By the beginning of May the Clarence River was fishing pretty well. The water was clear on the higher tides but wading around quickly stirred up the newly laid sediment. The floods had washed away a lot of sand and sediment from the rocky bottomed areas and dumped it in new spots. The rain continued but not on a scale that would cause more flooding.
The junior jewfish started to school up around the overhangs and drop offs in the river and sometimes I would catch 5 or 6 in row on lightly weighted soft plastics. The biggest of these junior mulloway were about 35cm long. The little mulloway love soft plastics but strike in a completely different way to flathead. Flathead smash the soft plastic with a hard and noticeable thud, where as the mulloway seem to slowly mouth the plastic before trying to swallow it.
The weather was cool and so was the water. I caught bream, flathead and some small trevally in the river. There were plenty of small jelly prawns and the bream were often to be found feeding on these, as they schooled up in the stingray holes on the flats. On several days I caught a bag limit of five flathead and kept the fish to feed the family.
The swell dropped off for a few days in the middle of the month and I caught several keeper size jewfish at Woody Head. I also hooked a few giant trevally on big soft plastic minnows. I had one session fishing the rock platform at Shark Bay on a falling tide. I caught a couple of small tailor just on dusk.
For most of April the Clarence and Richmond Rivers continued to run completely brown. The rain kept coming in bursts. There were no more floods but the displaced silt and sediment washed around. Towards the end of the month a little clarity returned on the higher tides. The flathead were back quite quickly, in their usual spots, even when the water was still pretty murky.
By about the 20th the catfish were thinning out and the flathead were solid. I did best fishing with high contrast and dark coloured soft plastics stirring up the bottom with a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 hook jighead. A few bream re-appeared. There were quite a lot of zombie fish with sores on them but the flathead all looked ok. Perhaps they are hardier than the bream.
I could not get out to fish the rocky headlands as the swell was constant, but I presume the jewfish were also out there.
We had plenty of rain through early February and there was not much fishing to be done in the muddy brown waters of the Brunswick, Richmond, Wilsons or Clarence River.
In the middle of the month the Clarence River started to clear up a bit and I fished the flats at Browns Rocks, near Iluka. I saw quite a few big flathead lies so they were definitely back in the river after the deluge. I fished my light rig with minnow and paddle tail soft plastics and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I was mainly using 1/8th and 1/6th ounce jigheads. I caught a few flathead and a lot of small jewfish. The tailor were also a constant and I had a few snip offs.
On the 20th the swell eased off and I had a fish on the rock platform at Woody Head in the Bundjalung National Park. I started with soft plastics on my heavy set up and caught a few bream. I moved around, casting until the tide started to run in and swapped to a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I was using a 3/8th ounce jighead and 40lb fluorocarbon leader. After a couple of drops I felt the weight of a good fish. I pulled its head out from under the ledge but it was too heavy and kept thrusting its nose back down into the cunjevoi. The swell wasn’t big enough to help me and soon my leader was tightly tangled. The fish swam away leaving my jighead firmly lodged in the rocks. It had felt like a jewfish but trevally are also good at using this technique to free themselves.
I tied on the same set up and threw it out again. Three casts later I was onto a fish again. It was not as powerful as the first but it still tried to get under the ledge. I let it run a little way but when I put some pressure on it swam out rather than in and I was abled to subdue it. It was a decent school jewfish about 65cm to 70 cm long. I took a picture and speared it back into the water pretty quickly.
There are so many sharks in this zone that I am not sure whether these released fish have much chance of survival. Hopefully they swim straight back under the ledge.
After a few more river fishing sessions the rain set in again. This time it just did not stop and the soaked river catchments could not absorb it. A low off the east coast dropped solid rain for three days and nights and the whole Northern Rivers area of New South Wales suffered the worst floods in living memory. Lismore was completed wiped out and Broadwater/ Wardel/ Mullumbimby/ Ocean Shores/ South Golden Beach/ Brunswick Heads, Fingal Head and many more areas were completely flooded and rendered in accessible for days.
Telstra and the NBN, it transpired, had chosen to route their entire regional telecommunications backbone through a basement telephone exchange at Wardell which was 5m under water. This made local communications next to impossible, severely hampering rescue and recovery efforts. The devastation was complete. People dragged their flooded belongings out onto the streets and the clean up began.
