Hat Head – Korogoro Creek – 28 September 2015

Monday

On Monday I did not have time for the walk out to the headland so I decided to see what the monster, full moon morning high tide would push up Korogoro Creek. On the low tide the day before the water had looked like gravy, as the tannin stained water drained off the surrounding swamps. As I walked along the edge of the creek the contrast was stunning. I was about an hour off high tide but the water was crystal clear and the current was pushing up the creek.

I had my waders on. The sun had come out but the water was still pretty fresh. I was fishing with my current light estuary fishing rig – a very light NS Blackhole trout rod. I was using 10lb fluorocarbon leader, a 1/8th of an ounce, size 1/0 jighead and I stared with a GULP 2” Shrimp soft plastic in the Banana Prawn colour. It was very early but people were popping up all along to bank to fish or launch kayaks or stand up paddle boards or even have a swim.

I walked and waded along the northern bank, stopping at each gap in the vegetation to throw a few casts. I could see schools of small bream and Blackfish cruising the now submerged tree roots and some big whiting out nearer the centre of the main channel. Even on a big tide the creek is rarely more than 1.5m deep. I moved slowly northwards and stopped at a small bay about 100 m east of the road bridge. The water was so clear I could see the bream inspecting the shrimp soft plastic, each time it hit the water. But I could not entice them to strike. A whiting followed the lure all the way to my feet, but also would not bite.

I swapped soft plastic to the GULP 3’ Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour and started to pepper the far bank with casts. The tide was slowing but the water was still crystal clear. After a few casts I felt the solid thud of a flathead bite. I dropped the rod tip and paused for about 8 seconds then struck. The fish was hooked. I reeled it in and took a few snaps before releasing it. It was a flathead about 40cm long.

It was only 7.00 am but the creek was getting busy with the kayaks, canoes, swimmers, and other fishermen. I decided to retire for breakfast. The creek would definitely fish well on the big tides when there is a little less traffic around.

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Hat Head – More Tailor – 27 September 2015

Sunday

The rain came back for a little while on Sunday morning, so I stayed in bed. The rest of the day was clear but the strong southerly winds were pretty consistent. As I walked along the beach, I had seen birds working on schools of bait a long way out. The commercial netters were also parked on the beach, so the fish were still around.

I headed for the same location as the day before – the spinning ledge. I arrived about 4.00pm. The moon was full, huge and clearly visible. The skies were clear but the strong southerly wind was still blowing and there was a very big swell. I ran in to Hat Head local, Tim. He and a couple of relatives had been there most of the afternoon, catching 30 to 45 cm tailor on 40 to 60g metal slugs. He gave me quick update on what was being caught. No one had been boat fishing due to the bad weather but it had certainly stirred up the tailor, who were cruising around all the local rock platforms feeding on tiny whitebait.

When I know the fish are around I like to experiment to see what works and what does not. My first choice was a large River to Sea Popper in the Qantas (red & white) colour. I had swapped up to my heavier Daiwa Demonblood rod and Shimano Stradic 6000 combo to throw this lure around. The others were still pulling in tailor on the metal slugs but the fish would not hit the popper. Next, I tried the big GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad that had worked the day before. This enticed a few hits and eventually lost its tail, but I could not get a hook up with it. I then swapped to a large 65g HALCO Twisty in the bronze/ gold colour. I slung this out and started pulling it back towards me at a fairly quick pace. I felt it getting knocked around and then there was a brief tightening of the line and it went slack. I had a look at the leader and it was a clean bite off.

I re-rigged with 40lb fluorocarbon leader and my last 65g HALCO Twisty lure. About three casts later a fish walloped the lure, a fair way out. It stayed connected and turned out to be a 35 cm tailor. The birds were circling now but they were finding it hard to hold their positions in the strong southerly wind. We could see big bait balls almost breaking the surface very close to the shore. The sun was just dropping below the horizon and the tailor kept smashing in to the bait. Unfortunately, I chose this moment to snag the Twisty on the rocks and had to re-rig.

I tied on one of my favourites. The DUO Realis Jerkbait 120 SP hard bodied minnow. This is a beautifully designed bibbed minnow lure with a loud rattle. I tend to swap the trebles for a set of single hook on these. I am not sure that it makes a hook up more / less likely but it means I lose less to the rocks. The great advantage with the DUO range is their casting distances. With smooth knots you can cast these aerodynamically designed minnow shapes almost as far as a metal slug.

On my first cast I was attached to a fish in seconds and they kept coming. I caught about 4 in the next 20 minutes. Now we were all catching fish again, as the latest school of tailor passed the headland. All the fish were between about 30 and 45 cm long with the exception of one very fat looking fish (60 cm +)  that wriggled off Matt uncles’ bent treble hook, at the base of the rocks.

It was great fun and we carried on until things seemed to slow down a little after dusk. The full moon was so bright that it lit the walk back but by the end, I needed my headlamp to make sure I did not blunder off the path. Another great session of rock fishing at Hat Head.

Hat Head – Tailor, Tailor, Tailor – 26 September 2015

Saturday

The September school holiday is a great time to go south from Brisbane. The weather can be unpredictable but the water is usually still cool and the winter species; kingfish, tailor, bream, jewfish, snapper – are all possible from the shore.

The coast of northern New South Wales has great fishing spots. They are liberally spaced all the way down to Newcastle and beyond. Fingal Head, Woody Head, Brooms Head, Crescent Head and our destination – Hat Head are all fantastic rock fishing locations.

The tricky thing with September is often the weather. The winter wind pattern of southerly blows is gradually giving way to the more consistent summer northerlies, which warm up the seas. These two patterns clash and this can bring storms, big seas and rain.

