Iluka – Woody Head – 5 March 2021

When I arrived to fish at Woody Head on Friday, the swell was around the 1.2 m level and rising. There was a fairly brisk south easterly breeze and it was picking up. At least it had finally stopped raining. Conditions were fairly hairy – the water was still very murky and stirred up and the surf was crashing pretty hard into the rock platform. It was now about a week after the full moon.

I started just after first light by casting 60g metal lures around but this did not stir up any fish. The tide and swell was too high to fish to the north east, off the rock known as ‘Barnacle Bob’. It is usually too hard to get to apart from at absolute low tide on a very calm day. I settled on fishing about 30 metres to the south.

I was using my fairly new DAIWA Saltist X 962 MH rod matched with a TD SOL SOL III LT 6000D-H spinning reel. I was using 40lb braid and a 30lb fluorocarbon leader.I put a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour on a 3/8th ounce 1/0 hook size jighead and cast it out.

In my experience in this spot, if the jewfish or good bream are around, they are generally schooled up very close to the base of the rocks. That is a very difficult place to leave your soft plastic for any length of time and I can only imagine that the sea floor coral bommies are covered in jigheads! I put in a few casts, pausing for as long as I dared while the lure was in the strike zone. Eventually my strategy paid off and my rod tip bent over. It was a solid fish but my drag was pretty tight and I soon turned its head. Timing is everything in this spot and if you are lucky, the swell will wash the fish up the stepped ledges to your feet. That is exactly what happened and I looked down at an 80cm jewfish. It was 5.22 am and the sun would not be fully over the horizon for another 20 minutes.

I continued fishing through dawn and caught a decent bluefin trevally on the same soft plastic and couple of ambitious bream. Then I got greedy. At about 8.00 am it was low tide and I convinced myself that I could stand a little further to the north and cast a big stickbait out to the northeast, to a spot where I was sure there would be fish. I watched the swell and walked out between the bigger wave sets and cast out. I did this about four times safely and then my lure got caught in the cunjevoi and as I pulled it free, my line tangled around the rod tip. I was looking up at the tip when a wave came from nowhere and took my feet from under me. It washed me down over the barnacles and I end up floating in the pond of water that pools up behind ‘Barnacle Bob’. I had my lifejacket on but the water was only about a meter deep and the residual swell was gently pushing me ashore. Unfortunately I had washed up right in front another angler who had been fishing for bream in the wash. I had completely buggered up his bite but I think he was quite relieved when I emerged in one piece from the water.

I stood up clutching my rod. I patted myself down and I was still in one piece with all limbs operational and no blood streaming from anywhere. I had had a very lucky escape. I later realised the barnacles had left their mark on my right buttock and elbow but otherwise I was just bruised. I am confessing to my stupidity in the hope that it will be an example of what not to do for others. But I am also a slow learner as I did almost exactly the same thing about 11 years ago and still have the scars on my left thigh to prove it. Always remember rock fishing is one of the most dangerous sports out there. If you really have to stop and think about whether or not a spot it is safe enough to fish – it isn’t .

I limped off with my jewfish.

Iluka – Woody Head – the ‘Barnacles’ – 8 February 2013

Friday

After a few delays and cancellations, I decided it was time for an Iluka fishing trip. I had a booking at Woody Head for the week before, but with the Clarence River pouring out mud, I delayed it for a week. By Friday the weather looked reasonable, so I decided to go for it.

I arrived at Woody Head at about lunchtime and set up camp. When I camp, I use the Oztent RV2 as it is quick to set up and very durable. It took about 20 minutes to get sorted and then ten more to get my fishing boots on and light and heavy rods rigged.

For the purposes of rock fishing I use the following outfits:

Heavy – Daiwa Demonblood rod, Stradic 8000FJ reel, 20lb Fireline and usually a 25lb or 30lb fluorocarbon leader.

Light – Shimano Catana Coastline Light rod, Sustain 4000 reel, 10lb Platil Millenium braid and 10lb or 12lb fluorocarbon leader.

I usually carry both out to the rocks with me. My general plan is to start with the heavy rig, throwing big lures or soft plastics and gradually work through to the lighter rig. It is amazing how often down-sizing in this way, produces fish.

I walked round the headland to a spot called ‘the Barnacles’, by the locals. This is a fairly treacherous place and you need to watch the swell carefully for 30 minutes or so before figuring out where is safe to fish. Even then, you can still get caught by a rogue wave, so good boots, a pfd and a willingness to get wet are essential.

I soon got wet as a huge wave slapped against the rocks and came down on top of me. In the bright sunshine, it was quite refreshing but it was a timely reminder to watch my step. I cast around with the big rod using the GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastics in the Lime Tiger and New Penny colours. I initially rigged them on 3/8 oz 3/0 jigheads and then dropped back to the ¼ oz 2/0 size.

Low tide had been at 2.15pm and the swell was making keeping the lures in the strike zone hard. The water was pretty dirty, but each time I pulled the lure in close to the rocks, small whitebait would scatter in front of it.

This was perfect jewfish water but the problem was getting my lure to them. During the daytime they will hug the rocks and sit underneath the overhangs. If you want to catch them you lure has to be on the bottom right in front of the overhang. They also can be fussy, so you have to fish light, even a ¼ oz jighead is sometimes too heavy. With a 1.5m swell it was very difficult to keep my lure where I wanted it.

I swapped to the light rig and dropped to a finer wire 1/6th 2/0 jighead and 12lb leader. I put on a plain GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. It was now just after 3.00pm. After a few casts, something hit the lure right beside the rocks and took off. It was fast and stripped some line. It was not a jewfish. I waited for the swell to bring it up over the ledge and then tightened the drag a little. It was a big eye trevally, about 40cm long. I snapped it and bled it – just enough for dinner.

I continued fishing but as the tide turned and the afternoon breeze picked up, I was forced off ‘the Barnacles’. I walked back to camp cleaned the fish and washed up. I got the fire going and the red wine open and planned the next morning’s session.