Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 10 May 2016

Tuesday

A few days on home turf gave me another opportunity to visit the Bribie Pumicestone Passage flats in search of flathead. I am enjoying the later starts for fishing trips at this time of year. I woke at about 4.45 am and drove up to Bribie, from Brisbane.Low tide would be at 6.18 am, coinciding almost exactly with sunrise. It was 4 days after the new moon. The wind would be a very light south easterly. I pulled on my waders and waded out under the Bribie bridge at about 5.40 am.

As the seasons come and go and the predominant wind direction alters, the tidal flats change shape quite dramatically. For example, just to the north of the bridge on the mainland side a big sand bank is forming and the weed is growing very quickly. However just to the south of the bridge the rubble bottom is becoming more exposed and there is less weed. These changes are best viewed at absolute low tide and it is good to keep an eye on them.

I started fishing with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Curried Chicken colour, on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead, tied on with 12lb fluorocarbon leader. It was still dark but the sky was starting to turn a magnificent red colour. I was standing on the rubble bottom just to the south of the bridge. I was casting towards the bridge and hopping the lure back along the bottom towards me, in line with the tidal flow. I cast the soft plastic lure in the direction of a pylon and kept it moving quite quickly, to avoid getting snagged on the many rocks in this area. The tide was ebbing and the water flow was slowing as we got close to low.As is often the case in the predawn light, a flathead slammed the lure and almost jumped out of the water in its desire to swallow it. It was well hooked and I soon had my first fish of the day – it was just short of 50 cm long.

The sun came up and I moved south. The tide slowed and so did the fishing. I covered a lot of ground without a bite. I worked through a few soft plastics and tried a small hard bodied minnow for a while. I caught nothing for the next 90 minutes as the tide turned, and started to run in.

At about 8.30 am I was fishing with a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I was just to the south of the old oyster jetty. A flathead burst out of the water behind my lure as I lifted it out of the water, at the end of the retrieve. It missed. I moved back and let things settle down. About two minutes later I threw a short cast at the area and felt the bite. This time I hooked it. It safely pulled it ashore. This one later measured 46 cm.

I carried on back towards the bridge as the tide pushed in. I caught another flathead just north of the jetty, but it was under 40 cm long, so it went back. It was just after 9.00 am when I reached the bridge. I cast around just to the south of the bridge where I had caught the first fish of the day and was rewarded with another 45 cm flathead.

As I waded north under the bridge I put in a few casts and caught my final fish. It was a small flathead of some kind with frilly fins. I released it and gave up for the morning.

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Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 28 April, 2016

Thursday

I was back in Brisbane and it was time to get amongst the flathead. This has traditionally been a very productive time on the flats around Bribie Island. But this year I have fished far less in this area than usual. The weather has also been very warm and fairly dry, which may have affected the movement of the flathead.  In my last few sessions I had found fish, but not in the big groups that have been around in the last few years. I think this may change as the water cools down.

The moon was 67% full. The day would start with a light south-westerly wind, that would turn south-easterly later in the day. Low tide would be at 7.17 am and I was fishing with my light spinning rod and reel (Shimano Stella 2500 and NS Blackhole 6′ SGII 602L trout rod). This was loaded with the ALDI 8lb yellow braid and I had tied on a 12lb fluorocarbon leader.

I arrived, on the mainland side of the Pumicestone Passage at about 5.30 am and waded out on to the sandy/ muddy flats under the bridge. The horizon was beginning to glow and the water had a slight ripple on the surface from the cool breeze. The tide was running out quickly. I cast some big and small GULP soft plastics around the reefy area, just to the south of the bridge, without success.

As dawn approached I moved south and started fishing the area south of the old oyster jetty. I was now using the GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. It was 5.50 am. A fish grabbed the lure and scurried off. Then it felt like it was stuck. This is typical estuary cod behaviour. I loosened the drag and dropped the rod tip. After about 30 seconds the leader started moving and the fish swam out. I re-tightened the drag and soon had a 40 cm cod on the surface. I released it and moved on.

