I was out of action for most of October as I had to have a hernia repaired (curse of any elite sportsman – fisherman and beer drinkers included). But at the end of the month the doctor approved a return to light exercise.
I chose to cast some soft plastic lures around in the mouth of the Brunswick River. The water was clear and there were plenty of bait schools in the shallows. I was using my light spinning set up and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I fished for a couple of hours in the middle of the falling tide. I caught three flathead, the largest of which was 44cm long.
At the end of July I was back in South Golden Beach. Possibly in lockdown (I can no longer remember) but fortunately the Brunswick River mouth was within easy reach for fishing ‘exercise’.
I set out to fish the north rock wall, which is reached down the unmade section of North Head Road. I walked out on to the wall at about 10.30 am. The tide was coming in and would be high at about 2.00 pm. I was fishing with my light set up and rigged up a GULP 4″ Minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I was using 12lb fluorocarbon leader. The water was crystal clear and the swell was less than a metre. There was a very light northerly wind blowing.
I put in a few casts on the north side of the wall into the wave break area, close to the beach. Sometimes there are flathead lurking around the base of the rocks, but not today. The first taker was a bream. I threw him back and kept casting. I soon caught another small one.
I moved out to the end of the rock wall and swapped soft plastics to a GULP Pulseworm in the Moebi (beige flecked) colour. After a few casts I found another small bream and then lost the tail of the soft plastic. I put on a GULP 3″ Minnow in my favourite Lime Tiger colour. I thought there might be some dart around and this colour seems to work well on them.
I worked my way around the far end of the rock wall and cast around in the mouth of the river. I had a few nibbles but could not hook anything so I moved back to the north side, I let the soft plastic sit as long as I dared, on the bottom beside the base of the rock wall. At about 11.45 am a fish grabbed my plastic close to the base of the rocks, as I lifted it to recast. It took off quite fast out to sea and then jumped clear of the water. I tightened the drag a little and soon subdued and landed it. It was a juvenile queenfish, about 45 cm long. I snapped it and threw it back. There were no more bites so after about 30 minutes more, I gave up for the day.
There had been a few good gutters in front of South Golden Beach and I tried an early morning session to see if the tailor were still around. I had a couple of hits on dawn on a metal slug but did not hang on to anything. The big swell made things difficult and I did not find really them there again, through the rest of June.
On Sunday 13th June, it was a beautiful day so I drove down to the Brunswick River and spent a couple of hours fishing the run out tide. I tried a few casts near the river mouth with no luck. The river was busy so I waded round to fish the flats just downstream of the Marshalls Creek lower outlet. There were plenty of rays in the shallow water. It was now a hot afternoon and although the river was cool, it was definitely not cold.
I cast around with a soft plastic lure and caught three flathead right on the bottom of the tide. I caught them all where the creek drains in to the main river channel. My soft plastic of choice was the trusty GULP 4″ Minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. All the fish were in less than a metre of water.
I was hoping the tailor would come back to the beach so I kept revisiting it over the next few days. But the wind picked up and started blowing from the north east and north west. We had a bit of rain and the edge of a low pressure system passing the bottom of Australia, stirred things up a bit.
On Thursday 10th June the sun came out and the wind eased off. It was new moon so I thought the fishing would be worth a try. I walked out onto the beach at North Head at about noon. Low tide was due just before 2.00 pm, so I would be fishing the last of the run out tide.
I was using my light rock fishing rig with 16 lb fluorocarbon leader, in case the tailor re-appeared. I was using a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I needed a heavy jighead to put in a decent cast against the breeze. The water was crystal clear so I chose a bright colour. I also did this because if big dart are around, they seem to attack the brighter patterns. This was a 4 inch, Savage Gear Minnow in a yellow and pink colour. I sometimes put a few of the cheaper Savage Gear plastics in the GULP packet to soak up a bit of the GULP scent. This keeps my average tackle cost per fish a little lower! You have to be careful doing this as some plastics simply dissolve if they are mixed together.
I aimed at a sandy bank at the mouth of a gutter and let the plastic waft along its edge with the current. Once I figured out where to cast I got a hit straight away. After a few more casts I had a small flathead. I released it. I cast back in the same spot and hooked and then dropped another one.
I moved south along the beach to where it meets the rocks known locally as ‘seagulls’. I swapped to a small GULP 3″ Minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour and caught a 48 cm flathead. By about 2.00 pm the wind started howling and I gave up for the afternoon.
On the morning of the 4th of June conditions were perfect for fishing. The moon was a waning crescent, about 30% full. There was little wind, a clear sky and a very light swell. I set off for the mouth of the Brunswick River to see what I could find at about 10.00 am. Low tide was at 10.09 am at the river mouth.
