We had some heavy rain in mid-June. I decided to spend a week at Iluka. When I arrived the water in the Clarence River was surprisingly clear but the water around the headlands was very cloudy. The swell was reasonably light so on my first morning I fished at Woody Head. I started by casting a metal slug all through the pre-dawn period. I hooked and then dropped one decent fish before sun up which I presume was a tailor.
As the sun rose in the sky. I swapped to my lighter rock fishing rod and reel and cast 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 jighead around, loaded with various GULP soft plastics. As is often the case, as soon as I dropped down the light tackle a tailor struck. I held on to it long enough for it to jump and then it was gone. I kept fishing and found a solid bream and a small striped trevally but at the end of four hours I had nothing to take home.
On the morning of the 4th of June conditions were perfect for fishing. The moon was a waning crescent, about 30% full. There was little wind, a clear sky and a very light swell. I set off for the mouth of the Brunswick River to see what I could find at about 10.00 am. Low tide was at 10.09 am at the river mouth.
I parked in the small car park at the southern end of North Head Road. I picked up my light spin rig (flathead fishing gear) and decided to walk along the wooded path down to the north bank of the river and Harry’s Hill Beach. As I walked parallel with the beach, I could see the birds circling, close in. I broke off the path down to the beach and realised they were dive bombing bait schools, very close to the beach.
I ran down to the shoreline, rigged a big bright soft plastic and cast in to the mayhem. I got a couple of hits on the first cast, but no hook up. On the next one I did a faster retrieve. Half way back to me a tailor slammed the soft plastic. It was a bigger fish than I had expected, my ‘noodle like’ Samaki Zing Gen 2 rod was in for a work out. I was rigged with 12Lb fluorocarbon leader, so I did not think I had much of a chance but after a fairly protracted fight a wave washed a 40cm tailor up to my feet.
I should have quit at the point but I released the fish and cast out again. I hooked up almost straight away and this time the Samaki Zing had had enough. It snapped just above the join as the tailor took off. No complaints about the rod – I had just brought a knife to gunfight.
I jogged back to the car got out my light rock fishing rig – Daiwa Crossfire 1062 and Shimano Stella 4000 reel, 30lb braid and (luckily) 30lb fluorocarbon leader and my keeper bag. I made it back to the beach in about 10 minutes and the mayhem was in full swing.
I started with another big bright soft plastic and that landed a couple of tailor before it was destroyed. I swapped to the 40g Duo Dragmetal Cast Slow. This is a jig designed to be worked quite slowly. It has two assist hooks at the top and one on the bottom. I cast it out and jigged it back to me. I immediately caught a couple of solid dart.
By now I could see the reason the fish where here. All along the wavebreak there were thick schools of small baitfish. A huge school of dart and tailor were roaming the shoreline smashing into this bait. I cast the jig out again and it was picked up almost immediately. I started playing the fish and let it take some line. When I pulled the fish towards me it suddenly felt much heavier. It also started moving really erratically. There were a couple of swirls and splashes and then I realised I had hooked two tailor on the one jig. I kept up the pressure and then one of them pulled the hook/ bit through the jig and I landed the single fish on one of the remaining hooks.
I swapped around between soft plastics metal slugs and jigs for about an hour. Everything caught fish and at one point I reeled in a big popper that someone else must have lost. By just after 11.30 am the bait school gradually moved to the north along the beach and took the tailor dart and birds with it. I kept six tailor for a family fish pie and let the dart and the rest of the fish go.
A couple of days later on the 6th June I arrived at dawn, to see if the fish were there. This time I started fishing further to the north on the beach at New Brighton, just before sunrise. There was a good gutter and cast into its mouth. The first taker was a tailor. It bit down hard on a 55g Halco Twisty metal lure, in the gold colour. But there was only one and I put in a lot of casts trying to find another. Once the sun was truly up, I swapped to a big GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic in the lime tiger colour. I fished this on 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast it into the gutter and let it waft around. I hooked a fish, almost immediately. As I pulled it towards me it wriggled off. I carried on peppering the area with casts and after about 10 more I came up tigh on another (or perhaps the same one).
On Tuesday, 8th June I came down to fish the area again at about 11.30 am. It was now two days before the new moon and the tidal flow was quite powerful. There had been some rain the day before and the river was a little murky on the run out tide. I walked out to the end of the rockwall at North Head. I started fishing with a 40g Halco Twisty. I cast and retrieved it across the mouth of the river and then along the line where the river running out met the clearer ocean wash. I soon had a fish – a 35cm tailor. I released it and caught another two straight way. Then things went quiet.
I swapped to a soft plastic minnow and caught a couple of 30cm bream and then things went quiet again. On the way back to the car I had a quick cast in the shallows in the corner of the beach. On about my 4th try, I felt the unmistakable thud of a flathead bite and after a short tussle I had a 45cm fish at my feet. Not a bad session but the big tailor school had clearly moved on.
On the 18th May I started fishing, land-based at about 11.00 am. I was on the north bank of the Brunswick River. I started off just north of the highway bridge. The tide was running in and would by high at 1.30 pm. The moon was a waxing crescent, just over a week away from full so the tidal flow would not be too strong.