On the Clarence River the flood waters cause massive fish kills. Dead mullet, mulloway, flathead, bream washed ashore along the banks, unable to survive the sudden deluge of fresh and filthy water.
I had a quick fish at Iluka in the beginning of the New Year before the weather turned wild and stormy in early January. The flathead and small jewfish were still in the river. I did best fishing the run out tides before we had some really heavy rain that turned the river brown in the middle of the month.
For the rest of the month I escaped Australia for a visit to my relatives in England. The UK seemed to have already moved on to living with Covid and although restaurant and pub staff were still masked up, everybody else was over it. It was bloody cold and I caught a stinking cold but regular RAT and PCR tests refused to say it was Covid. The plane was already packed with travellers keen to reunite and the additional Covid checks and paperwork made the tedious process of long haul travel more miserable than ever. I was glad to get back to Australia for some fishing in February.
As November rolled into December, Queensland and Western Australia remained cut off from the rest of the country as they realised that it might not be a bad idea to get vaccinated. I continued to go bankrupt and found solace in fishing.
The wind and swell were relentless out on the Iluka headlands but the lower reaches of the Clarence River remained calm and clear. There were a few shrimp in the river and almost as soon as they arrived in numbers the river trawlers set about catching them. They ploughed up and down, day after day trying their best to catch their quotas. This is almost exclusively a bait fishery; the prawns are frozen and sold for bait. The trawler owners say it is a traditional and sustainable fishery but it seems like a lot of activity for a very meagre return. I understand that they frequently receive less than A$1000 a tonne for the prawns. Since 2018 the average catch per licensed boat has been around 5 tonnes per year. If you deduct labour, fuel, boat maintenance and depreciation then no one is making any money. Maybe we could just buy back the boats and licenses, give them a tinny each and all start fishing with lures!
Despite the prawn trawlers the fishing was pretty good on the flats around Browns Rocks (so they may not being doing much harm). I concentrated on fishing the falling tides on the flats. I swapped between hard bodied minnow lures (the DUO Realis Rozante 63/ DUO Realis Shad 52 MR SP, the DUO Realis Jerkbait 100 SP and a variety of no name cheap ones) I also used my favourite GULP soft plastic minnows and paddleshads.
Some mornings were beautifully calm but the northerly winds usually picked up in the afternoons. We had a couple of big storms in the middle of the month. But the river stayed mostly clear.
I caught the usual range of species – bream, flathead, small jewfish, whiting and even the odd luderick. There were plenty of tiny tailor marauding around at dawn and dusk but not many keeper sized fish. On several days I managed a bag of 5 keeper size flathead. It was a month of flat river dawns and beautiful but very early sunrises.
Most of us were now getting vaccinated against the Wuflu with the exception of a few very boring people who insisted on sharing (at length) the reasons why they weren’t. I carried on fishing (and slowly going bankrupt).
We finally had a break in the swell in late November. It was still grey, windy and rainy but I was able to get back out on the rock platform at Woody Head and fish through a middle of the day low tide. The moon was 25 days old and waning. It was about 20% visible.
It looked like perfect jewfish weather but after a few casts a good tailor grabbed my soft plastic. I landed it and changed tactics. I rigged up a metal slug. I was using a 40 gram multi-coloured metal slug from Gillies. It soon found its mark and after a couple of casts I connected with another tailor. It was a decent fish, about 65cm long. I decided to keep that one for supper. I connected and then dropped another two tailor and then swapped back to a soft plastic set up to try for a jewfish.
I selected one of my rapidly declining store of GULP Crazylegs Jerkshads in the Lime Tiger colour and put it on a 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 jighead and lobbed it out just in front of me. I was using my battered Daiwa Demonblood 962 H rod and Daiwa TD SOL III LT 6000D-H spinning reel. I was using 40lb braid and 40lb fluorocarbon leader. I made a few casts with no results. I moved a bit further along the rock platform. I kept dropping the soft plastic in close to the rocks. After a while I felt some resistance, paused and set my hook. The fish tried to swim under an overhang but I managed to pull it out and land it. It was a school jewfish. It was about 60cm long and so after a few pictures I sent it back into the ocean. I could not find anymore fish that day.
The swell came back up but the Clarence River still fished pretty well for flathead and smaller tailor all through the month.