I parked in the small car park at the southern end of North Head Road. I picked up my light spin rig (flathead fishing gear) and decided to walk along the wooded path down to the north bank of the river and Harry’s Hill Beach. As I walked parallel with the beach, I could see the birds circling, close in. I broke off the path down to the beach and realised they were dive bombing bait schools, very close to the beach.
I ran down to the shoreline, rigged a big bright soft plastic and cast in to the mayhem. I got a couple of hits on the first cast, but no hook up. On the next one I did a faster retrieve. Half way back to me a tailor slammed the soft plastic. It was a bigger fish than I had expected, my ‘noodle like’ Samaki Zing Gen 2 rod was in for a work out. I was rigged with 12Lb fluorocarbon leader, so I did not think I had much of a chance but after a fairly protracted fight a wave washed a 40cm tailor up to my feet.
I should have quit at the point but I released the fish and cast out again. I hooked up almost straight away and this time the Samaki Zing had had enough. It snapped just above the join as the tailor took off. No complaints about the rod – I had just brought a knife to gunfight.
I jogged back to the car got out my light rock fishing rig – Daiwa Crossfire 1062 and Shimano Stella 4000 reel, 30lb braid and (luckily) 30lb fluorocarbon leader and my keeper bag. I made it back to the beach in about 10 minutes and the mayhem was in full swing.
I started with another big bright soft plastic and that landed a couple of tailor before it was destroyed. I swapped to the 40g Duo Dragmetal Cast Slow. This is a jig designed to be worked quite slowly. It has two assist hooks at the top and one on the bottom. I cast it out and jigged it back to me. I immediately caught a couple of solid dart.
By now I could see the reason the fish where here. All along the wavebreak there were thick schools of small baitfish. A huge school of dart and tailor were roaming the shoreline smashing into this bait. I cast the jig out again and it was picked up almost immediately. I started playing the fish and let it take some line. When I pulled the fish towards me it suddenly felt much heavier. It also started moving really erratically. There were a couple of swirls and splashes and then I realised I had hooked two tailor on the one jig. I kept up the pressure and then one of them pulled the hook/ bit through the jig and I landed the single fish on one of the remaining hooks.
I swapped around between soft plastics metal slugs and jigs for about an hour. Everything caught fish and at one point I reeled in a big popper that someone else must have lost. By just after 11.30 am the bait school gradually moved to the north along the beach and took the tailor dart and birds with it. I kept six tailor for a family fish pie and let the dart and the rest of the fish go.
A couple of days later on the 6th June I arrived at dawn, to see if the fish were there. This time I started fishing further to the north on the beach at New Brighton, just before sunrise. There was a good gutter and cast into its mouth. The first taker was a tailor. It bit down hard on a 55g Halco Twisty metal lure, in the gold colour. But there was only one and I put in a lot of casts trying to find another. Once the sun was truly up, I swapped to a big GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic in the lime tiger colour. I fished this on 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast it into the gutter and let it waft around. I hooked a fish, almost immediately. As I pulled it towards me it wriggled off. I carried on peppering the area with casts and after about 10 more I came up tigh on another (or perhaps the same one).
On Tuesday, 8th June I came down to fish the area again at about 11.30 am. It was now two days before the new moon and the tidal flow was quite powerful. There had been some rain the day before and the river was a little murky on the run out tide. I walked out to the end of the rockwall at North Head. I started fishing with a 40g Halco Twisty. I cast and retrieved it across the mouth of the river and then along the line where the river running out met the clearer ocean wash. I soon had a fish – a 35cm tailor. I released it and caught another two straight way. Then things went quiet.
I swapped to a soft plastic minnow and caught a couple of 30cm bream and then things went quiet again. On the way back to the car I had a quick cast in the shallows in the corner of the beach. On about my 4th try, I felt the unmistakable thud of a flathead bite and after a short tussle I had a 45cm fish at my feet. Not a bad session but the big tailor school had clearly moved on.
The 28th of May was a beautiful morning with a cool north-westerly wind blowing. The water in the Brunswick River was crystal clear. But the big bait schools that had been in the lower reaches of the river had moved on. I cast around with lots of different soft plastics on my light spinning rig, loaded with 10lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader, but I did not get a bite.
When I can’t catch a flathead in a spot where I usually have, my constant question with is – Are they still there but not eating or have they moved on? I think my current conclusion is that they move up and down the river systems with the moon cycle and therefore the stronger current flow, on the bigger tides. Sometimes this process is interrupted by excessive amounts of food in a particular area or spawning and they stay in the same spot for almost the whole lunar cycle. The advantage with flathead is that even if you are not catching them you can usually see where they have recently been from their ‘lies’. These are the marks they leave in the sandy bottom.
