Iluka – Woody Head – 10th to 14th September 2021

We had some great weather in the middle of September. Bright, clear days but the big swell was pretty persistent. On the few days that it was calm enough, I fished the rocky headlands at Iluka Bluff and Woody Head. The 20th of September is known as the first day of spring in the southern hemisphere and everything in nature is hungry, including the fish. The new moon had arrived on the 7th of September.

I was focusing on finding the mulloway/jewfish and so I needed fairly calm seas. Most of my jewfish catches have been at the base of the rocks. These schooling fish like to shelter close to the base of the rocks or under the overhangs of the rock ledges. This month was no exception and when the swell calmed down for a few days in the middle of the month, I caught a couple of fish over the 75cm mark and lost a couple more. I found the beginning of the run in tide was the best time to fish for them. The GULP Crazylegs soft plastic in the Lime Tiger colour worked best.

I had lost fish as I was trying to bring them up and over the rock ledges. My braid just kept snapping. On close inspection I found a nick in the rod tip but only after losing a couple of expensive stickbaits, with tailor attached. I had to swap down to the Daiwa Crossfire CFS1062 light rock fishing rod. It was quite a battle on the lighter rod but the swell helped me get a decent jewfish to a point where I could safely grab it.

In between hunting mulloway/jewfish I used my current favourite sinking stickbait to spin for some tailor. It is the ASWB FD40 Flutter Drop. It is 40g, casts like a bullet and has a great tight action. The tailor and trevally can’t resist, if they are nearby. I caught a couple of solid 45cm tailor on it. One of the tailor looked like something tried to eat it on the way in.

ASWB FD40 – Great for tailor and trevally

Meanwhile the smaller tailor were active in the river. Particularly just after dawn and at dusk. The birds would let you know where they were and I caught small tailor using small slugs, soft plastics and hard bodies. I was even surprised to pull a decent (55cm) flathead in from beneath a school – on a 40g metal slug. The flathead were also pretty plentiful up and down the banks of the Clarence River from Browns Rocks down to the river mouth.

Iluka – Goodwood Island – 6/7/8/9/10 August 2021

I have been alternating between the rocks and the Clarence River at Iluka, this year. This is why I love the area so much. When the swell is up on the headlands, I grab my waders and light rig and fish in the river. July and August are also my favourite fishing months. Bright sunshine, cooling water and with the shorter days, it is easier to fish at dawn and dusk.

The Clarence River around Goodwood Island was very clear and there was plenty of bait in the water. I fished with my favourite GULP soft plastic and also had some success targeting flathead with bigger hard bodied minnow lures. I caught plenty of flathead between 36cm and 45cm, but not many bigger than that. I also caught a few good (35 cm plus) bream.

The tailor were still coming and going, especially at dawn. The birds would chase them up and down the river and signal their location. I rarely caught one over 35cm but the biggest few always grabbed my lure just before or after sunrise/ sunset.

The highlight was a decent jewfish which I caught while wading in the shallows looking for flathead. It grabbed my GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour while I was casting over a coffee rock ledge at Browns Rocks. It was the bottom of the tide and the water was fairly dirty. I only had a 12lb fluorocarbon leader and my Samaki Zing SZG-562SXL 2-6lb ultralight rod so it was a long slow fight. Fortunately, the 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead was lodged tightly in the corner of the fish’s mouth. I initially thought it was a ray, then a big flathead and then I caught sight of silver and knew it was a jewfish. I had a beach to land it on so, after about 25 minutes of to and fro, I pulled it on to the muddy shore. It measured 73cm so I decided to keep it for a family feed – great fish.

Richmond River – South Ballina Wall – Jewfish – 10 April 2021

By mid-April the water in all the major estuaries of the Northern Rivers area was a still a very dirty brown colour – particularly at the bottom of the tide. The initial flush from the March floods had washed a lot of debris down the rivers and out to sea. It had also washed plenty of mullet and other baitfish down to the river mouths. Jewfish/ Mulloway love to hang around in these conditions, ambushing mullet as they are washed out into the ocean.

I decided to try my luck on the south rockwall at the Richmond River mouth at South Ballina. As the road out to the wall is still closed it is a fair walk. I arrived at about 5.30 am, parked at the gate, got my gear together and started walking. I reached the rockwall just as the sun was coming over the horizon at about 6.00 am. High tide would be at about 7.30 am and we were two days away from the new moon.

