Richmond River – South Ballina Wall 1 February 2021

It was back to the southwall at Ballina for my first fishing session in February. I arrived a few minutes after first light and walked out to the wall. I arrived at the end of the wall just before sunrise and started off fishing on the ocean side. I started with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour on a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I caught a small bream, and then another. It’s amazing how often that first cast produces a fish. A few casts later I lost the end of the jerkshad to something fast – presumably a tailor.

There was a bit too much swell at the end of the wall and as the sun came up so did the north easterly wind. It it is quite disturbing how many of the huge concrete lumps have been broken down by the swell over the summer.

I decided to retreat a little and fish the river side of the wall. I caught more small bream and the foul hooked a small tailor. I cast the remains of the soft plastic back out and caught another small tailor. It was bleeding and hooked in its guts so I decided to offer it to the osprey. I broke its neck and left it in the middle of the path, while I re-rigged. Not more than a minute later I saw the shadow of the bird coming over me for a look. The gulls fussed over the fish but they could not lift it. The osprey made three circuits before swooping down and grabbing the fish. I watched it fly off down to a log on the beach to the south.

The wind was howling so at about 9.30 am I gave up and walked back to the car. I am looking forward to a calmer swell so I can fish the end of the wall soon.

Iluka – Middle Bluff – 28 November 2020

Wild weather was on its way and the swell would soon start building. I had one last good session in November at Iluka. I chose Middle Bluff again and started before dawn. I was gifted another fabulous sunrise and was in position to fish at about 5.20 am. I could see enough to fish but dawn was twenty minutes away.

I decided to up the stakes and try a really big soft plastic. I choose a GULP 7 ” Jerkshad in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I loaded it onto a 1/4 ounce size 1/0 jighead and cast it out. As is so often the case in the pre-dawn session, a fish grabbed it. I played it along the ledge to a landing spot and pulled it up by the leader. It was the smallest mulloway I have caught for sometime, at about 50 cm. Big soft plastics/ lures don’t always translate into big fish.

I tried a few more different soft plastics, but could not catch another mulloway. The sun came up and I switched to my lighter rock fishing rig. I was now fishing with 16lb fluorocarbon leader, a 1/4 ounce , size 1/0 jighead and a GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastic in the Lime Tiger colour. I move up and down the rock platform casting at the patches of sandy bottom in between the rock bommies and reefs.

After 30 minutes or so I came up tight on another fish. It tried to head straight under the ledge I was standing on but I pulled it clear, tired it a little and landed it. It was a small trevally about 45 cm long. I decided to keep it and while cleaning it I found a hook and leader stuck in its throat. It was an unlucky fish!

At around 8.00 I caught a small striped trevally and then a couple of very small bream. I decided to give up and head back home. I tried fishing the next morning and I caught a couple of decent bream but the swell was up now and as the wind had also picked up, I decided to withdraw. It was time to retreat for a few days while a big storm and lots of rain came through.

Iluka – Iluka Bluff – 27 November 2020

In the afternoon the wind was still blowing pretty hard but I decided to try and fish a few of the ledges that are a little sheltered from the northerly wind at Iluka Bluff. I arrived about noon and walked round to a spot where two rock platforms join and create some deeper water, close to shore.

This was middle of the day fishing so I had my lighter rock fishing rig with a 16lb fluorocarbon leader. Ideally I would like to fish these ledges with a 1/6th ounce jighead so that the plastics spend plenty of time sinking, but if the wind is up I usually have to use at least a 1/4 ounce jighead to get enough distance on my casts. Today it would have to be a quarter ounce. There was plenty of wash but the water was crystal clear so I chose the smaller GULP 3″ minnow in the lime tiger colour. The dart seem to love this one and I thought they would be my most likely catch.

I watched the swell for a while and gradually moved out to the edge of the ledge. I wear the Cabelas ultra-light felt soled wading boots when I am rock fishing. In my experience the felt soles are the most effective at providing grip on even the slimiest of rocks – see link https://www.cabelas.com/shop/en/cabelas-ultralight-felt-sole-wading-boots-for-men. They also come with screw in metal lugs, which I add to the heals. They are reasonably priced but unfortunately they come from the US, so the shipping makes them a little pricey.

Back at Iluka Bluff the tide had turned in and as predicted I had caught a few small dart in the wash. As always the fish had grabbed the soft plastics close to the base of the rocks. I finished the session with a couple of small bream and then the incoming tide swallowed my fishing spot.

Bream

Iluka – Middle Bluff – 22 November 2020

The swell came up and then subsided, a little. The wind swapped to south easterly, then northerly, then south easterly and then back to a morning south westerly, all in the space of about 48 hours. The moon had reached its first quarter. The dawn tide would be too high to fish at Woody Head so I decided to give Middle Bluff a try.

The challenge at Middle Bluff is the distance between you and the water, if you hook a fish. In some places on this rock platform you are fishing three or four metres above the water. In calm conditions you can gently coax a fish along the front of the rock ledges to a lower one and grab the leader to pull the fish up. But if there is any swell this is next to impossible. I have never mastered using a gaff as I am convinced I will most likely end up gaffing myself (I also like to release fish, if I am not planning to eat them). So like so many other rock fishing ledges it is only really safe when the swell is around 1 metre. Even then all the usual rules apply; wear boots or shoes with excellent grip, wear a life jacket, check the swell for 20 minutes or so before fishing and try to stay permanently on dry rocks – if in doubt, don’t.

I arrived and parked at Frasers Reef just after 4.00 am and walked north to Middle Bluff. By the time I reached the ledges I wanted to fish there was a long line of orange on the horizon. I started on the north end of the platform.