About thirty minutes later I was casting around the weed beds by the drain that comes off the Sandstone Point flats and I felt a solid bite. I dropped the rod tip, paused and hooked a 43cm flathead. It went in the bag for dinner. There did not appear to be much bait around.  I put on a bigger GULP soft plastic Jerkshad in the BBQ Chicken colour.  I connected and then dropped what I thought was a flathead, just after 7.00 am.

I continued to the south. The sun came up through the clouds and I moved along the edge of the weed beds. I felt another good bite but did not hook up and then things went quiet. The tide was slowing and the water was now fairly murky. I waded all the way down to the green channel marker without another bite.

At about 7.30am as the tide turned back in, I turned around and walked back towards the bridge. I was now fishing with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead.  My next catch was a blue swimmer/ sand crab that took a swipe at the soft plastic.

About half way back to the bridge I caught another, bigger flathead about 50cm, which I also kept. I kept moving and stuck with the same soft plastic. Frustratingly, I dropped two more flathead before hanging on to a third, just north of the bridge. At about 10.00 am I left the water with three keepers in the fishing bag.

It had felt like hard work but on reflection, there were plenty of fish around.

Perth -Fremantle – Australian Salmon – 20 April 2016

Wednesday/ Thursday

On a Wednesday morning in April, I found myself up early (as always) and in Perth. I was here for a week and although I would not get to Ningaloo Reef or the more glamorous WA fishing spots, I would have time for a few early morning sessions near Perth.

I checked the internet for land based fishing spots near Perth CBD and realised that North and South Mole (the big rockwalls at the entrance the Port of Freemantle) were my best option. Dawn is refreshingly late in Western Australia at this time of year and so I woke at about 5.30 am and drove out to Fremantle.

I had packed a light spin rod and reel – Berkley Dropshot 7”, 1-3 kg IM-6 Dropshot and my Shimano Sustain 4000 reel. The mainline was 8lb Aldi yellow braid and I started with a 12lb fluorocarbon leader. It was just before sunrise when I clambered over the rocks on the right side of North Mole Drive and I was amazed at how many cars and fisherman were already there. The water was flat, crystal clear and there was virtually no wind.

I rigged up a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and put on a GULP 4” minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour. Just before sunrise I caught a small bream. I could now see fishermen everywhere with a variety of rigs including slugs/ baits and both big and small rods. I asked a guy next to me, what was going on and he explained big schools of Australian salmon had been coming through, so everybody had come down to catch one. All around me fishermen were casting metal slugs, hard bodies, poppers and baits.

I swapped down to a GULP 3” Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour. Right on cue, on about my third cast I felt the bite, followed by the charge. A good sized Australian salmon soon came leaping out of the water, trying to spit the jighead out. It was well hooked but with a very light rod and 12lb leader, I was not in charge.

Things were made more complex by the fact that I was going to have to go with him. Which meant walking initially north, along the rock wall. There were lines to the right and left and interestingly no one seemed particularly interested in winding them in, to avoid a tangle. Somehow I only got tangled with one and we soon managed to undo the crossover. The fish was still leaping around but it was slowing. The small rod had no power but by gradually tightening the drag I managed to tire the fish.

No one had a net but the lack of swell meant I could get down safely to the base of the rocks, which I gradually did. I had been playing the fish for about 15 minutes when it started to come in much closer. I chose my spot and started to pull the fish in towards it. At the last minute it revived and put its head down in the weed around the rocks. That was all it needed to knock the lure out and it was gone.

Dejected but excited I then had to give up for the day and go and do some work. But the next morning I was back. This time with 20lb leader (the heaviest I had). I decided to fish the other side of the North Mole, at the entrance of the small harbour, facing the mouth of the river.

I arrived pre-dawn and cast around some big and small soft plastics and small metal slugs, without much success. I could see fisherman on the other side casting in to the main channel and catching a salmon, every now and then.

At about 7.00 am I was fishing with a GULP Jerkshad in the BBQ Chicken colour, on a ¼ ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I kept getting hits close to the base of the rocks. Eventually something connected with the plastic and took off. It felt quite powerful but was faster than a salmon. As it came in to view I could see it was a junior samson fish (I presume this is, or is from the Amberjack family). It pulled very hard and took a little while to subdue. I photographed and released it. A little while later, Tom, a keen local angler caught a good salmon on a hard bodied minnow, right next to me. Fortunately another angler had a landing net that enabled me to help him get it safely up the rocks.