In early October we had a few big late afternoon storms and the swell came back up on the rocky headlands of the Bundjalung National Park. I decided to do my fishing wading around in the shallows around Browns Rocks, on the Clarence River.
I love this type of fishing, I was using light gear – a 6ft spinning rod with a fast action matched with a 2500 size reel. For line I use 12lb breaking strain braid and about 1.5 metres of 10lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader, tied together using a uni to uni knot. I use soft plastics most of the time and fish with the GULP range. I think the infused scent encourages fish to both bite and hang on, once they have. I sometimes also use small diving minnow hard bodies or surface lures if the bite is hot. I favour the run out tide and the most common catch is flathead.
The tailor are also often patrolling this area and it is quite common to lose your whole rig to them. They were getting especially hungry around dawn and dusk in October and I lost a few rigs to clean bite offs.
On Friday 24th September, a slightly calmer morning was forecast. I was up early and set out for Middle Bluff, the headland just to the north of Frazer’s Reef at Iluka. I arrived just before dawn and started casting off the rock ledge with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I was using 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead. My reel was rigged with 30lb braid and a 40lb fluorocarbon leader. I kept the soft plastic in close to the rocks and left it on the bottom as long as I could between hops. Low water had passed at around 4.00 am and the tide was running in. The fishing was fairly slow around dawn. I felt a few hits, which I thought might be bream, but I did not hook up and I was thinking of moving on.
At about 8.00 am I cast out next to the large rock bommy that dominates the headland. As soon as I lifted the lure off the bottom, a fish grabbed it. It was another nice Mulloway/ Jewfish – which I pulled up the rock ledges. It measured 76cm long. They are great eating at this size so I kept it for a family supper. If I am careful, I will get about 1.5 to 1.75 kg of fillets from a fish this size and that will give us a couple of dinners.
The swell came back up, so over the next few days I fished in the shallows of the Clarence River around Browns Rocks. The water was very clear and at dawn and dusk I caught plenty of keeper sized flathead on various soft plastics. There were also tailor, bream and the odd whiting around.
On the 29th the swell eased off again and I fished the rocks at Woody Head. I arrived just after low tide and was fishing using my Daiwa Demonblood rod. There is not much sensitivity in this unit but plenty of power.
I had run out of my beloved GULP Crazylegs Jerkshads in my favourite Lime Tiger colour. This was probably a good thing because it forced me to persist with some other colours and shapes. The reasonably new GULP paddle shad shape worked well. I caught the biggest jewfish of the day on a 5 inch paddle shad in the nuclear chicken colour. It was approximately 85cm long. I let it go as I now had a fridge full of flathead.
The end of September had been great fishing around Iluka. The school jewfish were the biggest of the year so far and there was plenty of bait around.
We had some great weather in the middle of September. Bright, clear days but the big swell was pretty persistent. On the few days that it was calm enough, I fished the rocky headlands at Iluka Bluff and Woody Head. The 20th of September is known as the first day of spring in the southern hemisphere and everything in nature is hungry, including the fish. The new moon had arrived on the 7th of September.
I was focusing on finding the mulloway/jewfish and so I needed fairly calm seas. Most of my jewfish catches have been at the base of the rocks. These schooling fish like to shelter close to the base of the rocks or under the overhangs of the rock ledges. This month was no exception and when the swell calmed down for a few days in the middle of the month, I caught a couple of fish over the 75cm mark and lost a couple more. I found the beginning of the run in tide was the best time to fish for them. The GULP Crazylegs soft plastic in the Lime Tiger colour worked best.
I had lost fish as I was trying to bring them up and over the rock ledges. My braid just kept snapping. On close inspection I found a nick in the rod tip but only after losing a couple of expensive stickbaits, with tailor attached. I had to swap down to the Daiwa Crossfire CFS1062 light rock fishing rod. It was quite a battle on the lighter rod but the swell helped me get a decent jewfish to a point where I could safely grab it.
In between hunting mulloway/jewfish I used my current favourite sinking stickbait to spin for some tailor. It is the ASWB FD40 Flutter Drop. It is 40g, casts like a bullet and has a great tight action. The tailor and trevally can’t resist, if they are nearby. I caught a couple of solid 45cm tailor on it. One of the tailor looked like something tried to eat it on the way in.
