Iluka – Woody Head – 22nd to 29th September 2020

I always keep an eye on the weather forecast, looking for a period of low swell that will allow me to safely fish the rocks – which is currently my favorite fishing style. In late September three or four days of low swell were forecast for Northern New South Wales. The school holidays were about to start and despite (or maybe because of) all the COVID 19 travel restrictions, all the accomodation in Northern New South Wales would soon be booked out for a fortnight.

So I grabbed my chance and on the 22 September I drove down to Iluka along the newly opened section of the Pacific Highway.  The highway now bypasses the small towns of  Wardell, Broadway and Woodburn and reduces the drive south from Byron to Iluka, to less than 90 minutes.

The reason the sea had flattened out was the arrival of northerly and north-westerly winds. The full moon was about a week away and the low tide would be early in the mornings. We were about to swap from winter to summer and the fishing often goes off a little as the weather becomes a bit more erratic. I dropped into Iluka Bait and Tackle when I arrived – https://www.facebook.com/Iluka-Bait-and-Tackle-608266152650241/. Apparently winter has been excellent for tailor, jew and bream fishing but things had slowed down a little in the couple of weeks prior to my arrival. I always drop in to see Ross at the store. He is a great source of up to date info and has an excellent range of lures/ bait terminal tackle, jigheads and soft plastics. Unlike many small local fishing shops, his prices are also very reasonable.

I was up early everyday and out fishing at Woody Head just before dawn.  It was calm enough to fish right off the front of the rock platform.  I fully expected a few tailor or jewfish, but they were nowhere to be found. There were a few bream and dart, but the dominant predator was the Australian Salmon. This was a surprise as these have been missing from these waters for a few years.

I started off in the mornings fishing at the northern end of the Woody Head rock platform, at the spot known locally as ‘the Barnacles’.  On the first day I fished through dawn with large hard bodies and then dropped down to a 6o gram brass coloured Halco Twisty metal slug. I was using 30lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leader.

This hook was not up to its task

I had a few bumps on a big hard body and could see the bait jumping around in front of my lure but I did not hook anything. Once I put the Halco Twisty on, things improved. I felt a grab and then another and  finally, on about the tenth fast retrieve, I hooked a solid fish. It fairly quickly lept out of the water revealing it was an Australian Salmon. I tightened my drag and got some line back. It was a heavy fish and they fight hard. They don’t have much in the way of teeth but they do jump a lot, so you have to keep the line tight. I got it up to just below the ledge and got soaked by a wave, trying to heave it up next to me. On the next surge I tried to muscle it over the edge but it gave a powerful slap of its tail and spat the hook out, just as it came to my feet. It then left with the next wave. I checked my lure and realised I had a fairly light, fine wire single hook on it – which had now bent open. I put on another slug but I could not find anymore.

What is this?

I swapped to my lighter rock fishing rig – 20lb braid and a 12lb fluorocarbon leader. On my way down, I had dropped in to BCF in Ballina to find lots of packets of the GULP Lime Tiger Jerkshads and GULP Nuclear Chicken shrimp soft plastics marked down to $5 a packet. I know these catch fish, so I grabbed as many as I could and added them to the tacklebox.  I loaded up a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead with a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour and started casting. I cast it all around and eventually caught some kind of small wrasse with bright red fins. I swapped to the GULP 2″ Shrimp in the Nuclear Chicken colour and threw that out and this snared a couple of small bream.

The next morning I decided to cast some GULP jerkshads around on dawn, to see if I could tempt a jewfish. Unfortunately all I found was another small red finned wrasse. When I swapped to a smaller soft plastic, I caught a small speckled rock fish and a few more bream.

I swapped to a 40g DUO DragMetal Cast Slow lure. This is a slow jig and although you cannot exactly ‘slow jig’ it off the rocks, it is a a bit more exciting than a plain metal slug. I hop it back to me fairly quickly, but give it time to reach the surface, then flutter down again. I saw a boatie, about 100 metres out, hook something and start a fairly serious fight. I cast in his direction and felt a hit on the retrieve. I cast again. This time I made sure to exaggerate the hops and it paid off. Line started peeling and I let the fish run. It was another Australian Salmon, but this time it was solidly hooked and I managed to land it. It was just on 60cm long. As I was de-hooking it it spat up another large baitfish.

