Iluka – Woody Head – 1 October 2014

Wednesday

Many claim it was Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But there is no evidence that he ever said it, thought it or wrote it.  However as with all good clichés, there is an element of truth in it, especially for fishermen.

For this reason I decided not to return to Middle Bluff on Wednesday morning and to go instead to Woody Head – the next headland to the north. When the swell is light and the tide is low or falling, there are few better fishing spots.

I parked up and walked out on to the rock platform at about 5.00 am. The wind had stayed a northerly and the swell was fairly gentle, but there was still the odd large set of waves coming through. Boots with felt soles or studs, or both are essential, if you intend to venture out here, as is a PFD. The tides ensure almost every surface is a suitable home for green and black slimy weed and the barnacles here are responsible for plenty of long term scar tissue. So it is only relatively safe when the swell is under 1 metre and the tide is about half way out and falling.

It was another magnificent sunrise. I wandered out to the front of the rock platform to a spot called the Barnacles. I rigged up the light rod (NS Blackhole) with 14 lb fluorocarbon leader and ¼ ounce, 1/0 size hook jighead and a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad, in the Curry Chicken colour. I lost the first rig to the rocks – fishing is expensive in this kind of terrain. I rigged up again with the same set up. I cast out and let the jig head sink. I left it as long as I dared and then hopped it in a little closer to the rocks. As I lifted it again I felt it stop and then line started peeling. The fish ploughed off to the south, parallel with the rocks. This was tricky as I could not stay lined up with it for long. I Let it run and then fairly quickly took back some line and tightened the drag a little. It turned but tried to bury itself at the foot of the rocks. It was now weakening but the leader was caught on some rocks and I could feel it rubbing. I loosed the drag right off and waited. Fortunately it swam out and freed the leader. Now I tightened again and pulled it up on the next surge of water. After a couple more waves I had it at my feet. A solid mulloway –  it was 76 cm and legal size in both Queensland and NSW. At last we would have a taste of the fish I had been catching all week and releasing.

I dispatched it, gutted and cleaned it. Then I headed back to the rocks for another try. It had destroyed my last GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshad so I put on a 4” Minnow in the Green Camo colour. Back to the same spot – bang, first cast and I have a fish on again. The drag was still set too tight from the final stages of the fight with the last one and after a big initial run, before I realised, it found a rock and snapped me off.  I assume it was another mulloway. I re-rigged and continued fishing for another 30 minutes with no result. The swell was building and the tide rising. So at about 7.45am, I gave up and took my prize back to the cabin.

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Iluka – Middle Bluff – 30 September 2014

Tuesday – Morning

I had not given up on finding a keeper size mulloway at Iluka, so at 4.45 am on Tuesday, I walked along the beach towards Middle Bluff. I surprised a couple of Kangaroos who were up on the rocks. Conditions were similair to the day before (light northerly) but the sea seemed a little more stirred up and foamy. Low tide would be at about 5.20 am – just on sunrise. The beginning of the run in tide offers good fishing in this spot, so I was hopeful.

I started with my big rod and a big GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Curry Chicken colour, on a ¼ ounce, size 1/0 jighead. I was fishing with 20lb fluorocarbon leader. I flicked this around, close to the base of the rocks and it soon came back minus its curly tail. I swapped to a GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. The sun was up and the sky and water were very clear. After about 20 casts with the GULP Minnow I was getting pretty good at leaving it in the wash at the base of the rocks, without getting snagged. As I was about to lift it, at the end of a retrieve, I felt a grab. The fish swam for a bit with the plastic then let it go. A few casts later I connected with another fish. This time I dropped the rod tip as soon as I felt the resistance and paused. When I struck, the fish was hooked. Once more the light swell made things easy and I soon had a mulloway/ jewfish of about 48cm at my feet. I took a few pictures and threw it back.

I was starting to see a bit of bait jumping around close to the base of the rocks and it all looked pretty small.  I dropped down to my lighter rod and a 14lb fluorocarbon leader. I swapped down to a 2 inch GULP Shrimp soft plastic in the new Green Camo colour, but stuck with the ¼ ounce jighead.