A team of keen Korean fishermen had passed me on my way out to the wall. They had been smart enough to use mini foldable electric bikes for the journey out. My tackle budget won’t stretch to one of those anytime soon. They were fishing at the end of the rock wall so I decided to start on the ocean side of the wall, fairly close to the beach. The water runs out of the river mouth and forms a big eddy that circles round and carves a good gutter in the corner of the beach.

Even though the sun was now well and truly up, I still hoped there might be a monster mulloway cruising the beach gutter. I loaded the heavier of my rock spinning outfits (DAIWA Saltist X) with a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and a GULP 5′ Paddleshad in the pink colour. I was using 30lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I cast out about 10 metres from the wall, let the plastic waft down in the swell and slowly started to retrieve it along the bottom. I felt a few gentle hits and pulled up the soft plastic to see something had tried to pull it off the jighead – this is usually what the bream do. I cast a few more times with no result. At about 6.20 am I cast out and let the soft plastic sit for 20 seconds before starting my retrieve. This did the trick and as I lifted the rod tip I set the hook on a fish. It was a small school jewfish about 50 cm long.

That was the start of a great mornings fishing. Over the next few hours high tide came and went but I kept catching small jewfish. The biggest was about 60 cm long and the smallest was just over 40 cm. I lost count but I caught somewhere between 10 and 15 fish. They were all too small to keep and so I released them all. Mixed in among them I caught a few solid bream and a couple of small tailor that destroyed my soft plastics. The profile, size and colour of the soft plastics did not seem to be much of a factor. I was using GULPS all day but I swapped between the Crazylegs Jerkshad, the Paddleshad, the Turtlebackworm and the straightforward Minnow – and they all caught fish. At one point I swapped to a Croaker hard bodied lure to see if this might attract a bigger one but this did not work.

A few days earlier one of the Koreans had successfully landed a 130 cm mulloway off the ocean side of the end of the wall and there were several piles of big scales that suggested a few other anglers had been successful. The big ones were certainly out there. The jewfish specialists seem to be convinced that soft plastics will get you fish up to about a metre long but for the monsters you need a big hard bodied mullet imitation or a live mullet. One day I may have the patience to put this theory to the test!

Iluka – Woody Head – 14/15 November 2020

Very strong south easterlies had been blowing all week. I had tried a few sheltered spots around Iluka, but had only managed a few bream and small trevally. Everything was just too stirred up and finding anywhere safe to stand was too hard.

The winds dropped off on the Friday and the south easterlies were replaced by a strong northerly wind. This flattened out the seas a little and by lunchtime on Saturday I decided to try fishing at Woody Head. It was an early afternoon low tide at about 2.30 pm. The northerly wind was forecast to fall through the afternoon. The moon would be new on Sunday. The wind was still gusty from the north but the swell had flattened considerably.

I started fishing with my heavier set up – 40lb leader, 40lb braid, casting a DUO Drag Metalcast around. This produced nothing. Then a Gulp Jerkshad (various colours). This produced a 45cm trevally and then a 35cm bream. Initially I was fishing with a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and then on a heavier 3/8th ounce, 2/0 hook jighead, to counteract the fairly strong northerly wind.

I had been casting a GULP Lime Tiger coloured jerkshad around and I was thinking of swapping to a more natural coloured soft plastic when something grabbed the plastic very close. It initially turned to swim away but soon rethought its strategy and headed under the ledge. The drag was pretty tight but the fish didn’t even pause. My braid was soon rubbing on the rocks and then – snap! I re-rigged and tightened the drag, but things seemed to go quiet for a while. The tide was now pushing in quite quickly. I kept casting and the next fish on the scene was a trevally, about 45cm long.

At about 3.30 pm I had moved a little south along the ledge. I dropped down to the light rock fishing rig with 16lb leader and 20lb braid. I cast out a GULP Lime Tiger coloured Crazylegs Jerkshad. This was smacked on the drop and taken straight under the rock ledge – the braid snapped almost instantly. I cursed my impatience and swapped back to the heavy rod with 40lb leader and a 3/8th ounce size 2/0 jighead. I put another GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad on. This paid off and after a few casts something whacked the soft plastic on the drop and took off. Fortunately it decided to swim away from the ledge and this gave me some time. It was powerful but after an initial run I seemed to have it under control. I pulled it up with a wave surge and was delighted to see it was a snapper (later weighed in – gutted and scaled – at 3.8kg)

The next day would be an even lower low tide and I started fishing in the same spot at about 3.00 pm. The swell had continued to drop off and the wind was a light south-easterly. The first taker was a bream. I released it and carried on. About 10 minutes later I felt a fish grab then lure then drop it, a few metres out from the ledge. I cast out again and slowed down my retrieve. Something fast grabbed it and took off with a long run. I got some line back but then it ran again. I tightened the drag and wound like mad as it suddenly turned and decided to swim straight for the ledge. Fortunately, by the time it tried to change its mind, I had virtually locked up the drag and pulled it in on a wave. It was a surprising small (50cm) kingfish. I have only ever caught a few of these and their power and speed always surprises me. I released it, hoping for more, but did not get any.