I have tried but I can’t make Australian Salmon taste good. I hear they are usually netted and used for pet food by the professional fisherman. I decided to cut out the middleman and keep this one for the cat.

The next day I followed a similar drill. I caught nothing much around dawn but at about 7.30 am I managed to find the Salmon with a new soft plastic – the GULP 4″ Paddle Shad in the Silver Mullet colour. This one has just appeared in the GULP range and I like it. We plastics fisherman have always lacked a decent scented paddle tail lure and this one is great. Now we just need them to make it in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I lost another Salmon to the rocks a little later, using the same soft plastic.

On my final day the wind was strong and cold, from the west, but the swell was still light. I fished a little further along the Woody Head rock platform, to the south. Around dawn I caught a couple of decent bream and a good dart. I had broken the tip on my Daiwa Crossfire 1062 rod, so I had I matched my Daiwa TD SOL LT 6000 DH with my NS Black Hole Cabin II S862L rod, 30lb braid and 16lb fluorocarbon leader. At about 8.30am, I was fishing with a GULP 4′ Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colouring on 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast it out towards the tip of rocky out crop and let it sink. As I lifted the rod I felt some weight and something started taking line. Almost straight away it leaped out of the water trying to spit out the soft plastic. It was well hooked and after a couple of big leaps and runs it calmed down and I used the swell to land it.

That was it for my trip. Summer is coming and it is time to change tactics.

Great fun

Dunsborough Cape Naturaliste – Western Australia – May 2018

I had a quick trip to Western Australia in mid-May. Fortunately I was bunking at the Bunker Bay Resort which is perfectly located to explore and fish the rocky headlands of Cape Naturaliste & Dunsborough in the Margaret River region. I managed to arrive in the calm before the storm and had 4 days of great weather before a major front moved through. This coast gets some wild weather and very big seas. The signs recommending that rock fisherman tie themselves on tightly and the certified and safety rated anchor points sunk into the rocks, are a good indication that things can get pretty dangerous. As always –  take care and if in doubt, don’t.

According to local anglers the Australian Salmon had been working around the bays in the area and there was plenty of bait in close to the shore. I worked my way around each of the bays and headlands looking for anything I could catch. I fished the beach at Bunker Bay. I also fished around the headland at Seal Rocks. I fished in the channels at Canal Rocks and Yallingup. I climbed up the rocks to the ledges beside Sugarloaf Rock, where I saw the odd group of salmon swim by in the crystal clear water below. But wherever I went and whatever I fished with I caught herring after herring after herring. I kept a few of the bigger ones for supper one night and they tasted pretty good. The herring were so plentiful it was hard to fish past them. There were also salmon scales everywhere I went so they must have been around in significant numbers, not long before. At dusk one evening I saw a group of three samsonfish come up behind a hooked herring and I though I was in for a fight but they turned away at the last minute.

I was using my 4 piece travel rod – a MajorCraft Crostage CRK 964 ML 9 foot 6 inch in their ‘Sea Bass Game’ series. This is designed to cast a 10 to 30 gram lure and is rated as having a ‘regular’ action. It might have struggled to land a big salmon but in this case it was not tested. In fact throughout the four days of fishing I caught only one fish that was not a herring and that was a small trevally, known locally as a ‘skippy’.  I used this rod to cast soft plastics (which the herring completely destroyed), hard bodied minnow and vibe lures, metal slugs and even strips of fresh herring flesh. I generally started the day with a big lure and 25lb leader and gradually moved down in weight of both, as the sun got higher in the sky.

A beautiful spot and plenty of herring – I will be back.

 

 

 

Coffin Bay – Point Avoid and the Ledge – 5 September 2016

Monday

On Monday the wind dropped back a bit and the weather warmed up considerably. Everything was blooming and the flies had started buzzing. I drove out to Point Avoid and after catching a few small salmon around dawn, I moved north around the point to fish in the shallow pools, close to shore. The tide was low at about 8.30 am. The wind was now fairly light from the south east but the swell was still big. The rocks further out took the power out of the waves but every 10 minutes or so a huge surge would race up and over everything and then slowly drain out.

