Iluka – Iluka Bluff – Snapper – 13 March 2016

Sunday

I had managed to bunk off for a few days to fish the rocky headlands of the Bundjalung National Park at Iluka in Northern New South Wales. I drove down through several big rain showers on Sunday morning.

As usual in this spot, the weather would not be ideal. There would be a pretty steady 1.6m swell all week. This would make fishing the exposed headlands difficult. It really needs to be lower than that to be comfortable and safe. The forecast showers would also make sure it was a wet week. The only advantage of the rain was that it might dampen down the wind.

I arrived at Iluka at about lunch time. I unpacked and drove out to Iluka Bluff at about 3.00 pm. The skies were full of grey clouds and the rain was falling intermittently. I had a look at the conditions and assessed that I could safely fish off the front of the bluff. We were about mid-way through the moon phase so it would not have much influence. Low tide would be at 7.34 pm, so the tide was half way out.

I started fishing with my heavy rig –  Shimano Stradic FJ 8000 reel, 9’6” Daiwa Demonblood rod, 20lb braid, 30lb fluorocarbon leader, 3/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the red and yellow, Curry Chicken colour. I cast this around for about 30 minutes but the wind was onshore and I could not get the soft plastic comfortably beyond the rock ledge. I lost a few rigs to the rocks and decided to change strategy.

I tied on a River2Sea 110mm Dumbell Popper in DP-06 pink and silver colour. This one weighs 26.6 grams but the dumbbell shape means it casts much further than a typical popper of this size. On about my third cast there was a big swirl behind the popper and a flash of silver. A few casts later a fish slammed the popper on the edge of the rock ledge. It took off to the south. I went with it for a minute or two but then the line caught in the cunjevoi covered rocks and leader and lure separated.

Back to the tackle bag – this time I pulled out an 80mm Halco Roosta Popper in the white redhead colour, I cast for about another twenty minutes when suddenly I suddenly saw another swirl, just behind the lure. On the next cast I slowed things down and increased the pauses. This did the trick and a fish grabbed the popper just as it came over the ledge. Once more it put its head down and set off to the south. I had the drag quite a bit tighter this time but I could not slow it. It followed the trajectory of its predecessor and I lost another popper.

I did not have any more poppers so I swapped to my lighter surf rig – the Daiwa Air Edge Surf 96L with a Shimano Sustain 4000 reel. I was using 8lb braid and 20lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a ¼ ounce, 1/0 hook jighead and loaded a GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. The lighter rod, line and leader meant that I could cast the soft plastic much further and let it waft around past the submerged rock ledge, in the strike zone.

At about 5.00 pm something grabbed the soft plastic. After a short fight I lifted a 33cm Snapper clear of the water. Fortunately the size limit for Snapper in NSW is 30 cm so I had something for supper. The heavens opened, so I quickly cleaned the fish and headed home. An exciting start to the week.

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Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 7 March 2016

Monday

The wind and wild weather persists. A look back at my fishing reports suggest that the run up to the full and new moons around February, March, April have produced the most consistent catches of flathead. The latter half of the run out tide also appears to be a good time to get at them.

So on Monday I ignored the wind and grey skies and drove up to Bribie at about 10.30 am, to fish the run out tide on the flats in front of the jetty and the Sandstone Point  Hotel. Low tide would be at 2.38 pm. The wind was about a 15 to 20 knot east-south-easterly by the time I arrived.

As regular readers know, I love my GULP soft plastics (and just for the record I don’t think I have ever received a free packet from anyone – so this is definitely not sponsor induced waffle). We all tend to use bait and tackle that we are confident with. If something works for us we go back to it – whether it’s a fishing spot/ area or favourite lure type. When I first caught a few flathead on a GULP Minnow Grub in the Pumpkinseed colour, I soon convinced myself that this was the only colour and shape that would catch fish. It caught plenty of fish for me but fortunately I was brave / frustrated enough at some point, to experiment with some alternative shapes and colours and even try hard bodied lures.

So this morning I resolved to stick with the ZMAN soft plastics that I carry around but rarely seem to use. My principal problem with them is additional buoyancy in the material they are made of and the lack of scent. I am convinced by the amount of strikes I get when I introduce a GULP soft plastic that is just out of the packet, that the scent is the thing that makes a difference.  Having said that they have a range of shapes in their paddle tail varieties that put GULP to shame. I started with a ZMAN Minnowz in the Redbone colour on a 1/8th 1/0 Headlockz jighead. These jigheads are specially designed to hold the ZMAN soft plastics in place and perhaps also counter the additional buoyancy, they are based on Mustad hooks.

I fished around the bridge and felt a few nudges and bumps from either the resident Moses Perch or perhaps some Pike. After a thorough peppering of the area I moved south, under the jetty and fished along the edge of the weed beds all the way along to the farthest green channel marker. About halfway I swapped colours to the same shape ZMAN in the Rootbeer Gold colour. Unfortunately this made no difference.

