Hat Head – Connors Beach – 1 October 2015

Thursday

Thursday was another clear warm morning. It had rained overnight but the wind had disappeared and there was only a light northerly blowing when I woke up.

I walked round to the corner of Connors Beach again. I started at about 5.30 am with a large River2Sea Dumbbell Popper. This produced nothing so I swapped down to a 65g Raider metal slug. This also could not find any fish.

I swapped down to my Daiwa Air Edge Surf 96 L rod and put on a 1/6th ounce, #1/0 hook jighead and dropped down to 12lb fluorocarbon leader. I loaded the jighead with a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the pearl watermelon colour. After a few slow retrieves I felt some good bites. The tide was running out and there was a strong current pushing water along a pronounced gutter, at the base of the rocks. I let the soft plastic sink in the fast moving current and the when I lifted the rod tip I had a fish on it. It was a 25 cm bream. The next cast yielded another one – slightly bigger.

Things went quiet for a few casts. Then, at about 6.15 am something grabbed the soft plastic at the base of the rocks and tried to bury itself. It was not particularly quick but it was much more powerful than the bream. It wedged itself down between some rocks so I loosened the drag and gave it some slack. A few moments later, it swam out and I landed it. It was a fairly solid Spotted Hind – a pretty fish that does not taste much good – so I let it go. By about 7.30 am I was not getting any bites so I gave up for the morning.

At about 3.30 pm I came back for an afternoon session. After a few casts the first taker, on the same light rig and soft plastic, was another bream. It was followed by two more – neither was much more than 25cm long and the third one looked like it had been in the wars.

As the sun dropped and we moved closer to 5.00 pm, I tied on a small 45g cheap, cream painted metal slug. I cast out to the north east, in the direction of a patch of semi-submerged rocks. I wound it in fairly quickly and saw a couple of swirls come up behind it, about 15 metres from the shore. I carried on casting for about 20 minutes, varying the speed of the retrieve. I could now see the tailor following the slug in, but they would not bite.

Just as the sun was setting at about 5.30 pm I felt a solid bite and then the rod tip bent over. I dropped the first tailor a few metres from the shore. A few casts later I had another on and this time it was solidly hooked. I landed it and released it. I connected with a couple more but did not land them and at about 6.00 pm, I gave up.

It had been a great week of fishing at Hat Head. The scenery is truly fantastic and I will certainly be back.

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Hat Head – Connors Beach– 30 September 2015

Wednesday

On Wednesday conditions where calm again with a light northerly wind blowing. First light was about 5.00 am. I could not face another tramp out to the spinning ledge so I decided to try fishing the rocks at the north eastern corner of Connors Beach.  This area always looks very fishy and there is often a long gutter that drains out through a group of rocky bommies, from the northern corner of the beach.

There are a couple of rocky outcrops that you can safely stand on in light seas. About 45 metres to the east of these ledges there is a circle of large rocks which are riddled with overhangs and caves. They are pretty hard to cast at, but they are full of fish.

I started with a 65g Raider, tied on to the main line with 30lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader. I was using the heavy rod – Daiwa Demonblood, and I was casting a metal slug about 40 to metres out towards the edge of one of the semi submerged rocky outcrops. I was reeling in line pretty quickly on my retrieve.

The sun was not yet over the horizon, at about 5.20 am, when I hooked and landed the first tailor of the day. This was quickly followed by a few more. Then, as the sun up and the glare started to build, the bites slackened off and having caught four 40 cm tailor in quick succession, it took an hour to catch another.

By about 7.30 am all was quiet. The water was crystal clear and my metal slugs, hard bodied minnows and poppers could not rustle up a bite. I decided to give up for the morning.

At about 5.00 pm I came back and carefully climbed down the rocky headland that sticks out between Gap Beach and Connors Beach. There is a small inlet here that looks very fishy and with a fairly light swell I could cast right into it.

I started with a 40g HALCO Streaker metal slug. I cast it out into the foamy water around the rocks.  After a few casts, I hooked a fish but it wriggled off at the base of the rocks. I hooked a couple more that also got off. At about 5.30 pm, just as the sun was dropping to the horizon I finally held on to one. It was another 35cm tailor. As the sun set I hooked what felt like a smaller fish. After a short fight I was surprised to see a solid bream on the end of the Streaker.