I picked a safe spot and cast around with a soft plastic. I was using 12lb leader and a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 jighead. I was using a GULP 3 inch Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour. There were sandy bottomed pools scattered everywhere and almost everyone had a resident wrasse. I just dropped the plastic and let it sink. Then, as soon as I lifted it off the bottom they would strike. I lost a few of the bigger ones to the rocks, but I must have caught about 10 before the incoming tide pushed me back. In between the wrasse the odd Australian herring also attacked the soft plastic. At about 9.30 am the surges had pushed me too far away from the fishy spots, so I drove back into town.

I had breakfast and then drove round to the other side of the bay to fish the ledge. The tide was coming in and I started off fishing with some GULP worm soft plastics hoping to find a few King George whiting. Try as I might the juvenile salmon were all I could find.

As I looked around in the shallows I saw a clump of razor fish and quickly harvested a few. I also noticed good sized mussels clumping on the rocks so I collected enough for lunch. I went back to my cabin and cleaned up. I ate the razor fish and the mussels for lunch. Razor fish are delicious – like scallops only sweeter. They are a lot of work for a tiny morsel of edible seafood but it’s worth it. The mussels were also amazing. I just steamed them. The problem with eating really fresh seafood is that it means the shop/ restaurant bought variety will rarely pass muster. I cannot remember the last time I ate fish in a restaurant.

I had a sleep and then drove round to Seal Rock to fish at sunset. The target was the King George Whiting again. I fished through the flies for a couple of hours and eventually, just after dark I caught a couple.

Coffin Bay – Point Avoid/ Boat Ramp – 3/4 September 2016

Saturday/Sunday

Saturday morning was cold and grey and the low that had passed through the week before had left a big swell behind it. It would be low tide near dawn and although it was cold, it was not raining so I drove back down into the Coffin Bay National Park and round to fish at Point Avoid. I arrived just after dawn. The wind was a howling south westerly and the swell would be too hard to fish in.

I drove back into sheltered Coffin Bay. I bought a coffee and thawed out. The sun came out and I had a fish around the boat ramp with my light Gary Howard Estuary 9’ rod and 6lb fluorocarbon leader. I used a GULP Turtleback Worm in the pumpkinseed colour and a couple of 2 inch Minnows in Smelt and Peppered Prawn, on a 1/16th ounce, size 2 hook jighead. These immediately attracted the attention of the juvenile salmon that swarm around the clear waters of the bay. I caught about ten is quick succession. All about 15cm long.

The sun had come out but the wind was building so I retired to the cabin for a hot shower and a sleep.

On Sunday the wind had died away but the swell was still up. I started in the morning at Point Avoid. I was casting a 40 gram Raider metal slug out in to the surf. Almost from the first cast the bigger salmon were on to it. I caught a couple of 25cm fish and then found myself fighting something bigger. It took a fair amount of line and then started leaping. Each time I thought I had subdued it, it came back to life at my feet and charged off. Australian Salmon are one tough fish – to fight and to eat! This one made about five mad leaps clear of the surf. Eventually I got it to the sandy beach. It was about 55cm long and weighed a few kilos. I released it and carried on fishing.

The smaller salmon kept biting but after a big wave gave me a soaking I decided to retreat. I went back to Coffin Bay and changed into dry clothes. In the afternoon I drove back into the park where I stopped to fish off the high cliffs north of Point Avoid. I was never going to be able to land a significant fish here because the fishing platform is at least five metres above the water, but it just looked so fishy that I had to have a cast.

I started with a 40g Raider metal slug – this almost immediately caught a 30cm salmon – which in turn, regurgitated a small herring (Tommy Ruff). I swapped through a few small metal and vibe lures which all caught fish. I found a good patch of herring but also kept catching the small salmon. They were not particularly interested in the soft plastics – which I also tried for a while. At about 4.00 pm I stopped for the day after continuously catching fish for about 2 hours.

If only this spot had some approachable water I am sure there would be some monsters prowling about at dusk dawn. I will have to keep exploring.

Coffin Bay – Kellidie Bay & Point Avoid – 1/2 September 2016

Thursday

Work brought me to the Eyre Peninsula again in early September. I was keen to get back down to Coffin Bay as I have heard there is a run of big kingfish at this time of year.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon and took a cabin at the caravan park for the weekend. Spring had just about arrived and the weather and more importantly the water temperatures were beginning to warm up. Thursday was new moon so the tides were quite big.