I cast up around the edge of the oyster lease and around the weed banks with my favourite soft plastic for tough conditions – the GULP 4″ Minnow shape in the Watermelon Pearl colour. The water was very clear but there was not much bait in the shallows. I got a couple of bites (probably bream) on the first few casts and then things were quiet. At about 11.30 am I caught a 45cm flathead as I moved round closer to the bridge. About 10 minutes later, I caught another smaller (30cm) flathead.
I decided to cast around the base of the bridge and caught a couple of bream and then got snagged on the oyster covered rocks. Things were pretty slow, so I went back to the car at about 12.30 pm and drove down to the river mouth. The water was crystal clear on the top of the tide but I could only find one very small 20 cm flathead.
The next day was Saturday and as the river had disappointed the day before I decided to try fishing on the ocean side of the north wall. I started at about the same time – around 11.00 am. I walked out to the wall and started close in to the beach with another GULP – a 6″ Jerkshad in the plain white colour. Because I was now fishing in the surf I tied on a heavier, 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I was using about a meter of 12 lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader. The water was very clear again.
I cast at the wave break line and let the plastic waft around. Third cast and I was on to a fish. It was a flathead about 45 cm long. I released it. I moved a little further from the beach but this did not produce any fish so I moved back in again. A fish pulled the plastic off the jighead (probably a bream), so I re rigged with a GULP 4″ Minnow shaped soft plastic, in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I caught another slightly bigger flathead on this set up about thirty minutes later. Then I caught a couple of 30 cm bream on the top of the tide.
A few days later I was back at the north bank of the Brunswick River mouth looking for more flathead. The bait schools were not as thick but they were still around. Occasionally a small bream/ trevally/ tailor/ flathead would smash into them from below, and send them flying. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day. The water was still brown and tannin stained at the bottom of the run out tide but it was now crystal clear on the top of the tide.
We were about 5 days from the full moon, The wind was light from the south east and low tide had passed at about 11.45 am. I started about 2.15 pm and the tide was running in strongly, pushing the tannin stained river water back upstream.
I put a GULP 2 ” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and started casting just down river from the rocks, near the mouth. Fish were snatching at the soft plastic lure from the very first cast. I soon hooked a 30 cm bream and then a few casts later, I found a patch of flathead. I caught three, small but legal sized fish in quick succession.
As I moved towards the river mouth.The fish kept coming. A steady stream of flathead. Many were too small so I released them, but I managed to find four legal ones.
I finished at about 5.30 pm out on the rockwall, where I caught another couple of small bream and a 45 cm flathead. April was turning into a good month for fishing this river.
About a week later I decided to return to the South Ballina rockwall to see if the jewfish/ mulloway were still around. The new moon had arrived a couple of days previously. The tide was running in and would be high at about 11.00 am. The water in the river was still dirty but it was no longer opaque. The dolphins had appeared again. A couple of them had very small offspring under close supervision.
I started early but still only managed to reach the start of the rock wall after first light. I had a couple of casts with big soft plastics in the spot where I had caught the jewfish previously. I got no hits so after about 20 casts I moved down nearer to the end of the rockwall.
I was fishing with my heavier spinning rig – Daiwa TD SOL III LT 6000 DH reel and Daiwa Saltist X MH 962 rod. I had 40 lb braid and a 30 lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I chose one of my all time favorite soft plastics the GULP 4″ Minnow on the Watermelon Pearl colour. This is pretty much as close to a pilchard/ whitebait as you can get. After a while, I felt a couple of frenetic tailor attacks. The soft plastic had been munched but was largely in one piece so I cast it out again. The fish struck hard as it sank and then it hooked itself and took off. It was a decent tailor about 45 cm long. I landed it safely, bled it and put it in the keeper bag.
I carried on casting the same mangled soft plastic until a bream pulled it off my jighead. I decided to drop down to the lighter of my two rock fishing combinations – a Shimano Stella 4000 reel matched with a Daiwa Crossfire 1062 rod. This is loaded with 30 lb braid and 16 lb fluorocarbon leader. I dropped the jighead to a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook. I put on the GULP 3″ Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour and started casting again. The first taker, to my surprise, was a dart. Things went quiet for a while then the dart came back again and I caught a couple more.
After an hour of not much action the tailor arrived again and I caught two small choppers. When the tailor moved on, the bream took their place and I caught four fish – all between 25 cm and 30 cm long. I released them all.
I had not found the jewfish/mulloway but I expect they were there on the bottom of the runout tide, before dawn. The schools of mullet kept hovering around the rivermouth and tracing the rock wall, so there was plenty of food to tempt them.
As the tide peaked and the current slackened off I gave up. The water was now very clear on the ocean side of the wall. I am looking forward to the tailor and bream getting much bigger over the next couple of months.
A couple of days later I returned for a dawn fishing session at the mouth of the Richmond River. I started just before dawn on the rockwall I had fished a few days before – just upriver from the ferry. I caught a couple of bream but despite/ or perhaps because of the big moon there seemed to be less fish around.
I decided to move nearer the river mouth. I drove up to the locked gate on the road out to the rockwall. I packed up my gear and decided to make the trek out to the wall, stopping to fish at a few spots along the way.
I was fishing with my ultra light spinning setup. Because of the full moon it would be a very big high tide and the water was much clearer than it had been a few days before. I was not expecting anything big so I was using a 12lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/8th ounce, 1/0 hook jighead.
