Iluka – Woody Head – 26 November 2014

Wednesday

Morning

It rained overnight on Tuesday and it was warm and cloudy on Wednesday morning. I chose to fish at Woody Head again. The wind had settled down and had turned north-easterly again. I was in position early. With first light at just after 5.00 am local time (which is 4.00 am Queensland time) bedtime is about 8.00 pm.

I arrived on the rock platform just before first light and rigged up my heavy rod. Low tide would be about 5.00 am.  I was using 30lb fluorocarbon leader and I put a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour on a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. The swell had settled considerably and I could safely get fairly close to the edge of the rock ledges.  I knew where to cast – as close as I could to the edge of the rocks. Sure enough, on my third attempt I felt the gentle pull of a jewfish mouthing the plastic. I paused, then struck. With the big rod and light swell, this fish was fairly easy to subdue. It was 5.30 am and I had my first jewfish of the day. It was probably just over 70 cm, but I had left over fish from the day before, so I speared it back into the foamy wash.

I stayed with the heavy rod for about another thirty minutes  and caught a great bream but I was having trouble keeping in touch with the soft plastic, so I swapped to the lighter rod with a 14lb fluorocarbon leader. I moved to the south along the rocks, casting at any likely looking water. I soon found a few more good bream. I caught about 6 over the next hour – most were over 35cm. I used both big and small soft plastics in various patterns and colours.

At one point something bit hard on a 3 “ minnow soft plastic and took off, after a few seconds the line went slack and I retrieved just half a jighead. You need good teeth to bite clean through the jighead – mackerel? Shark?

At about 8.30 am the rain started falling and gradually got heavier until I decided to stop for the morning.

Afternoon

At about 3.00 pm the rain stopped and I went back to Woody Head to fish the afternoon low tide. The wind had picked up a bit from the north. I caught a few more bream on soft plastics all along the front of the rock platform. I caught one 35 cm on a GULP Jerkshad, but in general the fish where smaller than they had been in the morning.

As the sunset behind the headland the wild weather turned the sky a great colour. I fished through dusk and kept catching small bream and a couple of dart. At about 6.30 pm I decided I had had enough and walked back to the carpark.

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Iluka – Woody Head – 25 November 2014

Tuesday

Morning

Monday had been a tough day. The weather had really made it too hard to fish. Any normal person would have had a day relaxing at the pub or fixing up their gear – but by now regular readers will realize that I am far from normal.

Tuesday morning was a different story weather wise. The north-easterly had dropped off considerably to about 10 knots.  I decided to try fishing the rock platform at Woody Head. I arrived about 4.00 am and rigged up my heavy rig. Having seen the popper working the day before. I tied on a DUO Realis Popper 64 in a red colour. I tied it on with 30lb leader and lobbed it out. With a fair breeze it was hard to cast it very far on the heavy rig. However I eventually succeeded in getting more or less parallel with the edge of the rock ledges and worked the popper through the foamy wash. On about my tenth cast there was an explosive strike, short run and then my leader was flapping in the wind. Whatever it was, 30lb leader was clearly not going to stop it. It was only just light enough to see. I tied on another bigger RIVER TO SEA Dumbbell Popper but this did not interest the fish.

As the sun came up I decided to switch to soft plastic lures. GULP have a fairly new pattern – the 3” Mantis Shrimp. This is basically a prong tailed shrimp shape. I had it in the Molting Shrimp colour. I tied it on with 30lb fluorocarbon leader on a ¼ ounce, 1/0 jighead. I cast it out and let it sink for as long as  I felt it would take to get to the bottom. The problem with fishing these ledges is that the fish are always very close in. This means getting you soft plastic to the bottom and keeping it there long enough for something to grab it – without getting snagged. The Jewfish like to sit under the overhangs and in the caves that are under the ledges. You have to use your lures in a way that will persuade them to come out and eat.

The sun was now over the horizon. I dropped the soft plastic just over the edge into the foamy water. After a couple of hops my line was almost touching the face of the rocks. There was gentle tug and I dropped the rod tip – rock, swell or fish? I paused for a few seconds then struck hard – it was a fish. It had plenty of power and it took off to the south in a long and powerful initial run. But it was slow and powerful so I was pretty sure it was a jewfish/mulloway. I took a little line back, as it paused for a breather, but I could not turn its head. It put in another powerful run but then it slowed and I tightened the drag and put some pressure on. It was tired now but it still kept trying to dive down underneath the rocky ledge. I used the swell to get it to the foot of the rocks. I could now see it was a very decent fish – perhaps 80 or 90 cm. On a couple of wave surges I tried to get it up on the stepped ledges below me. I succeeded initially but as soon as the wave receded the dead weight of the fish was unmovable and it would wriggle back off with the receding water. It seemed solidly hooked and pretty tired so I waited for a decent wave set and heaved it up two steps. I waited for the next surge but as I pulled, the hook came free. It slid back down, and with the next wave and swam away.