Meanwhile the smaller tailor were active in the river. Particularly just after dawn and at dusk. The birds would let you know where they were and I caught small tailor using small slugs, soft plastics and hard bodies. I was even surprised to pull a decent (55cm) flathead in from beneath a school – on a 40g metal slug. The flathead were also pretty plentiful up and down the banks of the Clarence River from Browns Rocks down to the river mouth.
The next morning I was back at the rock ledge, fishing at Woody Head. I assumed that the jewfish/ mulloway should still be around. In fact, if they were in this spot, they were probably schooled up under ledges all up and down the east coast of Australia.
The only thing that had really changed was that low tide would be about an hour later. It was a bright clear morning. The swell was just over a metre and the wind had been light from south west at dawn but was gradually turning south-easterly. The new moon was a week away.
I started at about 7.30 am. I was using my Daiwa Saltist rod and reel combination , I was pretty confident that the mulloway/jewfish would be around so I chose 40 lb fluorocarbon leader and a heavy gauge 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead. The soft plastic of choice was once again the GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger Colour.
I dropped it into the foamy swell just about 3 metres out and let it sink and drift back in. I felt I had the lure in the perfect spot and I did, because as I lifted the rod tip it caught hard against the cunjevoi cover rocks and was snagged. I snapped my line and re-rigged. Like all good addictions fishing is an expensive business.
I carried on with the same patterned lure in the same spot. After about 1 hour and 30 minutes and two more lost jigheads, I felt a solid bite. The fish initially swam in, under the ledge so I let it run and tried to minimise my line rubbing against the rocks. I kept up the tension but when it seemed clear it was not going to come out I flicked the bail arm over completely for about 15 seconds and paused. I then tightened the drag a little and flicked the bail arm back. This did the trick and by the time I had taken up the slack line, the fish was still hooked and was a couple of metres out into the open water. It pulled fairly hard and it made another run but now it was pretty tired. The swell was just right to help me lift the fish up a couple of rock ledges to me feet. It was a nice jewfish, approximately 85cm long.
In the late afternoon I went for a quick session casting around in shallows of the Clarence River at Browns Rocks. I used a DUO Realis Pencil 6.5 cm surface lure to target the small tailor that are almost always marauding around on dusk. I had great fun catching a few on my light gear until something bigger swallowed the lot.
At the end of the month the swell eased for a few days and I set off to fish the rocks at Woody Head. The swell was forecast to be 0.9 m but was a bit higher than that when I arrived at first light. I was using my one of my heavier rock fishing rigs – Daiwa Saltist X 962 MH rod matched with a Daiwa Saltist 3000 reel. I had it loaded with 30lb braid and about 1.5 metres of 30lb fluorocarbon leader.
I put on a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Curried Chicken colour, on a 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead, cast out it out and let it sink. The target was a jewfish. So I kept the soft plastic on the bottom for as long as I dared. I repeated the process for about twenty minutes. I moved further to the south along the main rock platform and cast around in another promising jewfish spot. This time a fish hit the lure as it sank, but from the manic run and the head shakes I knew it was a tailor. It was about a 35 cm tailor and it had destroyed the soft plastic lure. I released it and moved again.
This time I put on a 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead and a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I cast out, let the soft plastic sink and hopped it back to me, along the bottom.
The fish must have been sitting very close to the foot of the rock ledge. They were probably sheltering under a rocky overhang. I kept my retrieve going as close as I could to the ledge.
The tactic worked and after about 30 minutes of casting and retrieving, a fish grabbed the soft plastic, off the bottom. It was now about 8.00 am, almost exactly dead low tide. It tried to swim deeper in to its underwater cave and took a bit of line, but it quite quickly changed directions and swam out. Jewfish of this size only seem to have a couple of really good runs in them and if they go in a safe direction, you can soon stop them. The swell helped with a big surge and I soon had this one at my feet. It measured in at just over 75cm. After a couple of pictures and a swim in the reviver pool, it went back.
I have been alternating between the rocks and the Clarence River at Iluka, this year. This is why I love the area so much. When the swell is up on the headlands, I grab my waders and light rig and fish in the river. July and August are also my favourite fishing months. Bright sunshine, cooling water and with the shorter days, it is easier to fish at dawn and dusk.
