Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 20 December 2013

Friday

I was beginning to get fed up with the Christmas madness. Every time I have dropped into the supermarket in the last fortnight, there have been people stuffing trolleys with food that will surely end up in the bin in ten days – bags of assorted nuts in their shells, icing sugar dusted Stollen logs, massive hams & huge frozen turkeys, those huge square Italian sponge cakes that taste like cardboard and enough mangoes and cherries to sink a battleship.

Big W / Target / Kmart and the rest have crammed aisle upon aisle with cheap, useless crap that nobody wants or needs. Buckets of Margarita mix (without the alcohol), Brut deodorant combined with bonus Brut aftershave in a gift pack (not sure it really is a bonus). There are enough bath salts, crystals, foams, creams, milks, lotions, serums and bombs to make Wivenhoe Dam fizz. In almost every case, the packaging probably cost several times as much as the rubbish inside it. I am half expecting to see the old ‘soap on a rope’ make a comeback.

Only fishing could lift my spirits. I decided to set the alarm and fish the morning low tide at Bribie. The bottom of the tide was 4.24 am, just after first light and just before dawn. There was a slight northerly wind forecast. It was three days after the full moon. I chose the flats on the mainland side of the bridge, as these have been fishing well.

I arrived about 4.15 am and then waded out to the area south of the old oyster jetty, where the flathead have been hiding. I started with the GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Watermelon Pearl colour on a 1/8th ounce, 1/0 jighead and was using my usual 10lb fluorocarbon leader and G.Loomis TSR light spinning rod. The water was still and the sky was cloudy. I was about level with the end of the jetty, where there are a number of sandy hollows, amongst the thick weed.

At about 4.40am, I caught my first flathead. It was just under 40 cm. I released it and then I cast into the same hollow and caught another. This one was bigger – perhaps 45cm. I couple of casts later; I caught another, about the same size. I had another fish on my line from this spot, but it spat my jighead on the surface.

I moved on to the next hollow and decided to change colours. I chose the orange and yellow GULP Orange Tiger Jerkshad. At about 5.30 am this did the trick and I had another flathead. It was also about 45cm.  It had chewed through the plastic, so I replaced it with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the New Penny colour.

I kept moving towards the south. The tide was starting to run in now. At 5.40am, I caught another small flathead – approximately 35cm long. The sky had turned grey not long after sunrise and now I could see the rain clouds coming towards me. It started spitting and then really raining but it was only a short shower.

I fished along the edge of the weed beds for another hour without a bite. At about 8.00 am another shower was threatening so I gave up. The best action has definitely been around dawn in the last few sessions – not good news if you like sleep!

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Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 16 December 2013

Monday

Back up to Bribie to play with the flathead again. Usually the flathead fishing goes off a bit after November, during the hotter summer months. But my last two sessions had showed there were still plenty of lurking lizards hanging around on the sand flats.

The sunrise is gradually working its way towards a more reasonable hour, but it has a long way to go. First light was due at about 4.15 am and I like to ready to fish by then. Low tide had been at about 2.00 am, so I would not be able to fish my favourite spots for long. Over the years I have caught good fish at all stages of the tide, but the last few hours of a big run out tide are probably my favourite time to fish around the Pumicestone Passage.

It was the day before full moon, so the tide would be running in fast. I headed a favourite spot, just south of the old oyster jetty, on the mainland side of the Pumicestone Passage. There was a light south–easterly wind blowing which was forecast to pick up significantly.

Just before the sun came over the horizon I had my first bite, but no hook up. I was fishing with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Smelt colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I was using 10lb fluorocarbon leader. The same thing happened on the next cast.

I swapped to the bigger GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Watermelon Pearl colour. A few casts later a flathead struck. In fact, it cleared the surface to make sure it hit the plastic. I subdued it and could see it was about 45cm long. I was not keeping today so I loosened the tension on the line, grabbed the leader and the fish and released it.

I caught two more in the next ten minutes, in the same spot just after the sun had come up. Both were about the same size. I waded south trying to fish in the gaps between the weed beds but with a low bright sun, it was difficult to see where the fish might be.

After a fruitless hour, the weed was everywhere and the tide was coming up fast, so I turned back towards the shoreline and started casting at the large exposed sand bank. There was now about 20cm of water on the sand patch between the bank and the weed beds. I cast at this patch. It was about 5.40am, almost four hours after low tide. This patch of sand had been covered with water for only about 20 to 30 minutes.

After working my way along about ten metres of the sand bank, my lure was slammed as it hit the water. I thought I had picked up a big clump of weed but then the rod tip started wiggling and realised it was a fish. It was a good flathead, about 55cm long. I released it and marvelled at just how quickly these fish will move up, into the shallows, on a rising tide.

I tried for more but the big tide had lifted so much weed that I eventually got fed up and gave up at about 7.00 am. The fish are still around!

