Hat Head – mixed bag – 29 September 2015

Tuesday

By Tuesday morning conditions were very different. The wind and swell had almost completely dropped away and the skies were clear. At about 5.00 am I set off for the rocks at the far tip of the Hat Head headland. As I walked along the pathway I could clearly see the current line snaking across the surface of the bay. It would be another very big tide as the moon was huge.

When I reached the spinning ledge I put in a few casts with the 110mm River2Sea Dumbbell Popper, as soon as I could see where I was throwing it. I generally use my Daiwa Demonblood rod to throw this surface lure around. The popper blooped nicely across the shimmering water but there were no hits.

I swapped to the lighter, Daiwa Air Edge Surf 96 L rod, rigged it with a 20lb fluorocarbon leader and tied on a ¼ ounce , size 1/0 jighead. I put on a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic in the curry chicken colour. The tailor seemed to have vacated the area directly in front of the spinning ledge and the calmer conditions made the rocks further round the headland accessible. I moved around to the front of the headland and reeled in a small bream. I swapped through a few different size and coloured soft plastic and found a few more small bream. Perhaps the calmer seas had turned the tailor off.

I paused to re-rig and as I did so there was a loud blow about 40 metres out in front of me. A whale and its calf arched their black humps and continued past. A few moments after they disappeared, their very fishy blow cloud blew ashore – a wonderful site but a very unpleasant smell.  Next time they surfaced they were about 350 metres away – but they paused to put on a short tail slapping show. A close encounter with a whale is always great and it is about the only time I stop fishing and just watch the ocean for a while.

I decided to change tactics – perhaps the whales and dolphins (who followed them past) where following some fish. I swapped lures to a MARIA Mar Amigo 65mm 15 gram sinking vibe lure. This is another one of those carefully crafted Japanese lures that casts like a bullet, sinks fast and has a great action.

I cast into the foamy wash, just in front of the rocks and after about three casts I felt the mad head shakes of a hooked tailor. It was only a small one, about 30 cm long, but they were clearly still hanging around. They came and went every 15 minutes of so for the next couple of hours. They never got much bigger than 30 – 35 cm so I did not keep any. I swapped to the DUO Realis Jerkbait 110 SP hard bodied minnow which also caught a few, but the smaller profile and deep diving nature of the MARIA lure probably enticed more hits.

 

At about 9.30 am I moved back round to the Spinning Ledge and decided to try a soft plastic again. I chose the GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Green Camo colour. I rigged it on a slightly lighter 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and I had swapped down to 16lb fluorocarbon leader. I cast out and let the lure reach the bottom. I paused, then gave it a few hops along the bottom. As I speeded up the retrieve to lift the lure clear of the rocks a fish struck. It put a nice bend in the rocks ad initially I thought it was a decent tailor. It soon slowed however and after a brief fight, I pulled a small trevally clear of the water.

A few more casts in this spot yielded no more fish so at about 10.00 am I gave up for the morning. No trophy fish but plenty of action and plenty of whales to watch.

Iluka – Middle Bluff – Shark Bay – Iluka Bluff – Tailor – 16 June 2015

Tuesday

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.

Iluka – Middle Bluff – 30 September 2014

Tuesday – Morning

I had not given up on finding a keeper size mulloway at Iluka, so at 4.45 am on Tuesday, I walked along the beach towards Middle Bluff. I surprised a couple of Kangaroos who were up on the rocks. Conditions were similair to the day before (light northerly) but the sea seemed a little more stirred up and foamy. Low tide would be at about 5.20 am – just on sunrise. The beginning of the run in tide offers good fishing in this spot, so I was hopeful.

I started with my big rod and a big GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Curry Chicken colour, on a ¼ ounce, size 1/0 jighead. I was fishing with 20lb fluorocarbon leader. I flicked this around, close to the base of the rocks and it soon came back minus its curly tail. I swapped to a GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. The sun was up and the sky and water were very clear. After about 20 casts with the GULP Minnow I was getting pretty good at leaving it in the wash at the base of the rocks, without getting snagged. As I was about to lift it, at the end of a retrieve, I felt a grab. The fish swam for a bit with the plastic then let it go. A few casts later I connected with another fish. This time I dropped the rod tip as soon as I felt the resistance and paused. When I struck, the fish was hooked. Once more the light swell made things easy and I soon had a mulloway/ jewfish of about 48cm at my feet. I took a few pictures and threw it back.

I was starting to see a bit of bait jumping around close to the base of the rocks and it all looked pretty small.  I dropped down to my lighter rod and a 14lb fluorocarbon leader. I swapped down to a 2 inch GULP Shrimp soft plastic in the new Green Camo colour, but stuck with the ¼ ounce jighead.

A fish struck this hard on the first cast, but I did not hook up. About ten minutes later, I swapped to a 3 inch GULP Minnow in the New Penny colour. I had another hit on the first cast. This fish was not big but by the way it started pulling, I knew it was a tailor. They thrash about very hard and never give up. It was only small, about 35 cm long. It was good to see they are around. I took a picture and threw it back.