The Clarence River around Goodwood Island was very clear and there was plenty of bait in the water. I fished with my favourite GULP soft plastic and also had some success targeting flathead with bigger hard bodied minnow lures. I caught plenty of flathead between 36cm and 45cm, but not many bigger than that. I also caught a few good (35 cm plus) bream.
The tailor were still coming and going, especially at dawn. The birds would chase them up and down the river and signal their location. I rarely caught one over 35cm but the biggest few always grabbed my lure just before or after sunrise/ sunset.
The highlight was a decent jewfish which I caught while wading in the shallows looking for flathead. It grabbed my GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour while I was casting over a coffee rock ledge at Browns Rocks. It was the bottom of the tide and the water was fairly dirty. I only had a 12lb fluorocarbon leader and my Samaki Zing SZG-562SXL 2-6lb ultralight rod so it was a long slow fight. Fortunately, the 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead was lodged tightly in the corner of the fish’s mouth. I initially thought it was a ray, then a big flathead and then I caught sight of silver and knew it was a jewfish. I had a beach to land it on so, after about 25 minutes of to and fro, I pulled it on to the muddy shore. It measured 73cm so I decided to keep it for a family feed – great fish.
Another lull in the swell meant I could get out on to the rocks to fish in early August. I stuck with Woody Head as I had caught some good fish there in July, last time I was down here. I started early, about 30 mins before first light and conditions were forecast to be pretty good. We were 4 days before the new moon. Low tide would be at about 10.20 am and the swell was forecast to be no more than 1.0 metre high.
I was fishing with my heavier rock fishing set up. This is a Daiwa Saltist X MH 962 rod now matched with a Daiwa Saltist 3000 reel. I have it rigged with 40lb braid and today I was using a 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I started with a GULP Jerkshad soft plastic lure in the satay chicken colour, loaded into a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead.
As soon as I could see what I was doing I had a couple of casts and retrieves with the plastic. At about 6.30 am something hit the plastic hard at the base of the rocks. It pulled hard for a while but swam away from the rocks. I tightened my drag a a little and recovered some line whilst looking for a landing spot. I love this Daiwa Saltist XMH62 as it is sensitive enough to stay in contact with the soft plastic even with quite a light jighead. However the flip side is that it is sometimes too light to muscle a fish past the rocks. The fish took a bit more line and I pulled hard, trying to turn its head. Suddenly the hook pulled and it was gone. I never got a look at it – so it could have been anything. But given what happened later I think it was a jewfish.
I re-rigged and put on a GULP 5 inch Paddleshad soft plastic in the nuclear chicken colour. This time I chose a tougher jighead – a Berkley Nitro Saltwater Pro, 1/4 ounce with a size 1/0 hook. These are pretty difficult to straighten. Two or three casts with this and I felt a very solid bite at the base of the rocks. I paused as long as I dared and then struck. I thought I had the fish but I was just snagged on the rocks. I yanked the jighead free and when I examined the soft plastic I realised from the bite marks, I had missed another fish.
I cast around for the next couple of hours with hardly a touch. At about 10.00 am, just as we were approaching low tide, I felt a bite in close to the base of the rocks again. I paused this time and dropped the rod tip. When I lifted the rod I had a fish on, but it went straight under the rock ledge and soon I could feel the leader rubbing. I moved along the ledge and changed my angle slightly. I flicked the bail arm over and let the pressure off. I waited about 10 seconds and then flicked it back over and pulled hard. The fish came out and ran again but buy now it was beaten. With the aid of a few decent waves I got it up to my feet. It was an 83 cm jewfish
I cleaned it up and kept it for supper. Bottom of the tide seems to be a good time for them.
On Wednesday the skies were clear but the wind and swell were still making it too hard to fish the rocky headlands around Iluka. So I decided to flick some soft plastic lures around in the shallows, near Browns Rocks on Goodwood Island.
I started around 7.00 am using a GULP 4 inch Minnow in the Lime Tiger Colour on a 1/8th, 1/0 jighead. I have been using the Gamakatsu Round 211, 1/8th ounce, size 2 hook jigheads lately, as I find they are better than the regular jigheads for hooking bream. They are a good fit with the 2, 3 and 4 inch soft plastic lures.
I always consider June and July the best bream fishing months in the estuaries and around the rocky headlands. As the water cools and the bait supply increases, the bream and several other species start to school up to spawn.
