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?
The flats in front of the old oyster jetty at the Sandstone Point Hotel had not produced much action during my last fishing session. So on Friday I decided to fish somewhere else on Bribie. Wild weather was forecast and it was very hot – 33 C. There was a strong northerly wind blowing and there was plenty of cloud around. A storm seemed likely in the late afternoon. I decided to give White Patch a try. This is a stretch of shore on the inside of Bribie Island where the 2 to 3 metre coffee rock drop off into the Pumicestone Passage, is quite pronounced. I have caught just about everything here over the years – snapper, trevally, queenfish, flathead, bream, whiting, estuary cod, moses perch, pike, long toms, tailor and jewfish. Flathead, whiting, bream and pike are by far my most common catches.
I wanted to fish the falling/ low tide. As regular readers will be aware, I much prefer fishing a run out tide at Bribie. That is not to say fish do not bite on the run in. I am just more confident of where to find them when the tide is running out. Fish, (especially flathead) move back in surprisingly fast with the run in tide. Both flathead and whiting love to eat soldier and other small crabs. As the tide runs into the shallows, they have a very good chance of finding them. If you are fishing with children over the holidays, soldier crabs are a great bait. They are plentiful, fun to collect and if you slide two or three on to a #4/#6 hook, at the end of a lightly weighted 6 to 10 lb line, you should find a few fish in the shallows.
Low tide would be at about 4 pm. I arrived at about 2.30 pm and wandered down the steps to the beach. The shoreline has a mixture of weed, sand and flat rocky areas. The edge of the main channel is only exposed on the very lowest of tides. I like to fish on top of the ledge, in the shallows before later casting over it, as the tide recedes.
This is a beautiful spot but this afternoon the fishing was very tough. I walked up and down casting everything I had in the tackle bag without much luck. At about 3.00 pm I caught a very grumpy bream who slammed my GULP 3” Lime Tiger coloured soft plastic minnow. I had dropped right down to 8lb fluorocarbon leader in the clear water.
I waded a long way along the shore almost to the south end. At this point there was plenty of bait in the shallows and each time I cast, it would scatter as the lure passed overhead. It was now about 4.30 pm and the tide was starting to slowly run in. There was a big surge about 5 metres in front of me and the bait scattered in all directions. I was now fishing with a bigger GULP Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken colour. I cast in the direction of the surge. After about five casts something grabbed the soft plastic and took off at a tremendous pace. Fortunately the drag was not set too tight so it could easily take line. It stripped off about 20 metres of line in a solid fast run. Then after just a few seconds, it was gone. It looked like it had just dropped the soft plastic. I suspect it was a trevally, which I have caught in this area before.
I carried on casting but it did not come back. The sky got blacker and blacker, so at about 5.00 pm I decided to retire. Fishing in our estuaries is tough in the summer months but persistence is the key.
On Monday I did not have time for the walk out to the headland so I decided to see what the monster, full moon morning high tide would push up Korogoro Creek. On the low tide the day before the water had looked like gravy, as the tannin stained water drained off the surrounding swamps. As I walked along the edge of the creek the contrast was stunning. I was about an hour off high tide but the water was crystal clear and the current was pushing up the creek.
I had my waders on. The sun had come out but the water was still pretty fresh. I was fishing with my current light estuary fishing rig – a very light NS Blackhole trout rod. I was using 10lb fluorocarbon leader, a 1/8th of an ounce, size 1/0 jighead and I stared with a GULP 2” Shrimp soft plastic in the Banana Prawn colour. It was very early but people were popping up all along to bank to fish or launch kayaks or stand up paddle boards or even have a swim.
I walked and waded along the northern bank, stopping at each gap in the vegetation to throw a few casts. I could see schools of small bream and Blackfish cruising the now submerged tree roots and some big whiting out nearer the centre of the main channel. Even on a big tide the creek is rarely more than 1.5m deep. I moved slowly northwards and stopped at a small bay about 100 m east of the road bridge. The water was so clear I could see the bream inspecting the shrimp soft plastic, each time it hit the water. But I could not entice them to strike. A whiting followed the lure all the way to my feet, but also would not bite.
I swapped soft plastic to the GULP 3’ Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour and started to pepper the far bank with casts. The tide was slowing but the water was still crystal clear. After a few casts I felt the solid thud of a flathead bite. I dropped the rod tip and paused for about 8 seconds then struck. The fish was hooked. I reeled it in and took a few snaps before releasing it. It was a flathead about 40cm long.
It was only 7.00 am but the creek was getting busy with the kayaks, canoes, swimmers, and other fishermen. I decided to retire for breakfast. The creek would definitely fish well on the big tides when there is a little less traffic around.
Tuesday morning was dry but the big swell was still hanging around. I decided to try fishing for some more Tailor at Middle Bluff and set off before dawn. The walk from the Frasers Reef carpark along the beach to Middle Bluff in the pre-dawn light is always great. The sky is usually beginning to glow and I am conjuring visions of huge jewfish, tailor and tuna in my mind.