It had mashed up the plastic so I put the 2 inch GULP Shrimp in Green Camo on again. The tailor had obviously moved on. But after about 20 minutes of cast into the wash, I felt a good bite and was onto another fish.  This time it was another solid bream – a little over 34cm. I decided to keep this one for supper.

I continued fishing and kept felling small bites. Eventually I pulled up a butter bream. I had caught no trophy fish but had found great variety. The session had been a good example of how changing soft plastics can often produce results. At about 9.30 am I gave up and walked back to the car.

Tuesday  – Afternoon

In the afternoon I waded back out on to the flats beside the Clarence River, at dusk. They are covered in yabby holes which is a good sign for a fisherman. I flicked around a GULP Jerkshad in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I caught three flathead – the first would have been big enough to keep, the rest were too small. The sun dropped behind the trees on the horizon at about 5.40 pm and the midges and mozzies became unbearable, so I waded back to the cabin.

Fingal Head – More Jewfish – 30 November 2012

Friday

A northerly wind to flatten the seas, a full moon and plenty of bait around the rocks – what more could a fisherman want? A few more hours of sleep, perhaps. Low tide would be at 3.20 am at Fingal Head and that is where I decided to go.

I arrived just before 4.00 am and walked out onto the rocks to find a few good size piles of scales – jewfish scales. The moon was still very bright in the sky. I started with soft plastic lures. I was sure the jewfish would still be around and I am convinced that their favourite food is big Jerkshads. So I started with a big GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Blackshad colour – black and white, with a split curly tail. I was using my heavy rig and cast it out on a ¼ oz, 2/0 jighead hook. I had 30lb leader on.

After a couple of casts I hooked a fish in the half light – a small Tailor about 35cm long. By the time I released the fish, there was only about an inch of the plastic left, I put on a new one and carried on fishing. It was only 4.25 am and the sun had not yet crossed the horizon. I was concentrating on the area at the south end of the rock platform. There has been a big school of small baitfish sitting here for a few weeks and the jewfish have never been far away.

Con arrived and confirmed that he had found some good jewfish the day before – around the 85cm mark. He had caught one on a soft plastic, but had been surprised when one took his Shimano Waxwing hard bodied lure, the previous afternoon. Steve, another local arrived and finally decided to give the plastics a go. His was a cheapy from Kmart which included the jighead. As we were talking fishy rubbish he cast it out a few times, to the south of the rock platform. On about his third attempt a fish grabbed the plastic and took off. After a quick run around it tried to wedge itself under the rocks but Steve played it patiently and let it swim out. He lifted it clear and was delighted with his first jewfish. It looked about 60 to 70cm long and was in great condition.

Now Steve found his rhythm and over the next hour he land two more good jewfish. I was getting just a little jealous and beginning to wish I had never mentioned soft plastics. I had been fishing all through and had had a few bites but could not seem to hook up. I put on a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Smelt colour and just dropped it straight down beside the rocks and counted to 10. My lure would either be snagged or get a fish and luckily for me, it was the latter. It fought hard initially but I had the heavy rod and it soon tired. With the sea fairly flat I climbed down the stepped rocks to the water and lifted the fish clear. It was another jewfish, just on 65cm.

I continued fishing around that same ledge. I lost a few jigheads and plastics to the rocks and swapped down to a lighter, 20lb fluorocarbon leader. I was now using my old favorite GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. At about 5.50 am there was a tug and then another and then line started peeling. This one wanted to swim out to sea initially and then turned north. I went with it and followed it round to the eastern edge of the platform. It was about the same size as the first and I soon had it up they rocks.

I swapped to a RAPALA SXR 12 for a bit and felt a few knocks from small Tailor but by 6.30am, the jewfish had gone off the bite. I fished on until eight, trying lighter gear but then, with the sun beating down, I cleaned the fish and went in search of a cold drink.

Bribie Island – Buckleys Hole lagoon and south of the oyster jetty – 16 June 2011

Thursday

I could not resist another Flathead session – so I set off for Bribie Island bright and early around 4.45 am. I had checked the lunar phase and saw that the moon was full on Wednesday. When I walked out to the car it looked like a half-moon in the sky. As I drove up to Bribie, I switched on the radio and heard that we were in the midst of a lunar eclipse. By the time I arrived at the car park by Buckley’s Hole, the moon was almost completely in shadow, with just a faint red glow marking its outline. It was now about 5.45 am and the tide was a couple of hours into the run-in phase.

At first light I waded around the mouth of the lagoon, casting out, over the drop off into the Pumicestone Passage. Small bait fish schools kept breaking the surface – running away from something. I was fishing with the GULP 2” Shrimp in the Peppered Prawn colour on a 1/6th 1/0 jighead, with a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. Every time there was a surface break, I cast at it and just on dawn, I caught a small Bream. I carried on for another hour and got a couple more good bites from Bream or Tailor but then the marauding Dolphins arrived and had a good rummage around in my fishing spot.

