After a short break from fishing over Christmas and far too many mince pies and hangovers, I was anxious to clear my head and wet a line.
Some big blows were forecast but the best weather looked like Thursday morning. I did not have much time, so I decided I would carry on at Bribie, on the flats around the old oyster jetty, on the mainland side of the Pumicestone Passage.
The new moon had arrived on Wednesday. As a result we are in the middle of some very big daytime high tides which provide advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, my experience suggests the fish feed more confidently when there is good tidal flow. Also, as a land-based fisherman you get to examine more of the terrain you regularly fish, as more of it is exposed on the really low tides that follow/ precede the big highs. On the negative side, the water and the fish move very quickly, so you often can only fish safely in one spot, for about 30 minutes. The big flows also lift a lot of sediment, weed and other debris – which can make the water very cloudy.
I walked out to the water’s edge, under the Bribie Bridge, in the dark, at about 4.15 am. Low tide had passed at about 3.30 am and there water was fairly still. There was not much weed floating around so I decided to fish with the DUO Realis Shad 59 MR. As I have mentioned, I have tried a few alternative, small hard-bodied lures but I keep coming back to this one. It is a shallow running, suspending bibbed minnow, I was using the bronze colour and even on the first cast, the small moses perch attacked it. I was standing ankle deep in the water, casting into the shadows around the bridge pylons. On the next couple of cast the nudges and bumps from small fish continued. I think the rattle in this lure really gets them fired up.
After about 10 more casts I waded out a bit further, to about waist deep and put in a long one to the north of the bridge. As the lure hit the water I gave it a couple of pulls to get it running below the surface. Then there was a slight feeling of tension and it was gone. I wound in to find the leader cut cleanly by something.
I was fishing with only 10lb fluorocarbon leader, so I upped it to 14lb, the heaviest I had, and tied on a GULP soft plastic jerkshad on a 1/8th ounce, 1/0 jighead in the Lime Tiger colour. I lobbed this out to approximately the same spot and on my second cast, the same thing happened. I re-rigged and it happened again. There was something toothy out there so I backed up a little.
The sun was now peeping over the horizon and the tide was running in, fast. I decided to move quickly to the south of the old oyster jetty and look for some fish. Just after first light I caught a 40cm flathead on the GULP Lime Tiger jerkshad soft plastic. At this point, I realised I had my camera but I had forgotten to put the battery back in.
I moved further south, casting in to the incoming tide. There was now a lot of weed around and it was hot and still. The water was very murky. As the birds flew over the shallows they spooked some big bait schools. For an hour I swapped soft plastics and fished along the edge of the sand banks, but I could not get a bite. At about 5.30 am, I noticed a bit of movement in the water about 30 metres to the south, in the shallows. I thought I saw a few fins but assumed they were just the tips of rays’ wings which you often see in this area.
By 6.00 am I still had not had a bite. The tide was now running in quickly and I was standing about 3 metres from the edge of the long weed bank that runs along this part of the flats. At the edge of the weed there is a sloped sandy drop off. The water beyond the drop off is only a couple of metres deep but this is where the bait tends to school up.
As I stopped to swap plastics again, a fin broke the surface just a few metres in front of me. At first I thought it was a dolphin, but then I saw the tail fin and realised it was a decent sized bull shark, moving very slowly along the edge of the bank. I immediately started slowly wading backwards from the edge. It was followed by another shark, a couple of metres behind that was also swimming with its fins above the surface.
After covering a few metres I looked back and to my disappointment I realised that the tide had been coming in so fast that I now had a good 30 metres of waist deep water to walk through, before I could reach the safety of the sand bank. I waded as fast as I dared and as you can imagine, I covered the ground pretty quickly.
From the safety of the sand bank, I counted at least 8 fins – so perhaps four sharks – in the group. I expect there were a few more. On reflection it is difficult to work out how big, but they were certainly all over 2 metres and the first one that I saw quite clearly would have been 2.5 + metres long. I knew there was plenty of bait around but they did not seem to be hunting. They just cruised slowly up and down the edge of the banks and the fins would only break the surface when the water got too shallow. They stayed over the sandy areas and did not seem to venture up over the weed beds. I watched them for 30 mins and decided I would leave that area to them.
I waded back to towards the bridge and stopped under it to have a few casts in the shallows. I was now fishing with a GULP 2” Shrimp soft plastic on the Banana Prawn colour, on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I was back down to 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I was about ankle deep in the water (I was reluctant to go any further – for obvious reasons). I was standing to the north of the bridge and I cast close to the pylons and hopped the shrimp back to me, across the rubble on the bottom. As the lure hopped over a sandy patch, no more than 20 cm deep, there was a big surge and something grabbed it and turned away.
The tide was running fast across these shallows and the fish drifted with it for a few metres. I then lifted my rod tip and set the hook. It carried on drifting for a few moments and then it took off towards Caloundra. The rod tip bent over and the reel started screaming. There was rubble on one side, mangroves on the other and the barnacle covered bridge pylons in the middle (and probably a selection of sharks, further out). I walked north with the fish, away from the bridge and let it take line. It was very heavy and slow and initially I thought it might be a ray. The two initial runs were long and powerful but the rod kept soaking up the lunges and eventually it calmed down. After about 5 minutes of steering I had it close enough to the shore to grab the leader. As soon as the leader took the full weight of the fish it snapped but I was able to push it onto the shore with my boot.
I was now under the bridge, so I raced to the car that was now only a few metres away and grabbed the phone and tape measure. I measured her at about 77 cm, and after a couple of pictures, she swam away, unharmed. It had been quite an eventful session. Wherever you are fishing take care!