Iluka – Shark Bay – April 2017

April 2017

April offered the opportunity to get a few days off after Easter. Unfortunately, the heavens opened and we faced a wet week at Iluka, in northern New South Wales. It was quite a challenge to get there as the Pacific Highway was closed at high tide at Chinderah. We slowly drove on as ankle deep water gradually drained off the nation’s main highway. We turned off for Iluka but had to wait for an hour or so at Woombah, until the local SES agreed it was safe to go through. We arrived in the dark and it started raining again.

There were a few breaks in the heavy rain and the sun came out a few times but the water turned in to churned up brown soup. I fished on a couple of mornings at Shark Bay – it was the only place where the swell would not knock me off my perch. I tried my two favourite lures for tailor and both caught fish, all between 35 and 50 cm. The first is the HALCO Twisty metal slug in the brass colour – either 55g or 70g. The brass colour often seems to get a fish in this spot when plain silver slugs don’t.  The other great lure for tailor is the DUO Pressbait Saira – a long solid sinking hard body that looks very like the garfish that often hang about at Shark Bay.

I was sure the jewfish were present and when fishing the eastern end of the Shark Bay headland with a large jerkshad, I think I hooked one. Unfortunately I was fishing with the light rod and after a few minutes of fight the 16lb leader got stuck on something and the fish was gone.

I look forward to another Iluka trip soon.

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Iluka – Middle Bluff, Iluka Bluff & Fraser’s Reef – February 2017

In early February, I had a few days fishing at Iluka. The weather was not ideal with strong northerly winds, but generally clear skies. These made casting difficult but I fished all the rocky headlands of the Bundjalung National Park – Shark Bay, Woody Head, Middle Bluff, Frasers Reef & the Iluka Bluff.

I fished with soft plastics, metal slugs and some hard-bodied lures. For the soft plastics, I generally used 1/4 ounce and 1/6th ounce jigheads and the most successful slug was a brass colored 70g Halco Twisty. I swapped up and down between 12lb and 30lb fluorocarbon leaders. I caught Trevally, Bream, Pike, Dart and the highlight was a keeper size jewfish on a GULP Cajun Chicken Jerkshad soft plastic at Iluka Bluff. I did not catch a tailor all week but did see a few pulled from the water at Iluka Bluff.

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.

Iluka – Shark Bay – Tailor – 18 March 2016

Friday.

It was Friday and although the wind and swell was forecast to drop off slightly in the morning – it would soon pick up again. I stuck with Shark Bay and arrived at about 5.45am. The skies were the clearest they had been all week and I was treated to a magnificent sunrise.

I fished in the bays on each side of the rocks while I waited for the tide to recede. I started with a small no name popper and attracted plenty of long tom interest but nothing else. At about 7.00 am I waded through the tide and out on to the north side of the rock platform.

At this stage of the run out tide I had to stick with a surface lure so that I could cast out over the kelp covered ledge. I chose the Fluoro Pink Roosta Popper again.  This hooked up to a good tailor straight away but it wriggled off. I kept casting and the long toms kept swiping. After about 30 casts, I found another smaller tailor but it also wriggled off in the shallows. I swapped to the Spanyid Maniac 45g wide metal spoon. I soon caught a 25cm Tailor and then a few casts later, a 50cm model.

I swapped lures again. This time to a 55g HALCO Twisty in the gold colour – this was the most successful lure of the morning. But the fish were not feeding furiously. They seemed to come and go. I caught 5 more fish over the next 90 minutes. But none of them were over 35cm long.

As low tide approached I decided to switch locations and walked back to the car and drove round to Woody Head. I wandered out to the area known as ‘the Barnacles’. The sun was finally out and the swell had dropped off a little.

I tied on a ¼ ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and cast out a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Curry Chicken colours. As is so often the case in this spot, a fish grabbed the lure on the first cast, as I started to retrieve it. I landed it with the aid of an incoming wave. It was a 35cm bream. As a warning, the next wave came up and soaked me so I decided it was time to retire. No monsters and interestingly, no jewfish but plenty of action.

I was soaked but the sun was out and the water was warm so I took a dip in one of the many rock pools (which were even warmer). I can just see the advert – Woody Head Day Spa with sea minerals and slimy kelp rub – what would they pay for one of those in Sydney?

Iluka – Shark Bay – Tailor / Bream – 17 March 2016

Thursday

On Thursday the weather was much the same and low tide was not until 11.20 am. Most of my favourite fishing points around Iluka are low or falling tide spots, so I decided to have a lie in. Of course a fisherman’s lie in just means getting up at dawn, rather than 90 minutes before dawn, but it was nice to get a full 8 hours sleep.

At about 8.30 am I drove round to Woody Head to have a look at conditions. Although the tide was far enough out to make fishing possible, the swell was still bashing up against the rocks. The swell had been a steady 1.5/ 1.8m all week. It was caused by the slow moving tropical storm that had missed the Queensland coast the week before, but stirred everything up. Discretion is the better part of valour and I was not going to risk my life for a fish, so I walked back to the car.

I drove round to Shark Bay again. I walked out onto the rock and tied on 55g HALCO Twisty in the brass/ gold colour. I catch far more fish on the brass/ gold colour of this lure than the silver colour – no idea why. I started with big long casts on the heavy rod and after five or six casts, I had a 30 cm tailor. A few casts later I had another…. and another. I swapped up to an 80mm HALCO Roosta Popper in the Fluoro Pink colour. I blooped this back towards me, making plenty of splashes and stopped for a few seconds every now and then. After a few bloops, a bigger tailor grabbed it and I soon had a 50cm tailor at my feet.