I cast out a 3/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead with a GULP 5″ Paddleshad soft plastic in the Pink colour on my heavy rig. I tried to get it as close to the edge of the ledge as possible as I believe the mulloway and other fish school up in the sea caves and overhangs which extend under the ledges. The idea is to drop it down next to the rocks and then hop it slowly along the bottom, parallel with the shoreline. The period between first light and sunrise is definitely my most successful period for catching mulloway/ jewfish from the rocks. I cast around close to the edge and just before dawn the line pulled tight and I felt the weight of a fish. It set off under the ledge but I turned it around. I was fishing with my heavier rod and reel with 40lb fluorocarbon leader and a fairly tight drag. I pulled hard to keep it away from the rocks but I was going too hard and fast and the hook pulled out. I was a little too eager. I carried on casting through dawn and swapped through a few different soft plastics. I had another bite that felt like a tailor but it also spat the hook. I had eaten all my mulloway/ jewfish so I needed something for dinner.

At about 6.00 am I moved south along the ledge, nearer to Frasers Reef. The swell was a little more relaxed here. I swapped to my lighter fishing rig which was rigged 16 lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/4 ounce, size 1 hook jighead and GULP 3″ Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. I cast this out and again focused on the area close to the base of the ledge. Leaving the plastic on the bottom for as long as I could without getting snagged. This tactic worked and I caught a decent bream just over 36 cm long. It hit the lure inches from surface and inches from the rocky shore. I put it in a rock pool and tried again in the same spot. A few casts later I caught another one about the same size.

Twins

A disappointing morning but I would have fish for supper.

Evans River – Evans Head – Mid October 2020

There were more big winds and swell in October. Having slowed slightly for the European summer, COVID 19 was continuing its spread around the world and picking up pace, so international travel and any paid work looked a very long way off for me. At least I was not ‘confined to barracks’ like the entire population of Melbourne.

I gave up on the rocks and looked for alternatives. I decided to explore the land based fishing options along the Evans River at Evans Head on the Far North Coast of New South Wales. This is a beautiful estuary. It is wide and shallow very near its mouth, but there are some deep channels, holes and rockbars up river. It can be very busy at holiday times and when the seas are up, so mid-week is the best time to fish it.

I put in three sessions which were mainly aimed at getting to know the terrain. On the first, I fished a couple of coffee rock overhangs on the southern riverbank, about 1 km upstream of the rockwall and river mouth. I used my light spinning combo with 10lb fluorocarbon leader, 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and loaded a GULP 3″ Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I let this flutter down in the fairly strong current. The idea was to hop it down the shallow side of the river bed (in this case the opposite bank) and leave it wobbling on the bottom just under the overhang. This resulted in a snagging a couple of jigheads/ plastics but also in getting a couple of good bites. There was plenty of bait hanging around in the eddies. My first take was a very small bream, followed by a very small flathead. I moved further down towards the mouth and cast into any of the darker/ deeper pools. I felt a few quick bites and eventually hooked a small trevally before giving up at dead low tide, in the early afternoon.

For the second session a few days later, I fished the morning run out tide a little further up the northern bank of the river. Initially, with water waist deep I focused on bouncing a high contrast soft plastic – the GULP 2″ Shrimp in the Nuclear Chicken colour along the edge of the weed banks and in close to a few oyster covered rock clumps. This produced the best fish of the day which was a 42 cm flathead. I released it and kept wading up river. Over the next couple of hours I caught eight more flathead, all between 25 and 35 cm long. They were mainly sitting on the edge of sandbars. As I found a rockier stretch of river bank I also found quite a few small bream.

In my final exploration I walked through some bush to reach a stretch of bank even further up the river. I was fishing the top of the tide and the start of the run out. I battled through the scrub until I found an opening to cast from. The water looked about two to three metres deep close in to the bank and a turtle popped up to have a look at me, as I rigged up. It was going to be a struggle to land anything decent here as the trees and shrubs were hanging all over the bank which itself was about 1.5 metres above the water. There were plenty of small schools of mullet swimming by and lots of smaller bait. I started with a GULP 2″ Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I caught a couple of 25 cm bream and then something pulled the plastic off the hook. I reloaded, this time with my all time favorite – the GULP 4″ Minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I cast out and just as it reached the bank something powerful grabbed it and headed straight under the overhanging bank. With the light rod I could not muscle it out and I loosened the drag to see if it would swim out. After a couple of minutes the line started to drift out in to the channel, so I tightened up again but it was too powerful and went straight back in. I felt the line rubbing on something then it snapped. Probably a cod – maybe a jack? I re-rigged with another of the same soft plastic and after a few casts pulled up a remora – a very strange fish that basically sticks on to turtles, sharks and rays. I photographed and released it.

I moved to another spot a little further along the bank and cast into the eddies. There was plenty of small bait around and this stretch of coffee rock bank had a big school of tiny butter bream sitting next to it. I saw a flash of silver swipe at my plastic and thought it might be a trevally. I slowed things right down and let the plastic sit on the bottom for a while. When I lifted it I hooked a small school jewfish. I pulled it up to my feet. It must have been about 40cm long. I took a photograph and threw it back. I could not find anymore and gave up.

It was a great introduction to the Evans River and I am looking forward to some dawn and dusk sessions.

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South Ballina – 17 August 2020

We had some wild weather and rain over the weekend, so I decided to fish on Monday. The swell was set to drop throughout the day. I walked out onto the rockwall at South Ballina just after first light but about 20 minutes before dawn. The wind was cold but light from the west. As the sky lit up, the birds started circling as did the dolphins, so the bait had to be there. Sunrise was at 6.15 am and high tide was at about 7.00 am. It was three days to the new moon.