On the 1st of June I fished on the south side of the river, upstream of the caravan park and Mangrove Island. I was in my waders – even though the water is still fairly warm. I started in the area where the river narrows and turns to the south. This is where the seagrass beds start to appear and it looks like very good flathead territory. I came across a few big flathead lies so felt fairly confident that the fish had moved up stream.
I started at about 11.30 am and fished through the second half of the run out tide. I cast a few soft plastics from the shallows and caught three flathead of which two would have been legal to keep. I released them all. Unfortunately the stretch of river further up from here is pretty hard to access so I may have problems testing my flathead movement theories. I finished fishing just after 1.30 pm.
After catching and releasing a big female flathead in the third week in May, I continued my thorough survey of fish in the Brunswick River. On Monday the 24th May, I was back out wading around in the shallows at the mouth. The water was still warm and clear and the bait was not as plentiful as it had been, but it was still there.
I started at about 10.30 am. Low tide would be just after noon, so I was fishing the bottom of the run out. I focused on the area where I had caught the big fish the week before – just as the tide had picked up speed running in, but I could not find another one there. I moved up river a little. I was fishing with a GULP 4″ Black Silver Paddleshad soft plastic loaded onto a 18th ounce, size 1/0 jighead. Just at the lower mouth of Marshalls Creek, I felt a single thud. I dropped the rod tip, paused for about 10 seconds and lifted it again. The fish was hooked and I pulled in a small flathead about 40cm long. I peppered the area but there were no more.
I moved down to the river mouth and caught another small flathead on a GULP 3″ Minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour. It was now about 11.45 am and I had a few casts out on the beach on the north side of the river mouth. This yielded one more very small flathead.
On the 25th I decided to fish upstream, around the top of the island west of the Ferry Reserve holiday park. This is accessed via the south bank of the river. I waded out in to the shallows at the eastern tip of the island at about 11.30 am. I was fishing the run out tide. The area is fairly shallow and usually covered in rays. I could see lots of tiny jelly prawns hanging around the edge of the weed beds and sunken timber. I moved slowly round the island, casting at the edge of the weed beds and channels and caught two very small flathead and one very angry bream. I finished up at about 1.00 pm.
May 20th was a Friday. The tide was low at 9.50 am and the moon was 6 days away from being full. I was once more fishing midmorning in the Brunswick River, starting at about 10.15 am.
I started down by the river mouth on the northside. I caught a bream on a minnow soft plastic and then the bream pulled it off the jighead, as they so often do. I opened a packet of GULP 4″ Pulseworm soft plastics in the Moebi colour (beige) and put one on my 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I was using my light spinning outfit and about 1.5 metres of 12lb fluorocarbon leader.
To my surprise the next fish was an ambitious whiting. I released it and moved slowly up river. I lost my plastic again and put on a GULP 2″ Shrimp in the Peppered Prawn colour. The next taker was a small flathead, about 35cm long. I let it go. The tide was now beginning to flood in.
I moved further up the river bank and cast my soft plastic at the sandy patches in between the rocky bottom. I lost a jighead, snagged on one of the rocks that was out of wading distance. I put on another GULP Pulseworm and carried on casting.
I was now keeping the soft plastic moving fairly quickly across the bottom as I did not want to get snagged again. I was fishing in about 30 cm of water. I felt the plastic stop dead and assumed I was snagged again. I pulled hard and there was a little bit of give, so I pulled harder. Suddenly my drag was screaming and a fish was swimming away. It was a big flathead that had been sitting in the shallows between the rocks.
It made a couple of long slow runs. I left the drag alone. I only had a 12lb fluorocarbon leader and a very light rod so I was going to have to play it very patiently. When they get this big their head shakes are slower and less numerous and as long as they are hooked on the outside of the mouth, you have a good chance at landing them. I let her go where she wanted to and took back line whenever I could. After about five minutes I pulled her onto the sand. She was a beautiful fish and by measuring her against my rod I estimate she was about 75cm long. I took a few snaps and turned back into the water. I held her by the mouth and let some water run back and forth over her gills and then she slowly swam away.
This is by far the biggest fish I have found in the river so far. I am delighted they are there and I hope to tangle with a few more.
The next day I went back to see if she was part of a gang. I tried out the GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshad in my favorite; Lime Tiger colour. I fished around for a few hours in the same area and found another decent 55cm flathead. I also released this one.
On the 14th May, I decided to see if the fish were up river. I was fishing land based and I started on the sand flats on the south side of the river, around the highway bridge. The first catch was a tiny flathead, just under the bridge. Then I moved up river to the boat ramp, near the caravan park. The water was crystal clear again.