In the afternoon I drove round to Kellidie Bay to fish at Seal Corner – and fished with my Gary Howard Estuary 9’ of the west side of the peninsula. I was using 4lb leader and 1/12th ounce, size 1 hook jig head with various Gulp Worms. I caught a few small King George Whiting, a few juvenile Salmon and one very small Tommy Rough. The Dolphins came through but a cold south westerly wind at about 15 knots made things tough.

On Friday morning I was up at 5.30 and drove in to the National Park and round to Point Avoid. Tide would be low at about 7.00 am and a five knot south easterly wind was forecast. Skies were overcast and there was virtually no moon. First light was at 6.20 am.

Last time I was here I was outgunned with a very light rod so this time I brought my slightly bigger NS Blackhole Light Surf Rod. I have a new Shimano Stradic 4000 reel and I had loaded it with the 17lb Aldi braid and tied on a length of 25lb leader.

I started with a River2sea Bubble Pop 88 in a gold colour. I cast this a long way out behind the waves and started yanking it. Conditions were pretty choppy so there was no point in trying to make it look pretty. No luck on the first cast but right at the end of the retrieve on the second, a decent salmon (about 2.5kg) caming rushing up behind it. It hit the lure hard and then turned around and headed back out to sea. It was solidly hooked and with the bigger rod I had little trouble subduing it.

As the sky brightened a full length rainbow appeared. I could see the rain heading towards me. I carried on with the popper for a few more casts but I was casting into the wind and I could net get it as far out as I wanted. I took it off and swapped to a 40 gram Surecatch Knight metal slug.  This caught a salmon on the first cast and then continued to catch more, about one every other cast. However the size gradually declined as we moved further from dawn.

At about 8.30 am, it started to rain. I tied on a DUO Realis Jerkbait 100 – a hard bodied suspending minnow. I cast this out and although it would not carry as far as the slug it did go a fair distance. The action or the rattle had an immediate effect and a fish hit it as soon as it got going. After a short fight I pulled out a grumpy looking brown spotted wrasse. I caught a few more of these who seemed to like this lure. The rain gradually got heavier and it was pretty cold so at about 9.30 am gave up.

As I drove back along the national park road into Coffin Bay the emus were out in force, one even had a set of what looked like fairly recent chicks. Drive slowly on this stretch if you are coming down this way.

Coffin Bay – Point Avoid and the Ledge -12 June 2016

Sunday

On Sunday it was cold and wet again, but at least the rain had kept the wind down. I drove out to Point Avoid in Coffin Bay National Park, again and started casting in the pre-dawn light. I had lost a few slugs and now only had a couple of Halco Raiders left. I tied on a 40 gram with some 20 lb fluorocarbon leader. I hooked up after a few casts – a small salmon about 30 cm long. They kept coming and the skies started to clear.

Just after dawn I noticed a seal bounding threw the waves – salmon for breakfast. I kept casting. At about 7.30 am, I hooked a big fish and almost immediately knew I would not be able to stop it. I tightened the drag until the line snapped, but it never slowed. I swapped to the 80mm version of the MARIA MJ Twitch suspending hard bodied minnow. I cast this out and the salmon started smashing it immediately. I caught a few small ones and then a slightly bigger fish unhooked itself on a submerged bit of reef and left the lure there.

I swapped over to a 4” GULP Pearl Watermelon Minnow on a 1/6th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I could not cast this lure as far and so it was once again the brown spotted wrasse that grabbed it. I threw a small one back and shook off a couple of small salmon. Then a bigger fish grabbed it and zipped straight under a rock. I could not muscle it out, so I loosened the drag and after a minute or so, it swam out. This time I pulled it in. It was a bigger wrasse with magnificent green lips. After a few pictures I released it and gave up for the morning.