It was now about 11.00 am and I swapped to the lighter rod, 14lb fluorocarbon leader, a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 hook jighead and a GULP 4 inch Minnowp soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour. The first cast was smashed by a tailor which then spat it out. The second, attracted a few snaps from a long tom, which followed the soft plastic right back to me. After about ten more minutes of casting I caught another 30cm bream.

I decided to try the other side of the rock platform but neither soft plastics nor slugs could raise anything there so at about 12.00 noon, I gave up.

Iluka – Shark Bay – Tailor / Bream – 16 March 2016

Wednesday

Wednesday in Iluka and more rain was forecast.  I woke to grey skies and the persistent south easterly wind and swell.

Shark Bay would be the only sensible place to fish. Low tide would be about 9.30 am. By standing on the north side of the rocky outcrop, I would be able to cast out with the wind behind me. I was fishing with the Rovex Bario (good) and the Penn Spinfisher (awful, but just about functional).

My current line of choice for the big rod is the 17lb breaking strain Aldi ‘Crane’ braid, in the yellow colour. I picked up about ten 250 metre reels when they were reduced to A$ 11.99 each to clear, earlier in the year. This stuff is great. Alibaba offers me 184 braided fishing line suppliers in China so it could be from anyone but my sources tell me that braid this good is probably made by either Sunline or by Innovative Textiles (now owned by Shimano). I am pretty certain the breaking strain is almost double the listed 17lbs. It’s tough and does not fray. The colour fades after a while but that happens with almost all the brands I have used. When it comes round again, grab some.

I started with a big (150 mm) red and white Classic Lures plastic popper. This stirred up the long toms, initially. But after about twenty minutes of casting around it connected with a good size tailor. Unfortunately the fish swam straight for a bommie and managed to unhook itself but leave the popper firmly lodged in the cunjevoi. To add insult to injury the heavens then opened and I got soaked by a brief downpour.

I swapped to a big new Spanyid Maniac 45g metal spoon. This looks like a great lure. It’s a nice wide target for the tailor to attack. The only downside is that it’s much wider profile makes it less aerodynamic and therefore hard to cast long distances. I could still get it 40 metres or so out, which would be enough. It proved irresistible and after a few retrieves during which it was bumped and nudged a few times, a fish grabbed it and the rod bent over. It was another tailor about 35 cm long. I continued casting and soon caught two more fish of about the same size.

By about 10.00 am the tailor seemed to have gone off the bite. I swapped to the light rod and tied on a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic on a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 jighead. After a few casts this found a fish. This time it was a bream. It was about 30 cm long so I put it aside for dinner. The next cast produced another bream, about the same size, so I kept that as well.  Things quietened down again, so I cleaned my fish and went home to dry out.

By 4.00pm I was ready for more fishing. I drove out to Iluka Bluff. The swell was still pretty lively. Between waves I managed a few casts with the lighter rig and caught another good bream – about 38cm long – on a GULP Jerkshad in the Sweet & Sour Chicken colour.

There was no shortage of fish in the area but I just needed the swell to go away. At about 6.00pm I packed up for the day.

Iluka – Shark Bay – 15 March 2016

Tuesday

I woke to more grey skies on Tuesday – but grey skies are a fisherman’s friend. At least it was not raining. I drove round to Woody Head, just before dawn I walked out onto the rock platform. But by first light I could already see that this location was going to be difficult to fish with such a big swell. The sun came up between the horizon and the grey line of cloud but after half an hour of attempting to cast heavily weight soft plastics and losing them to the rocks or swell, I decided to switch locations.

I drove round to Shark Bay which is always sheltered from big south easterly swells. As I got out of the car, it started raining. This seemed to dampen down the wind but it was still around a 20 knot south easterly. I could see birds hovering above the shallows on the north side of the rocks so I walked towards them. It was now about 7.15 am. Low tide would be at about 8.30 am.

The birds were feeding on something in very shallow water. As I got closer, I could see Tailor also ‘chopping’ into some huge schools of tiny whitebait. I started prospecting with the light surf rig, my Daiwa Air Edge rod. I tied on a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and loaded it with a 3” minnow soft plastic in the pearl watermelon colour. A hungry tailor snaffled this lure as soon as it hit the water and bit it off. I tied on another and upgraded to 35lb leader. This landed a 35 cm tailor on the first cast. I dropped a few more over the next ten minutes.

I decided to swap to my bigger rod and reel and try a bigger lure. The day before the Daiwa Demonblood tip had fallen off so I had swapped to a Rovex Bario that is slightly shorter. I was also trying out a Penn Spinfisher reel. I see these reels everywhere but just because they are plentiful does not make them good and over the week I found all its faults. It was heavy and clunky and the drag only just functioned. My advice is, if you are thinking about buying one – don’t. I had rigged this combo with 20lb braid and 35lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a proven performer the DUO Pressbait Saira. This has long profile but is essentially a big heavy slug. Its chief advantage is the distance that you can cast it. I threw it out as far as I could. I think this would be about 60 or 70 metres with a strong southerly behind it. I cranked it back in at full speed. You cannot slow down here as there are too many clumps of rocks in the way. About twenty metres into the retrieve something hit it and the rod bent over. It was another Tailor no bigger than the one I had caught on the soft plastic.

I carried on casting this big lure for the next hour or so. I caught eight more Tailor and kept the biggest one that was about 50 cm long. The Long Toms where also out in force and I caught a few with the big lure. The thick schools of bait and a bit of blood also brought out the Wobbegongs. This is why it’s best to fish in boots and watch your step.

By about 10.00 am things had slowed down so I swapped back to the 3” Minnow soft plastic. After a few casts a bream grabbed it. It was about 25cm long and was followed by a few more. By 11.00 the tide pushed me back from the edge so I gave up for the day.