It was now about noon. The tide had been high at about 10.00 am and was now running out. I was fishing with my light spin rig and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I was using a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and a GULP 2″ Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I paused beside the boat ramp as there was a big school of tiny bait fish close to the shore. I cast up river, into the fast running tide and gradually hopped the lure back along the bottom, under the bait. On about my tenth try I felt a solid thud and I had another flathead. It was probably 35 cm long and I let it go.
I made my way along the rockwall in front of the caravan park, casting all along the base of the rocks. There was bait everywhere. But I could not find anymore flathead.
A few days later I had a beach session at New Brighton, just to the north of the Brunswick River mouth. The swell and wind was fairly light and so I cast around in the corner of the beach using my medium weight beach rig. This is a Daiwa Crossfire CFX1062 – a 10 foot 6 inch long beach fishing rod, matched with a Shimano Stella 4000 reel. I spool it with 30lb braid and today I was using a 16lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader. I thought there might be a few tailor around as there had been so much bait in the river. I was using a big soft plastic (GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the lime tiger colour) on a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead.
It was about 4.00 pm and it was almost low tide. After a few casts I caught a 40 cm flathead. I released it and kept casting. About 10 minutes later I hooked another flathead. This was a better fish (just under 50 cm long) and I decided to keep it for supper. I carried on for about half an hour but I was now wet and the wind chill got too high, so I cleaned up the fish and quit for the day. The water is still warm but it won’t be for much longer, now the wind is coming from the west.
On the 18th May I started fishing, land-based at about 11.00 am. I was on the north bank of the Brunswick River. I started off just north of the highway bridge. The tide was running in and would by high at 1.30 pm. The moon was a waxing crescent, just over a week away from full so the tidal flow would not be too strong.
I cast up around the edge of the oyster lease and around the weed banks with my favourite soft plastic for tough conditions – the GULP 4″ Minnow shape in the Watermelon Pearl colour. The water was very clear but there was not much bait in the shallows. I got a couple of bites (probably bream) on the first few casts and then things were quiet. At about 11.30 am I caught a 45cm flathead as I moved round closer to the bridge. About 10 minutes later, I caught another smaller (30cm) flathead.
I decided to cast around the base of the bridge and caught a couple of bream and then got snagged on the oyster covered rocks. Things were pretty slow, so I went back to the car at about 12.30 pm and drove down to the river mouth. The water was crystal clear on the top of the tide but I could only find one very small 20 cm flathead.
The next day was Saturday and as the river had disappointed the day before I decided to try fishing on the ocean side of the north wall. I started at about the same time – around 11.00 am. I walked out to the wall and started close in to the beach with another GULP – a 6″ Jerkshad in the plain white colour. Because I was now fishing in the surf I tied on a heavier, 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I was using about a meter of 12 lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader. The water was very clear again.
I cast at the wave break line and let the plastic waft around. Third cast and I was on to a fish. It was a flathead about 45 cm long. I released it. I moved a little further from the beach but this did not produce any fish so I moved back in again. A fish pulled the plastic off the jighead (probably a bream), so I re rigged with a GULP 4″ Minnow shaped soft plastic, in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I caught another slightly bigger flathead on this set up about thirty minutes later. Then I caught a couple of 30 cm bream on the top of the tide.
On the 10th of May I fished from about 10.00 am through to 3.30 pm. I had a great day and caught all through the day. I fished a falling tide and then the beginning of the run in tide. The new moon was due on the 11th. There was plenty of small bait in the shallows near the Brunswick River mouth. The water was clear and still much warmer when it started running in from the ocean. It was a fairly low, low-tide and there was plenty of tidal flow.
I worked my way through a number of large and small soft plastic lures and swapped between a 1/8th ounce, size1/0 hook jigheads and 1/6th ounce, size 1 hook jigheads, depending on how fast the current was moving. I even used one of my current favourites, which is not from the GULP range – the Westin ShadTeez Slim soft plastic in the 256 colour ( beige/ brown/ orange belly). I have 9 and 12cm (about 4″) versions. It has a great action and the small fish will not destroy it.
I worked my way down from the mouth of Marshalls Creek to the mouth of the river, casting my lures at all the sandy patches along the way. I caught about 15 flathead and 6 bream. I released most of them but I kept the five biggest flathead for a family fish pie.
There were quite a few bream around and they often beat the flathead to the soft plastic lures. At one point I watched a 70+ cm flathead follow a 25cm bream that I had hooked. It looked like it was considering it for a meal but turned away at the shoreline.
The flathead were not that fussy and I think it was probably the big tidal run and the plentiful bait that were key reasons for their presence
The next day I came back a little later and although I caught about 6 keeper size flathead things were definitely slower.