In the afternoon I drove round to fish off the ledge opposite the Coffin Bay boat ramp. The tide was running out the wind had dropped away and it was very cold. I picked a spot where it looked like the main channel was close to the shore. I was fishing with an 8 lb fluorocarbon leader and started with a 2” GULP Crabby in the New Penny colour. This soft plastic looks like a small yabby. I put it on a 1/12th ounce, size 2 hook jighead and cast it out. The salmon appeared and ate a few and then, fortunately moved on. I could feel a few bites from what I thought were whiting, but I could not seem to hook them. I decided to try some patience. I cast the soft plastic out, left the bail arm open on the reel and waited a full 3 minutes. When I flicked it over and took up the slack I had a King George Whiting on the line. It pulled pretty hard and when I landed it and held against the tape it was about 35 cm long. I caught a few more small ones as the sun set and then just as it was getting really dark, I managed two more legal fish, using the same method.

I cleaned them in the cold water and set off for a warm shower.

Coffin Bay – Point Avoid – 11 June 2016

Saturday

Having caught plenty of salmon trout inside Coffin Bay it was time to get out on to the surf beaches and find some bigger models. On Saturday morning I was up at 5.45 am and drove into the Coffin Bay National Park. I drove long the winding track out to the west side. It was cold – about 5 degrees, but the wind had dropped a little. It was still a south-easterly and low tide would be at about 8.45am.

I was heading out to fish the beach at the depressingly named Point Avoid. Point Avoid/ Coffin Bay – they obviously did not think much of the place when they drew up the maps. Point Avoid was named by Matthew Flinders and as it is usually lashed by strong winds and has strong currents racing through rocky channels, its probably a fair name.

It was overcast as I walked down onto the beach. Rain looked likely. I loaded up the Lox Yoshi with a length of 20lb fluorocarbon leader and tied on a 20g Raider metal slug. I put a long cast out into the surf and wound fast. On the second cast – bash , bump, bump and then zzzzzzzzzzzzz. I let it have some line and gradually played it out it was a small Australian Salmon. I dragged it slowly to the sand. It was about 35cm long. I let it go and cast out again. I caught three or four at this size and then a bigger one grabbed the lure. I could not stop it and after a short fight, it buried itself in the rocks and snapped me off.

I put on a small popper (about 50cm). I could not cast this as far but it did not matter. On about the fourth cast I saw a shape come up and snaffle it. This was a bigger fish. Fortunately it headed for open water and did some leaping around. I let it run and wear itself out and slowly I steered it back up the beach. This one was about 40 cm long and I decided to keep it. I bled it and left it under a rock. I cast the popper around again. It did not take long to find another decent salmon. This one really pulled hard and put in some good stunts but I managed to hang on to it. It was about 45cm long and had completely mashed the hooks on the popper’s front treble.

I put on a DUO Realis Jerkbait 120 in a purple colour. This lure suspends about 10 to 15 cm below the surface and has a very loud rattle and great action. The smaller salmon knocked this around for a while. Then something different whacked it. It was a brown spotted wrasse, about 30 cm long.

I moved around the corner and walked out on to a rocky promontory that had been revealed by the falling tide. I swapped to a 1/8th ounce jighead and GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I cast around the deep holes in between the rocks. The salmon where here as well but the lure was a bit big for them.  I caught a couple more small wrasse.

I hooked what I thought was another salmon but on close inspection I realized it was an Australian Herring known locally as a Tommy Rough. I carried on fishing until the tide turned in, then gave up for the morning

 

 

 

 

 

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Coffin Bay – Mt Dutton Bay – 10 June 2016

Friday

In mid-June work took me to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. I was itching to fish the rugged coast around Coffin Bay and I managed to get a few days off to do so. The weather was forecast to be fairly wild, with rain and changeable winds. The advantage of fishing around Coffin Bay and Port Lincoln is you can get out of the wind by crossing the various bays and headlands.

The first challenge was what I could take with me to fish with. I was pretty sure there would still be some King George Whiting around but I was also hoping to catch some Australian Salmon on the ocean beaches. So I needed a heavy rod and a light rod. I decided something new was needed and had a look around at what I thought would work well casting small slugs in the surf but also be light enough to catch the odd whiting. I looked at what everyone locally had and settled on a Lox Yoshi LS7623-II from BCF (see Lox fishing) . It’s a 7’6”ultra-light spin rod, rated 1-3 kg. It has a very fast tip but would be tall enough to cast into the surf. I also took my NS Blackhole light trout rod. I took soft plastics and light jigheads and some small slugs, poppers and hard bodies.