When I examined the jighead I could see it had started to straighten. I suspect that the only way I would have landed that fish would have been with a long handled gaff and I do not intend to start carrying one of those around the rocks with me. I re-rigged with the same outfit but after 30 minutes I had not had another bite so I decided to change to another soft plastic. I chose the GULP 4” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. After two casts, something slammed this and briefly headed out to sea before biting through the leader. I tied on a repeat rig and fished around for another 20 minutes with no result.

I decided it was time to switch to the light rig and lighter leader. I started with 20lb fluorocarbon and tied on a smaller, GULP 3” minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. I stuck with the ¼ ounce, 1/0 hook jighead. It had been an interesting morning and it wasn’t even 6.00 am yet.

I cast the smaller lure out and it was hit, at the base of the rocks on the first cast. I soon landed a solid bream – well over 35cm. I released it – I was determined to get a jewfish that I could keep for supper. About 5 minutes later I had another fish on. I was sure it was another jewfish but I only had the light rod this time so patience was the key. I left the drag alone and gradually tired the fish out. The tide would be high at 11.00 am so the rising water was gradually improving my chances of using the waves to help wash the fish up on to the rocks. I pulled the fish up the ledges in a couple of stages and safely grabbed the leader. Finally I had a keeper size Jewfish – just on 72cm. I put it in a keeper pool and cast out again.  The fish were suddenly on the bite, I caught another decent bream and then was on to a similair sized jewfish but once more I was unable to get it up the rocks.

By about 6.30 am I had swapped to a GULP 5 inch Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken colour. After a few casts I connected with another jewfish. I managed to land this one but it was just under 70cm, so I sent it on its way.

 

By about 7.30 am the wind had picked up again and the tide was washing over the ledges so I had to give up. I cleaned up my jewfish and walked back to the car.

Afternoon

The wind was forecast to drop off and then turn south-easterly in the afternoon. After a great morning I decided I had to go back to Woody Head and fish through dusk. I arrived at about 3.30pm and walked out to ‘the Barnacles’ area. The tide was running out to an afternoon low at about 5.30 pm. The moon was a waxing crescent – 11% full.

I used my heavy rod with 30lb fluorocarbon leader. This area is tough to fish as you are casting over lots of shallow reef to reach a drop off. A surface lure is a therefore a good option. I tied on a River to Sea 110m Dumbbell Pop surface popper and hurled it out. I wore myself out for twenty minutes casting this in all directions but I could not stir anything up. I swapped over to a ¼ ounce, 1/0 jighead and GULP 5 “ Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken colour.  On the first cast I caught another good (35 cm+) bream and then I lost the jighead to the rocks.

I re-rigged and cast out again. There were a few fish knocking and bumping the plastic just as it reached the ledge, but I could not seem to hook them. Just before 4.00 pm something grabbed the plastic just as I finished my retrieve. It tried to dart under the rocks but it was not a big fish and the heavier rod and tightened drag soon pulled it clear. It was an amazing coloured wrasse of some sort – a really pretty fish. After a few pictures I released it.

I caught a couple more bream on smaller soft plastics but the south easterly started to blow hard at about 4.30 pm, so I gave up for the day.

Wrasse

Soft plastics will catch anything

Iluka – the Clarence River and Iluka Bluff – 24 November 2014

I woke up to a rising 25 knot north-easterly wind. So I could not fish the rocky headlands. I would have to find some shelter from the wind. I decided to go back to where I had been fishing the night before.

So just after first light, I walked along the top of the rock wall, to the south of the boat ramp. I started with my light spin rod and a GULP 3 “ Minnow soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I caught a tiny bream after a couple of casts and then saw a school of fish come through the gap in the rocks. They splashing and gulping on the surface and I realized they were small tailor. I suddenly understood the term ‘choppers’ as this is exactly what they were doing to the surface of the water. I cast into them and got a bite but no hook up. When I retrieved my lure its tails was missing.