Kingfish fight very hard

I moved further south to where I had caught the snapper the day before. I was temporarily out of the Crazylegs Jerkshads so I found a 6″ GULP Squid Vicious in the New Penny colour and cast that out. It was now almost 5.00pm and the tide was running in. On about the third cast I thought I had the bottom, then it started wriggling and took off. One long solid run and then a couple of head shakes but no real power (compared to the kingfish). It was decent school jewfish and I was able to successfully pull it up to my feet. It was just over 75 cm long and so it joined the snapper in the fridge.

A couple of great sessions once the weather allowed me to get to the fish, lets hope it stays calm for a while.

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Ballina – North and South rock walls – July 2020

As we moved from June into early July, the COVID 19 virus restrictions eased up a bit and, if you were not getting married, buried or going to an all-night dance party, life pretty much returned to normal. Victorians continued to face restrictions and the Queensland border remained closed to visitors from outside the state, but in the little town of South Golden Beach the organic chai turmeric lattes and kale smoothies still flowed.

For most of the month the swell stayed strong (often well over 2m) and the wind was predominantly from the south-east, south west and west. Early in the month, in the run up to the full moon we had a few days of very calm conditions, but these were exceptional. The sea temperatures continued to drop and at the end of the month an offshore east coast low passed and dumped a lot of rain into the Richmond and Brunswick river catchments.

I did some of my best bream fishing in the run up to the full moon on the 5th, but I caught plenty of them all through the month. I caught a lot of fish over 35cm on small GULP soft plastic minnows/ shrimps. The Watermelon Pearl or Smelt colours seemed to work best on the minnows and the Peppered Prawn for the shrimp pattern. I loaded them on a 1/6th or ¼ ounce jighead and stuck with a light leader (12lb to 16lb fluorocarbon).

On the calmest day of the month I fished at Flat Rock, south of Lennox Head. I was generally casting off the south side of the rock platform. As long as I could get my soft plastic beyond the fringing reef, I caught good sized bream on almost every cast. I also caught a very small school jewfish (about 45 cm) in this spot and was sawn off a couple of times on the reef.

When it wasn’t calm enough to fish the rocks (which was most of the month) I focused on the Richmond River mouth, fishing both the south and the north walls. In the first half of the month the birds and dolphins were constantly smashing into the ever-present bait schools. At the mouth, the most vigorous feeding seemed to take place as the tide turned to run in and the salt water started to push back up the river. As long as the bait was there so were the tailor and I caught a few but none over about 40 cm. I also caught a few small trevally and even a Luderick during a couple of north wall sessions.

Plenty of bait usually means plenty of tailor

But late in the month the passing east coast low and the wild weather that followed seemed to wash out the bait and the tailor with them.  By the end of the month the river was a brown soup during the runout tide. This was perfect for the jewfish/ mulloway fisherman and they were all in position most mornings and evenings around the new moon on the 21st and again for the last days of the month.

I did catch a couple of school jewfish  – one at the beginning of the month which was just under legal size and so I returned it to the water and one in the dirty water later in the month, that was just on 80cm. I kept that one for dinner. In between I hooked and got a look at several more that either buried their noses in the rocks or bent my jigheads and freed themselves. I caught both of the jewfish I landed on GULP 4 inch minnows in the Smelt colour. I am still not patient enough to persist with the heavy gear for hours and wait for a big jew bite.

The swell had really limited the rock and offshore fishing in July but the fish were definitely there. August should be good.

Fingal Head predator – 21 November 2012

Wednesday

A couple of big storms over the weekend and this week, the wind was back to blowing from the south east. The tailor have been pretty solid at Fingal Head and despite the long drive and the early start, that looked like the best option on Wednesday. The wind was forecast to gradually drop through the morning, from about 15 knots down to 10 knots. Low tide would be just before 8.00 am.

I arrived about 4.15 am (QLD time) and it was already past first light. There was a small shower of drizzle as I walked out to the rocks. It was cloudy and overcast but the south easterly was blowing a good deal harder than 15 knots.