I stopped at a my first spot and put on a GULP 4″ Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour and let it sink down in the current, fairly close to the shore. I slowed it down as I pulled it towards the bank and the fish struck. It was a flathead and it must have been resting no more than an a few inches from the base of the rocks. It was around 45 cm long.
I moved a little further along the shoreline and caught a couple of bream – both were over 30cm long. It seemed the fish got bigger as I moved towards the river mouth. I walked all the way out to where the rock wall meets the beach. By now I was fishing with a Gulp 3″ Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour and I caught another bream on the river side of the wall. I cast a little further out and got bitten off. I re-rigged and caught a small chopper tailor on the first cast. At about 11.00 am I gave up for the day.
I came back to the same spot on the 29th (the day after the full moon). This time I started off the casting with a GULP 4 ” Minnow soft plastic lure in the Pearl Watermelon colour. The first taker was a flathead. It was sitting close to the base of the rocks, on the river side of the wall. It measured in a 48 cm. I photographed it and let it go. If there is fish in the fridge, then it’s pretty much catch and release fishing for me.
I made my way out onto the wall past the resident osprey. He/she always seems to be sitting at this spot – which is a very good sign. Ospreys only eat fish. Just before the end of the wall on the open ocean side , I took up position. I was now fishing with a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and I swapped through three or four different coloured minnow soft plastics. I caught bream on all of them – the biggest was about 34 cm long.
By lunchtime the wind and swell had built up significantly so I gave up for the day.
Christmas means time spent with family (or perhaps not, if COVID border nonsense turns it upside down). My general view of visiting relatives is – glad to see them, glad to see the back of them. I ate too much, drank too much and just as I reached my fattest, the aircon broke down. The wind and swell did drop off on a few days during the Christmas break but the estuaries appeared to be fairly brown and murky after an east coast low had passed through.
I finally got away for a fish at South Ballina in early January. I chose Mobs Bay at South Ballina – quite near to the mouth of the Richmond River. I had chosen to fish the top of the tide as I felt the water would be slightly cleaner and saltier at this stage. I started about an hour after high tide at about 2.30pm.
I was fishing with my new Samaki ultralight rod. I started with a GULP 3″ , Nuclear Chicken coloured Minnow soft plastic on a 1/8th ounce, size 2 hook Gamakatsu Round 211 series jighead. I like these jigheads for small soft plastics and they certainly improve my hook up rate on bream, tailor and whiting. I am not sure they are as effective when used with a bigger soft plastics or when you are specifically targeting flathead.
I waded around on the flats and caught a few very small bream. There was plenty of bait fleeing my soft plastic lure, as I hopped it along in the shallow water. The water was clearing up but was still stained brown by the tannins leaching from the surrounding teatree swamps and cane field drains.
I fished hard but it took two and a half hours to find a keeper size flathead. It grabbed the GULP Nuclear Chicken coloured soft plastic minow, very close to the base of the rockwall that runs across the front of Mobs Bay.
At about 5.00 pm the midges, mosquitos and a lack of fish overcame me and I headed home. My first session of 2021 had been uninspiring but at least I dodged the relatives and more mince pies.
We had great conditions on the Friday and Saturday with an early morning low tide and light wind from the northwest. There was about a metre swell forecast and we were about 5 days past the new moon.
I went straight back to fish “the Barnacles” at Woody Head, through dawn, on Friday. I walked out onto the rock platform at about 4.30 am. The sun was starting to glow below the horizon and the swell was pleasantly light, as forecast.
I started with soft plastics. I find it very difficult to fish a big hard bodied lure in the dark/ twilight. I tend to lose it to the rocks pretty quickly. I was fishing with the heavy rig – Daiwa Demonblood 962H rod, Daiwa TD SOL III LT6000 DH reel, 40lb braid, 40lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a Nitro Saltwater Pro 3/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and loaded it with a GULP 4″ minnow soft plastic in the lime tiger colour.
There are plenty of brands of jigheads out there. It is important to carry a range of weights and hook sizes, so that you can vary your selection according to the swell/wind/terrain and what is biting. Be aware that whilst they all have standard weights (1/4, 3/8, 1/2 ounce, 7,10, 14 grams) marked on them, if you weigh them they are all actually a little different in weight. This is because some include the hook in the weight and some don’t and they vary considerably in their design. There is also the complication of metric vs imperial weights and what they choose to put on the packaging. Strength is an important factor, especially when fishing from the rocks. The Nitro Saltwater Pro jigheads on Owner hooks rarely give at all and are very unlikely to straighten, but if you need a stealthy presentation, for shy fish, they are not the right choice. The kingfish had not been shy around dawn in my last few sessions.
I cast the soft plastic out towards the glowing horizon and saw the bait spook as it landed. I was in the right spot. On the first few casts I tend to rush my retrieves a little as I work out where the submerged ledges start and finish and how far I am likely to be able to cast. After ten minutes I had not had a touch and thought of changing lures. I put in one more cast; about 45 degrees out to the north east of the rock the locals sometimes refer to as “Barnacle Bob”. I left it to sink and counted slowly to ten, then started my retrieve. I felt it rub along the bottom as I lifted it, but on the second hop – the line pulled tight and there was a fish there. It swam fairly slowly towards me and as I wound in, I assumed it was a decent bream. Then it saw the ledge coming or realised it was hooked and took off in a long hard run. The rod tip was pulsing, but not frantically – so it was not a tailor. It made several small arcs and then I landed it with the aid of a wave surge. It was 60cm kingfish.