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 10 December 2013

Tuesday

I arrived on the mainland side of the Bribie Bridge at 4.30 am, just after first light. I waded straight out to the area just south of the old oyster jetty, where I had done well on the flathead, during my last session.

The tide was on its way out. It had been a 1.8m high, at about 3.30 am. There was not much flow as the moon was in its first quarter. It was a building northerly blowing with a stronger, south-easterly forecast to take over, later in the day.

There was not much weed moving around, so I decided to give one of my DUO hard-bodied lures an outing. My latest favourite is the Realis Shad 59 MR. This is a shallow diving, suspending, 59mm minnow, with a great rattle and the usual superb DUO finish. It is perfect for fishing over the weed beds and I was keen to try it with the new G.Loomis TSR series light spinning rod that I am now using. I picked out a gold/ bronze coloured one and tied it on.

The sun broke over the horizon just before 5.00am. There were a few mullet jumping around and as a few cormorants flew over, they spooked a large school of whiting/ mullet in the shallows. I started casting the Realis Shad 59 MR all around in a semi-circle in front of me.

I felt a few nudges and a couple of real bites. After about ten minutes a fish attacked hard and swam away with it. It too a bit of line but soon settled. It was a nice Bream – about 30cm long that had been cruising above the weed. About 10 minutes later, there were a few more knocks on successive casts and I hooked another smaller one.

I had made my way south, towards the green channel marker. It was just about 6.00 am and I could now cast over the edge of the major weed bank that runs along here. I felt an angry bite and then another. I pulled the trebles home and saw a Pike leap out of the water. I pulled it up close and shook it off the hooks.

The tide was now lifting a lot of sea grass so I decided to switch lures to a soft plastic. I chose the GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I loaded it on to a 1/8th ounce, 2/0 jighead and started fishing it along the edge of the weed.

I waded back towards the bridge but did not get a bite for more than hour. About 60 metres from the end of the old oyster jetty, I felt a grab, but I did not hook up. I cast back in the same spot six more times – slowing my retrieve down to a crawl. On number seven…. thud. I dropped the rod tip and slowly counted to ten. When I lifted it, I felt the hook slide home and I had a flathead on the line. This one was a keeper, about 45cm, but I was releasing everything today. It was just before 8.30 am.

Five minutes later and ten metres closer to the jetty, I found another slightly bigger one. Just before 9.00 am, I cast into the shallows – between me and the mangrove lined shore and the line went tight, immediately. It was the best fish of the day, about 60cm long. It was diminishing returns from then on. I caught two more fish, but both were around 35cm long.

By 10.00 am, the wind was blowing hard and I had Christmas shopping to get on with, so that was it for the day.

Bribie Island – the oyster jetty flats – 6 December 2013

I was delighted to be back on home turf but shocked at just how early sunrise is. With first light just after four you have to be up at three. Low tide at Bongaree, on Bribie Island would be at 5.10 am. At first light, I would just catch the last of the run out tide – which is usually a very good time to fish.

As I pulled into the car park beside the bridge, on the mainland side, I saw Colin’s car already parked up. Colin is the local flathead specialist -great minds think alike! I pulled on my waders and wandered out for a chat. He was chucking a few hard bodied lures around under the bridge and soon found a small flathead. He gave me an update on what has happening in the Passage and, as always it was a comprehensive briefng.

It was now about 4.45 am, so I set off to fish the weed beds, to the south of the old oyster jetty. It was a big tide so I had a good view of how the drains and channels had changed in the the 3 months that I have not fished here. The weed beds are thick and healthy but the drain that used to run out round the corner from Sandstone Point, is now much less well defined. The persistent northerly winds may have flattened the sand banks, a little.

The breeze was light but quite cool, from the south-west. I started fishing at about 4.45am and the tide was still running out. I was fishing with my new G.Loomis Trout Series (TSR) spinning rod. I was using a 10lb fluorocarbon leader tied on to 10lb Super PE braid. This rod is excellent but I am still getting used to its sensitivity. Pulling a soft plastic through the weedy bottom was confusing at first, I thought I was getting bites but was not sure. Then I saw a few skid dart past and I realised they had been biting the plastic.

I kept moving south. The sun came up behind the clouds. I started fishing with a GULP 4″ Minnow in the Smelt colour. This caught a couple of small flathead just after 5.00 am. Then there was a pause, as the tide turned. I swapped over to a GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Watermelon Pearl colour.

Flathead

An esky full of Bribie flathead

At about 5.45 am the incoming tide picked up pace and I found a patch of keeper size fish. Over the next hour, I caught 12 fish along a 50 metre stretch of the weed beds. I kept five but forgot my camera. So all I have is the full esky to show you. The smallest fish was 44cm and the largest 59cm. I caught most of the keepers on the 5″ GULP Jerkshad but also found a few with the Zman Minnowz in the Redbone colour.