A fish struck this hard on the first cast, but I did not hook up. About ten minutes later, I swapped to a 3 inch GULP Minnow in the New Penny colour. I had another hit on the first cast. This fish was not big but by the way it started pulling, I knew it was a tailor. They thrash about very hard and never give up. It was only small, about 35 cm long. It was good to see they are around. I took a picture and threw it back.

It had mashed up the plastic so I put the 2 inch GULP Shrimp in Green Camo on again. The tailor had obviously moved on. But after about 20 minutes of cast into the wash, I felt a good bite and was onto another fish.  This time it was another solid bream – a little over 34cm. I decided to keep this one for supper.

I continued fishing and kept felling small bites. Eventually I pulled up a butter bream. I had caught no trophy fish but had found great variety. The session had been a good example of how changing soft plastics can often produce results. At about 9.30 am I gave up and walked back to the car.

Tuesday  – Afternoon

In the afternoon I waded back out on to the flats beside the Clarence River, at dusk. They are covered in yabby holes which is a good sign for a fisherman. I flicked around a GULP Jerkshad in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I caught three flathead – the first would have been big enough to keep, the rest were too small. The sun dropped behind the trees on the horizon at about 5.40 pm and the midges and mozzies became unbearable, so I waded back to the cabin.

Iluka – Middle Bluff – 29 September 2104

Sunday – Morning

It was another mild morning in Iluka. A light northerly wind was doing its best to flatten the sea. I decided to fish Middle Bluff again and see if I could find a legal sized mulloway (jewfish).

At this point I will say my piece about the raising of the jewfish size limit in NSW. I have read a bit about the surveys that were done to determine whether or not the existing limit of 45 cm, was adequate to protect the species. They were very small surveys that relied on a lot of subjective judgments by local fisherman and fisheries officers, but it would have been financially impossible for them to be developed any other way. After putting together these surveys, NSW fisheries concluded that fish at 45cm were not having a chance to reproduce before being caught, so they have raised the legal size to 70 cm and set a bag limit of two. Commercial fishermen also have to obey by the new rules, although they are allowed to keep some smaller fish, under by catch rules. If I have got any of this factually wrong, please comment and correct me.

If we want sustainable fish stocks we need to carry out credible scientific research. Our duplicated state fisheries departments do not need any more boats, trailers, life jackets, uniforms or rulebooks. They need scientists and scientific rigour in their research processes. The science used to support this decision may be proved right but I would have liked to see much more comprehensive studies. We now have the ridiculous situation where on one side of the Tweed River the Mulloway size limit is 70cm and on the other, it is 75cm.

It was another spectacular sunrise at Middle Bluff. I decided to fish with the light rig from the beginning and stick to the soft plastics. I was using 16lb fluorocarbon leader and a ¼ ounce, size 1/0 hook Nitro jighead. I loaded up with a GULP 4” Minnow in the new Green Camo colour.

The sun came over the horizon at about 5.30am and by 5.45am, I had my first fish. It was another mulloway/ jewfish, but it would not be dinner because it was only about 45cm long. I unhooked it in a rock pool and took a few pictures, then speared it back down in to the wash. It had grabbed the plastic very close to the rocks again.

I put in plenty of casts but could not get another. I swapped down to a lighter 10lb fluorocarbon leader and put on a GULP 2” Shrimp, also in the Green Camo colour. I moved a little further north along the rocks and cast down into the wash. I let the soft plastic waft around, but I left it too long and got snagged. I re-rigged and put it back in the same spot. After a couple of casts I felt a solid hit and the rod bent over. Fortunately, the swell was light and I was able to get down quite close to the water. I let the fish take some line then tightened the drag a little and lifted it up, onto the rocks with the help of a wave. It was a very solid 37cm bream. So I would have something for dinner.

 

 

I fished on for another hour but the wind picked up and the tide started in, making fishing a bit hard. At about 9.00 am, I cleaned up the bream and walked back along the beach to the car.