I had been fishing for an hour without a bite and I no longer believed the ZMAN soft plastics were going to catch a fish. Confidence is so important when fishing and I just don’t have it when it comes to these plastics. I reached into the tackle bag for a GULP Jerkshad in the BBQ Chicken colour and swapped over. I started back over the ground I had covered and after another 10 minutes, I caught the first fish of the day – a 45cm flathead, close to the edge of the weed.

I carried on moving slowly back towards the jetty, fishing with the same Jerkshad soft plastic. It was now almost 1.00 pm and I caught another flathead, about the same size. Twenty minutes later I caught another much smaller flathead.

There was huge (no doubt multi-million dollar)  fisheries patrol vessel moored in front of the bridge. I think I would rather see our taxes spent on hospitals and schools and just have boats checked in their way in/ out. Especially since the numbers of boats seized, fines issued or commercial licenses cancelled is miniscule. Since we send so much of our good seafood overseas it seems crazy to spend all this money just to race around persecuting recreational anglers.

By now I was casting around just south of the jetty. The jighead stuck fast in to something. It felt like a stick or lump of coral but it was moving. I slowly brought it to the surface with a tightened drag. I was a welcome surprise – a big mud crab with the jighead stuck nicely in one of its back legs. I checked it was male and big enough and I manoeuvred it into my keeper bag and gave up for the day.

Brisbane River – Boggy Creek – 29 February 2016

Monday

Wind, wind, wind – this is why you do not want to buy a boat. Throughout the end of February the wild weather continued. The forecast was for a 30 knot southerly on Monday. Still, every cloud has a silver lining – less boat traffic means more undisturbed fish and remember it’s never windy under the water.

But I could not face another day of being blown around at Bribie so I decided to fish closer to home. I have not fished the Brisbane River for a while, so to avoid the wind I drove out to spend a few hours fishing Boggy Creek, at Pinkenba. The big advantage with this spot is that it is only about 20 minutes from the Brisbane CBD. The hum of the BP refinery and the trucks roaring by makes it slightly less picturesque than Bribie, but there are still good fish to be caught here.

I started after first light, a bit before sun rise, at about 5.45 am. It was a few days after full moon and low tide would be at 7.22 am. I parked by the bridge across to the oil refinery and started by casting a GULP 3“Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I was fishing with 10lb fluorocarbon leader.

The tide was running out quickly and there was plenty of surface action at the base of the rocks, on the far side of the creek. A big school of herring was sitting just off the current and every now and then, something would race in to it and send it flying.

At about 6.15 am, the sun poked its head over the mangroves and things began to slow down under the bridge. I moved towards the mouth of the creek and tried a few different soft plastics. I saw a few schools of bait swim buy and had a couple of hits. I could see some small bream in the shallows and I was sure there must be a flathead around somewhere.

I changed up to the GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour and moved back up the creek, past the bridge. Low tide came and went and the water started to run in again. It was very murky and it was difficult to know where to cast. I saw a strange black shape wriggling along in the shallows and as it swam closer, I realised it was a tightly packed school of tiny yellow and black fish. I have no idea what they were. They were staying close to the shoreline, herding and then hoovering up tiny jelly prawns that were hovering in the shallows.

I carried on casting and finally at about 8.30 am I felt a nice solid bite. I could not see anything in the murky water but I knew from the thud it was a flathead. I pause and then lifted the rod tip. After a short fight I had a nice 50cm flathead on the bank.

I let it go and fished around for more but could not find any. I packed up at about 9.00 am and reminded myself to come back here a bit more often. Land based fishing just 20 minutes from the Brisbane CBD can be a lot of fun.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – big flathead – 27 February 2016

Saturday

By my standards I have hardly fished in February. The two main reasons for lack of a fish supper have been wild weather and work – both equally annoying. For the last weekend in February I had time to fish but ex-tropical cyclone Winston that had flattened Fiji was still hovering off the Queensland coast and threatening big winds and swell.

I woke at about 4.00 am hoping the forecast would be wrong and I was surprised to not hear too much rustling in the trees. I was awake now so I decided to give it a try. I drove up to Bribie, arriving on the mainland side of the bridge just before 5.00 am. Low tide would be at 5.46 am. The wind was already blowing at about 20 knots from the south. I waded out into the stirred up water, south of the bridge. Unfortunately I promptly fell over a submerged rock, dunked my rod and reel and chest bag and filled my waders with murky water. At least it was warm water.

I put the poor start behind me as I hooked a good flathead just on first light, under the bridge lights. It was 53cm long and it went in the bag for supper. I was fishing with the GULP Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour. After catching a very big flathead earlier in the month and given the wild and windy conditions, I had swapped to a 12lb fluorocarbon leader.