Having found plenty of flathead in the Brunswick River in March and April, 2021, I decided to continue fishing the river through May. I wanted to see if my catch fluctuated with the moon, tides and wind direction. In March and April the flathead had been easiest to catch, when large amounts of bait came into the river. They were slightly more numerous in the run up to the new moons than the full moons.
My first few sessions in May were on the 3rd, 4th and the 6th. On the 3rd I fished at the mouth of the river between about 2 and 4 pm. We were a week away from the New Moon and there was a light south-easterly wind blowing. There were a few showers around. High tide was at 2.15 pm, so I was fishing the top of the tide and the run out.
I started with a 4″ GULP Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I was using a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and about 1.5 metres of 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I flicked the soft plastic lure around on the bottom, keeping it stationary for a few seconds and then hopping it along the bottom before another pause. I felt a few bream hits and then the unmistakable thud of a flathead bite. I dropped the rod tip, paused and slowly counted to ten. When I lifted the rod tip I had the fish hooked. I landed it, photographed it and let it go.
I carried on casting and moved slowly up river. After a few casts and bites the jighead came up missing the soft plastic. A bream had most likely pulled it off. I put on another minnow soft plastic, this time in the bright yellow and white Chartreuse colour. The water was clear but still a little tannin stained from the recent rain. Four or five casts later I caught another flathead – about 40 cm long.
I moved down to the river mouth and out onto the rockwall. I cast into the ocean side from the rockwall. I was aiming my soft plastic to land in the surf wash, just a couple of metres away from the rocky beach area. This worked. The first fish was a small bream. A few casts later I hooked another flathead that looked just over 40 cm.
On the 4th May, the weather was overcast and I fished from about 1.00pm to 4.00 pm. It was much harder to find the fish. What success I had was on the big GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic, which I was fishing with a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. There were a few schools of whiting cruising the sand banks. I caught one very small (15cm) flathead and then a bigger but still not legal size unit in the river. I tried the beach area again and caught a 32 cm bream.
On the 6th May I fished from about 10.30 am through to about 12.30 pm. It was still cloudy but the wind has eased off and the sun was shining through a few clouds. I was now fishing the run in tide and the water was fairly clear. It was just stirred up a little from some rain we had had overnight. This time I decided to fish further up the river on the north bank. I started a little up river from the highway bridge. I was using a 3″ GULP Minnow soft plastic in the Lime Tiger colour. After about five minutes of casting around I caught a decent bream.
I lost a jighead to the rocks and re-rigged with the same colour soft plastic lure. In this area the water drains off the oyster lease through some weed beds and it always looks very fishy. At about 10.50 am I watched a flathead follow the plastic right to my feet before turning away at the last minute. I re-cast and slowed everything right down. I did this a couple of times and then felt the thud. I paused and then set the hook. It was a flathead or perhaps the same flathead. It was just about 36cm long. I released and cast out again. It kept things slow. This seemed to work and 5 minutes later I had another flathead this time a little over 40cm.
Things went quiet so I decided to move further down the river to fish in the mouth of Marshalls Creek. This also always looks like a fishy spot. I arrived and put on a GULP 4 Pulseworm in the Moebi colour. I cast this around in the mouth of the creek and I felt a small fish attack. It was a tiny flathead. I swapped back to fishing the main arm of the Brunswick River and cast around on the edge of the main channel. At about 12.15 pm I hooked a small flathead that was just under 35cm.
I released all the fish I caught in these three sessions, so they are still out there for you to catch.
On Saturday I had another session fishing land-based at Brunswick Heads. I started at 1.30 pm on a Saturday afternoon. This is pretty much breaking every rule in my fishing book. ‘Fish at dusk and dawn’, I am always telling everyone. But the last couple of days had produce lots of fish and I had other commitments at dusk and dawn. I was enjoying a good red wine at dusk and sleeping it off at dawn, so I decided to get some fresh air and put in a few casts.
It was a cloudy day and there was a light south easterly wind blowing. I was fishing the beginning of the run in tide. Low tide had been at 12.08 pm. The water was clear and once again there were small schools of tiny baitfish close to the shore line and around the various rocky outcrops.
I was using my light spinning combo and I put on a 4 inch GULP Pulseworm in the Moebi colour. This was another of GULPs short lived shapes in Australia. I found it was pretty good for flathead but it obviously did not sell very well and is now disappearing. However Pure Fishing/Berkley Gulps’ loss is my gain and I picked up an armful of packets for for $5 dollars each to feed my habit.
The first taker was a 20 cm flathead that must have been sitting in the shallows. It was about 30 cm from the shoreline. It had been buried in the sand and grabbed the soft plastic lure just as I was about to cast again. I cast around the rocks and lost a few jig heads by hooking the river bed.