The wind was light from the east and not particularly cold. It was the day of the new moon so it would be a big tide. High tide would be at 7.45 am so I had to watch the rising water levels and surges carefully.
I started fishing at about 6.20 am with the River to Sea 110mm Dumbbell Popper. I cast this around until my shoulders were sore and did not get any hits. I swapped over to the 50g DUO Pressbait Saira jig/ slug and started to put in some long casts, off the north end of the headland. This soon paid off and at about 7.00 am, just before the sun came over the horizon, I hooked up and then dropped two tailor before finally holding on to a chunky 50 cm model.
I carried on spinning the Pressbait until the inevitable happened and I lost it to the rocks. I decided to try a soft plastic and rigged up a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the New Penny colour on a ¼ ounce, size 3.0 hook jighead. I was using my heavier Daiwa Demonblood rod with a 30lb fluorocarbon leader. You really need to tie on at least a ¼ ounce jighead to make this combination work. Anything lighter and you cannot feel the jighead or cast it past the rocks close that line the shore. By way of proof, even with the ¼ ounce weight, I lost the first rig to the rocks on the first cast. I re-rigged and cast out again.
The sun was up but it was still cloudy and it was just after 7.30 am. After a few casts I felt a solid thump and then another and another. I let the plastic go for a few seconds then pulled the rod up hard and I had a fish on. It managed to keep it on and pull it, wriggling hard, over the rocks with the help of the swell and landed it safely. It was another bigger Tailor about 55 cm long.
I noticed the tailor had a good sized bite mark on its back (probably from another fish in the same school). I photographed and released it and re-rigged with a fresh Crazylegs Jerkshad. I fished around for another hour, but the rising tide made things very difficult so at about 8.30 am I gave up.
I went for breakfast and then thought I would try the Shark Bay jewfish spot again. The sky had clouded over again but with a new moon and big swell I thought I had a pretty good chance of catching another jewfish/ mulloway. I arrived just after 1.00 pm and fished around with the heavy rod and leader and some big jerkshads, without much luck. I swapped down to the light rod and 12lb leader. This did the trick and I caught another stonker 38 cm bream on a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad. The rain arrived again and forced another break.
At about 4.00 pm it had eased off so I decided to try fishing at Iluka Bluff. A keen Korean fisherman from the Gold Coast had been there all afternoon and had caught a few good sized silver trevally and some small giant trevally and also been bitten off a couple of times. The swell was tricky and the tide was running, I was tired and had only brought my light surf rig with me form the car. I rigged up a GULP Jerkshad in the Orange Tiger colour. As I pulled it close to the rocks on the retrieve it was slammed and the fish took off. I had no chance and after a few seconds I was bitten off.
I re-rigged with 20lb leader and cast out the same colour soft plastic. After a few casts I was hit again and this time I held on to the fish. It was a 45cm silver trevally. The other fisherman was regularly broadcasting berley and had been doing so all afternoon which may well have brought the fish in.
I decided to try a small 18g MARIA Duplex hard bodied sinking minnow. This lure is only about 60mm long and has a tight action. It casts like a bullet. I threw it around for about ten minute. On about the sixth cast something absolutely slammed it and took off. I immediately regretted having only brought the light rod. It bent over and the line continued to peel. The fish was moving straight and fast out to sea and I was very quickly into the backing line. I held the spool and tried to slow it and then turned the drag slightly tighter. None of this made any difference and the fish was still running. I tightened the drag and pop, the line went slack. It was faster than a jewfish but I have no idea what it actually was. It was certainly the biggest fish I had interacted with all week but I did not have the right gear to face it. The leader was still attached when I wound in but there was no sign of the lure.
It was getting dark and I did not have another lure so I gave up for the day.
In to May and time to get back on to the flathead at Bribie. Big wind and rain were forecast for later in the week so I decided I had to get out on Sunday morning. It was going to be bright and cool with light south westerly winds.
I waded out under the bridge at Bribie Island just before dawn and despite the cooler nights the water remains surprisingly warm. I cast around in the shallows under the bridge but there was not much going on so I moved slowly to the south.
I was fishing with a GULP 4“Minnow soft plastic in the Lime Tiger colour, initially. This did not seem to stir any interest so I swapped to a similair sized Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I was fishing with my new light rod – a G.Loomis SJR6400. This is a very short, very fast action, light spinning rod. It is only 5’ 4” long which should make it easier to use in the smaller creeks that I hope to fish later in the year, up north. Loomis describe it as a ‘magnum ultralight’ rod which sounds more like a diet ice cream to me. It is designed to have slightly more strength than their ultra-light series, while retaining its sensitivity. I was using it with my Shimano Stella 2500 loaded with 12lb braid and about a metre of 10lb fluorocarbon. The tide was slowly running out so I was using a 1/8th ounce, 1/0 jighead and aiming it at any spot where the sand met the weed.
It was hard work. I disturbed a few sting rays and eventually hooked one, which dragged me around for a while before breaking the light leader. I had now been fishing for 2 hours without connecting with a flathead. The water was getting dirtier as we approached low tide, which would be just after 8.00 am.