As the sun came up so did the wind. By about 6.00 am it was well over 25 knots. The mangrove island provides a partial wind break and fortunately I was casting with the wind. At the foot of the big drain that runs round the corner from Sandstone Point, I caught a 45cm flathead. I could hardly feel the soft plastic as the wind was blowing the line around so much. I am sure I missed a few fish. About half way out to the channel marker I caught another flathead, about 43cm long.

Now the wind was getting ridiculous. The water was very cloudy and covered in loose sea grass, so I turned for home. I swapped to the GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour and loaded it onto a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 jighead. I felt the slightly heavier jighead might hold the bottom better. The Lime Tiger swap stirred things up and I caught another good flathead – just over 60 cm long.

By now I was about 30 metres to the south of the old oyster jetty. I was casually casting as I waded back towards the car. The soft plastic struck hard and I thought it had lodged in the weed. I gave it a yank and it slowly moved about a metre towards me. Then line started peeling, slowly at first then much more quickly. I was on to a big fish. I checked my drag and let it take line. In three long runs it took over 30 metres of line. I wound against it each time but made no progress. Then it just stopped. I tightened the drag just a little and started to get line back. It now swam slowly back along the 30 metres, towards me. I kept up the line tension and slowly started walking backwards towards the big sandbank. As it reached about 30 cm of water it turned and made another long run. I turned its head and kept slowly winding and walking. Now it was tired and all I needed to do was steer it gently up on to the sand bank. It was a beautiful 86cm female flathead. I measured her and took a few photos. I then pushed here back in to the water and swam her through the water until her tail started waving and she took off unaided.

It was certainky worth braving the wild weather.

 

 

 

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 1 February 2016

Monday

The start of February usually marks the beginning of the real change in wind patterns on my home fishing patch – South East Queensland. The hot summer northerly winds are attacked by the cooler winter south-easterlies. The water temperature starts to drop very slightly and there is often some wild weather.

On Monday strong south-easterly winds were forecast to pick up from mid-morning. It was about a week after full moon and not a particularly big tide. I arrived at Bribie at about 5.15 am, to very grey skies that showed only the slightest evidence of first light. Low tide would be at 8.40 am, so sunrise at 5.20 am was about the perfect time to start fishing.

I waded out under the bridge and started casting with a GULP Jerkshad in the BBQ Chicken colour on a 1/8th ounce, 1/0 hook jighead. I like to concentrate on the area just south of the bridge when the lights are still on. There is a large piece of rocky reef which keeps boats away from this patch so it is usually undisturbed, overnight. This morning all I could catch was a piece of that reef, so I re-rigged with a GULP jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour and moved on.

I passed the jetty and moved along the big sand bar that runs south, towards the furthest channel marker, that you can walk to. There were rays everywhere – they like to sit in the shallow water as the run out tide washes dinner into their path. Just where this sand bar turns left the water becomes slightly deeper and the weed beds are a little thicker. I was now standing in less than 50cm of water. I was casting along the edge of the weed when I clearly saw a flathead launch itself at the soft plastic. It missed. I dropped the rod tip and paused as the stirred up sand washed past. When the water cleared the flathead was sitting about 10 cm behind the clearly visible lure. It did not seem to want to strike. I decided to make the first move. I hopped the lure off the bottom, it lunged forward and grabbed the plastic. I dropped the rod tip, to let it get the soft plastic well inside its mouth and then lifted it again and set the hook in its jaw. It was a respectable 50cm flathead.

I fished around this area and moved further down towards the channel marker but could not find anymore. I saw a big shovel nose shark swimming in the shallows and a few small schools of squid. At about 7.45 am I turned for home and slowly walked back towards the bridge, casting as I went.

I swapped to my old favourite soft plastic – the GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. Just to the south of the jetty something fast hit the lure and I hooked up. It was a small bream, about 28cm long. I released it.

By 8.45 am I had passed the under the jetty and was fishing around the base of the stranded pylons, just to its north. My lure struck something and stopped dead. I pulled hard assuming it was the base of the pylon or an old crab pot. Gradually the object started to move and then wriggle and then it took off in a slow but powerful run. I thought it might be a ray but it was moving a little too quickly. I let it take line. There was no way to muscle a fish like this in on my light spin rod. I was pretty sure I had last re-rigged with 10lb fluorocarbon leader, so I would just have to be patient. We went back and forth for a few minutes and then I started to walk slowly backward towards the shore. This area is littered with rocks and bordered by the jetty pylons to the south, so it was a nerve racking fight. Eventually a big flathead appeared from the stirred up bottom and surrendered. I pulled her into the shallows and took a few photos. I did not have my tape, but by lining her up next to the rod I could see she was well over 75cm. I took a few quick photos and then watched her swim away. A great finale to what could have been a pretty slow session.