We were fortunate. We drove down from Brisbane in the rain and wind. By the time we reached the house we had rented, the rain had stopped. It soon started again, through Friday night but by Saturday, the sun was out. There had been a big southerly blow raging all week with lots of rain.

By dusk, I could wait no longer. I pulled on my fishing boots and set off to for the Spinning Ledge at the far eastern point of the Hat Head promontory. It takes me about 30 to 40 mins to walk from the township out to the ledge. The path is quite challenging and slippery in parts, so shoes with good grip are essential. Waterfalls lined the route as the recent heavy rain drained off the hill. There were plenty of frogs singing at each small water crossing. A large echidna wobbled along the path in front of me at one point before rolling into a ball in a not particularly cunning attempt to disguise itself.

I arrived at the end of the end of the headland at about 5.00 pm. There were a couple of fisherman already on the ledge. The birds were circling just offshore, to the north east and one of the fisherman was pulling in a 40cm tailor on a metal slug.

I only had about 30 minutes until sunset so I had to get on with it. The swell was up and there was still a strong southerly wind blowing. I was trying a new longer, slightly lighter rock fishing rod. It is the Daiwa Air Edge Surf. 96L (supplied on the recommendation of Steve at Jones Tackle). Which I matched with my Shimano Sustain 4000 reel, 15 lb breaking strain Aldi braid and 30lb fluorocarbon  leader.

This is what Daiwa have to say about it:

96L

Finesse and shore based spinning don’t generally mix but with the 96L is the perfect mixture of weight, action and taper to make the perfect light game spin and estuary baitfishing rod. Ideally suited for fishing small metals, bibbed minnows, poppers, sliders and plastics. Best suited to a 2500 – 3000 sized spinning reel.

I agree with most of that – but I will need to give it a good workout before I am prepared to agree that it’s “perfect”.

I could see the slugs where working but I decided to start with a soft plastic lure. I tied on ¼ ounce #1/0 hook jighead and loaded a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the curry chicken colour. I tried to use the rocks behind me as a bit of shelter from the very strong southerly but from my first cast, I could see that getting the jighead to sink would be difficult.

I cast out at low level and manage to land the soft plastic about 12 metres from the shore. I let it sink and started to hop it back towards me. As soon as it moved off the bottom, the fish were all over it. I could feel it being pulled in all directions before a solid fish finally took possession. I played the fish for a while keeping the line tight and safely pulled it over the oyster covered section at the base of the rocks. Then I grabbed the leader and slowly pulled it to my feet. It was a solid 43 cm tailor.

The soft plastic was destroyed so I swapped to a GULP 4” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. Two or three casts later I managed to get it back into about the same spot and the same thing happened. This was a slightly bigger one, just short of 50 cm. I decided to dispatch it and keep it for dinner. The fish kept coming and I caught three more over the next 20 minutes. However they were all between about 30 and 40 cm.

By now the sun had dropped below the horizon and to avoid walking back along the track in complete darkness, I decided to pack up. I am sure the bite would have continued but fishing lures in the dark is pretty hard. By the time I reached the path higher up the hill, the southerly wind must have been blowing well above 30 knots.

It was a great first session.

Bribie Island – Bongaree – 22 September 2015

Tuesday

Its school holidays and it already feels like a chore reminding my teenagers that fresh air and limb movement are essential elements of a healthy lifestyle. So kicking and screaming, I confiscated their phones and forced them into the car on Tuesday morning, to drive them up to Bribie Island. Obviously, a pre-dawn start was out of the question and we rolled into Bongaree, at the southern tip of the island, just after 8.00 am.

I have not fished here for quite a while. The shifting sands are the only constant feature. The new stepped sea wall on either side of the Seaside Museum creek drain is the latest feature. This has already had quite an effect. The coffee rock ledge that runs along the whole edge of the Pumicestone Passage has been covered in sand in some parts and stripped down to rock in others.

My children wandered off to Scoopy’s to find lattes and a nutritious breakfast that probably comprised mainly of hot chips – well at least I had succeeded in getting them to leave the house! I wandered south towards Buckley’s Hole. The sky was clear the breeze was light and low tide would be at 9.07am . I wandered passed a couple who had a few baits out and were in the process of reeling in a small bream.

I waded out slowly and quietly towards the edge of the coffee rock ledge. I was casting a small soft plastic GULP 3” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I was fishing with my light spin rod and reel combination and there were plenty of small schools of similair sized bait fish, hovering over the edge of the ledge.

The first taker was a small pike. It slammed the soft plastic, just as I pulled it over the ledge. It was followed by another, on the next cast. A few casts, later I caught another. Pike are often look very striped when they are caught and displaying their distress colours.  I moved a little further south and, about 10 minutes later, I found another patch of pike. I tried a few different soft plastics but I could not find any fish other than the pike.

The tide had slowed, turned and started to run in. The beach had started to fill with families, kayaks, inflatables and fisherman and of all ages. It was now about 10.30 am. I waded back towards the Seaside Museum. I was back fishing with the 3” Minnow soft plastic. I saw a two large amber speckled shapes moving slowly just beneath the surface, parallel with the ledge. I cast my soft plastic just in front of them and one diverted to miss it. I quickly wound in and cast again. This time I retrieved the plastic quickly across the surface and jagged the creature. It was a squid and I had sunk the jig head in to one of its wings. I slowly wound it in, keeping up the pressure but being careful not to pull the hook out. As it got close to shore it started pumping out black ink in big bursts. I carefully picked it up and let it empty its ink.

I fished on for a while but could not find anymore and by 11.00 am my children were threatening to report me to social services for child abuse, if I did not get them back to their mobile phones. I was happy – mission ‘fresh air’ had been accomplished and we would be having calamari for dinner.