I rigged the heavy rod – I am still using the 20lb Fireline and a 30lb fluorocarbon leader, for the first casts of the day. I tied on the RAPALA SXR 14 hard bodied minnow. After only a few rock fishing sessions it is looking a bit battered, but I always think you should try the biggest, most daring lure in the bag for your first cast, as it might just tempt something which has been lurking around all night.

It hit the water and bait sprayed in all directions which was a great sign. They were tiny smelt coloured anchovies about 3cm long. They certainly did not look much like a red headed RAPALA SXR 14 but on the next cast – tug, tug – zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. That’s how the tailor seem to play. Sometimes I think a couple of fish hit the lure at about the same time and that’s why there is a slight delay before they start running. It’s only when the faster/ more aggressive fish wins and clamps down on the lure that the fun starts. This one tried to head south but with the heavy gear I turned its head and soon had it round on the north side and safely landed. It was another very handsome Tailor – just over 50cm long. It was spitting up plenty of the 3cm bait fish.

It had given the RAPALA SXR 14 a good work over. As I have mentioned, I like these lures – great action, good colours, consistent swimming depth and tough trebles and rings but the paint job and their lack of overall durability lets them down. This one had now lost more than 50% of its paint, it was missing a chunk off its rear end and the wire frame was bent sideways. It had caught three or four fish and was only in its third session. This not a cheap lure at approximately A$20, so it should be tougher than it is. I straightened out the wire frame and peppered the areas with casts again. But I did not get another hit.

After about 10 minutes, I swapped to a smaller RAPALA Clackin Rap CNM11 hard bodied minnow. This lure is 110mm long and weighs 20 grams. I had it in the Grey Ghost colour. RAPALA describe it as ‘slow sinking’ which really means it suspends in a big swell. The ‘clack’ is caused by a big ball bearing that rattles on a cylinder across the body of the lure. It has a lighter set of trebles and, on the back treble, one of the hooks is slightly elongated. It has a fairly standard slashbait /minnow action. The smaller profile or the louder rattle obviously did the trick because I hooked up on the first cast. It was a smaller tailor – about 35cm long.

By 6.30 am things had gone quiet, so I decided to try a soft plastic lure. I tied on a 3/8th ounce, 2/0 hook, jighead and loaded it with a GULP 4” minnow in the pearl water melon colour. I still had the heavy rod but I had dropped down to 20lb fluorocarbon leader. I dropped the lure down close to rocks on the eastern side of the rock platform. I could see a thick school of bait sitting there. I let it sink to the bottom and immediately got snagged. I broke off the line and re-rigged. This time I cast out a bit further and let the plastic waft in, close to the rocks, as I retrieved it.

Just before I lifted it from the water there was a big bait spray and a Jewfish engulfed it. The fish turned and took off. I had got a clear look and it looked like a 10kg fish. At first it started heading north but it soon turned south, in the direction of a load of rocky snags. Even with the big rod and a fairly tight drag, it was taking plenty of line. After a few minutes of sustained pressure I brought it to the surface, close to the rocks. Landing it would be very tricky, but the problem was solved before I had to think about it. With a shake of its head, it spat the bent hook out and was gone.

I swapped the bent jighead and mangled soft plastic for a tougher one and cast out again. After a few casts and a couple more jigheads lost to the bottom, I hooked up again. I did not get a look at it this time. It swam straight around the corner to the south and broke the leader on the rocks. This was getting frustrating.

Con – another local rock fisherman was spinning with a ’waxwing’ lure on the north side of the rocks. He gave me a shout and I went over. He had hooked a small tailor and something had decided to eat half of it on the way in – ouch. I tried a few casts in the area with a soft plastic but could only manage to catch a dart and then a long tom, neither of which seemed like likely suspects for the tailor robbery. Something bigger was prowling around but despite trying every lure in the bag, neither of us could tempt it.

At about 8.30 am I gave up for the day and drove back up to Brisbane. Still plenty of bait and plenty of fish around.

Bribie Island – The Seaside Museum drain – 18 July 2012

Wednesday

The weather and fishing Gods take a dim view of those of us who put work before fishing. So I should not have been surprised that Wednesday’s forecast of little wind and a few showers was completely wrong. I arrived at Bribie Island around 6.30 am. As I rigged up there was a break in the rain, but as I wandered out on to the sand flats, in front of the Seaside Museum, the rain started.

It was not very heavy, but it was persistent. It was not the best tide for this spot, either. The 1.7m high tide would be at about 8.00 am, so there was already too much water for me to safely cast over the coffee rock drop off, that runs along this section of the Pumicestone Passage.