There was now too much water to fish over the drop off so I decided to move over to the other side of the Passage where I could also get out of the wind, which was building up from the west. So I parked beside the bridge on the mainland side and waded along south past the old oyster jetty. Things were very quiet through to high water at around 10.00am. I didn’t register a bite for about four hours. I waded all around the area trying different soft plastic lures and experimenting with different jighead weights.

Finally as the tide turned and really started running out I caught a few Pike and then at noon I caught a decent Flathead on a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic in the Curry Chicken colour, rigged on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead. It was around 54cm – Flathead number one. I carried on wading south along the big sandbank to the south of the jetty. Ten minutes later, I caught a smaller, just legal Flathead on the same lure – Flathead number two. I was casting along the edge of the weed beds into the clear sand and jogging the lure back along the bottom.

I switched to a GULP 5” Jerkshad on the Orange Tiger colour. After a couple of casts there was a good solid bite and a fish slowly swam off with the lure. I counted to ten and then set the hook and at that point – it took off with around ten or twelve metres of line. I slowly walked back towards the sandbank, maintaining the bend in the rod and getting line back as it swam towards me. It was a really solid fish and it made about four more big runs. Eventually it started to tire and I tightened the drag a little, to pull it up on to the sand bank. The leader snapped as I pulled it clear of the water but it was safely on the sand. It was a good size female at around 68cm – Flathead number three.

I waded back out to the same area and after a few more casts I was on to another fish. Again it did not initially realise it was hooked. It made a few small runs and then really went crazy with head shakes and tail slaps and solid long runs. It was safely hooked through the jaw and after another long slow walk back to the sand bank; I pulled it up on to the shore. This was another quality fish at about 73cm long – Flathead number four.

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As the tide ran out further I moved even further south, over the weed beds. I was still using the Orange Tiger Jerkshad. It did not take long, less than ten minutes, in fact, before I had another good fish. This time it was another very respectable Flathead at 62cm – Flathead number 5.

It had ended as a fantastic session but from 5.30 am through to noon all I had caught were a ‘just legal’ Bream and a couple of Pike. I am not sure if the fish were only biting on the run out tide or whether it just took a long time to find them. It was a good feeling to head back to the car with a heavy keeper bag. I was completely knackered but as always, it was worth it!

Fingal Head – The Lighthouse Rocks – 1 Feb 2011

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Tuesday

With the cyclone bearing down and the prospect of another wet and windy period, I thought I had better get out for a fishing session. So early Tuesday morning I headed down to the Tweed river mouth before dawn. I fished around the end of the rockwall for a couple of hours, either side of dawn but failed get a bite so, at around 6.30 am, I decided to head further south to Fingal Head, to fish the rocks there. There is no shortage of great rock fishing spots in Northern New South Wales. Fingal is another beautiful spot with some unique octagonal rock formations. There are good fishing locations in front of the lighthouse, all along the headland but my favourite area is just to the south of the main rock platform.

I started fishing here at about 7.15am. I was using my ROVEX Aureus 9ft rod with the SHIMANO Stradic 6000. It is spooled with 20lb Fireline and I had tied on a 25lb fluorocarbon leader. I attached ½ oz 4/0 jighead and decided on my favourite soft plastic lure for Jewfish – the GULP 5” Crazylegs Jerkshad in the lime tiger colour. On my first cast – I let the plastic sink to the bottom then jerked it back towards the rocks. As I lifted it clear of the water something took a swipe at it – but I could not see what. Next cast I slowed it down even further and let it drift in very close to the base of the rocks. As I lifted it I felt the bite, I dropped the rod tip, paused, then struck hard. I had a fish on and due to the proximity of the rocks I tightened the drag and just winched it up. It was a good size Tarwhine at just over 35cm.

The soft plastic was pretty mauled so I changed it for a new one in the same colour and pattern. I still had about half an hour of run in water before high tide. I got a good soaking from a passing rain squall but that was no hardship as it was so hot and humid. I was standing on the mainland to the south of the narrow causeway that leads out to the main rock platform. The water washes over the causeway at high tide and I was casting in to the area just south of it. The bottom is very rocky so inevitably I lost a few jigheads as my lures got snagged. After a couple of re-rigs I felt the line go taught and then the rod tip started wiggling and I could see silver. I waited for a wave to bring it up over the rocks onto the ledge below me. Then I tightened the drag and pulled the fish up successfully. It was a Jewfish, just on 50 cm long.

Four or five casts later I had the plastic down deep at the base of the rocks and again, I felt a solid bite and then lost a bit of line. Fortunately the swell pulled the fish out from under a ledge and on the next wave I brought it up, out of the water and onto the ledge below. Again, I winched it up to my feet and it was another Jewfish – perhaps a couple of cm smaller than the first.

I carried on for half an hour or so, but then the sky darkened and really heavy rain started, I decided to give up. I presume we will get some fairly big seas and rain as the cyclone passes through up north, but this might bring the Jewfish on in greater numbers. The challenge will be finding somewhere safe to target them.