That started a great morning of fishing with 10 kingfish hook ups over the next few hours, interspersed with a couple of dart and bream. I landed 6 of them. A few times I tried to tempt them with a hard bodied lure and a popper but whilst they would follow the bigger lures, they just would not bite. I swapped back to the soft plastics and I hooked up immediately. The most prolific soft plastics where the GULP 4″ Pink Paddleshad and the GULP 4″ Lime Tiger Minnow. Unfortunately none of the Kingfish were over 65cm, so I released them all.
At about 6.30 am the tide was running in and pushing me back from my favorite spot, so I moved further south along the Woody Head platform to the spot known as “Snapper Rock”. I got snagged and lost my jighead after a few casts and so I picked up my lighter Daiwa Crossfire 1062 rod with a lighter 25lb fluorocarbon leader and 1/4 oz, size 1/0 hook jighead. I put on another Lime Tiger Minnow. I cast out and as the plastic sank a fish ate it and headed straight down into the rocks. I tightened the drag and manage to pull it out. It was a small snapper, about 35 cm long. I threw it back and cast out again. The sea was fairly flat but the wind was now picking up from the north. I kept casting and hooked another kingfish. the fight was longer and harder because of the light rod – these fish just never give up. Eventually I landed it with the help of the swell, and got a fair soaking in the process. At about 7.30 am I gave up battling the wind.
The next morning the wind was light again from the northwest and there was almost no swell. I started fishing at “the Barnacles” with the GULP 4″ Paddle shad in pink colour. I caught a decent 35cm + bream. It was a very dark colour but pretty fat. I cast all around but the Kingfish were either not there or not eating. A couple of other anglers joined me and we threw every kind of popper, hard body, bait and soft plastic, without success. Then, just before 7.00 am, we saw them feeding on the surface on a school of bait. I hurled a single hooked 40g brass coloured Halco Twisty (metal slug) at them, retrieved it fast and hooked one. It pulled hard but I eventually got it right up to my feet. Then, almost in slow motion the single hook came loose, and it swam away with the next wave.
A great couple of sessions, but the weather was closing in again for a big south-easterly blow, so it was time for a rest.
Hastings Point, on the far north coast of New South Wales, always looks like a great place to fish. It has rocks, gutter, overhangs, channels and a chunky bit of reef, just offshore. In other words, all the traditional ingredients that make a place fishy. It also has the advantage of being one of the closest rock fishing spots to my current home.
I know that anglers regularly catch good, bream, dart, tailor and jewfish here. But I have not yet put the time into the area, to work it out. Part of the problem this year, has been the swell, which has consistently been up above 1.5 m or more. I also think you have more chance here when first light/dawn coincides with a high tide, so that you can fish it with plenty of water, in close to the base of the rocks.
So one Tuesday morning in September, I was up before dawn and ready to start my research. There was a little wind from the north east, and it was forecast to turn pure easterly on dawn, then build up through the day. The new moon had appeared the day before and the tide was about half way in and the swell was bigger than the forecast 1.2m.
I started by casting a 3/8th ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead, loaded with a 6 ” GULP Lime Tiger jerkshad. I was running 20lb braid and a 30lb fluorocarbon leader. This set up enticed a couple of hits on the wavebreak line (probably dart or bream) but it did not create much other interest. After 30 minutes or so the sun burst over the horizon. I switched to a brass coloured 60g HALCO twisty and cast that beyond the rocks and ripped it back toward me, pretty quickly. I had started fishing when the sun was still well below the horizon, but now it was rapidly climbing above it.
At about 8.30 am we were approaching high tide and I was not getting much in the way of bites. I dropped down to the lighter Daiwa Crossfire rod. I tied on a 1/4 ounce, size 1 hook jighead and loaded it with a 5″ GULP jerkshad in the Watermelon Pearl colour. After about five or six casts I connected with a fish and it took off quite quickly. I let it take it little line then tightened my drag. It was a solid dart and I decided to keep it for lunch, so I dispatched it, bled it and left it in a rock pool. I hoped for another and loaded another plastic (the original had been shredded). I hooked what felt like another dart but it freed itself. Finally, as I was about to give up I caught a 30 cm bream.
This is a good example of so many of my fishing sessions. I didn’t catch much but I added a little more knowledge. I witnessed a great sunrise, lots of whales passing through and just enough action to make sure I will come back again.
In early September the wind began to signal a change of seasons. The northerlies kept creeping in but they were often tempered by a persistent cool westerly, in the mornings.
On the first Monday of the month I decided to fish off the rockwall at South Ballina. The moon was in its waning gibbous phase and would be 77% full. An easterly wind was forecast and the swell was still stubbornly high, so I wasn’t expecting much. Low tide had passed at about 5.00 am. I took the Burns Point Ferry across the Richmond River, just after it started running at 5.30 am and walked out to the end of the south wall at about 6.00 am. The sun had broken the horizon a few minutes earlier but almost immediately been obscured by a band of low cloud. I said good morning to the two resident ospreys who were surveying the beach gutter from their rocky perch.
