On Saturday I had another session fishing land-based at Brunswick Heads. I started at 1.30 pm on a Saturday afternoon. This is pretty much breaking every rule in my fishing book. ‘Fish at dusk and dawn’, I am always telling everyone. But the last couple of days had produce lots of fish and I had other commitments at dusk and dawn. I was enjoying a good red wine at dusk and sleeping it off at dawn, so I decided to get some fresh air and put in a few casts.
It was a cloudy day and there was a light south easterly wind blowing. I was fishing the beginning of the run in tide. Low tide had been at 12.08 pm. The water was clear and once again there were small schools of tiny baitfish close to the shore line and around the various rocky outcrops.
I was using my light spinning combo and I put on a 4 inch GULP Pulseworm in the Moebi colour. This was another of GULPs short lived shapes in Australia. I found it was pretty good for flathead but it obviously did not sell very well and is now disappearing. However Pure Fishing/Berkley Gulps’ loss is my gain and I picked up an armful of packets for for $5 dollars each to feed my habit.
The first taker was a 20 cm flathead that must have been sitting in the shallows. It was about 30 cm from the shoreline. It had been buried in the sand and grabbed the soft plastic lure just as I was about to cast again. I cast around the rocks and lost a few jig heads by hooking the river bed.
I moved further down towards the river mouth and kept casting. Just before 2.00 pm my line pulled up tight and I caught another flathead – it was probably just 36 cm long. I released it. Almost immediately I caught and released another one, about the same size. I carried on fishing and swapped through a few different soft plastics. At 2.06 pm I caught yet another, This one was about 43 cm so I decided to keep it.
I kept casting. I was now fishing the GULP 4″ Minnow in the Smelt colour. The bream kept trying to pull this one off the jighead. Eventually one of them struck and hooked itself. Just after 3.00 pm I caught the best flathead of the day on a GULP 2″ Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. It was about 50 cm long.
At about 3.30 pm I gave up and cleaned up the two biggest fish to take home for supper. So you can catch fish in the Brunswick River on a Saturday lunchtime – but probably only when the river is teeming with bait and it’s not the school holidays.
I have always done well targeting flathead in March and April. Those of you who have followed me for a while will be aware that when I was based in Brisbane I spent a lot of time exploring the flats at Bribie Island. My experience of catching flathead in that area have shaped my fishing process for every estuary I subsequently explore. Look for the edges of weed beds, sand banks and drop offs and fish the last couple of hours of the run out tide – these have been two of my best my most successful habits.
I now live very close to the Brunswick River in northern New South Wales, but I have not really had a lot of success fishing in the river. The much bigger Richmond and Clarence Rivers are nearby and if I have a day to fish I often head for one of these. In the Brunswick River I have caught flathead, bream and the odd trevally but nothing very big and I have not found many consistent fish producing spots. The Northern Rivers area of New South Wales has been very busy with holidaymakers since COVID 19 locked us all into Australia. However with Easter behind us we were beginning to get a few quieter days on the river. The swell was still playing up offshore so there were less big boats heading over the bar. The caravan parks were gradually emptying out so there were a few less tinnies ploughing up and down fishing the river.
Out on the beaches the water was still warm and now crystal clear. There were big schools of mullet cruising along behind the wave breaks. On a calm afternoon I caught a couple of legal size flathead in a gutter at New Brighton. I was using a 2″ GULP Shrimp on a 1/6th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and 12lb leader.
The water in the lower reaches of the Brunswick River was fairly clear once the tide started running in and there seemed to be plenty of bait around. On the bottom of the tide the water was stained brown with tannin, as the rain drained from the tea tree and paperbark swamps that surround the river.
On the 21st I decided to fish for a few hours of the run in tide after low, which was just before 10.00 am. I arrived at the mouth of the Brunswick River on the north side at about 10.45 am and got rigged up on my light spinning outfit. I stuck with 10lb fluorocarbon leader as the water was now very clear. I noticed something smashing into a bait schools out in the middle of the river. I put on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and loaded it with a GULP 2 inch Shrimp profile soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I cast this at the spots were I saw the surface bust ups. After a few tries I hooked a small bream and then a small trevally. As the incoming clean water washed in I noticed there were big schools of small whitebait coming with it. I swapped to GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour and after a few casts something pulled this plastic off the jighead. I put another one on and slowed my retrieve down. After about ten minutes I caught another small flathead.
As the tide started to run in strongly I swapped through a few different soft plastics and caught four more legal size flathead and two that were less than the 36 cm limit. I kept a couple of fish for supper and released everything else.
Let’s hope the bait sticks around and lures the predators up river.
There was no time for fishing in April but May and June saw me back down at my new HQ near Brunswick Heads on the Northern New South Wales coast. I am still finding my feet in this area so my sessions are often hit and miss. I still have not found any consistent spots where I can catch supper. Its almost as if there is too much choice – the beaches, the river or the rocks? I keep my ever expanding tackle supplies and a few rods in the boot of car and I am generally driven by the wind, swell and tides.
I fished the area near the mouth of the Brunswick River on a few evenings in the run up to the June full moon and I caught a few flathead on each occasion, but they were all around the 30 cm mark, so I released them. There must be plenty of fish around here as the dolphins are frequent visitors. The last hour of the run out tide was most successful.
On other days I put in the hours in the beach gutters to the south of New Brighton for pretty poor results. I was chucking a slug just pre-dawn and after dusk which was not very successful and then big plastics with light leaders, which did land the odd bream and small tailor, later in June.
I clambered down the cliff at Broken Head (south of Byron Bay) on a couple of afternoons, but the swell made fishing quite tricky. I persisted and ended up with some good sized dart on soft plastic minnows.
I am still working it out, another 50 years and I will have mastered it!
In December Brunswick Heads started to fill with holidaymakers and the river became much busier. I had found the beaches north of the river mouth pretty hard in the warmer weather. There were still dart and whiting around but they were very small. I tried fishing in the few areas of Simpsons Creek where it is allowed and caught a couple more flathead. The bait continued to multiply in the river and big schools of juvenile mullet started to appear. On a couple of hot days, I snorkeled around in Simpsons Creek and took a few photos of the food chain underwater.
Reflections – Brunswick River
Fishing with the small minnow soft plastics in natural colours worked best. Every now and then, the bait would fly in all directions as schools of small trevally moved through. Occasionally I would catch one but none were bigger than about 25cm long. Down at the river mouth I had some luck catching some better sized bream at the base of the rocks.
By November summer was truly upon us and the water temperatures had risen significantly. Typical wind pattern was little or no breeze on dawn and a building north-easterly during the day. On the beaches between Wooyung and the north wall of the Brunswick River I caught a few dart, flathead and the occasional monster whiting. In the surf the big whiting are often happy to attack a 4 inch minnow soft plastic, just at the point where the wave rolls over. I have been using a Daiwa Crossfire 8’6” rod which has a pretty fast action matched with Shimano Stradic 4000 reel, 12lb braid and 12lb fluorocarbon leader in the surf. This rig will land a determined dart or bream, as long as there are no rocks around. It is also light enough to flick a soft plastic lure a fair distance.
There was some big surf around so I focused on getting to know the Brunswick River. Fishing the quieter spots mid-week produce the best catches and the trusty 3” and 4” Gulp Minnow soft plastics in the Pearl Watermelon colour worked very well. I had a couple of quick bust offs that could have been mangrove jacks, but who knows. The bait schools were thick all along the shore line and mangrove jacks love to hunt on still humid afternoons. To catch the bream I had to fish with a light leader, usually 10lb fluorocarbon. I found a few and even wrestled a cod out form under a rock during one session.
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.