I moved further down towards the river mouth and kept casting. Just before 2.00 pm my line pulled up tight and I caught another flathead – it was probably just 36 cm long. I released it. Almost immediately I caught and released another one, about the same size. I carried on fishing and swapped through a few different soft plastics. At 2.06 pm I caught yet another, This one was about 43 cm so I decided to keep it.
I kept casting. I was now fishing the GULP 4″ Minnow in the Smelt colour. The bream kept trying to pull this one off the jighead. Eventually one of them struck and hooked itself. Just after 3.00 pm I caught the best flathead of the day on a GULP 2″ Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. It was about 50 cm long.
At about 3.30 pm I gave up and cleaned up the two biggest fish to take home for supper. So you can catch fish in the Brunswick River on a Saturday lunchtime – but probably only when the river is teeming with bait and it’s not the school holidays.
A few days later I was back at the north bank of the Brunswick River mouth looking for more flathead. The bait schools were not as thick but they were still around. Occasionally a small bream/ trevally/ tailor/ flathead would smash into them from below, and send them flying. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day. The water was still brown and tannin stained at the bottom of the run out tide but it was now crystal clear on the top of the tide.
We were about 5 days from the full moon, The wind was light from the south east and low tide had passed at about 11.45 am. I started about 2.15 pm and the tide was running in strongly, pushing the tannin stained river water back upstream.
I put a GULP 2 ” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and started casting just down river from the rocks, near the mouth. Fish were snatching at the soft plastic lure from the very first cast. I soon hooked a 30 cm bream and then a few casts later, I found a patch of flathead. I caught three, small but legal sized fish in quick succession.
As I moved towards the river mouth.The fish kept coming. A steady stream of flathead. Many were too small so I released them, but I managed to find four legal ones.
I finished at about 5.30 pm out on the rockwall, where I caught another couple of small bream and a 45 cm flathead. April was turning into a good month for fishing this river.
I have always done well targeting flathead in March and April. Those of you who have followed me for a while will be aware that when I was based in Brisbane I spent a lot of time exploring the flats at Bribie Island. My experience of catching flathead in that area have shaped my fishing process for every estuary I subsequently explore. Look for the edges of weed beds, sand banks and drop offs and fish the last couple of hours of the run out tide – these have been two of my best my most successful habits.
I now live very close to the Brunswick River in northern New South Wales, but I have not really had a lot of success fishing in the river. The much bigger Richmond and Clarence Rivers are nearby and if I have a day to fish I often head for one of these. In the Brunswick River I have caught flathead, bream and the odd trevally but nothing very big and I have not found many consistent fish producing spots. The Northern Rivers area of New South Wales has been very busy with holidaymakers since COVID 19 locked us all into Australia. However with Easter behind us we were beginning to get a few quieter days on the river. The swell was still playing up offshore so there were less big boats heading over the bar. The caravan parks were gradually emptying out so there were a few less tinnies ploughing up and down fishing the river.
Out on the beaches the water was still warm and now crystal clear. There were big schools of mullet cruising along behind the wave breaks. On a calm afternoon I caught a couple of legal size flathead in a gutter at New Brighton. I was using a 2″ GULP Shrimp on a 1/6th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and 12lb leader.
The water in the lower reaches of the Brunswick River was fairly clear once the tide started running in and there seemed to be plenty of bait around. On the bottom of the tide the water was stained brown with tannin, as the rain drained from the tea tree and paperbark swamps that surround the river.
On the 21st I decided to fish for a few hours of the run in tide after low, which was just before 10.00 am. I arrived at the mouth of the Brunswick River on the north side at about 10.45 am and got rigged up on my light spinning outfit. I stuck with 10lb fluorocarbon leader as the water was now very clear. I noticed something smashing into a bait schools out in the middle of the river. I put on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and loaded it with a GULP 2 inch Shrimp profile soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I cast this at the spots were I saw the surface bust ups. After a few tries I hooked a small bream and then a small trevally. As the incoming clean water washed in I noticed there were big schools of small whitebait coming with it. I swapped to GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour and after a few casts something pulled this plastic off the jighead. I put another one on and slowed my retrieve down. After about ten minutes I caught another small flathead.
As the tide started to run in strongly I swapped through a few different soft plastics and caught four more legal size flathead and two that were less than the 36 cm limit. I kept a couple of fish for supper and released everything else.
Let’s hope the bait sticks around and lures the predators up river.
A fish eating friend asked us over for dinner one Saturday in February – but the invite came with a catch (no pun intended). They had bought enough fish ($49/kilo!!!!!!! fresh flathead fillets) for four but if we were coming, they would need a little more fish – preferably flathead. I checked the freezer and realised all of last week’s flathead was gone. So I decided to accept the challenge. I had about 7 hours to find, catch and clean about 500g of flathead.
