Iluka – Woody Head – “the Barnacles” – Tuna – 9 April 2013

Tuesday – Morning

Tuesday was another cool morning at Woody Head. It rained just before dawn and there was a very light south-westerly wind blowing. The rain stopped just after first light and I wandered out to the rock bar on the edge of Woody Bay, just after 6.00 am.

I was fishing the last couple of hours of the run in tide with my light spinning rig. I was wearing my Cabela’s stockinged feet, chest waders. I can wear my felt-soled rock boots over the top of these, which means I get a better grip on the rocky bottom. I also stay completely dry underneath. I ordered both the waders and the boots from Cabelas – – in the US. The latest boots are the best I have had. They are called the Men’s Ultralight 2 Wading Boots and they grip well (felt soles) and dry fast.

Cabelas rock fishing boots

Cabelas rock fishing boots

The sun broke through the clouds briefly, just after dawn and then disappeared again. I started with a small GULP Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour on a 1/8th oz, size 1 hook jighead. I was fishing with 10lb fluorocarbon leader. After a few casts, I caught a small bream – about 25cm long. Over the next hour, I caught three more fish about the same size. Every now and then I would also see the long toms follow my lure in. At about 7.45nam the rain started again so I gave up for the morning.

Tuesday – Afternoon

The rain showers kept coming but the sun came out in between each one. There was not much wind so, as low tide approached at 1.30 pm, I decided to have a fish with the Shimano Catana light rod, off the front of ‘the barnacles’ at Woody Head. I tied on a 12lb fluorocarbon leader and a 1/6th 1/0 jighead, loaded with a GULP Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour. After a few casts, I felt a couple of bites, very close to the rocks. On the next few, I paused for as long as I could in the strike stone and after a few more tries, I connected with a decent bream – about 35 cm long.

I fished through the afternoon with a few different soft plastics and caught a few more bream and a few small dart. By about 5.00 pm the sun was close to dropping behind the hill and I decided to swap to a hard bodied lure. I pulled out a DUO Realis Jerkbait 120 SP. This is a fairly narrow, flat sided suspending minnow with a low pitched rattle. It has the usual excellent DUO paint job which gives it a very clever flashing appearance, as it rolls from side to side in the water. It weighs 18 grams and casts beautifully from the Catana rod.

On the third cast something grabbed it, dropped it, grabbed it, dropped it, grabbed it and then took off – zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. The Catana is flexible but does not have much grunt so I had to let the fish run. When it paused I tried to apply some pressure but I could not turn its head. As I reached the backing line I started to hold the spool, to try and slow it, but I knew I had to tighten the drag. I turned it a few clicks and the fish slowed. I gradually got about 10 metres of line back but then the fish lunged again and the line went slack. I don’t know what happened but I could see the lure was gone and the leader was bitten through, once I wound in the line.

I did not have any more of the DUO’s with me so I put on a suspending Yozuri Crystal Minnow and upped my leader to 16lb – the heaviest I had. I cast out and started a fairly slow retrieve. I saw a good size Tailor or perhaps Trevally grab it, a few metres from the rocks and take off. I think it was a Trevally, as it headed straight for cover, under the rock ledge. It managed to wedge the trebles from the lure into the rocks and free itself.

I was frustrated – the bite was hotting up and I felt like I had brought a knife to a gun fight. My gear was not heavy enough for these fish. I tied on another leader and put on a sturdy ¼ oz 1/0 jighead and loaded it with a GULP 3” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. Perhaps this would attract a more manageable fish. How wrong I was!

After about three casts, I felt the on again/off again bite. It was probably a few fish all trying to attack the same lure. Then there was a solid bite and a brief tug and suddenly zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, as the fish realised it was hooked. This one had serious power, just like the one that took the DUO lure, previously. It was heading north and east, out to sea. I had the drag a little tighter this time but I moved along the rocks with the fish. After a couple of solid initial runs it paused and I could see the rod tip beating – it had to be a tuna. I estimated it had taken just over 100 metres of line in the initial two runs. I looked down at the spool. It was a fair way through the backing line, so I took back as much as I could. The fish took off again but with a little less power. The Shimano Sustain reel’s drag was doing a good job but the Catana rod was not strong enough to really apply much pressure to the fish. I had to wait this one out. The fish would pull hard then sit in the current with the rod tip beating.

I calmed down and looked at my options for landing it. The tide was coming in and it was safe to spend a bit of time down on the lower rock ledges but I was definitely going to get wet. With the light rod and leader, my only option was to use the surf to wash the fish over the lower ledges and then go down and grab it. The fish was tiring but I still had not seen it. Every few metres of line I gained were taken back with another short, but determined run. As it came close to the rocks I got a look at it. It was a small mac tuna. It was rolling over on its side which was a fairly good sign it was nearly spent.

I watched the swell and moved down to the lower ledge. I tried to apply some pressure with the rod but as soon at the fish saw the rocks it set of for New Zealand again. I let it run and hunkered down as a large wave crashed over me. A few moments later there was another good wave and I used it to heave the fish over the ledge. The fish was now behind me in small draining pool vigorously beating its tail in an attempt to follow the remaining water back out to sea. I checked my footing, looked at what was coming at me and tightened the drag. I pulled the fish on to the sloping edge of the pool, grabbed its tail and clambered back up the rocks.

It was my first tuna off the rocks and even though it was a fairly small model – just over 60cm long, I was delighted. The jighead and plastic were nicely lodged in the corner of the fish’s mouth. I was soaked but stoked! I have tangled with these fish at various points on the east coast but never been able to land one. I have usually ended up wishing the fish I had on the end of my line was slightly smaller, so I would have a chance of landing it. Today it all came together and that is why I love fishing!


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