Sunday Afternoon

On Sunday afternoon I decided to wade out on the stretch of the Clarence River – just in front of the Anchorage Holiday Park. There are sand banks and weed beds and it looks like an ideal flathead spot. I started just before 5.00 pm. The tide was running out and I waded across the sandy and muddy bottom until I came to the weed banks that fringe the deeper main river channel. As I was exploring, I started by fishing with a soft plastic that I am very confident using – the GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I was fishing with my estuary light spin rod, 10lb fluorocarbon leader and 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead.

It did not take long to find the fish. I caught a couple of small flathead first and then a legal one (40cm), that was sitting in a sandy hollow. I waded up river and decided to switch to a DUO Realis Shad 59 MR hard bodied lure. This is a medium diving lure and the flathead and bream love it. As the sun set, I caught a couple more small flathead on this lure.

I had fished at dawn and dusk and caught fish at both sessions – and had a nice bream for dinner – living the dream!

Iluka – Middle Bluff – 28 September 2014

Sunday

On Saturday, I packed up the car and drove 3 hours south, from Brisbane, to Iluka. It is about a year since I was here last and it feels like much longer. At last I had the opportunity to get away and fish for some different species. The weather was forecast to be pretty good for most of the week – with limited swell and wind and plenty of sunshine.

I arrived on Saturday night and ate at the Sedgers Reef Hotel. The food in here continues to go steadily downhill, while the prices go up. Everything is deep-fried (mostly from frozen) and hot chips are really the only thing worth eating. Still, the beer is cold and the location is fantastic. It’s a great place to watch the sunset across the mighty Clarence River.

The Clarence River empties into the ocean between Iluka to the north shore and Yamba to the south. The Clarence is a huge river and there is always activity at its mouth and on the rocky headlands, on either side. I prefer to fish the Iluka side of the river mouth, as it is quieter and has the beautifully unspoiled Bundjalung National Park.

This time I was staying at the Anchorage Holiday Park www.anchorageholidaypark.com.au in one of their deluxe cabins. I love to camp at the Woody Head camp ground, but they were booked out for the school holidays and its nice to have a proper fridge and running water, if you are planning to keep a few fish, to take home. There is also good fishing on the river, right in front of the park.

I went to bed early on Saturday night and as usual I found it hard to sleep. At about 4.00 am I woke before the alarm, had a quick cup of tea and set off for the rocks. I decided to start by fishing just to the north of Frazers Reef, at what is known as Middle Bluff (or sometimes Second Bluff). This is a rocky headland in between Woody Head and Iluka Bluff. I walked along the beach in the pre-dawn light and I was relieved to feel only a very light south easterly wind blowing. As the sky grew lighter I could see there was not much swell, which would make things much easier (and safer). I arrived at the northern end of Middle Bluff at about 5.15 am and started to rig up.

I had two rod and reel combos with me. The first – my heavy rig – is a Daiwa Demonblood 962H rod matched with a Shimano Stradic FJ 8000 reel. This is rigged with 20lb braid and I usually fish it with a 25lb or 30 lb fluorocarbon leader. The second is the much lighter, N.S Black Hole Cabin II – S-862 L Spin Rod. It is 2.59m long (8’6”) and rated 8-14 lb. I match this rod with a Shimano Sustain 3000 reel. This is rigged with 15lb braid and I usually fish it with a 12lb to 16lb fluorocarbon leader.

Around dawn I tend to fish with the heavy rig and try a few hard bodied lures or poppers. This morning I tied on a small but fairly heavy (31g) sinking bibbed minnow from Maria – called the Duplex. It is designed for long casts and high speed retrieves and it is ideal for casting from the rocks. I threw it out about 15 times and felt a few bumps. The sun was just coming over the horizon when I felt my first solid hit. I had the drag set quite tight as I did not want to get dragged down into the rocks. I did not hook up, so I cast out again and cranked up the retrieve. This time the hit was much more solid and the rod bent over, there was a fairly slow initial pull followed by a massive yank and the lure pulled free. When I got it back the rear treble had been completely pulled out – not happy.