It would be like competition angling. I decided the Brunswick River which is just down the road was my best option. I got my gear out and drove to the north bank and climbed down the sloping bank. The tide was running out, it was a few days after the new moon. The water was still fairly murky after the rain we had had earlier in the week.
I was fishing with my Samaki Zing ultralight spinning rod and 12 lb breaking strain braid and about a 1.5 metre long 10 lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader. I picked out a GULP 3 inch Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour and loaded on to a 1/8th of an ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast out in between the remains of the old decrepit oyster lease. I am not sure when this will be re-classified as litter but I have watched as it has gradually deteriorated over the five years that I have been fishing here and never seen anyone tending to it. I am not too worried as the piles of old netting, plastic pipes, floats baskets, ropes and concrete moorings are gradually being covered with oysters and form good fishing structure. After a few casts I got a solid bite and after ten minutes I hooked a decent bream. It was great to get a fish but it was the wrong species.
I swapped over to a GULP 3 inch Shrimp in the Peppered Prawn colour and cast it out. Letting it bump along the bottom with the run out tide. I soon hooked another fish but again it was a bream.
Conditions were far from peaceful. It was the weekend and the swell was still up so there was plenty of activity on the river. Kayaks, tinnies, and the local tourist cruise boat all ploughed up and down. There was a brief pause and then the local hoons arrived taking it in turns towing everything – wakeboard, surf board, rubber ring, kitchen sink – up and down the river. They looked about 15 and alternated between screaming and vaping – how I longed for them to impale themselves on a submerged rock, but it was not to be.
Things were looking bleak I had been at it for almost an hour and all I had caught was bream. I moved a little further south, along the bank towards the river mouth. The new ground paid off and on my first cast I pulled up a small flathead. It was just on 35cm – too small. So back he went. I swapped to a brighter coloured 3 inch GULP Minnow soft plastic in the Lime Tiger colour. Maybe the change of colour did the trick or perhaps I had just stumbled across a group of fish lying together in one spot – either way the line pulled tight and I had another flathead, this time it was a keeper at 43 cm. I despatched it and put it in the keeper bag.
For the next 30 minutes I methodically covered the area with casts and it paid off – providing two more keeper sized flathead – one 38 cm and one 40cm. I now had just about enough flathead to take to the dinner party so I headed home.
This challenge was hard enough for me,so I do not think I will be entering competitions anytime soon.
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The swell, the swell, the swell – its never-ending. But then there was a forecast of lower seas, so I decided to try some fishing in the surf. The swell had created some good gutters and so I drove down to the beach, just south of New Brighton on the north shore of the Brunswick River mouth.
I arrived just before first light at about 5.40 am. High tide would be at about 6.00 am. It would be new moon in about three days. I walked out with my Daiwa Crossfire 1062 (10 foot, 6 inch – 3.2 metre) rod and Shimano Stella 4000 reel. This is spooled with 30lb braid and as I wasn’t expecting anything huge to swim by – a 14lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a 1/4 ounce , size 1/0 hook jighead and loaded it with a GULP 4′ Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour.
The horizon was now lit up and I cast out into what looked like a decent gutter. After a few casts I caught a small (25cm) bream, swiftly followed by a couple more. The fish flicked the plastic off so I tied on a GULP 3″ Paddle Shad in the Nuclear Chicken colour. This is a new shape from GULP and I like it a lot – now we just need them to produce it in my favourite Pearl Watermelon colour. This found its mark after about ten minutes. I felt a bit of weight and the rod tip bent over. This time it was a a flathead, about 45cm long.
The sun was now just coming over the horizon and I swapped to a another Paddle Shad, this time in the pink colour. I moved a little further along to the mouth of the gutter and kept casting. I felt a few urgent bites and drops. Then I caught a dropped a dart and eventually stayed connected to one.
By about 7.30am the swell had stretched out as the tide started to run out and I gave up for the morning.
Thanks to the machinations of our newly powerful state leaders, Brunswick Heads was very quiet in August and September. Despite vanishingly small numbers of locally identified cases of COVID 19, the Queensland border snapped shut. It was soul destroying for our local businesses that rely so much on visitors from north of the border, and further afield. But, every cloud has a silver lining and for once the Brunswick River was very peaceful and largely undisturbed.
I started September with a midday session wading the flats above the highway bridge. The tide was running out to low at about 1-30 pm. I parked up beside the caravan park at Ferry Reserve.