I started fishing with my heavier Daiwa Demonblood 962 rod, Daiwa TD SOL III LT 6000 D reel, 30lb main line braid and 30 lb fluorocarbon leader, a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead, loaded with a 5″ GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I caught a couple of decent bream, but then I started losing the tails of my soft plastics at the base of the rocks. I then swapped to a 60 gram Halco twisty and threw that around until just after dawn. That lure did not elicit any hook-ups.

Once the sun was up, the birds started dive bombing but there were no surface bust ups.

The bait was back

I swapped back to soft plastics and a couple of times I saw decent sized tailor follow my soft plastics in and swipe at them but they always missed. I swapped down to Daiwa Crossfire 1062 with 20lb braid, 16lb leader and 1/6th oz size 1/0 jighead. Then predictably, a big tailor grabbed my Mad Scientist Lime Tiger jerkshad (I had finished all my GULPs in the Lime Tiger colour) at the base of the rocks, pulled for a few seconds and then bit through. I re-rigged with a 1/4 ounce jighead and put on a GULP 4″ minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour. This caught a solid 35 cm plus bream, followed by a few smaller ones, then they bit through the tail. I put another Mad Scientist Lime Tiger coloured Jerkshad on and, after a few casts I hooked and landed a decent 50 cm tailor.

The birds were really working now, but always just out of reach. I was casting and retrieving fairly quickly now. I saw a group of tailor follow the lure in and right at the base of the rocks a decent sized one swallowed the jighead and lure and bit through. I moved back to my heavy rig and tried the 60 gram Halco Twisty for about twenty casts with no luck.

I fished here a few more mornings later in the month, after the new moon. I caught and was bitten off by tailor during both sessions but it was long time between the fish. As usual I swapped down to my lighter gear when things got quiet. I caught a few good bream and then got monstered by something at the base of the rocks. Not sure when I will learn some patience.

Flat Rock and Whites Head – 14 August 2020

After weeks of heavy swell it appeared it would relent for a bit on Friday. The forecast was for a light north westerly breeze and a 1.1 metre swell. I arrived just on first light and walked out to the rock platform at Flat Rock, just north of Ballina. It was about a week to go before the new moon and during dawn I would be fishing off the southern side of the platform. I walked out as the horizon was glowing and rigged up. However, as I got to the south side I could see the swell was still pretty heavy and the tide was too high to fish safely, so I changed direction.

I walked back along Sharps Beach to Whites Head. The tide was running out and the swell had eased a little, but there were still some bigger wave sets coming through. I was fishing with my light rock fishing set up – Shimano Stella 4000 and Daiwa Crossfire Surf 1062 , 20lb braid and 20lb leader. For my first cast I tied on a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 hook jighead and loaded a GULP 4″ minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I cast straight out in front between a couple of bommies, after a few casts I was getting hits close to the base of the rocks. I slowed things down and let the lure sit about 1 metre off the ledge, for as long as I dared. This did the trick and I hooked and landed a bream, about 30 cm long. After a few more casts I landed a good sized dart. The dart are often around and seem to get fired up when the wind turns northerly.

The smaller bream kept trying to pull the soft plastic off the jighead and eventually they succeeded. I reloaded with a GULP 4″ shrimp in the Peppered Prawn colour and kept casting. I lost a couple of rigs to the rocks and then after about 30 mins of nothing I felt a solid bite very close to the base of the rocks. I dropped my rod tip, paused and then struck. I set the hook and the fish took off on a powerful first run. I was pretty sure it was a school mulloway/ jewfish and I soon saw a flash of silver. It looked around 70 to 80 cm long. After couple of decent runs it was pretty much spent, but I looked up to see a big set of waves coming. I tried to muscle the fish up the rocks on a smaller wave ahead of the set, but as I pulled I felt the rod tip snap. A few seconds later as I retreated from the big set, the line went slack and the fish was gone with the jighead.

I did not have a back up rod but I was determined to have another try, so I re-rigged with no tip, same jighead, same soft plastic. I waited for what looked like a fairly calm period. I cast out and tried to keep the soft plastic travelling along the same path as its predecessor. Once more I paused the lure as close as I could to the base of the rocks. When I lifted the rod there was a fish there. I had the drag fairly tight this time and after a quick fight I used the swell to pull a handsome looking jewfish up to my feet. Unfortunately it measured in at about 72 cm , so I released it, unharmed, after taking a few pictures.

I decided that I did not want an even shorter rod so I packed up for the morning.

South Ballina Rockwall – Early August 2020

I fished off the South Ballina rockwall for the first few days of August, in the run up to the full moon on the 4th. It had been consistently cold at the end of July but the weather warmed up for a few days and the wind and swell kept changing. Each morning, I arrived just after firstlight and was fishing before sunrise. The resident ospreys were always in position, above the gutter on the ocean side of the rockwall.

One morning I was taken for a ride by a couple of big fish that I could not stop. I presume they were jewfish/mulloway. I was fishing a 5″ Powerbait Nemesis paddletail soft plastic in the ‘bleak’ colour, on a 3/8th ounce jighead (see pic) on the first occasion and a 4″ GULP Minnow in the ‘smelt’ colour on a 1/4 ounce jighead, on the second occasion. They both headed out to sea around the end of the wall and rubbed through my 30lb leader.

I caught plenty of bream in the first few mornings of the month but they slowed down a little on the day of the full moon. The were nearly all decent sized, with most measuring over 35cm. I filleted a bagful for our weekly fish pie.