Clarence River tailor The gap in the rockwalls Clarence River

As I re-rigged a trailer boat came through the gap. The owner of the boat left his two-stroke running while he jigged for bait in the gap a few times. He did not get anything and after a few more goes he revved up and took off. Not surprisingly the fishing went quite for about 20 minutes. Then the choppers were back.

This time I cast my soft plastic 3” minnow right into the middle of the school and let it sink. It was whacked about three times as it floated towards the bottom. I jerked the rod tip up and connected with a fish. It was a small (30cm) ‘chopper’ tailor and it was soon jumping around in the mud at my feet.

Another boat came through and repeated the process that the first one had, with similair results. I had not realized this gap in the rocks was such a heavily used thoroughfare. The water must be consistently deep as a couple more boats soon came hurtling through. I decided it was getting a bit too noisy for the fish to hang around so I went back to find a coffee in town.

The wind kept howling all day. At about 3.30 pm I decided to see if the sheltered side of Iluka Bluff was worth fishing. A couple of other keen fisho’s were also braving the wind. They already had a couple of good-sized (45cm+) tailor from the foamy water. I big popper in the Qantas (red and white) colour had been the most successful. I did not have a popper with me so I tried a DUO Jerkbait 120 SP sub surface shallow diving hard bodied minnow. After few casts I lost this to the rocks. I tried a few plastics but the wind just blew them away. After 30 minutes of battling I finally decided that the day was not suitable for fishing and headed for the pub.

Iluka – Middle Bluff and the Clarence River – 23 November 2014

Sunday

With another year almost over I was determined to get in a few more days of fishing down at Iluka. The weather looked good so on Saturday, I drove down from Brisbane in the afternoon. I rented a unit in the Riverview Apartments – which look straight out on to the Clarence River. I love to camp at Woody Head, but the weather looked a bit tricky so I chickened out. I arrived in time for a beautiful sunset. I sorted out my rock fishing gear, checked the weather forecast for the morning and went to bed early, with the alarm set for 3.30 am, NSW time.

On Sunday morning I got up in the dark had a cup of tea. Then I drove round to Frazers Reef beach car park. I walked down the path and onto the beach. There was not much moon in the sky – it had been ‘new’ on Saturday. There were a few clouds along the horizon and there was a light north-easterly wind blowing. A couple of kangaroos were close to the water but they decided to bounce back to the undergrowth, when they saw me walking along the beach.

I walked north, past Frasers Reef to Middle Bluff. This rocky platform sits about half way between Iluka Bluff and Woody Head. My favorite spot to fish is at the north end. Before I start, I will offer my words of warning. The wind and swell are very unpredictable here, so always take care. I now wear a pfd and felt-soled rock fishing boots. The wave sets and swell heights vary dramatically between high and low tide, so tread carefully and watch what’s coming all the time.

This morning the swell was fairly tame but every 15 minutes a big set would come through and slap against the rocks. The tide had been low at about 3.30 am and it was now running in. I rigged up the heavier of my two rock fishing outfits – the Daiwa Demon Blood 962H rod matched with a Shimano Stradic FJ 8000 reel.

Now a whinge for Shimano – I have had a lot of trouble with the drag clicker arrangement on your reels. On the previous Stradics – the problem was the part kept breaking. This has now been changed to a more robust part. But it keeps going silent on me.  Aside form the springs and clips that keep failing or popping out, I think the basic problem is the clicker is metal and the wheel it clicks against, is plastic. I know I use my reels a lot and I treat them mean, but I think this sort of basic design fault should not keep appearing.  To add to my disappointment in Shimano it took three months for you to find a new bearing for my Stella, last year. I could have flown to Japan (Kuala Lumpur, Shenzhen) myself and machined one. The folks at Jones Tackle have done a great job of repairing the reels and covering for you, but overall the product is not robust enough for Australian conditions. I have decided my next reel of this size will have to be another brand.

Back to Middle Bluff – I started by casting big shallow diving hard bodies without much luck. You can catch just about anything off these rocks. Tailor are around all year, as are jewfish, dart, trevally and some monster bream.  I have seen a 25 kg Spanish mackerel caught off here, on a 40 cm live tailor. It’s a very fishy place.

However, this morning it was proving tough. I swapped from the hard bodies to big soft plastics – a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. To counter the swell I initially rigged it on a ¼ ounce jighead and later dropped down to a 1/6th ounce jighead. I moved up and down the rocks without much luck. I was fishing with 30lb fluorocarbon leader. The water was murky because of the big tides of the last few days.