I was using my new light estuary spinning set-up. The guides on my old favorite NS Blackhole trout rod nearly all needed replacing and I had knocked about 10 cm off the tip over the last couple of years – it had to go. I had loved that rod so I decided to go for another NS Blackhole rod from EJ Todd. I chose the ultralight fast action NS Amped II Trout S-602UL rod. It is a 6′ long two piece, rated for 2- 10 gram lures and 2-6 lb (1-3kg) line. I match it with a Daiwa TD-SOL III LT 2500D spinning reel. So far it has met all my expectations. It is ultra sensitive but has the power to stop good sized bream and flathead. It might struggle to turn the head of a decent mangrove jack or snapper, but I rarely run into those. It cost me A$ 149-99 (with free shipping) from Tackle Warehouse and arrived in good shape, three days after I ordered it.
I pulled on my waders and wandered up the inside of Mangrove Island, casting a GULP 3″ Minnow soft plastic on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead, into the shallow water ahead of me. I found my first tiny flathead close the edge of a weed bed in about 20 cm of water. The tide was running out towards me so I cast at the edge of the weed beds and hopped the soft plastic slowly along the sandy/ muddy bottom, with the tide. I carried on wading up river, around the tip of Mangrove Island and across to the deeper water, in the main channel of the river.
I decided to put on a bigger soft plastic – a GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour. I was now just upriver from the tip of the island, about 30 metres from the northern riverbank. My rod tip bent over, I paused and then lifted it. I had hooked a small flathead, just under 40cm. I let it go and gradually moved down river, casting backwards up river. I swapped through a few soft plastics – the GULP 2″ Shrimp also in the Peppered Prawn colour and another 5″ Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour, and found three more flathead, all about the same size.
As the tide slackened around 2.00 pm, I gave up and waded back to the car. It was great to have the river virtually to myself, I will have to make the most of it.
As we entered May we were still in lockdown across Australia. The global economy was a slow motion train wreck, with businesses shuttered and unemployment sky-rocketing. Governments everywhere pumped money into their economies and so, despite their awful future prospects some companies like our banks, Qantas, Afterpay, etc – persuaded our moronic superannuation fund managers to buy even more new shares in them.
In addition to the ever-present threat of the ‘Egyptian Papyrus’ (COV 19 virus), May brought us a delightful mini-plague of noisy green frogs. They were hiding everywhere you looked.
As the weather had cooled the flathead had increased in numbers in the Brunswick River, but they were still frustratingly small. I could be pretty sure of getting a handful on the bottom of the tide near the river mouth, but they were rarely big enough for dinner. The water was crystal clear and so perhaps the bigger fish were harder to fool.
I decided to head to Ballina and try and pick up a few bigger flathead. The strategy paid off and I had success fishing the first few hours of the run out tide. I was wading in the shallows in Mobs Bay and a few other points along the south side of the Richmond River, towards the river mouth. I also had a great session fishing the run out tide in the corner of Lighthouse Beach. The swell had carved out a small gutter at the north end and I caught four flathead in quick succession, on one early morning session.
I fished my light spinning rod with about a 1.5 metre, 10lb fluorocarbon leader tied on to 12lb breaking strain braid and an 1/8th or 1/6th of an ounce, size 1 hook jighead. As usual, the GULP 3″ and 4″ minnow soft plastics in the watermelon pearl and lime tiger colours produced the most fish.
I caught a full bag of five legal sized fish several times and used them to cook a flathead fish pie – which is a firm favorite at home.
I returned to South Golden Beach at the beginning of April. I realised how fortunate we were to be located in this small town, close to Byron Bay, on the Northern New South Wales coast. Our beaches were not closed, our fishing was not curtailed and social distancing was very simple. The outlook for any kind of paid work looked pretty grim, but there would be plenty of fishing time.
I spent most of April extracting myself from my contracts in Asia and ‘furloughing’ everyone who works with me. Realistically, none of us could work until I could leave Australia and visit our various projects again. And that prospect looked a long way off. Unlike here in the ‘lucky country’ none of my team would receive any welfare assistance, so it was a pretty depressing process.
In between times I had a few fishing sessions in the Brunswick River. For once the river was very quiet. The caravan parks had emptied out and no one was allowed to leave home except for essential activities. Fishing was allowed under the exercise category – which was a relief. I caught flathead under the highway bridge and down by the river mouth, at Christmas Beach. I fished GULP soft plastic minnows and shrimps, using light leaders (10lb fluorocarbon) and light jigheads (no heavier than 1/8th of an ounce). Only about one in five of the flathead was over the legal size limit in New South Wales, which is 38cm. I caught about twenty over three sessions.
I also fished the beach gutters, when the weather was calm enough. I caught a few flathead this way, but not many bream. The northerly winds gradually change over to southerlies and the air temperature dropped. One cool morning I noticed a few abandoned chopper tailor heads on the beach in front of the New Brighton.