I was back fishing the main arm of the river. First I tried the flats to the east of the Goodwood Island Wharf and later, I fished along the bank – to the north of the wharf. I was fishing with my light rig and 12lb fluorocarbon leader. The water was clear and there was plenty of bait in the shallows. I caught a couple of keeper sized bream, several tailor around the 30-35 cm mark, two small flathead; one that would have been around the 40cm long size.
As I drove past the Browns Rocks Caravan Park on my way home. I saw the birds dive-bombing something close to shore. I stopped and tied on a MARIA MJ Twitch 90mm hard bodied minnow lure (another favourite). I put in three casts at where the birds were divebombing. On the third cast I connected with a 38 cm tailor. This is about as big a tailor as I have ever caught in the Clarence River. I am sure I have been bitten off by bigger, but as I am generally fishing with a very light leader (10lb-12lb, max 20lb), so I cant stop them. I released it and hooked and dropped a couple more, before giving up at about 9.15 am.
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On Monday the 19th the swell was up again and the wind came with it. I had a lie in, cleaned my light spinning rig and took it easy in the morning.
In the afternoon the wind dropped a little. So I went out to explore. I decided to fish through dusk on the north arm of the Clarence River. I drove down past the Goodwood Island Wharf and walked across to the other side of island. The river bank is fairly over grown but there are a few good fishing spots in this area.
I rigged up with a 12lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I put on a GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour. This is such a consistent performer for me and has caught jewfish, flathead, bream, dart, tailor, whiting and a whole range of weird and wonderful less common species.
In this area the north arm of the Clarence River is wide and shallow, There are open patches along the river bank and then large patches of young mangroves. Its is slightly muddier and swampier than the main arm.
The tide was pretty high and running in. I fished for a couple of hours until just after sunset. A couple of times a small school of tailor came past and bit the end of the soft plastic, but I did not catch any of them. I managed two flathead, one decent bream and an amazing sunset for the session. Its always good to explore.
On the 17th the swell was forecast to be light again so I decided to try fishing at Woody Head. Low tide would be at about 7.30 am and we were about a week away from the full moon. I arrived at about 6.00 am, 30 mins before first light. I walked out onto the rock platform and the swell was disappointingly powerful again.
I started fishing at the north end, casting a 60g metal slug towards the gap in the rocks north of the area known as the barnacles. There are nearly always tailor or trevally here on dawn and sometimes jewfish. It was too rough to cast a soft plastic so I stuck with the slug. I hooked and dropped a couple of fish, just after first light, which I assume were tailor. Then I lost my slug to the rocks.
I dropped to the lighter rig and put on a GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastic on a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast out in front of the rock platform and let the plastic sink through the wash. You cannot leave the plastic long on the bottom as it will get snagged, but you need it down there for five or ten seconds, to be in with a chance of attracting a bite. After a few casts I caught a decent bream and then dropped another.
After sunrise things went quiet and I moved further south along the rock platform, casting in various spots. I moved back up to the heavier rig (40lb braid/ 30lb fluorocarbon leader), as I approached a few known jewfish spots. I was now fishing with a GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour. I was still using 30lb leader but I had changed to a 1/4 ounce, 2/0 jighead. The swell was little lighter now and the tide was running in.
I kept casting and retrieving the soft plastic and leaving it for as long as possible right at the base of the rock ledge, on the bottom. I felt a pretty faint bight and then lost my rig to the cunjevoi again. I retied with the same set up and kept going south along the rocks.
It was now about 8.30 am. As I pulled up the rod tip to recast, the jighead stopped. I pulled again and it moved a little more and then line started peeling. Unfortunately, I could immediately feel the line rubbing on something, so the fish was probably swimming in, under an overhang. I tightened the drag a fraction and it slowed. I got some line back and hoped it was coming out. However it got its breath back and ran the wrong way again. I decided to flick the bail arm open to see if it swam out, once I had released the pressure. I left the fish with slack line for about 15 seconds. In this time I got a little nearer to the edge, in between the wave sets. I then flicked the bail arm over, took up the slack line and heaved the fish out. It was just clear of the overhang and the line flicked free. I now had the drag very tight. The fish was pretty much beaten and it popped up, a big slab of silver. It rolled over on its side in the wash. The Daiwa Saltist 962 MH rod would not be able to lift it clear of the water so I would have to use the wave sets and the stepped rock ledges to land it. I managed this and got a soaking in the process. It was a solid jewfish / mulloway about 85cm cm long. I put it in a fresh rockpool to recover for a while. After a few photos I decided it looked well enough to release so I sent it on its way.