As is often the case in this part of the world the weather would be fairly wild. It would predominantly south easterly winds with a couple of northerlies thrown in. On the first morning it was cold and blowy so I drove round to Mount Dutton Bay. I started with the new Lox Yoshi rod, a 1/8th ounce, 1 hook jighead and a GULP 3” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. This is a wide open bay with a long jetty. In parts it has flat foreshores and in others there are sandstone/ coffee rock ledges and overhangs. I cast at the sandy areas between the weed and sand. As soon as the soft plastic hit the water something was hitting it. After a few casts I hooked a 20 cm juvenile salmon, known around here as a salmon trout. I released it and over the next 30 mins caught about 10 more.

I moved around the bay and tried a few different soft plastics, including some worm patterns, but could not find anything other than the salmon. At about 10.30 am it started raining so I drove back into Coffin Bay.

In the afternoon I fished in Coffin Bay. I put in a few casts alongside the oyster racks. This time I was using the GULP 3” minnow in the Green Camo colour. The result was the same and I caught three small salmon from three casts. The water was clear and cold and despite lots of floating sea grass, the salmon kept grabbing the soft plastics. At about 5.30 pm I gave up for the day.

Perth -Fremantle – Australian Salmon – 20 April 2016

Wednesday/ Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iluka – Woody Head – Wild weather and Australian Salmon – 6 December 2011

I am just back from a week of land based rock and beach fishing at Woody Head, in the Bundjalong National Park, just north of the town of Iluka, in Northern New South Wales. As is often the case here, the weather made the fishing pretty tough. Heavy rain freshened the mighty Clarence River and big seas, wind and swells conspired to limit access to the best fishing platforms. But there were some good sessions and some good fish.

To the north-west of the Woody Head rock platform there is a sheltered bay that remains calm in all but the biggest gales. On the afternoon of our second day, there was a light northerly breeze blowing and the tide was running in. There was a heavy swell crashing on the rocks to the south, but the bay was calm. It had been raining, on and off, all day and the water was murky and the sky, overcast. The birds were working furiously, diving into bait schools close to the shore. Just on dusk, I walked down to the beach with my heavy outfit – Daiwa 9’6’ Demon Blood rod, Shimano Stradic 6000 spinning reel loaded with 30lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a 45g silver HALCO Twisty slug and cast it about 25 metres, towards the diving birds. After a couple of casts – bang – and line starts peeling. It was a solid fish and then it leapt clear of the water – an Australian Salmon. It did a couple of tail walks and even with the heavy rod, it was hard to subdue. I eventually got it to the beach and it immediately started spitting out mouthfuls small whitebait/anchovies (not actually sure which). This was clearly what had attracted the birds.

A 50cm Australian Salmon at Woody Head

It grabbed a 45g Halco Twisty metal slug - and spat up some Whitebait

It was now dark and raining so, after a few pictures, I released the fish and went to dry off. I have never been able to make these fish taste good, so I have given up keeping them for the table. It may not have been dinner but it was a great fish to open the account.

Iluka – Woody Head -The Barnacles – 24 June 2011

Friday

A long weekend with my daughter, camping at Iluka, gave me the opportunity to put in a few fishing sessions on the rocks at Woody Head. I was limited to fishing when she got up, which meant no early starts, but fortunately, the low tides were mid-morning. The chilly morning weather and occasional showers also made staying in bed a little longer, an attractive option.

I wandered out by the boat ramp with my light rod at about 7.30am, thinking I might catch a Flathead or a few Bream on the receding tide. The wind was light from the south west. I rigged up with a 3” GULP Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour on a ¼ oz 1/0 jighead tied on to a metre of 12lb Fluorocarbon leader and 10lb braid.

I was fishing along the line of partially submerged rocks that juts out from the shore just to the north of the boat launching area. I felt a couple of knocks and bumps that did not feel like the rocks and so concentrated my fire by casting in the same area for a few minutes. After about ten retrieves, a fish grabbed the lure, just at the edge of the rocks. It took off, jumping clean out of the water. It was an Australian Salmon and it carried on leaping for the next few minutes as I wrestled it to the shore. These fish really fight hard and they just never give up. Every time I got it near the rocks, it took off again and on the light rod it took a while to wear it out. Eventually I dragged it out of the water and took a few pictures. Although they look magnificent and fight hard, they taste dreadful. So I took a few pictures and then released it.