I fished through the dawn with hardly a bite. I swapped rods to my lighter rock fishing rig – the N.S Black Hole Cabin II – S-862 L Spin Rod. It is 2.59m long (8’6”) and rated 8-14 lb. I dropped the leader down to 20lb fluorocarbon. I put on a smaller GULP 3” Minnow, also in the Lime Tiger colour. The smaller soft plastic immediately attracted attention, with a couple of grabs and even a solid bite, but I did not hook anything. After another 20 minutes of casting I connected with a fast fish, I soon subdued it and pulled it clear of the water. It was a dart.

I moved a little further south. I cast down into some foamy water and let the plastic sink to the bottom. I paused for about 20 seconds and as I lifted it – bang – something grabbed it and took off. It went hard and fast and I struggled to slow it down. I tightened the drag a little and it paused, then took off again. I just kept pumping and winding, whenever I could and eventually it started back towards the base of the rocks. I suddenly realized I was a long way away from anywhere I could safely land this fish. I was standing about four or five metres above the water on the rocks and there was no way the 20lb leader would pull this fish up. I saw a flash of blue/silver as it headed in to try and bury itself. Kingfish/ Tailor/ Salmon – I am not sure, but it was a good size. I started to walk it towards the south, where I might be able to land it. I got about 20 metres along the rocks and after a big surge, the line went slack. I pulled up the mashed plastic. The hook must have just fallen out.

Now I had found some fish I decided to go back to the bigger soft plastic and tied on a 5” Lime Tiger jerkshad. I fished this around the rocks hoping to find the fish that got away. It was only about 7.00 a.m. but it felt like I had been fishing all day. The sun was high in the sky and it was very hot. At about 7.15 am a fish grabbed the lure close in to the rocks. After a brief site it pretty much gave up. It was a small jewfish about 45cm long. After a few pictures I threw it back. At about 8.00 am I set off back to the car, stopping for a morning swim on the way.

The wind picked up during the day and the sky clouded over. I decided to try fishing the rock walls just to the south of the boat ramp, in town. I started at about 4.00 pm. It was almost low tide. I dropped down to my light spin rod with a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I was expecting a few bream to be swimming around this area, so I started fishing with a GULP 3” Minnow in the Smelt colour. I had it rigged on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I cast parallel with the base of the rock wall and soon found a few bream. I moved to cast at a gap in the wall and swapped to a GULP 3” Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour. I felt a few bites, so I left the plastic to sit in the bottom for a while. This did the trick and when I lifted the rod tip there was a fish on it. It was heavier than a bream and after a while I saw a longer flash of silver – it was a school jewfish, about 40 cm long. On the way back along the rock wall, I caught a small flathead.

With good weather and a few fish, it had been a good start to the week.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 18 November 2014

Tuesday

Back home to Brisbane for some work. I have done a fair bit of fishing recently but once again paid work has interfered with writing up my sessions, so these reports are far from fresh.

On Tuesday I had a window to fish in the morning, so I grabbed it. The tide would be running out to low at Bribie and it would be low just after noon.

It had rained overnight and there had been a big downpour a few days earlier. I could not get away for dawn, but I arrived and pulled on my waders at about 8.00 am. That is about four hours after first light, at this time of year. It was not a big tide. It was very humid and overcast and the wind was from the north east.

I started just south of the old oyster jetty on the mainland side of the Pumicestone Passage, close to the mangroves roots, in the shallows. I was fishing with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour – the perfect small mullet/pilchard imitation. I was using my light spin rod and a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and 10lb fluorocarbon leader. At about 8.30am I caught a small (about 40 cm flathead). I took a picture and released it. It was sitting only a few feet away from the shore in about 35 cm of water. This is typical flathead behavior. They move up to the mangrove roots on the overnight high tide and just stay put until there is almost no water over the top of them.

I moved further south, following the run out tide as it gradually revealed the sand banks and weed beds. I had enjoyed fishing with the small surface poppers at 1770, so I decided to try one on the flats. I cast the small Rebel as far as I could in front of me and retrieved it slowly with quite a few long pauses. It took a while but as I took up the slack after a pause a fish smashed the popper and took off. It some tired and I could see it was a bream – about 30 cm long. I released and peppered the area with more casts. A few casts later, I caught another much smaller bream.

I carried on towards the green channel marker and swapped back to the soft plastic minnow. I found three more flathead, two of which would have been keepers. It was now just before noon and the run out tide had slowed. I turned and walked north, back towards the car. I caught one smaller flathead on the way and by 12.15 pm, I was back at the bridge.