The tailor were completely absent. We had some rain and then a north westerly wind for a few days. This flattened the sea and perhaps it pushed the bait away for a while. The surprise catch was an Australian salmon, on a 5″ GULP Jerkshad soft plastic in the ‘lime tiger’ colour rigged on a 1/4 ounce jighead. It was part of a huge school that floated around the rivermouth for an hour or so. I tried everything in the lure box to get another one, without success.

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Flat Rock & South Ballina – January 2020

I was away most of January but I managed a couple of fishing sessions at the end of the month. The first was at Flat Rock, just south of Skennars Head and just north of Ballina. This area is best fished through a falling or low tide. I fished with my lighter rock fishing rig – this is currently a Shimano Stella 4000 matched to a Daiwa Crossfire Surf 1062 rod.

It was a great sunrise but not a particularly good mornings fishing. I caught a couple of very small bream on my first two casts and later I caught a decent sized dart. I got everything on the Gulp 3′ minnow soft plastic in the orange and lime green “Lime Tiger” colour. The dolphins kept patrolling the edge of the rock platform, so I am sure the fish were there. There was a fairly stiff onshore breeze which made casting tough and I snagged plenty of my jigheads.

A few days later, I fished the run out morning high tide for about three hours from its peak, at Mobs Bay, South Ballina. As I waded in the shallows, I found a few fairly small (25 to 35 cm) flathead. But it was the bream that were out in force. I caught 5 keeper sized bream and a few smaller ones. I was using my light spinning rod and reel rigged with 12 lb braid and about a metre of 10 lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader. I caught them on a Gulp 3″ minnow soft plastic in the watermelon pearl colour, rigged on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I was amazed at how happy they seemed to be, cruising around the mangrove roots and weed beds in less than a metre of water. I started to catch them as I slowed everything down. I would let the plastic sit on the bottom for as long as 30 seconds before starting the retrieve. They would often then strike as soon as I lifted the lure of the bottom.

I fished a few evening sessions in the Brunswick River without much success. The holidays delivered a fairly constant stream of paddlers and boats which made it hard to find an undisturbed stretch of water to fish. There were a few whiting in the shallows and plenty of tiny flathead, but I could not land dinner.

Brunswick River – Flathead, Bream, Mullet – December 2017

In December Brunswick Heads started to fill with holidaymakers and the river became much busier. I had found the beaches north of the river mouth pretty hard in the warmer weather. There were still dart and whiting around but they were very small. I tried fishing in the few areas of Simpsons Creek where it is allowed and caught a couple more flathead. The bait continued to multiply in the river and big schools of juvenile mullet started to appear. On a couple of hot days, I snorkeled around in Simpsons Creek and took a few photos of the food chain underwater.

Fishing with the small minnow soft plastics in natural colours worked best. Every now and then, the bait would fly in all directions as schools of small trevally moved through. Occasionally I would catch one but none were bigger than about 25cm long. Down at the river mouth I had some luck catching some better sized bream at the base of the rocks.

Bribie – Bongaree and the oyster jetty flats – June 2017

As the water cooled in June I enjoyed a few beautiful clear-skied sessions fishing the flats at Bribie. The back end of the run out tide proved the most productive time to fish and I caught five good sized flathead on several occasions.

I was usually using GULP Jerkshad soft plastics rigged on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead.  I use 10-12 lb fluorocarbon leader and 6’6 light spin rod with a ‘fast’ tip. The mainline is usually a 10 to 12lb breaking strain yellow coloured braid. I used the coloured stuff as it is far easier to see in low light.

The GULP Cajun Chicken and Pearl Watermelon colours were both effective. These two could not be further apart in appearance, which confirms my suspicion that when the flathead are around and feeding, they are not fussy about colour. You just have to cover the ground and find them.

When I swapped down to the smaller 3-inch GULP Minnow and Shrimp shapes I started to catch a few bream. I caught quite a few 30cm + sized fish along the drop off from the coffee rock ledge that runs along the shore in front of the Seaside Museum, at Bongaree.

If I am going to keep fish to eat. I kill them on capture and then remove the guts in the saltwater as soon as I finish fishing. I then put the gutted fish in an esky full of ice for the drive home. I then transfer to the fridge overnight and fillet them the next day. I then use a vacuum sealer, to bag the fish into family meal size portions and refrigerate. I find that flathead prepared in this way still tastes very fresh up to 12 days post capture. Not cleaning the fish in fresh water makes a big difference to both the flavour and texture, so avoid it if possible.

June was a good month to be out there.

Bribie & Mooball Creek – fishing the shallows – May 2017

May saw me out on the flats in front of the Sandstone Point hotel at Bribie Island wading in the shallows. Winter took a long time to arrive and the water styed stubbornly warm all through the month.

The flounder arrived to supplement the flathead and the odd bream. I fished with my light spinning rod and reel, 10lb fluorocarbon leader and generally GULP Jerkshad soft plastics in various colours on 1/8th 1/0 jigheads. I filled a bag with five keeper size flathead in the run up to the new moon on the run out tide.

I also continued my search for fish around Pottsville and found a few tiny flathead and Bream in Mooball Creek. These grabbed the smaller soft plastic minnows.

Bribie – Bongaree & the oyster jetty – 14 September 2016

Wednesday

On Wednesday I was fishing again in the morning but I decided to try the other side of the Pumicestone Passage and fish along the shore at Bongaree. This area has a sandy ledge that runs down to a drop off of a few metres. There are fish to be found all along the ledge at various stages of the tide.

I arrived and started fishing in my waders at about 9.30 am.  I started with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. The first fish I caught was a small bream about 30cm long. It grabbed the soft plastic just as I hopped it up, over the coffee rock ledge and into the shallows. I released it and caught two more in the next few minutes.

A hungry Pelican swam over to see if it could secure a free lunch but all the bream swam away unharmed. The next taker was a pike, then at about 11.30 am things went quiet.