The leader was pretty shredded, as was a good section of braid, so I cut it all off and re-rigged. I decided to stick with the winning combination and dug out another GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour. I cast out in the same spot let the lure flutter down and wash in to the base of the rocks. By the second hop I felt a bite and dropped the rod tip again and paused. After a few seconds pulled up hard and set the hook. It was another jewfish. This time I had started with a tighter drag and I kept the fish from getting its head down and swimming under the ledge. It made a solid run bit fortunately it was in the direction of the open sea. I turned its head and again used the waves to to lift it onto one ledge, then another and then up to my feet. It was another nice fish, closer to 90 cm this time. After five minutes this one did not perk up in the recovery pool, so I decided it would be dinner. I spiked it, then gutted and scaled it and later weighed it in at the shop – 5.7 kg. It was a beautiful fish.
I decided that two good fish was more than enough for one session and gave up for the day.
In mid-July I got back down to Iluka for some fishing. I decided to fish with my light rig at Iluka Bluff. Low tide was just before 7.00 am and a 1.1 metre swell was forecast. We were five days into the new moon and there had been some pretty significant rain the week before.
I arrived at about 6.00am, well before dawn. I started by throwing large stickbaits and a 55g Halco Twisty, looking for tailor or trevally. The in-shore swell was significantly bigger than forecast and I got my first soaking before the sun came over the horizon. The big lures did not get anything, so I dropped down to my lighter rock fishing rig which is the Daiwa Crossfire Surf CFS 1062, 3.2m, 3-5kg rod, matched with my very battered (but still brilliant) Shimano Stella 4000. I set it up with 40lb braid and16lb fluorocarbon leader. It is perfect for casting lightly weighted soft plastics off the rocks.
I put on my favourite soft plastic – the 5″/13 cm GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger Glow colour. As I have mentioned before it looks like this colour is disappearing from the GULP range (and possibly this pattern too). Grab them while you can, if you see them in your local tackle store. I rigged it on a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead.
The sun was up and and the clouds were clearing. I cast the soft plastic out into the area beyond the wash and let it sink. I hopped it a couple of times, then repeated the process. After five or six tries a small big eye trevally grabbed it. I threw it back and kept casting. About ten minutes later a fish pulled the plastic off the jighead. This is usually the bream who gather in the wash. I put on a 4 ” GULP Minnow in the Smelt colour and cast that out. I had a few hits and then hooked up with a decent, 35cm Tarwhine. I released it and moved further south, around to another ledge.
On my first cast on this spot I connected with a small jewfish/ mulloway. It put a decent bend in the lighter rig, but with the aid of the swell I successfully pulled it into a rockpool at my feet. It was about 55cm long. I photographed and released it. I cycled through a few more soft plastic colours and patterns and lost a few jigheads to the cunjevoi covered rocks, but did not land anymore fish.
At about 8.30am the incoming tide pushed me back from the edge of the ledge and I gave up for the day.
In mid-July I was back in Iluka after a fair bit of rain and wild weather. The swell was forecast to drop to about a metre so I decided to spend a morning fishing at Woody Head.
I was up before dawn and arrived on the platform at Woody Head at about 6.00 am. The tide had been low at 5.20 am and was now running in. It was a few days after the new moon, so it was about 20% full. The horizon was an amazing colour in the pre-dawn light. The swell was a bit angrier than forecast so I watched it for a while before I started fishing. As it got lighter I could see that the water was very cloudy.
When I felt I could cast safely between the bigger sets I tied on the ASWB 40g Flutter Drop fast sinking stickbait. This comes from Ebb Tide Tackle. I like this lure. It often seems to get a bite when other things are not working for tailor. I cast it out and started retrieving with long, fairly slow sweeps. I felt a couple of knocks on the first cast but nothing connected. I cast out again and repeated the process. This time the fish were ready and one grabbed it pretty quickly. I was fishing with my old battered Daiwa Demonblood 962 H rod and Daiwa TD SOL III LT 6000D-H spinning reel. I was using 40lb braid and a 40lb fluorocarbon leader. The Demonblood is such a solid rod and had no problem subduing the tailor. I pulled up a very fat fish – about 45cm long. I despatched it and put it in the keeper pool. It was now just after 7.00 am.