After a quick breakfast, I headed out to the rocks at the front of Woody Head, to the area known as ‘the Barnacles’. The weather was gloomy and rain was threatening but there was virtually no swell and a light south westerly wind. Low tide would be around 10.00 am. I was now using the heavy rod – the Daiwa 9 Ft Demon Blood, with a Shimano Stradic 6000 reel – loaded with 20lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I loaded up with a GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshad in the Curried Chicken colour mounted on a 3/8 oz 3/0 jighead.

I cast out over the rock ledges and let the soft plastic sink for five seconds or so. As soon as I took up the slack, a fish hit the lure. A few more jerks and pauses and I was hooked up to something. After a quick tussle, I pulled the fish up, over the rocks on an incoming surge, grabbed the leader and landed it. It was a nice Trevally, around 50cm long.

10.5 kg Jewfish

Caught off "the Barnacles" at Woody Head

A solid fish

The next cast got snagged – so I broke the line and re-rigged with another GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad, this time in the New Penny colour, on a 3/8 oz 3/0 jighead. I cast out again and waited for the lure to sink, when I lifted the rod, I had a fish on the end. It made a long, steady initial run. The steadiness suggested it was a Jew. It swam up and down parallel with the shore a few times then tried to bury itself in the rocks. It seemed like it was stuck but I loosened off the drag and it swam out again. I gradually tightened the drag again and pulled it round to where I thought I could land it. After about 10 minutes it was pretty tired and with the aid of a big wave, I pulled it to my feet and grabbed the leader. It snapped, but I got my hand in behind the gills and pulled it across the rocks. It was a great Jewfish at 10.5 kg (gutted and gilled) and measured around 1.1 metres. It was my ‘personal best’ Jewfish and I was delighted.

At 10.30 am after just three casts I called it a day. I had a great fish and I was knackered but I had a very big smile on my face.

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Iluka – Frazers Reef Tailor – 13 August 2010

Friday brought a slightly warmer morning so I headed back to Frazer’s Reef at Iluka to see if there were anymore Jewfish to be had. I was fishing with a mate who is yet to land one and expectations were high. The conditions were still very good but the wind had turned around to a light northerly. We started just in the pre-dawn light and predictably lost a few jigheads to the bommies. Just on dawn my mate’s rod goes off and he is on to a very solid fish. It had better be a Jewie – me thinks – but it looked a bit too lively and it was taking plenty of line. Then it jumped and we realised it was an Australian Salmon. The fun of the capture made up for it not being a Jew – well that’s what I told him anyway. He pulled it up via a few rock ledges and weighed it at 3kg. He was using the GULP 5” Crazy Legs in the Lime Tiger colour on a 3/8 3/0 jighead on 20lb leader. These fish taste awful but everyone takes the first one home just to see for themselves and this one was no exception – yes, it went home and yes, it tasted like rubber. However we made sure the kids were starving before dinner – so they scoffed most of it.
Back to work and we were still hopeful that the Jewfish would come back on the bite. I was now fishing with the GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour. When things get slow I often find switching back to the more natural colours can tempt a reluctant fish. Sure enough on about the 5th cast with this lure, I scored a solid hook up. The rapid head shakes and frenetic runs suggested it was a Tailor and with the aid of a big wave I had it up on the ledges before it could chew its way up the plastic to bight through the 25lb leader. It measured up at just over 50cm.
We fished on but the Jewfish did not put in an appearance. It was interesting to note that all the fish we gutted during the course of the week had virtually nothing in their stomachs. There was plenty of bait around so one can only assume they were not really feeding.
I decided to walk right around Frazer’s Reef putting in casts wherever I could. After half an hour, this strategy paid off and I caught another similar sized Tailor. I hooked him quite a long way out and through the very clear water, I watched his mates take several snaps at the plastic that was hanging from his mouth. They followed him right to the base of the rocks.
We retreated to stop ourselves from being caught by the tide and although we did not find the Jewies we had seen some good action.