I drove back over the bridge and had a quick cast around under the bridge and along by the old oyster jetty at Sandstone Point. As the wind picked up and conditions got difficult I managed to hook one 48 cm flathead on the Mad Scientist Optishad.

By 1.00 pm it was too windy so I gave up for the day.

Dune Rocks – Tailor – North Stradbroke Island – 15 July 2015

Saturday

I was still on North Stradbroke Island and delighted with my first session, the day before. It was still cold and fairly breezy on Saturday morning. The wind was blowing from the south-west but it would slacken off through dawn before turning south-east and picking up, mid-morning. Low tide had passed at about 3.00 am. It had rained overnight.

I walked down on to Deadman’s Beach just after first light and headed for Dune Rocks. It was about 5.45 am. I had decided that I would fish the pre-dawn period with a popper. It is my experience that the fish are more comfortable attacking a surface lure in the pre-dawn light. I stayed slightly to the north of where I had been fishing the day before.

There was already a keen fisherman in position reeling in a tailor on a metal slug, as I came round the corner. I joined him on the rocks and threw out the River2sea 110mm Dumbbell Popper in a pink colour. I had upgraded to 40lb fluorocarbon leader. Almost as soon as I started the retrieve, the lure was being pulled in all directions by a number of different fish, I kept up the pace of the retrieve and eventually solidly hooked one of them. It was a tailor about 35cm long. I threw it back and cast again. For the first few casts the fish whacked the popper as soon as it hit the water. Then they eased off a little. I slowed the retrieve and added a few long pauses after each big bloop of the popper. This got them fired up and they would hit the lure each time it paused. In the 30 minutes between first light and dawn I had tangled with 12 fish but landed only 4. They were all between 35 cm and 45 cm.

Post dawn by about 6.30 am the popper was no longer working. I tried a soft plastic jerkshad which was grabbed by something close to the rocks but I could not set the hook – cold have been anything – bream/ butter bream/ dart.  There were now a few fisherman on the rocks and they were still catching tailor from time to time. A curious Kangaroo also appeared to watch the fishing show.

I cleaned up my fish and walked back to the car at about 7.15 am.

Iluka – Shark Bay – Jewfish – 12 June 2015

Friday

On Friday the wind was a 10-15 knot south-westerly. I woke to heavy rain at about 5.00 am and it was cold. I had decided to go back to Shark Bay but low tide would not be until about 10.00 am, so there was no hurry. I had breakfast and put on a few layers.

I drove down to Shark Bay again and headed out to the northern end of the rocks. It was about 6.30 am by the time I reached the fishing spot.I rigged up a DUO Realis Jerkbait 110 SP – which is a shallow running hard body that has caught tailor here for me before. I tied it on with 35lb fluorocarbon leader and threw it out. On about the third cast I felt a grab and then some resistance but it did not feel like a Tailor. I kept winding and was surprised to see a big bream attached to the lure.

I carried on fishing with the DUO lure, but it did not find me any tailor so I swapped to a DUO Pressbait Saira. DUO call this a ‘slim and long-bodied jig minnow’. It is basically a 50 gram, 175mm long slug with a wobble tail action. The long baitfish profile means it should attract everything from tailor to tuna, but today after about 30 casts, it had attracted nothing.

I switched down to the lighter rock fishing rig and a soft plastic Jerkshad on a ¼ ounce, 1/0 hook jighead. I fished this around, the drop off and in amongst the kelp beds. I felt a few grabs but could not connect so I dropped down to a small 3” Minnow soft plastic in the Banana Prawn colour. This soon found another smaller bream.

I moved south to the other side of the rocks. I started with the heavy rod and big soft plastics and gradually dropped down to the light rod and GULP 3” Minnows in various colours. I was now fishing 16lb fluorocarbon leader and 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. It was about 30 minutes to low tide and the swell seemed to be picking up. I changed up to a heavier 1/6th ounce 1/0 hook fine wire Breampro jighead and loaded up with a GULP Jerkshad in the BBQ Chicken colour.

This is a colour I have never tried before and subsequent events suggest it pays to try something new, from time to time. The bigger plastic and slightly heavier jighead meant I could put in a slightly longer cast. On about my third attempt, I landed it beyond the breaking waves and waited for it to sink. As it floated down I felt a gentle tug. I paused for a few seconds then lifted the rod tip and felt a fish. It took off along the line of the surf towards some kelp covered rocks. I played it for a while and it felt like a jewfish. Unfortunately, it managed to find a good tuft of kelp to wrap itself around and the line went slack.  When I got the jighead back the fine wire hook had straightened so I tied on a heavier gauge one and put on another BBQ Chicken Jerkshad.

It did not take long, perhaps 3 or 4 more casts, then I was on to another fish.  This one was a little smaller and less powerful. It made a long initial run but then I was able to turn its head and use the wave surges to bring it in. It was a beautiful school jewfish but I was not sure if it was big enough, so I took out the tape and checked. It was 73cm long and therefore big enough to keep for dinner in New South Wales.

I threw a few more casts and felt a few more bites but as the tide slackened, the bites stopped. Another rain shower came over so I cleaned up my fish and decided to make for the car.

Iluka – Shark Bay – 11 June 2015

Thursday

As is so often the case in Iluka – the weather was not easy to deal with. The week before it had looked good with light winds and no rain forecast. I woke up early on Thursday to a howling south-easterly wind and intermittent rain, so I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. That did not really work so I got up, had breakfast and then thought about where to fish in a powerful south-easterly. The northern edge of the rock platform at Shark Bay, at low tide was the only option, so I set off.