I started with my heavier rock fishing rig with a 30lb leader and a 60g slug. I cast out to the north east and ripped the lure back pretty quickly. After two or three casts, I felt a fish grab it, drop it, grab it and then I hooked up. It was a 35cm tailor and I pulled it up safely to my feet, un-trebled it and threw it back. I carried on casting the slug for a while and had a few more bumps and grabs but no hook ups, so I decided to change tactics.
I tied on a 3/8th ounce 1/0 hook jighead and loaded a GULP 4″ Minnow in the Smelt colour. I would always rather fish with a lighter jighead, so that the soft plastic spends more time sinking but the easterly onshore wind would have made casting anything lighter a real challenge. As it was, I could only get the jighead to land 10 to 15 metres out. On my first cast it was hit on the drop. Unfortunately I did not hook up but instead pulled up a soft plastic with a neat bite mark but no fish.
I put another of the same plastic on and cast out. It only took a couple of hops and I was on to a fish again. This time it was a small bream with a big appetite. I threw it back. The bream kept biting the tails off the minnow or pulling the soft plastic off the jighead. So I swapped to a 5″ GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. These tend to stay on the jighead better and I was hoping the bigger profile might attract a bigger fish.
On about my fifth cast with a bigger plastic, I felt a hit at the base of the rocks but jumped the lure up quickly, thinking I might be snagged. A few minutes later I felt a similar hit and I paused to let the fish eat the plastic. It obliged and took off. Initially it ran out to sea but as I had to keep the tension on the line, the swell soon pushed it back in to the base of the rocks. It was a school jewfish, it looked around 70 to 80 cm long. It was soon washed in between the rocks at the base of the wall and I could feel the leader rubbing against the rocks. Then – snap, and it was gone and was gone.
I re-rigged with a stretch of 45lb leader (the toughest , I carry) and the same set up and cast out again. About five casts later and a found another one in the same spot (that’s why they are called ‘school’ jewfish). I tried to wear it out and pull it gently up to me but the hook bent and pulled out and it dropped back to the water and swam off. I worked through a few soft plastics and they nearly all found a fish in this same spot but I could not land any of them. I need to buy, and learn to use, a gaff.
I was frustrated but the fish were clearly biting so I swapped back to a metal lure. I chose the 40 gram DUO Drag Metal Cast Slow (I assume this sounds more catchy in Japanese). This is a slow jigging lure that can be used like any other metal slug. My Japanese angling friends say it is great to use from the shore as it flutters around a lot, even at very low retrieve speeds. I have been trying it whenever I think the tailor are around, to see if they like it. I cast it out towards the centre of the river mouth and jigged it back towards me. After two or three casts I hooked up, quite a long way from the shore. This lure has two assist single hooks at one end and a single hook at the other. I was making progress but then my line went slack. I picked up the retrieve again and a few moments later I had hooked up again. This time the hook stuck but the fish felt more powerful. I backed off the drag a little and let the fish run. I then gradually retrieved line and tightened the drag again. It was a decent tailor and it leaped clear of the water a couple of times but stayed hooked. Fortunately, two of the hooks had pinned the fish and I was able to pull it up to my feet. It was just over 50 cm long. One of the three hooks on the lure was gone, perhaps the first fish that hit it, took that one. Much as I would have liked a jewfish, it would have to be tailor for dinner.
IMPORTANT NOTE – Last time I visited South Ballina – in early October, 2020 – the road out to the rockwall had been closed by National Parks. They have had it surveyed and the initial finding is that it is no longer safe for vehicles. This means fishing at the end of the wall requires a 1300m walk before and after – see photo)
I have always wanted to fish at Evans Head and with a light swell forecast and a mid-morning low tide, Monday looked good. I wanted to fish off the front of Goanna Headland and with a south-westerly breeze this looked possible. I arrived well after sunrise at about 8.00 am and parked in the carpark at Chinamens Beach.
As it would be my first time fishing here I decided to just take my lighter rock fishing rig with me. This is presently the 3.2m Daiwa Crossfire CFS 1062 rod and my Shimano Stella 4000, rigged with 30lb braid and usually a 16lb leader to start off with. I like to look around any new spot with this setup. The relatively light leader will not stop a really big fish but it will also get you more hook ups, so that you can figure out who the local residents are.
I walked around the headland, found a good spot and watched the swell for a while . The water was clear and fairly calm – it was sheltered from the south-westerly wind by the headland. I started with a 1/6th ounce jighead and a GULP 3″ minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour. My second cast was hit hard by a fish that tried to head straight down into the rocks. I tightened the drag and pulled it out, fairly easily. It was a bream about 30 cm long. A found a couple more over the next few casts.
The bream had pretty much destroyed the minnow so I swapped over to a 2″ GULP Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. The tide was rising and starting to wash over the ledge, so I could not stay in this spot for much longer. I cast out and let the plastic flutter down until I felt it was on the bottom. As soon as I lifted it a fish hit. It was bigger and faster than the bream and it pulled quite hard. It tried to take me under the ledge, but soon tired. It was a small silver trevally. I released the fish and cast straight back out. I caught three more small silver trevally in pretty quick succession and then something bigger hit the soft plastic on the drop and took off, straight under the rock ledge. After a few seconds I could feel my leader rubbing and then it snapped – cod, groper, wrasse, bigger bream, snapper or trevally – could have been anything. I re-rigged with a completely new 16lb fluorocarbon leader. This time I tied on a 1/6th ounce jighead but with a bigger size 1/0 hook and loaded it with a GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour. After a few casts I hooked up again. This time it was another silver trevally – a little bigger than the others.
