm with a small open wound on its back and a pattern on its scales that looked as if it had been mauled by something with a broad mouth. Perhaps a wobbegong had had a go at it. I have seen some big ones cruising these flats.

I let the fish go and carried on peppering the area with casts. I felt another tug and lunge but again the hook pulled after a brief fight. The weed was starting to become a nuisance so I decided to swap to a soft plastic lure. I picked out a GULP jerkshad in the lime tiger colour, which has been doing quite well lately. I was fishing with a 1/8th 1/0 jighead. On the first cast I saw a flathead appear from the weed, grab the lure and immediately roll over, flashing its white belly, to release itself. I kept going and soon hooked it again. This time I kept it on the line. It was another nice fish, about the same size as the first.

As the tide started to run out strongly I gradually followed it, casting over the weed and sand banks. The gradually increasing high tides and big south-easterly blow had lifted a lot of sea grass and this was now clogging almost every cast. I reached the green channel marker and walked slowly back towards the oyster jetty. About half way along I connected with another fish, but it shook out the hook. I carried on casting in the same area for about 10 minutes until I felt another solid thud. I paused and then lifted the rod. It was another flathead about 45cm. I released it and battled the wind and weed for a further 30 minutes before giving up. I had found a few fish but also lost a few – not a bad session.

Bribie Island – the oyster jetty flats and Whitepatch – 2 January 2013

Wednesday

Flushed with the success of New Years Day, I invited a friend to come and fish the flats around Sandstone point with me on Wednesday morning. Andre is the perfect fishing companion. He comes well prepared, does not talk much, always pays for the coffee, but most importantly – he wants to catch fish.

It may sound odd but when you say you are a fisherman almost everyone seems to think you are in desperate need of company. Wives in particular, are constantly volunteering their husbands to go fishing with you. I think the problem might be that the annual ‘fishing trip’ away with the lads rarely yields any fish – this is because it is primarily a drinking trip. Perhaps the wives are thinking after 12 years of buying new gear, going to Fraser and coming back with 4 small dart and a shocking 3 day hangover, their husbands need some tips!

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When I fish with Andre we have none of that ‘well it was a beautiful morning even though we did not catch anything” nonsense. The focus is on the fishing. However I have noticed that it is often a lot harder to find and catch fish when you are with someone else. Perhaps you over plan or analyse or maybe the two of you and wading and casting causes more disturbance either way today was not easy fishing.

It started very well – we waded out under the bridge on to the exposed mud flats on the mainland side of the Pumicestone Passage, at about 4.30 am. The tide was running out but was just slowing. The sun was not yet over the horizon and the air was still and warm. The south easterly that had been blowing up until the day before, had died away. Low tide would be at 5.52am. We waded down along the exposed sandbank to a point about half way between the old oyster jetty and the green channel marker – where I had caught plenty of fish the day before. The only real difference was that we would be fishing the last of the run out tide, whereas the day before, I had caught most of my fish on the beginning of the run in.

I rigged up with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour on a 1/8th oz, 1/0 jighead, 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I cast the soft plastic at the edge of the weed beds and a fish hit it almost as soon as I lifted it off the bottom. It was a nice 45cm flathead. A few casts later I pulled up a sub 40cm flathead which released itself before I could get a picture. Then, a little while later Andre pulled in another fish that was just about 40cm.

We gradually waded north as a couple of boat based anglers slowly electric motored right along the line of the edge of the weed banks. We carried on towards the old oyster jetty. I swapped to a Minnow in the smelt colour and caught another sub 40cm flathead. On the bottom of the tide the weed started to lift and made the fishing difficult so we decided to switch locations.

We drove up to the north end of Whitepatch and waded around on the edge of the drop off, trying to rustle up some more fish, but we could not find anything. Eventually the weed problem also arrived there on the incoming tide, so we gave up for the day.

Bribie – Oyster jetty flats – 1 January 2013

New Year’s Day – Tuesday

The wind was calming down and the low tide around dawn meant that fishing the Passage again would be a good option. I decided to go and have a look around on the flats in front of the old oyster jetty, on the mainland side.

I arrived beside the bridge just after 4.30 am. Low tide would be at 5.12 am so I started fishing in the slack water. The strong south-easterly had died away in the night and there wasn’t much breeze. I waded south, along the exposed sand spit, towards the green channel marker.

About half way between the end of the oyster jetty and the channel marker, I waded out to just short of the edge of the weed beds. I started with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour, on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead. I was using 10lb fluorocarbon leader. Just after 5.00 am the water started to run in. I waded towards the channel marker, casting into the water, as the tide picked up pace. At about 5.30 am I felt a couple of hits and could see some bait scattering around my lure. I kept casting in the same location and 5 minutes later I had my first flathead of the day. It was a dark coloured weed dweller, just over 45cm. I was releasing everything today – as we are still struggling through the Christmas ham!

I did not want to change a winning formula so I threw the same soft plastic lure back out, in the same direction and after a few casts, I had another. This one was a little bigger – perhaps 50cm. I let it go and persisted in the same general area. The next fish hit the soft plastic on four separate casts before it finally got serious. I had slowed everything down and lengthened the pause in the area that I estimated it had reached. After a long pause, I lifted the rod and the plastic was half way down its throat. This one was also about 45cm. I moved gradually south and caught two more undersized flathead within 10 meters.

I decided to see if I could tempt them with one of my small DUO hard bodies. The DUO Ryuki Spearhead 70S is a 70mm, 9g, sinking, flat-sided minnow designed to catch trout in fast flowing streams. Once the current is running it will swim in one spot with a great action and good rattle, just from the water flow. It is built to the usual DUO high standards and comes in some great colours. There is a pink stripy silver one which I selected, which looks like it would be the perfect flathead lolly.

The lure has a bit more weight than the shorter version and therefore casts well on my light spin combo. I decided to cast with the current flow and then retrieve the lure back through the run-in tide to get the most of the action. I kept plenty of long pauses in the retrieve and it was as I lifted the lure off the bottom, for about the fifth time on the first cast, that the flathead struck. The fish always seem angrier when they hit a hard bodied lure – maybe it’s the treble hooks. I hauled this one back to the sand to release it. It’s is never a good idea to try removing a treble from a wriggling flathead that you have clutched to your chest whilst wading, better to deal with it on the sand with a good set of pliers.

I let it go and then waded back out to where I had been fishing, along the edge of the weed beds. The next fish took a while to find but about twenty minutes later, I had another on the same DUO lure. It was also somewhere between 40 and 50cm.

The tide was now running in strongly and lifting plenty of sea grass. This gradually made it impossible to keep fishing with the hard body lure. The tide was also pushing me back from the edge so, at about 8.00 am I decided to give up.

I had travelled from flathead famine to feast in 48 hours. Was it the strong south-easterly blow that had brought the fish in, or the run in tide, or the lure choice – that is the trouble with fishing – too many variables!