The mullet fisherman were waiting at the corner of Shark Bay looking out for some late season schools. Apparently it has been a terrible season. With the big rain events last month flushing out all the fish. One keen fisherman was on his way back from the rocks with a 40 cm tailor in his bag. He had spun it up on an 85 g Raider metal slug, just after dawn.

I spun an 85 g Raider for about 25 casts but could not raise another tailor so I swapped to the light rod and tied on a 1/6th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and GULP Mantis Shrimp soft plastic in the Lime Tiger colour. I was using 16lb fluorocarbon leader. In this area there is a kelp covered drop off about 10 metres out from the edge of the rock platform at low tide. This is where the bream sit. I felt a couple of solid bites as I pulled the soft plastic over the ledge, but did not hook up.

I swapped to 3“Minnow soft plastic in the Smelt colour and kept casting. In exactly the same spot a small bream grabbed it and I had my first fish of the day. It was now about 9.45 am and I was soaked and cold.

The wind had dropped a little so I moved south across the rock platform to fish on the southern edge. This area is full of kelp covered rocks but there are some deep, sandy bottomed holes and I have caught good bream here in the past.

I swapped plastics to a GULP Swimmow in the dark green Emerald Shine colour. This was getting hit on the first cast but it took a while to actually connect with a fish. At about 11.00 am after slowing everything down I connected with another bream. This was a good one – well over 35 cm long. I continued with the Swimmow soft plastic for another 20 mins and was rewarded with another, about the same size.

I swapped back down to a 3“Minnow soft plastic in the Smelt colour and  this produced another big bream, at about 11.30 am.  The rain started again and I decided to give up. It had been a tough session but there had been constant action and I had caught three excellent fish –  the largest of which later measured 38 cm.

Iluka – Woody Head – 27 November 2014

Thursday

It was another grey and humid start on Thursday morning in Iluka. There had been several showers overnight and the rain seem to have stifled the wind and swell. I had been doing well at Woody Head so I drove back out there, before dawn.  It would be an early morning low tide – which is pretty much perfect for fishing the rock ledges.

The recent bite offs suggested there was something big and toothy around so I tried again with a big shallow running hard bodied lure – the DUO Jerkbait 120 SP. I cast it around all through dawn but could not stir anything up.

I moved south along the rocks and swapped to a GULP 3 “ Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour on a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 jighead. I was now on my lighter rock fishing NS Blackhole rod. I was using 14 lb fluorocarbon leader. I caught a small bream at about 5 am, from the spot which I believe the locals call the ‘Jew Hole’. It is a large inlet with a deeper channel in the middle, to the south of the area known as the ‘Barnacles’, where I usually start my fishing.

The sun came over the horizon and there was a brief glow of red before it got lost again, in the thick cloud. At about 5.30 am I hooked a fish and it took off. It was moving fast and I caught a flash of silver and realized it was a solid dart. I soon subdued it.  I caught another on the next cast and about 4 more, smaller ones over the next 20 minutes.  Then, I swapped to a GULP 3“ Minnow in the Green Camo colour and caught another, bigger dart. I bled the two bigger dart and left them in a rock pool that had a ledge overhanging it. Hopefully the various freeloaders – kites, pelicans, crows, crabs and wobbegongs, etc, would not find them.

Things slowed down a little so I moved further south to an area known as ‘Mossies’. This is a large, flat set of rocks covered in ankle deep green weed, at the southern end of the Woody Head platform. It is really only safe to fish here in gentle conditions, around low tide.  It was now about 6.00 am and low tide had been at 5.51 am. The first fish to grab the plastic was another solid 30 cm + bream. Another bream followed, on the next cast.

I was now almost as far south as I could go on the Woody Head rocks. I cast out the Green Camo minnow and let it waft down beside the ledge. Before it hit the bottom something smashed it. It took off to the south with a blistering run then turned back and torpedoed into the base of the rocks and snap went the leader.

I looked for tougher leader but I had used it all, so it was 14lb or 10lb. I tied a strong knot with the 14lb and put the same soft plastic minnow on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast back in the same spot and after a couple of tries, I was on to a fish again. I had the drag set tighter this time and I pulled pretty hard from the minute I hooked up. It was a tough fish but this time I kept it out of the rocks. After a few minutes it was tired and I landed it with the aid of the swell. It was a small king fish (or possibly an Amberjack – not sure) about 55cm long. I took some pictures and threw it back. A few casts later I was on to another one. This one was slightly smaller but put up just as tough a fight.

Next taker was a golden trevally which was longer than the king fish but not quite as mad. It was still a tough fight on the lighter rod and great fun. It was not even 6.30 am and I had caught four species. That is the beauty of Iluka.

I fished for another hour until the sun was really out and the cloud had burned away. Things slowed down a little but the bream and dart kept coming. I ended up keeping a few of the bigger dart, the trevally and a couple of bream, to make a mixed fish fried rice. I find using different flavoured and textured fish is great for this kind of dish. I fillet the fish and fry it, then add it to the cooked rice with some fried spring onions, crushed garlic, fresh coriander, Thai fish sauce and fresh lime juice.

By 8.00 am I was back at the car after a great mornings fishing.

Iluka – Middle Bluff and the Clarence River – 23 November 2014

Sunday

With another year almost over I was determined to get in a few more days of fishing down at Iluka. The weather looked good so on Saturday, I drove down from Brisbane in the afternoon. I rented a unit in the Riverview Apartments – which look straight out on to the Clarence River. I love to camp at Woody Head, but the weather looked a bit tricky so I chickened out. I arrived in time for a beautiful sunset. I sorted out my rock fishing gear, checked the weather forecast for the morning and went to bed early, with the alarm set for 3.30 am, NSW time.