I had to change spots now so I moved a little south, to fish in a horse-shoe shaped bay. I looked like it was only a few metres deep but there were overhanging rocks on all sides and few bommies in the middle.
I cast the jerkshad out into the middle of the horse shoe mouth and let it sink to where I thought the bottom would be. I then hopped it back towards me. I repeated this for about an hour. I hooked a few small bream. It was now around 1.00 pm. The wind was picking up and turning south-easterly, so it was getting hard to cast straight out in front me. I was casting as close as I could to the overhanging rocks. As I started another retrieve of the soft plastic I felt a quick tug and then a real take. I set the hook and the fish took off. It was not quick like a tailor or trevally. My rod did not really have the power to slow it down but I kept the pressure on. It arched left, then came back to the right and I got some line back. I felt I was making some headway and tightened the drag a little. It arched over to the left again and then felt like it was beaten and was about to pop up. There was not obvious landing spot and just as I was thinking where to drag it to, it turned the thrusters on and took off again. I tried to hold slow the spool a bit with my hand and then I felt the jighead pull out.
I had found a great spot and had a great session. I will be back at dawn or dusk when the swell permits and I am sure I will encounter some great fish.
June saw some big changes in the fishing on the Byron/Ballina coast. The most important one was the arrival of lots of small whitebait. The whales started to swim past and the tailor arrived in large numbers. The flathead were plentiful in the estuaries. The mullet schooled up along the beaches and around the headlands to feed on the thick schools of bait. The jewfish also came in to feed on the mullet and tailor. Meanwhile the bream started to gather at the river mouths to spawn.
The only thing that was not conducive to fishing was the swell. There were really only a few days in the whole month when the swell dropped below 1.5 m and so fishing the rocks was tricky. We did not have much rain and as the water temperature cooled the water became very clear.
I started the month still focusing on the flathead at the Richmond River mouth. I fished the flats and weed beds with small GULP soft plastics rigged on a 1/8th or 1/6th of an ounce jighead. The minnow shapes that most resembled the whitebait caught plenty of good flathead. If I kept to the two- and three-inch sizes, I also caught bream and small tailor.
There were a couple of flatter days and I took advantage of them to fish the rock platform at Flat Rock, south of Skennars Head. This is really only fishable around the low tide and it is very snaggy. I fished off the south side of the platform and caught some good bream and tarwhine on GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastics in various colours.
On some of the slightly calmer days I fished the end of the South Ballina rockwall. The dolphins and birds were a constant – chasing the bait schools around the end of the rock wall and out into the river mouth. As we came up to the new moon the more committed fishermen were out from well before dawn casting big hard bodied lures for jewfish. Judging by the scale piles, they caught a few.
I focused on casting slugs off the end of the wall which caught plenty of tailor and a few small trevally. When the tailor slowed down, I put on soft plastics and caught some good sized bream. A couple of times I hooked school jewfish at the base of the rocks but with the lighter Daiwa 1062 Crossfire rod running a 16lb leader (for the bream) I could not bring them round the rocks to a landing spot.
Each time I fished the early morning I saw the local osprey waiting for the mullet schools to swim up the beach into the shallows. I saw him catch a few but by now some of them were too fat for him to lift. I dragged a vibe lure through a thick school one morning and caught one. I decided to keep it as I have always wanted to try the roe (eggs). This is considered a delicacy in Japan and many parts of Europe. When I ate it the next day, the fresh fillets were very good, but I could not stomach the roe (the Japanese are welcome to it!).
It took a long time for winter to arrive in 2019. In fact, the water stayed warm pretty much all through June and July. I persisted with exploring the beach fishing to the north of the Brunswick River mouth, whenever possible.
I also had a few sessions on the headlands between Lennox and Ballina. I did quite well fishing soft plastic minnows at the north end of Sharpes Beach. Over a few mornings I caught some 35cm + bream, trevally and even a few jewfish, one of which was just over 70 cm long and therefore big enough to keep.
As most of my followers will know I love to fish with soft plastics and light rigs. I was catching the odd flathead and bream in the surf on a traditional jig head rigged soft plastic minnows and shrimps, but I was putting in a lot of casts for very few fish. So in July I experimented with rigging my GULP 4″ minnows, unweighted on a regular baitholder or trueturn hook at the end of about 30 cm of 20lb fluorocarbon leader, running up to a small swivel and sinker. This seemed to be more successful and I had a few quite good bream sessions on the beach.
As we moved towards the full moon in the middle of the month, I noticed a few keen local anglers fishing for tailor on dusk, on the beach near North Head. On the evening of the full moon I decided to join them and with a GULP 4″ minnow rigged on a size 4 Trueturn hook with a size 1 sinker further up the leader. I was using my 3.6m / 12 foot Daiwa Crossfire Surf 1202L, 20lb braid and a 20lb flurocarbon leader. I was casting out as far as I could and letting the plastic waft around. I started about 40 minutes before sunset. Just after sunset I felt the rod tip start to bend and as I took up the slack I realised there was a fish on. This rod does not have much power so I had to be patient but after about 15 minutes of back and forth in the swell I pulled up a chunky tailor about 55cm long.
