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.

 

 

 

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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.