On Sunday morning I got up in the dark had a cup of tea. Then I drove round to Frazers Reef beach car park. I walked down the path and onto the beach. There was not much moon in the sky – it had been ‘new’ on Saturday. There were a few clouds along the horizon and there was a light north-easterly wind blowing. A couple of kangaroos were close to the water but they decided to bounce back to the undergrowth, when they saw me walking along the beach.

I walked north, past Frasers Reef to Middle Bluff. This rocky platform sits about half way between Iluka Bluff and Woody Head. My favorite spot to fish is at the north end. Before I start, I will offer my words of warning. The wind and swell are very unpredictable here, so always take care. I now wear a pfd and felt-soled rock fishing boots. The wave sets and swell heights vary dramatically between high and low tide, so tread carefully and watch what’s coming all the time.

This morning the swell was fairly tame but every 15 minutes a big set would come through and slap against the rocks. The tide had been low at about 3.30 am and it was now running in. I rigged up the heavier of my two rock fishing outfits – the Daiwa Demon Blood 962H rod matched with a Shimano Stradic FJ 8000 reel.

Now a whinge for Shimano – I have had a lot of trouble with the drag clicker arrangement on your reels. On the previous Stradics – the problem was the part kept breaking. This has now been changed to a more robust part. But it keeps going silent on me.  Aside form the springs and clips that keep failing or popping out, I think the basic problem is the clicker is metal and the wheel it clicks against, is plastic. I know I use my reels a lot and I treat them mean, but I think this sort of basic design fault should not keep appearing.  To add to my disappointment in Shimano it took three months for you to find a new bearing for my Stella, last year. I could have flown to Japan (Kuala Lumpur, Shenzhen) myself and machined one. The folks at Jones Tackle have done a great job of repairing the reels and covering for you, but overall the product is not robust enough for Australian conditions. I have decided my next reel of this size will have to be another brand.

Back to Middle Bluff – I started by casting big shallow diving hard bodies without much luck. You can catch just about anything off these rocks. Tailor are around all year, as are jewfish, dart, trevally and some monster bream.  I have seen a 25 kg Spanish mackerel caught off here, on a 40 cm live tailor. It’s a very fishy place.

However, this morning it was proving tough. I swapped from the hard bodies to big soft plastics – a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. To counter the swell I initially rigged it on a ¼ ounce jighead and later dropped down to a 1/6th ounce jighead. I moved up and down the rocks without much luck. I was fishing with 30lb fluorocarbon leader. The water was murky because of the big tides of the last few days.

I fished through the dawn with hardly a bite. I swapped rods to my lighter rock fishing rig – the N.S Black Hole Cabin II – S-862 L Spin Rod. It is 2.59m long (8’6”) and rated 8-14 lb. I dropped the leader down to 20lb fluorocarbon. I put on a smaller GULP 3” Minnow, also in the Lime Tiger colour. The smaller soft plastic immediately attracted attention, with a couple of grabs and even a solid bite, but I did not hook anything. After another 20 minutes of casting I connected with a fast fish, I soon subdued it and pulled it clear of the water. It was a dart.

I moved a little further south. I cast down into some foamy water and let the plastic sink to the bottom. I paused for about 20 seconds and as I lifted it – bang – something grabbed it and took off. It went hard and fast and I struggled to slow it down. I tightened the drag a little and it paused, then took off again. I just kept pumping and winding, whenever I could and eventually it started back towards the base of the rocks. I suddenly realized I was a long way away from anywhere I could safely land this fish. I was standing about four or five metres above the water on the rocks and there was no way the 20lb leader would pull this fish up. I saw a flash of blue/silver as it headed in to try and bury itself. Kingfish/ Tailor/ Salmon – I am not sure, but it was a good size. I started to walk it towards the south, where I might be able to land it. I got about 20 metres along the rocks and after a big surge, the line went slack. I pulled up the mashed plastic. The hook must have just fallen out.

Now I had found some fish I decided to go back to the bigger soft plastic and tied on a 5” Lime Tiger jerkshad. I fished this around the rocks hoping to find the fish that got away. It was only about 7.00 a.m. but it felt like I had been fishing all day. The sun was high in the sky and it was very hot. At about 7.15 am a fish grabbed the lure close in to the rocks. After a brief site it pretty much gave up. It was a small jewfish about 45cm long. After a few pictures I threw it back. At about 8.00 am I set off back to the car, stopping for a morning swim on the way.

The wind picked up during the day and the sky clouded over. I decided to try fishing the rock walls just to the south of the boat ramp, in town. I started at about 4.00 pm. It was almost low tide. I dropped down to my light spin rod with a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I was expecting a few bream to be swimming around this area, so I started fishing with a GULP 3” Minnow in the Smelt colour. I had it rigged on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I cast parallel with the base of the rock wall and soon found a few bream. I moved to cast at a gap in the wall and swapped to a GULP 3” Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour. I felt a few bites, so I left the plastic to sit in the bottom for a while. This did the trick and when I lifted the rod tip there was a fish on it. It was heavier than a bream and after a while I saw a longer flash of silver – it was a school jewfish, about 40 cm long. On the way back along the rock wall, I caught a small flathead.

With good weather and a few fish, it had been a good start to the week.

Iluka – Middle Bluff – 29 September 2104

Sunday – Morning

It was another mild morning in Iluka. A light northerly wind was doing its best to flatten the sea. I decided to fish Middle Bluff again and see if I could find a legal sized mulloway (jewfish).