So on reflection there was plenty of variety on June and July, especially in the run up to the full moon
May rolled in and we finally got a few cold nights but the weather soon turned warm again. We had a good south-easterly blow and a few days of rain at Brunswick Heads early in the month. In the rough weather some good gutters formed at North Head on the north side of the Brunswick River mouth.
On a couple of nights Tailor reportedly turned up and everyone caught fish. Unfortunately, they were not the nights I was fishing. I did manage a couple of 40 cm choppers, just as the sun fell, using my trusty gold/brass coloured 40g Halco Twisty metal slug.
In the stormy weather I fished the north side of the north wall with a GULP 2” Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I was so desperate for a fish that I dropped down to 8lb leader and loaded the plastic on to a size 4, unweighted hook. I let it wash around at the base of the rocks and to my surprise I hooked a solid luderick.
A few days later I moved up river a little and fished at Christmas Beach (just short of the Brunswick River Mouth, on the north side). The tide was running out and the water was a tannin stained brown colour. I was fishing with my light estuary rod, with a 10lb fluorocarbon leader and was jigging a GULP 4” Pearl Watermelon coloured minnow along the sandy bottom. The jighead was a 1/8th ounce weight with a 1/0 jighead. As usual the fish were close to the rocks. The first flathead I caught was in a sandy gully between two rocky outcrops. It was just over 40 cm, so I kept it for dinner. It seems ridiculous that we can have different size limits for flathead in New South Wales (36cm) and Queensland (40 cm). I am sticking with the 40cm, as that is about the minimum size I would consider worth filleting. I carried on as the tide ran out and caught two more from similar spots. I also lost two or three jigheads to the rocks.
On one of the calmer days I had a morning session fishing from the rocks at Skennars Head. As the sun rose I hooked a couple of good sized dart, again using soft plastic minnows. These were quickly followed by two 30cm + chunky bream, close to the base of the rocks. I then put on a bigger 4 inch minnow soft plastic and after a few casts, caught a 40 cm tailor. I caught all the fish before 7.30 am, after which I did not get a bite.
In the light swell I also had a few afternoon sessions fishing down at Broken Head. In the first I found a few small trevally and in the second I caught good sized bream and dart. The dart were in big schools swimming up and down in front of the rocks. Occasionally they would break the surface to feed on smaller fish schools. I cast a slug around but could not connect with any tailor.
Not many big ones but there were plenty of fish on offer in May.
It was back to work in February so there was little time for fishing. In March the hot days continued with no sign of autumn on the horizon. The usual wind pattern was a light south easterly or south westerly in the morning, turning around to a strong northerly in the afternoon. The water stayed pretty warm.
The Brunswick River was crystal clear. In the transparent warm water, I resorted to casting out almost unweighted 3 inch minnow soft plastics on very light 6lb leader, in order to entice the bream to bite. I caught a few keepers this way but I lost plenty of soft plastics to either bigger bream, cod or perhaps mangrove jacks. There were a few flathead around but most were about 30cm to 40 cm long, so I released them.
There was about a week of heavy rain later in the month. The water running off the surrounding swamps turned the Brunswick River brown for all but an hour around high tide. This increase in fresh water in the system changed things and I had a few sessions where all I caught were grunter bream. I caught them all on 3 inch soft plastics, using a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. They were mostly too small to keep, but one or two were close to 35 cm.
So there were plenty of fish in March and the river had plenty of bait but there were not many big enough for supper.
The Brunswick River turned into a water park for January with kayaks, canoes, tinnies, paddle boards and anything else that floats, ploughing up and down from dawn until dusk. I caught a few flathead and dart at Northhead and out on the beach but fishing was tough
On my explorations of the northern New South Wales coast I had driven past the rocks at Skennars Head a few times and seen people fishing them. This is not a spot for big seas. In fact, it is very dangerous when there is anything more than a metre of swell, so be very careful here. There is rocky outcrop in front of the headland and at the end there is an old iron pole driven into the rocks and a cement set rod holder. At low tide on a very calm day you can fish from this spot.
As the water cools I think this would be a good/ jewfish tailor spot. As I needed to fish at low tide my first few sessions were during the day time. I caught bream, dart and the odd butter bream on light leader and 1/8th ounce jighead mounted minnow and shrimp soft plastics. On one morning a school of mullet thick enough to walk on cruised by, finning on the surface.
Later in the month dawn started to coincide with low so I fished a couple of sunrise sessions. These were much more successful. I started by spinning with a fifty gram Halco Twisty in the gold colour. I use a Daiwa Demonblood 962H paired with a Shimano Stradic FJ 8000. It is getting old now but this rod and reel combo has caught a lot of big fish for me. It is a great set up when you need a chance of landing a big fish from the rocks. When casting a lure or slug I rig up with 30lb braid, and a short 25lb fluorocarbon leader.
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I arrived pre-dawn and I could just see the birds working a long way out. It is Landangler’s first law of fishing that feeding schools of fish will remain approximately 10 metres clear of you casting range for the duration of your fishing session.