I fished on through the amazing sunset but did not catch anything else.

Hat Head – mixed bag – 29 September 2015

Tuesday

By Tuesday morning conditions were very different. The wind and swell had almost completely dropped away and the skies were clear. At about 5.00 am I set off for the rocks at the far tip of the Hat Head headland. As I walked along the pathway I could clearly see the current line snaking across the surface of the bay. It would be another very big tide as the moon was huge.

When I reached the spinning ledge I put in a few casts with the 110mm River2Sea Dumbbell Popper, as soon as I could see where I was throwing it. I generally use my Daiwa Demonblood rod to throw this surface lure around. The popper blooped nicely across the shimmering water but there were no hits.

I swapped to the lighter, Daiwa Air Edge Surf 96 L rod, rigged it with a 20lb fluorocarbon leader and tied on a ¼ ounce , size 1/0 jighead. I put on a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic in the curry chicken colour. The tailor seemed to have vacated the area directly in front of the spinning ledge and the calmer conditions made the rocks further round the headland accessible. I moved around to the front of the headland and reeled in a small bream. I swapped through a few different size and coloured soft plastic and found a few more small bream. Perhaps the calmer seas had turned the tailor off.

I paused to re-rig and as I did so there was a loud blow about 40 metres out in front of me. A whale and its calf arched their black humps and continued past. A few moments after they disappeared, their very fishy blow cloud blew ashore – a wonderful site but a very unpleasant smell.  Next time they surfaced they were about 350 metres away – but they paused to put on a short tail slapping show. A close encounter with a whale is always great and it is about the only time I stop fishing and just watch the ocean for a while.

I decided to change tactics – perhaps the whales and dolphins (who followed them past) where following some fish. I swapped lures to a MARIA Mar Amigo 65mm 15 gram sinking vibe lure. This is another one of those carefully crafted Japanese lures that casts like a bullet, sinks fast and has a great action.

I cast into the foamy wash, just in front of the rocks and after about three casts I felt the mad head shakes of a hooked tailor. It was only a small one, about 30 cm long, but they were clearly still hanging around. They came and went every 15 minutes of so for the next couple of hours. They never got much bigger than 30 – 35 cm so I did not keep any. I swapped to the DUO Realis Jerkbait 110 SP hard bodied minnow which also caught a few, but the smaller profile and deep diving nature of the MARIA lure probably enticed more hits.

 

At about 9.30 am I moved back round to the Spinning Ledge and decided to try a soft plastic again. I chose the GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Green Camo colour. I rigged it on a slightly lighter 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and I had swapped down to 16lb fluorocarbon leader. I cast out and let the lure reach the bottom. I paused, then gave it a few hops along the bottom. As I speeded up the retrieve to lift the lure clear of the rocks a fish struck. It put a nice bend in the rocks ad initially I thought it was a decent tailor. It soon slowed however and after a brief fight, I pulled a small trevally clear of the water.

A few more casts in this spot yielded no more fish so at about 10.00 am I gave up for the morning. No trophy fish but plenty of action and plenty of whales to watch.

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.

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.

Hat Head – The Spinning Ledge – 21 September 2012

Friday

Friday was another beautiful but frustrating day. My only real fish producing spot, this week, was at the northern tip of the Hat Head headland. So at 4.30 am I was marching out to this spot with all my gear again.

Sometimes I got the feeling I was being watched

On Thursday there had been some Tuna out there and a couple of guys, fishing on the Spinning Ledge had tangled with some kingfish, but not managed to land one. The wind was light from the northwest in the morning and then turned into a stronger northerly around lunchtime. I was there early and tried the usual routine –starting with hard bodies and then changing over to soft plastic Jerkshads.

I tried everything, but nothing worked. The Dolphins were in close just after dawn and maybe they had scared the fish off or eaten them. I tried a few more spots around the headland and came back to the Jewfish spot at dusk, hoping to take advantage of the 5.30 pm bite. I don’t know what I did wrong, but the fish did not show up.

This was my last session at Hat Head. It had been a great week in a great spot. I had learned the cold water temperatures often mean the clarity improves and fish are harder to fool. I had also confirmed that if there is no bait around then there are no Salmon or Tailor either. I had also proved that there are always fish out there – somewhere.

There are endless rocky headlands to fish along this coast

I will definitely be back here, soon.