I swapped to one of my favourite small hard bodied lures – the DUO Realis Vib 62. This is a bass lure made in Japan, but fortunately fish have an open mind when it comes to trying foreign dishes. It is a sinking vibe and casts a long way. I started casting it out, into the main channel. It did not take long to get some interest. I felt a few knocks and then watched a big salmon follow it all the way to the base of the rocks before whacking it.

Today I was better prepared. Although the rod could not really put much pressure on the fish, the stronger leader meant I could pull a bit harder. It jumped around, as salmon do, but a treble was quite firmly lodged in its cheek. I was also lucky to have Tom’s assistance with the net. We soon landed the fish.

By now the rock walls were packed, but it was time for me to go to work again. I packed up and gave the fish to the guy who provided the net. Nice to catch a fish in Western Australia – I hope I will be back.

Iluka – Shark Bay – Jewfish – 19 March 2016

Saturday would be my last morning in Iluka for a while. Despite praying for calmer weather the wind was forecast to pick up. I had a lie in as low tide would not be until 2.30 pm. I arrived at Shark Bay at about 10.30 am.

All week I had been expecting the stirred up seas to reveal a few Jewfish/ Mulloway. There was lots of bait around and previous trips, at this time of year have nearly always produced a few. The big seas had made it difficult to reach my favourite spots – perhaps the fish were there but I just could not get to them.

With this in mind I decided to start on the southern side of the Shark Bay rock platform. I would be casting straight in to the south-easterly wind so I needed to fish with something fairly heavy. There are lots of rocks on this side of the platform so I was not confident I would keep my lure.

I have a couple of Rapala 13g, 6cm Clackin Raps, lipless vibe lures which have been rattling around the bottom of the tackle bag for ages. I have never caught anything on these lures so I was not too worried about losing them. I rigged up the lighter of my rock fishing rods (the Daiwa Air Edge) and tied the lure on to my Aldi braid and 20lb fluorocarbon carbon leader. I cast the lure into the surf and waited for it to sink. The sea was very lively and I could only just feel the juddering vibrations as I yanked the lure along. After about three casts the lure pulled tight on something and I thought I had hit some kelp. I pulled the rod tip up and then line started peeling. I knew it was a Jewfish straight away. It made three long powerful steady runs and then started swimming back towards me. The game of cat and mouse continued for about 10 minutes. The rod was not powerful enough to force the issue, so I just had to be patient. After a couple more minutes the fish popped over on its side, a few meters from the shore. It looked as if it was beaten, so I tightened the drag a little and tried to pull it over the rocks with the next surge. Either the wave or sense of impending doom caused it to suddenly wake up and it put its head back down and tried to bury itself. The leader slipped down between the cunjevoi and I could not free it. I could see the fish and lure hanging on by just the single big hook on the front treble, a few metres in front of me, but could not get to it. Another big wave came over and when it receded the fish was gone and the lure was lodge firmly in the cunjevoi. They always getting bigger in your memory but I think it was about a 6kg fish. I realised I did not have my camera with me – perhaps that’s why I could not hold on to the fish.

Rapala

I had another, bigger Clackin Rap and I cast this around without success. As the tide lowered I moved to the front of the rock platform, also on the southern side. I swapped to a soft plastic on a ¼ ounce 2/0 jighead. I needed the weight to cast against the wind. I put on a GULP Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour. I lost the first to the rocks and tied another one on. After a few casts this was slammed in the surf, close in. The fished pulled hard and when I finally subdued it, I was surprised to only see a small Trevally.

The challenge in this spot was losing gear to the rocks and I lost a few more rigs over the next hour or so. I swapped to a Gulp Jerkshad soft plastic in the Sweet and Sour Chicken colour and when I got this one in to a good foamy patch of water just beyond the rocks, I almost instantly hooked up. This time it was a 55cm tailor and I managed to pull it in.

I finished the session casting the long DUO Pressbait Saira hard body off the northern end of the rock platform. As it had done all week the lure found lots of long toms and a few more small tailor.

Just after low tide I stopped for the day. It had been another great week of fishing at Iluka.