It had taken a while and there were some long gaps between them, but I had found a few fish. The Christmas holiday fishing should be pretty good.

1770 – Wreck Rock and Deepwater Creek – 8 November 2011

Saturday

It was my last day in 1770 for a while. I decided to fish the afternoon low tide at Wreck Rock. It was full moon so the water would get quite shallow around the rocks. There was a fairly light north easterly wind and not much swell.

I arrived at about 3.00 pm and rigged up with a 16lb fluorocarbon leader and 3 “ GULP Minnow on a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 hook jighead. This produced a small dart on the first cast and almost a fish a cast thereafter, for the next 30 minutes. I gradually moved along the rocks and it was usually the first cast, in a new location that produced the bigger dart. I soon had a few worth keeping.

By about 3.30 pm I had almost arrived at the end of the rocks. I had now swapped to a Zman 4” Jerkshad in the Shiner colour. A cast it out, about 5 metres directly in front of the rocks and the lure fluttered towards the bottom. I set the hook on another dart. Dart fight hard and love to turn sideways like trevally, but this one was positively hyperactive. I pulled it clear of the water and then released it. The next cast produced another dart, a little smaller but equally frantic. Then I saw why the fish were so spooked. I long, slow moving grey shape swam along the base of the rocks. It looked about 1.5 metres long and had clear black markings on its fin – so I presume it was a black tipped reef shark. This probably explains numerous bite offs I have had around these rocks.

The dart kept coming but as the tide turned in I caught a few small trevally – including  a strange looking bumpnose trevally. As the tide started to run in at about 5.00 pm,  I decided to swap locations.

I drove down to Deepwater Creek to fish through dusk. I thought the big tide and full moon might create some good conditions. I arrived about 5.30 pm and fished through the dusk with poppers and small soft plastics on a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I tried both the freshwater and saltwater sections. I was surprised to get a catfish from the salt water side. It grabbed a GULP Swimmow soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour, presented on a 1/16th, size 1 jighead. Meanwhile as the sun dropped below the horizon something swiped at the popper on the freshwater side. On the saltwater side, in the pitch dark, I could hear plenty of surface slurps and bust ups. The moon was not up yet and as I dragged the popper slowly across the surface, it was getting bumped and nudged all the way through the retrieve. Finally I hooked something and it pulled quite hard. I turned the headlamp on to reveal a small mullet. There was a big school of them cruising round.

I gave up for the night and marked this spot down for a future visit. Once again, I would like to recommend Gavin and Kim of 1770 Beach Accommodation. I stayed at Loka Santi which are very smart apartments, but they have accommodation to rent at every budget level and can offer some really great rates – visit their website for more information  www.1770beachaccommodation.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

1770 Getaway Beach, Flat Rock & Wreck Rock – 6/7 November 2014

Thursday/ Friday

The weather stayed good at 1770 on Thursday and Friday. The winds were light northerlies and the sea flattened out. Unfortunately the low tide was in the middle of the day which meant the fishing timetable was not ideal. Low tide just after dawn and dusk would be my favourite, but you cannot have everything you desire.

I fished at Flat Rock and Wreck Rock on the dawn high tides without much luck. As the tide ran out towards lunch time, I found more and more fish. But they were generally small dart, stripey and moses perch and the odd whiting. During these middle of the day low tides I had to drop down to a 1/8thounce, size 2 hook jighead, 8lb fluorocarbon leader and GULP 3” Minnow soft plastics to entice the fish into action. Typically each session would produce a couple of good size dart and I kept a few for dinner.

Dart is really about the only fish I enjoy eating raw. It needs to be bled soon after capture, filleted and refrigerated and then left for about 12 hours.Then comes the tricky bit – take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature, before you eat it. The flesh is firm and perfect with a little chilli soy or fish sauce and lime.

Incidentally, the more I catch fish the less I eat it in restaurants. When you know the texture, feel and taste of really fresh fish, it is very hard to eat something that has been sitting around, even a few days. I encourage everybody to catch some bream, whiting or flathead during the holidays, fillet them and eat them. Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle to take the fish home and clean it up, and sometimes it hardly seems worth it – but you will definitely taste the difference. It is also often the smaller fish like dart and whiting, that taste the sweetest.

In desperation I even tried a tiny popper at Flat Rock – hoping to tempt some larger whiting. Instead, this just caught another small dart. A constant stream of small fish still made the fishing fun and as usual the scenery and sunrises were spectacular.