It was a fantastic sunrise and I cast the slug all through it with no result. My shoulders get sore pretty quickly now and it was hot, so I swapped down to the lighter Daiwa Crossfire 862 rod which I have been using to cast plastics and light lures from the beach. I match this with a Shimano Stradic 4000 reel. This is rigged with 12lb braid and 16lb fluorocarbon leader and I started with a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 jighead and a Gulp Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. After a few casts this one did the trick and I felt a good grab and short run, but no I did not hook up. I cast back in the same direction and almost as soon as the lure hit the water the rod bent over. It was fast and furious but not very big. It was a tailor – just about 40 cm long. I bled it and dropped it in a keeper rockpool. I cast out again in the same area but they had moved on.
As the sun rose, the schools of bait and birds remained mostly out of reach. I swapped down to a more natural GULP Peppered Prawn coloured, shrimp shape soft plastic. At one point a spinning wheel of what looked like bonito came within casting distance and I landed my plastic close by, but they were not interested. The next takers where few good bream, caught close the base of the rocks on the GULP shrimp. As the day warmed up the bream disappeared but a few good dart took their place.
I cooked the tailor whole for lunch, a few hours later. My view is tailor are pretty good for 24 hrs from capture, as long as they are bled and cleaned in the saltwater, soon after landing, after that even my cat turns its nose up.
Overall a great session – no monsters, but it was a beautiful morning and there would be fish for lunch and dinner.
For anyone who fishes the rocks please note – this is a dangerous environment so wear a PFD, good boots with a decent grip and watch the surf all the time. Finally, remember the old adage, if in doubt…… don’t.
In October I could not find anything much on the beaches and was still only catching tiny flathead in Mooball Creek. I had a couple of sessions fishing on the Brunswick River rock wall at Northhead, where I dropped a couple of small chopper tailor when fishing with a Gulp Jerkshad.
In desperation I drove down to fish the mouth of the Richmond River at Ballina. Things looked more promising here and I caught a few good-sized bream on the inside of the north wall. I was using 3”and 4” Gulp minnow soft plastics in my favourite Pearl Watermelon colour. I also watched a large flock of cormorants herd a school of baitfish into the shallows and then feast on them.
September saw my first serious explorations of the coast around the Brunswick River mouth in Northern New South Wales. The river itself holds plenty of fish but it is a very busy recreational spot so at the weekends it is hard to find an undisturbed stretch to fish. I managed to find a few small flathead and bream amongst the oyster leases near where the Pacific Highway Bridge crosses the river. In the run up to the new moon there were large schools of mullet and bream in the marine sanctuary areas near town. Unfortunately, I saw people fishing for them even though this is a no – take zone. Perhaps clearer signage is needed.
When the water was very clear in the main branch of the river I was dropping down to 8lb fluorocarbon leader to persuade the bream to bite. Every now and then my soft plastic would be grabbed and pulled under a ledge by what I think was most likely and estuary cod.
I also tried fishing around the rocks the rocks on the beach at Wooyung and had a few sessions in Mooball Creek. I caught small flathead on soft plastics in both these locations but virtually none were big enough to keep.
In August the bream where still around in numbers at Bribie and I also started to explore the beaches near the mouth of the Brunswick River in New South Wales. I am planning a move in that direction, so I need to get to know where to fish.
Sticking with mainly Gulp soft plastics, I had success with various coloured 3 inch minnows on the bream at Bribie. Fishing in front of the drain that empties into the Pumicestone Passage, over the coffee rock ledge, in front of the seaside museum at Bongaree was very successful. A light, 10lb fluorocarbon leader and 1/8th or 1/12th ounce jigheads seemed to do the trick.
Down on the beach at New Brighton the same size plastics found dart, flathead and a few good bream.
It was Friday and although the wind and swell was forecast to drop off slightly in the morning – it would soon pick up again. I stuck with Shark Bay and arrived at about 5.45am. The skies were the clearest they had been all week and I was treated to a magnificent sunrise.
I fished in the bays on each side of the rocks while I waited for the tide to recede. I started with a small no name popper and attracted plenty of long tom interest but nothing else. At about 7.00 am I waded through the tide and out on to the north side of the rock platform.
At this stage of the run out tide I had to stick with a surface lure so that I could cast out over the kelp covered ledge. I chose the Fluoro Pink Roosta Popper again. This hooked up to a good tailor straight away but it wriggled off. I kept casting and the long toms kept swiping. After about 30 casts, I found another smaller tailor but it also wriggled off in the shallows. I swapped to the Spanyid Maniac 45g wide metal spoon. I soon caught a 25cm Tailor and then a few casts later, a 50cm model.
I swapped lures again. This time to a 55g HALCO Twisty in the gold colour – this was the most successful lure of the morning. But the fish were not feeding furiously. They seemed to come and go. I caught 5 more fish over the next 90 minutes. But none of them were over 35cm long.
As low tide approached I decided to switch locations and walked back to the car and drove round to Woody Head. I wandered out to the area known as ‘the Barnacles’. The sun was finally out and the swell had dropped off a little.
I tied on a ¼ ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and cast out a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Curry Chicken colours. As is so often the case in this spot, a fish grabbed the lure on the first cast, as I started to retrieve it. I landed it with the aid of an incoming wave. It was a 35cm bream. As a warning, the next wave came up and soaked me so I decided it was time to retire. No monsters and interestingly, no jewfish but plenty of action.
I was soaked but the sun was out and the water was warm so I took a dip in one of the many rock pools (which were even warmer). I can just see the advert – Woody Head Day Spa with sea minerals and slimy kelp rub – what would they pay for one of those in Sydney?