At this point I will say my piece about the raising of the jewfish size limit in NSW. I have read a bit about the surveys that were done to determine whether or not the existing limit of 45 cm, was adequate to protect the species. They were very small surveys that relied on a lot of subjective judgments by local fisherman and fisheries officers, but it would have been financially impossible for them to be developed any other way. After putting together these surveys, NSW fisheries concluded that fish at 45cm were not having a chance to reproduce before being caught, so they have raised the legal size to 70 cm and set a bag limit of two. Commercial fishermen also have to obey by the new rules, although they are allowed to keep some smaller fish, under by catch rules. If I have got any of this factually wrong, please comment and correct me.

If we want sustainable fish stocks we need to carry out credible scientific research. Our duplicated state fisheries departments do not need any more boats, trailers, life jackets, uniforms or rulebooks. They need scientists and scientific rigour in their research processes. The science used to support this decision may be proved right but I would have liked to see much more comprehensive studies. We now have the ridiculous situation where on one side of the Tweed River the Mulloway size limit is 70cm and on the other, it is 75cm.

It was another spectacular sunrise at Middle Bluff. I decided to fish with the light rig from the beginning and stick to the soft plastics. I was using 16lb fluorocarbon leader and a ¼ ounce, size 1/0 hook Nitro jighead. I loaded up with a GULP 4” Minnow in the new Green Camo colour.

The sun came over the horizon at about 5.30am and by 5.45am, I had my first fish. It was another mulloway/ jewfish, but it would not be dinner because it was only about 45cm long. I unhooked it in a rock pool and took a few pictures, then speared it back down in to the wash. It had grabbed the plastic very close to the rocks again.

I put in plenty of casts but could not get another. I swapped down to a lighter 10lb fluorocarbon leader and put on a GULP 2” Shrimp, also in the Green Camo colour. I moved a little further north along the rocks and cast down into the wash. I let the soft plastic waft around, but I left it too long and got snagged. I re-rigged and put it back in the same spot. After a couple of casts I felt a solid hit and the rod bent over. Fortunately, the swell was light and I was able to get down quite close to the water. I let the fish take some line then tightened the drag a little and lifted it up, onto the rocks with the help of a wave. It was a very solid 37cm bream. So I would have something for dinner.

 

 

I fished on for another hour but the wind picked up and the tide started in, making fishing a bit hard. At about 9.00 am, I cleaned up the bream and walked back along the beach to the car.

Sunday Afternoon

On Sunday afternoon I decided to wade out on the stretch of the Clarence River – just in front of the Anchorage Holiday Park. There are sand banks and weed beds and it looks like an ideal flathead spot. I started just before 5.00 pm. The tide was running out and I waded across the sandy and muddy bottom until I came to the weed banks that fringe the deeper main river channel. As I was exploring, I started by fishing with a soft plastic that I am very confident using – the GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I was fishing with my estuary light spin rod, 10lb fluorocarbon leader and 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead.

It did not take long to find the fish. I caught a couple of small flathead first and then a legal one (40cm), that was sitting in a sandy hollow. I waded up river and decided to switch to a DUO Realis Shad 59 MR hard bodied lure. This is a medium diving lure and the flathead and bream love it. As the sun set, I caught a couple more small flathead on this lure.

I had fished at dawn and dusk and caught fish at both sessions – and had a nice bream for dinner – living the dream!

Bribie Island – The Seaside Museum flats – 24 July 2013

Wednesday

Wednesday morning was cold, cold, cold, and really cold.  It was the first time this year that I have really felt it. It was a solid 15 knot south-westerly at 5.00 am. The moon had been full the day before and it was pretty bright.

I wanted to see if the Tailor were around at Bribie, before dawn. Tailor will often come on the bite in the dark, just before sunrise or just after sunset. I usually find it tough to fish in the dark but when the moon is as bright as it was on Wednesday, it almost feels like daytime.

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I decided to try the area around the drain beside the Seaside Museum. Low tide had passed 4.45 am. So at about 5.30 am the tide was just starting to run in.

I need not have bothered to get up so early, as nothing happened until just before first light. At about 6.00 am,  I was retrieving a GULP 4” Minnow in the Smelt colour, on a 1/8th ounce, #1/0 hook jighead, on 12lb leader. I had let it sink and I was hopping it back along the bottom towards me. I felt it stop dead and then the weight of the jighead just disappeared. It was a clean bite off – something very toothy.

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I re-rigged with the same soft plastic and carried on fishing. I moved up and down, casting along about a 15 metres section of the coffee rock ledge. I decided to drop down to a GULP 2” Shrimp soft plastic, in the Banana Pawn colour. This is a bream favourite.

At about 6.25 am I felt a few bites when the plastic hit the bottom. On the next cast, I paused for a long time with the soft plastic just sitting there. As soon as I lifted it the fish struck. It made some determined runs but I pulled it up, over the ledge and safely onto the sand – it was a 32cm bream.

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I continued casting in to the same patch and at about 6.45 am, I caught another good bream. This one was nice and plump and a bit bigger, at 34cm. I returned to the same spot and continued fishing. About 10 minutes later the soft plastic was grabbed again, as I lifted it off the bottom. This was a much more powerful fish and it took plenty of line in its initial run. I moved as close as I could to the edge, so that my line would not get caught against it. The fish made about four good runs and then it started to come towards me. It swam straight over the edge towards the shore line and I tightened the drag, a little. When it realised its mistake and started back towards deeper water I turned its head and pulled it slowly and steadily up to the sand.

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It was a handsome Jewfish. I measured it at 58cm. Once again, it had completely swallowed the jighead and soft plastic, so I cut the line, as far down its throat as I could, before releasing it. By now I the tide was getting too high to fish along the edge and I was freezing, so I gave up.

The weather is still consistently bad but at least there are a few fish around.