I move along towards the green channel marker. It was now right on low tide. I had been joined by a few more keen fishermen on the edge of the sand bank. Just as I was beginning to think the new rod was cursed, I felt the tell-tale thud of the flathead bite. I was now using the GULP 2” Shrimp in the Peppered Prawn colour. I paused then struck. It is always a little tricky catching your first fish on a new rod. You have to calibrate the drag setting to the rod bend and this can take a while. The fish hardly managed to take any line, which meant I had it too tight. It was a flathead about 42cm long and I soon had it in the keeper bag. I loosened the drag a little and carried on casting. A few minutes later I caught a small Pike then things went quiet for about 20 minutes.
The water was still and dirty. I moved slightly north, back towards the old oyster jetty. I felt a bite but did not hook up. This happened twice and each time the fish was a little nearer to me. I moved back a few paces and tried again with a short cast and a long pause. When I lifted the rod the fish was on the soft plastic. It was another flathead about the same size as the first. Over the next 30 minutes I caught two more – one more over 40cm and one just under.
I carried on moving south. The tide was starting to turn and flow in. I kept casting at the edge of the weed beds and was rewarded with another flathead. This time it was a bigger one at about 55 cm. I now had a family dinner in the keeper bag.
I kept casting as I waded back towards the car and I was rewarded with another flathead, just before I passed the jetty. After a slow start it had turned into a great morning. The new rod had proved itself and I had my bag limit for the day.
I had the bit between my teeth now, so I woke up early on Sunday and drove up to fish the run out tide, on the flats beside the old oyster jetty on the mainland side of the Pumicestone Passage, beside the Bribie Island Bridge.
Last year, March had been a fantastic month for flathead in this location, so I was hopeful. I had planned to arrive in the dark and fish the high water under the bridge but I woke up too late. When I waded out under the bridge, it was already getting light at about 5.30 am. There was virtually no wind and there had been some rain overnight. High tide had passed at 5.05 am.
Local fisherman Colin had beaten me to it and already had a 55cm flathead in his bag. He explained the recent heavy rain (following the cyclones) has slowed things down a bit and the fishing around Bribie is very patchy.
I put a GULP Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour on a 1/8th ounce, 1/0 jighead and started casting around. There were plenty of prawns skipping on the surface so I dropped down to GULP 2” Prawn in the Banana Prawn colour. Neither of these interested the fish by the bridge so I waded south.
The tide was now slowly running out. I moved along the edge of the mangroves, casting my soft plastic in to a few feet of water and slowly bouncing it along the bottom. A couple of long toms soon found it and kept snapping at it. They seem to like cruising the shallows in this area.
I was now at the drain that runs round the corner from Sandstone Point, in to the Passage. The terrain has flattened out considerably here and the drain is much less pronounced than it was last year, but there is still a nice sandy hollow in the middle of it. I was fishing with a new favourite – the GULP 4” Minnow in the Green Camo colour. I had dropped down to a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. The long toms where still attacking the lure every so often. I briefly hooked one and it started leaping around before it unhooked itself.
I cast at the centre of the drain and let the plastic sink. Something grabbed it as I lifted it off the bottom, but I struck a little too quickly and missed it. I dropped the rod tip back down and left the plastic on the bottom for about 15 seconds. When I lifted it again the fish slammed it and hooked itself. It slowly took some line, not realising its meal was not all it seemed. As soon as it felt the hook it took off on a long initial run. It paused and then took off again. It was a solid fish and I only had a 10lb leader so I would need to take my time.
This spot is tricky as there are plenty of oyster covered boulders and as the water level drops the tide seems to run faster over them. The fish slowed but the fast running current was helping it. I slowly waded back toward a gap in the mangroves and after a few minutes pulled a big female flathead up on to a pile of washed up seagrass.
I put the tape to her and she was somewhere between 72cm and 76cm (she was not much interested in sitting still). I removed the jighead and soft plastic with my long nosed pliers and then sent her on her way. She paused and then took off.
I snipped off the end of the leader, which was quite frayed and then re-rigged with the same jighead and soft plastic and waded back to the same area to continue casting.
I soon found another 30 cm flathead, hiding on the edge of the weed. I released and carried on wading to the south. I slowed things down and methodically started to cast around in a semicircle. On about my fifth cast a fish hit hard and took off. It soon slowed and turned towards me. It was a 50cm flathead and I safely manoeuvred it into the keeper bag.
I carried on towards the green channel marker. It was now about 7.45 am. I passed by a few cunningly hidden stingrays and a couple of blue bottle jellyfish (this is why I sweat it out in waders). I dropped down to a GULP 3” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 2 hook jighead. This instantly produced results and I found a patch of hungry bream. I caught three fish in the next ten minutes. One had had a very hard life and appeared to have half his back missing. All the bream were legal sized but I had flathead for dinner, so I released them.
As the water ran out, it gradually deteriorated in quality and by about 9.00 am it was very murky. I did not get any bites on my way back to the car and at about 9.30 am, I gave up for the day.