I continued to fish with another Maria Duplex for about 15 minutes, but I could not find that fish again. I decided to switch to a soft plastic and chose the trusty GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I started fishing on a ¼ ounce, 2/0 hook jighead. The swell was light and the ¼ ounce jighead ensured the lure would drift around in the water column, before it reached the bottom. I tried to keep the jighead on the bottom for as long as possible without getting snagged. After about five casts a felt a faint bite, very close to the rocks. I dropped the plastic straight back down, only a meter or so away from the rock ledge. I paused for about 10 seconds as it sank to the bottom. When I lifted the rod, the line pulled tight and the rod tip started wriggling. I had the drag set tight as I was fishing very close to the barnacle covered rocks, but the fish predictably tried to swim under the rock ledge. It was no match for the heavier Daiwa rod and 25lb leader and I muscled it out and up on to the rocks beside me. It was a small Jewfish/ Mulloway – I estimated it at just under 50cm – a long way off the new NSW legal size limit. I let it recover in the rock pool for a bit, so that it might avoid becoming a shark snack. Then I speared it back in to the water. I continued with the same rig for about another half hour and had another faint hit, but did not hook up.

I decided to swap to the lighter fishing rig with a 14lb fluorocarbon leader. I had tried a number of bigger soft plastics but none of these had created any real interest. I now swapped down to a GULP 3” Sardine Minnow which I rigged on a ¼ ounce, size 1/0 hook, Nitro breampro fine wire jighead. I lost a few of these to the rocks but at about 8.30 am I felt a solid bite in very close to the rocks. This was a stronger fish but the swell had dropped off a little, which made things easier. I could not muscle this one in, so I let it play itself out and then landed it with the help of a good wave surge. It was bigger than the last at about 55cm – but still not big enough to keep. I took some photos and threw it back in.

I continued fishing for another 90 minutes without any more success, but the birds were working a few hundred metres away. The dolphins came through a couple of times – so I assume that there was some bait around. At about 10.00 am, I gave up for the morning. There was no fish for supper but it was a great start to the week.

Bribie Island – the old oyster jetty flats – 14 September 2014

Sunday

After a pretty good session on Friday, I decided to go back up to Bribie and try again on Sunday morning. Low tide would be a couple of hours later at 6.39 am. The moon was in the waning gibbous stage – about half full. The wind was light from the south west and there were a few clouds around.

I was fishing the flats by the old oyster jetty, as usual and as I waded out under the bridge, there were plenty of flathead lies on the sandy bottom. I was pretty confident but my first fish was a tiny whiting, just north of the jetty.

I put on a larger Mad Scientist Optishad soft plastic and started flicking it around, to the south of the jetty. This is a paddle tailed soft plastic which the flathead seem to love. The water was very shallow and clear. After a few casts, I felt a good bite. I paused and set the hook. It was a flathead just under 40 cm. I released it and moved on.

Then things went very quiet for about an hour. I waded all the way down to the green channel marker, gradually changing through a few soft plastic lures. As the tide started to run in, I was fishing with a GULP 2” Shrimp in the peppered prawn colour. First I caught a couple of small Pike. Then, a few casts later. I found a 30cm flathead.

I turned back and started wading back towards the bridge. I felt a couple of hits on the shrimp soft plastic and then a double tap and the rod tip bent over. It was a solid 32cm bream. I released it and carried on back towards the jetty.

 

On the way out I had felt a couple of bumps as I moved my soft plastic over a sandy hole in the weed beds. I stopped to give it another try. On the first cast I felt another light tap, then nothing. I was sure a fish was lying there. I put in about 20 more casts with no response. I was about to give up, when I decided try a different soft plastic. I swapped to a 3” GULP Minnow in the Sardine colour. On my first cast, with the new plastic – bang – a massive hit and an instant hook up. This was a solid flathead and it angrily came to the surface straight away, shaking its head and trying to spit the lure. It stayed hooked and I slowly turned towards the shore. It made a couple of determined runs but it was nicely hooked. I pulled it into the shallows and paused to admire it. It was a big female, well over 75 cm. I unhooked her and she paused momentarily before swimming away (see video).

That was it for the day. I waded back to the bridge with nothing for supper, but it had been a great session.