I started right in the mouth of the drain that runs out of the big lagoon to the south. I was fishing with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Smelt colour –a typical Pilchard imitation. I think Flathead society maybe facing a junk food epidemic just like we are. Instead of eating healthy organic pilchards, junior Flathead are increasingly lured towards artificially coloured/ flavored food in appealing shapes – soft plastics.

I had a quick chat with Colin – local Bribie Island fishing aficionado who brought me up to speed on a few recent land-based captures of Jewfish and Squire, at locations that shall remain confidential, until I catch one. Colin is one of the few other mad individuals who will brave all weather to catch a fish. He was soaked having fished since 5.30 am, but had a good Flathead to show for it.

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I had no luck in the mouth of the drain, so I moved up to the big sand bank, right in front of the Seaside Museum and cast around in this area for a while. Eventually the line came up tight on a fish. It was a very small, annoyed Flathead, about 35cm long. It was about high tide and the rain was solid and getting heavier. I had had enough.

Not a great morning, but, as always, the fish were there. Today, the problem was getting too them without drowning.

Iluka – Woody Head – Jewfish – 13 April 2011

Wednesday

After catching a monster Tailor the day before – expectations were high. I had to go back to the ‘The Barnacles’ at Woody Head. The tide was a bit higher on dawn and therefore made things a bit harder.

I rigged up on a dry rock, in the pre-dawn light, at about 5.30 am. There was a light but cold, south-westerly wind. The water, which came over the rocks and sloshed around my feet, felt very warm in comparison. Unfortunately the tide was higher and I soon got a good soaking from a wave that slapped into the rock face. Now the wind felt really cold.

I started with a GULP 5” Pumpkinseed Jerkshad on a 3/8th oz size 3/0 hook, jighead. On about my fourth cast, a fish nailed the lure and took off. It head down into the rocks and ping – the leader broke off at the jighead and it was gone. I put on another soft plastic and jighead and a few casts later I had another fish on. This time I got it over the first ledge of rocks and I could see he was a decent Tailor. As I tried to get him over the next set, the leader broke again. The same thing happened twice more in the next twenty minutes.

When I returned to my bag I figured out why. While rigging up earlier in the dark I had grabbed the 16lb, instead of 30lb leader. I quickly tied on the heavier leader. I had now run out of Pumpkinseed coloured soft plastics, so I switched to a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I cast back out. I walked up and down the ledge casting directly in front of me and pausing for as long as I could with the lure in the wash, in front of the rocks. The wind was behind me so I could put in good, long casts.

After a few retrieves another fish grabbed the lure as it sank. It felt like good one and made a slow but forceful initial run. I turned its head, tightened the drag and surveyed the swell. I pulled it to my feet with the aid of the next surge, which soaked me to the waist. I reached down and grabbed it behind the gills – it was a very healthy 70cm Jewfish/ Mulloway. That was enough for me and soaked and cold, I headed home with another nice fish.

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Iluka – Middle Bluff – Even more Jewfish – 11 Feb 2011

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Friday

The weather was getting better and on Friday morning the rain had stopped and the wind had dropped. There was virtually no swell so again, I decided to fish at Middle Bluff at Iluka. This time I walked out to the rocks just as the sun was beginning to glow behind the horizon, at around 5.45am. The wind was light from the south east.

I started with a soft plastic on a 3/8 oz 4/0 hook jighead – the GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the lime tiger colour. This plastic has a forked tail that curls in at the ends. The tail creates a flutter effect as it sinks and most fish find it hard to resist. I put in a couple of casts and on the third, the lure was hit very close in. It was still pretty dark but after a short fight I had a 55cm Jewfish/ Mulloway at my feet. Things looked promising.
I cast the same plastic back out, after straightening it on the jighead. It was smashed before it hit the bottom and a solid fish started heading out to sea with it. It was a slow and rhythmic run and it took around twenty metres of line before it paused, then set off again. On the next pause I tried to get some line back but it immediately set off again. I tightened the drag and then it started to swim back towards me. I took up slack as fast as I could but the fish had now got the line round something on the bottom – there was a bit of see-sawing back and forth and then the line snapped.

I re – rigged with the same set up and cast the soft plastic back out. Things went quiet for a while and then at about 6.30 am I got a couple of touches, very close to the base of the rocks. I then got snagged and lost the jighead. I swapped to a Jerkshad in the satay chicken colour and slowed the retrieve right down. After a few more casts I had another fish on. This time it was a smaller Jewfish/Mulloway around 48cm. I threw it in the keeper pool.

I fished on for a couple of hours and caught another two Jewfish of a similair size. At around 9.00 am I stopped and cleaned the fish. It had been a great session fishing from the rocks in Northern New South Wales.