I kept casting in between some big wave sets, but conditions were tricky. At about 7.30 am I hooked another tailor, very close to the rocks. A big wave was coming so I loosened the drag and retired to safety while it washed over the ledge. I then retightened and felt the fish was still on. However the line was rubbing on the cunjevoi covered rocks. The swell forced me back again and I just flicked the bail arm over. The wave hit hard. As I moved back towards the edge, I flicked the bail arm over and wound like mad. The fish seemed to have freed/ untangled itself and I pulled it up to my feet. It was another tailor, about the same size as the first.
The BKK trebles (which are pretty tough) were all bent up and I was soaked, so I called it quits for the morning at about 8.00 am.
The next morning the swell came up and the rocky headlands of the Bundjalung National Park were too tough to fish. I had a bit of a lie in and then drove up the Clarence River to fish on Goodwood Island at Browns Rocks. There are fish to be found all the way along the banks of Goodwood Island. At this time of year it is mainly bream, flathead and schools of 30 cm to 40 cm marauding tailor.
On this particular morning I arrived about 7.00 am and drove down to fish an area of the river bank, where I could see the birds dive bombing some bait. It was about 7.00 am and I was fishing with my light spin rig and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a 1/8 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and GULP Minnow in the Camo colour. By the time I got organised the birds and bait had moved on. The tide was running in.
I cast my soft plastic up into the incoming tide and hopped it along the bottom, with lots of long pauses. It was a cold morning and the water was very clear despite the recent rain. A small flathead about 30 cm long, was the first taker. It grabbed my lure as it lay still, beside a fallen tree. I kept casting in the same spot and found two more flathead. One was bigger but probably not legal to keep. Dusky flathead need to be 36cm long in New South Wales. The other was a little smaller. I moved along the bank but that was it for the morning.
The next morning I tried again and started a little earlier. This time the birds were still around when I started casting and I could see there was a school of tailor chasing small herring along the shoreline. I knew they were tailor as, on my first cast my jighead and soft plastic were almost immediately bitten off.
I re-rigged and put on a new soft plastic. This time it was a GULP Minnow in the green and black speckled orange Lime Tiger colour. I carried on moving along the bank casting and retrieving and soon found a decent flathead – 43 cm long. I released it and carried on. The next taker was a solid bream about 35 cm long.
The fish were on the bite and I caught a couple more smaller bream. I swapped up to a bigger GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic in the same colour and kept casting. Nearly all the flathead had taken the soft plastics at the base of the rock wall, that lines the river bank. So this is where I kept pausing. This tactic worked again at about 8.00 am and I connected with a solid 50 cm flathead that headed for the middle of the river. After a short fight, I had it at my feet. I took a picture and let it go. I decided that would do for the morning
That afternoon I drove over to the north side of Goodwood Island to fish through until sunset. The wind dropped and the water was pretty flat. I had a few grabs from what I think where passing tailor and then caught a couple more keeper flathead which I took home for supper.
It was back to Woody Head the next morning as the swell was forecast to be light. I started again with a big soft plastic, looking for a jewfish on the bottom of the run out tide. I tried for about 30 minutes from first light through to dawn. I did not get a touch in all my favourite spots.
As the sun came up I switched to a brass coloured 55g Halco Twisty and threw that out towards the horizon. On my third retrieve, a fish grabbed the lure close to the rocks and tried to head down into them. Fortunately it was only a small trevally and I muscled it up, took a picture and threw it back. We were coming up to low tide and the water was still very cloudy.
About ten minutes later a tailor grabbed the same lure. I landed it and threw it back. It was about 45cm long. On the next cast I lost the whole rig to something big and toothy. It was only on the line for about 10 seconds before cutting through my 40lb fluorocarbon leader. I re-rigged and put on a new Halco Outcast 60g metal slug. I moved a little further north along the rock platform and kept casting. I soon found some more tailor. I caught 4 more – all between 35cm and 45 cm before things went quiet.
By about 9.00 am the tide started to push me away from the rocks so I gave up for the morning.