It was great to have such a successful first session back on home turf.

Bedford Weir & Rileys Crossing – Blackwater – 25/6 November 2013

Monday/ Tuesday/ Wednesday

Back out to Blackwater for the last time (for a while). I had the afternoons to myself, so I went exploring along the Mackenzie River. There had been a couple of good rain storms, since I was last out here, which had raised the water levels. It had also made the track alongside the river, to the south of Bedford Weir, too sticky to negotiate on my own. As soon as I hit the muddy ruts, the standard tyres I have, just clogged with mud and started spinning. I did not get stuck but without someone on hand to pull me out – it would have been silly to carry on. The weather had warmed up and the rain had brought the humidity up to very unpleasant levels.

One of my blog followers had recommended I have a go, fishing upstream of the weir, where the Mackenzie river runs alongside Rileys Crossing Road. This is also a dirt road, but it is a real road, not a dirt track, so it is in pretty good shape. I drove along it until I could see some tracks down to the river bank, then turned down one of them. I parked up and climbed down the still fairly steep banks to the water’s edge.

The rising water level had covered the base of many of the trees that line the river. The water was pretty stirred up. There were three dried catfish hanging off a fence post. I am not sure what the correct fishing etiquette is for disposing vs releasing catfish. The locals often seem to throw them up the bank or hang them off a tree branch. I appreciate they compete for food with the stocked fish in the impoundments, but they are a naturally occurring species. There appear to be so many of them that it makes me think killing the ones I catch will hardly make any difference, so I just release them. I would love to hear what others think – should we destroy them or release them?

I think by now you can predict where this post is going. I caught more catfish. I fished from about 5.00 pm through to 6.30 pm. I fished with the GULP Ghost Shrimp soft plastic in the Pink Belly colour, on a 1/12th ounce, 1/0 jighead and 8lb fluorocarbon leader. As the sun dropped the fish came to the surface to swallow various insects and you could see them ‘rising’, in all directions. Occasionally, I would make out the wake of a Saratoga, cruising just below the surface. I would cast the plastic in front of its nose and it would usually turn and come over to have a look, but I still could not illicit a strike. There were catfish sitting under just about every fallen branch or submerged root. I caught about ten – and was beaten by two or three who tangled me up.

The next afternoon I fished the pool below Bedford Weir. The increased turbidity from the rain had definitely turned the catfish on. I started with a 1/8th ounce, Zman Chatterbait in a white/ yellow colour. This is like a mini spinner bait lure. I cast next to the big branch, sticking out of the water in the middle of the main pool, below the weir. As the lure sank, a fish grabbed it. It was a weighty beast and took a while to subdue. As I pulled it to the surface I could see it was , of course, a catfish. I caught another, smaller one on the Chatterbait and then swapped to the other side of the pool. The catfish were so thick I could see their fins breaking the surface. I swapped to a small soft plastic GULP 2.5” Crabbie in the Camo colour in the hope of attracting something else, but this just caught more catfish.

I decided to move downstream to a pool just below the road, which crosses beneath the weir. There was a bad smell on the bank and the flies were buzzing. The source was four big dead catfish lying in the grass. I moved away from the smell and cast out my soft plastic with predictable results – another catfish.

On my final afternoon I drove out to Riley’s Crossing and walked a little way along one of the tracks, up stream. This is another beautiful spot – even if it was stinking hot and humid. The results were exactly the same as the previous two days. I varied my lures, swapping between spinner baits, soft plastics (in various colours) and hard bodies, but I could not find anything other than catfish.

I have had great fun exploring some freshwater fishing in Central Queensland, over the past few months, but now it is time to head home and reacquaint myself with some Moreton Bay flathead.

Rockhampton – Fitzroy River – 22/3 November 2013

Friday

Friday saw me back in Rockhampton. I am enjoying fishing up here, whenever I can, but I am also missing the Bribie Island flathead fishing. I have completely missed the busy months of September and October. I hope to get this job finished and be back out there soon.

Rocky is warming up and by 3.00 pm, its usually over 35 degrees and extremely humid. There have been a few more storms and the Fitzroy River is looking murkier and murkier. I arrived in town just after lunch. I had a few meetings, dumped my kit in the motel and headed across the bridge to the north side of the river.

I wanted to see if I could find any more giant herring, grunter or tarpon. The locals insist the last few hours of the run out tide are the best time to fish here, especially when they coincide with dawn or dusk. Full moon had passed on Thursday, so their would be plenty of tidal flow. The sun was dropping, as was the tide and it was hot and sticky. I arrived at about 5.30pm and wandered out under the railway bridge, to the edge of the rocks. Low tide would be at about 9.00pm. It had rained the night before and there were rumbling grey clouds on the horizon with a few, far away lightning flashes. I could smell the rain but it was not falling yet.

There were a few prawns jumping, so I started with a GULP 4″ Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour. I had rigged it on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and I was using 12lb fluorocarbon leader. I was using my new 6′ Shimano Catana rod and the 2500 size Shimano Stradic reel.I was casting along the edge of the rocks, so I did not need a long rod – the fish are usually close to the shore, lurking around the rock bars and overhangs.

As the sun dropped the surface activity picked up and there were small jelly prawns scattering, each time I pulled the soft plastic up close to the rocks. After about 15 minutes, I decided to let it drop down right next to the rocks. Once I was sure it was on the bottom, I paused for a good ten seconds. I then jigged the soft plastic shrimp up and down few times and paused again. It was third time lucky and something fairly powerful grabbed the plastic and headed off. It quickly surfaced – a barramundi, about 45 to 50 cm long. It tail walked on the surface a couple of times, trying to spit the lure. After a short fight, I lifted it out of the water. Although I was delighted to catch a decent Fitzroy barramundi, it is currently the closed season for barramundi, so after a quick picture, I released the fish unharmed and decided to moved round to the next set of rocks. You are not supposed to target these fish at this time of year and whilst you cannot decide which fish is going to eat your lure, it was a fair bet that there would be more than one barramundi lurking at the base of those rocks, so I moved on.

The jelly prawns were all over the place but there was nothing much feeding, close in. I lobbed the soft plastic a little further out, and let it sink again. As I lifted it off the bottom, I felt a tentative bite but did not hook up. I kept casting and put in some long pauses, close to the base of the rocks. The sun had set and the rain and thunder was close. At about 6.15 pm, something slammed my shrimp at the base of the rocks. I knew it was another barramundi straight away. It soon surfaced and made a couple of leaps. I let it settle and pulled it gently out of the water. It was a little bigger than the first. I photographed and released it.

I moved to another location, about 10 metres further south for a few more casts. It was now about 6.30 pm and pretty much dark. The rain was imminent and the wind was gusting in all directions. I continued with the soft plastic lure that was catching fish – GULP 4″ Shrimp. In a carbon copy of the two previous captures, a third barramundi grabbed the lure at the base of the rocks. It was also about 45cm long. I released just as the rain started spitting and decided it was time to go. By the time I reached the car I was soaked to the skin.

The session confirmed all the local advice I had been given – fish during a big falling tide, at dawn and dusk. I think the humidity and pending storm also helped. The next morning, I swapped sides to avoid the barramundi and found a few small fish, some of which I have never caught before. The rain seemed to have fired up the small grunter and tarpon and I caught a few of each, in the hour around dawn.

That was it for Rocky for a while – hopefully I will get back around March, when those barramundi will have grown big enough to keep.

Yeppoon – Fishing Creek – 14 November 2013

Thursday

It would be my last chance to fish in Yeppoon, for a while. The wind had been blowing hard, so I decided to give Fishing Creek a look.I arrived at about 8.30 am but I had misjudged the tide. It was a big high and it would be a while before it ran out enough for me to proceed down the creek. I fished around the top end and saw a fair amount of bait moving around, but did not catch anything. The combination of a strong north-easterly wind and the big tide had stirred the water up, so I could not see much.

By about 9.30 am the water level was dropping fast and I could walk down the creek towards Corio Bay. I was using my new G.Loomis TSR Ultralight 6′ 7″ rod. It needed to catch a fish, to settle its nerves and I thought it would be fairly easy to find a flathead for it, in this creek. I waded down the creek for an hour, stopping at a every bend and sand bar, but I could not find a fish.

I liked the feel of the rod and its very sensitive tip. I gradually got used to the feel of the 1/8th ounce jighead hopping along the sand corrugations, on the bottom. I lost plenty of jigheads to the trees and snags, as I got used to casting with the slightly longer rod. At about 11.00 am I reached a bend in the creek where a big drain rounds a sand island and empties out into the main channel. The fast flowing water has carved some deepish holes and exposed the mangrove roots.

I thought there must be a fish here. I put on a GULP 5″ Jerkshad soft plastic, in the natural, Peppered Prawn colour and loaded it onto a 1/8th ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead. I cast around the mouth of the drain, still looking for a flathead, without any luck. I turned my attention to the eddies, at the foot of the mangroves on the other side of the channel. After about three casts at these roots, the line pulled tight about halfway back across the channel and a fish took off with the soft plastic. The rod bent right over and absorbed the initial smash, then line started peeling. I could feel the tail beats of something fast.

It kept making for the mangrove roots but I gradually subdued it. When I caught sight of it, it was a trevally – about 40cm long. It is amazing how powerful these fish can be when they have a strong current to run with. It took a while but I pulled it up on to the sand and took a few pictures.

The rod was off the mark but I could not find any more fish. With the north-easterly now almost gale force, I gave up just before noon.

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