Muscat, Oman – Al Ghubra beach – 15 January 2016

Friday

Friday would be my last chance to fish the beach in Muscat, Oman. I woke well before dawn and pulled on my back pack. It is always difficult to know what types of lures and leaders to bring to a previously unknown fishing spot. I brought a packet of mixed GULP 3” Minnow soft plastics in various colours, a packet of GULP 4” Minnows in Lime Tiger, a packet of GULP 4” Swimmows in the Peppered Prawn colour and a packet of mixed coloured GULP Jerkshads. I also had 1/4, 1/8th and 1/6th ounce jigheads and 6lb, 10lb, 16lb and 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I packed three Maria MJ Twitch small hard bodied minnows in different sizes and a few bigger DUO Realis Jerkbait hard bodied minnows.

On Friday I walked in the opposite direction along the beach, past the Al Ghubra market and a big camp of tuna boats. The beach was pebbly with patches of sandy bottom and I could see some rocky structure beneath the waves. After about 600 metres I crossed the mouth of a shallow wadi.

I had been fishing all the way along with a GULP Minnow with no luck. Now I decided to swap to a small MARIA MJ twitch suspending hard bodied minnow. I could cast this a bit further out, beyond the wave break. This soon stirred things up and after two or three retrieves I was on to a fish. It was another grinner/ lizard fish. I had seen these in the market, so they obviously eat them here. At home in Queensland, they are pretty much considered to be only good for bait. I let it go and cast out again. I had obviously found a solid school because for the next 30 minutes I caught grinner after grinner. I swapped to a GULP Swimmow in the peppered prawn colour, but this just caught a few more grinners.

It was now well past sunrise and I was moving back towards the Chedi resort. I had tied on a heavier, 1/6th ounce jighead and loaded a GULP 3” Minnow in the New Penny colour. I cast this around leaving it for long pauses on the bottom. After a while I felt another good bite and paused. When I lifted the rod tip the fish was hooked. It was another flounder, but a much bigger one. I decided to keep it. I dispatched it and put it to one side. The soft plastic was all mashed up so I put on another GULP Swimmow and carried on casting. I had found a good patch of flounder (or goat fish as the locals call it). I caught about four more and released them all.

I wandered back to the Chedi, where a helpful waiter arrived with a plate and whisked the still flapping flounder off to the kitchens. I had a shower and made my way to breakfast. The fish was cleaned, filleted and grilled and arrived at my breakfast table with some fresh lemon, olives and hummus.

I had loved visiting Oman and was delighted by the friendly people and the beautiful scenery. It is a Muslim country but I never felt threatened or uncomfortable. The Ibadi Muslims who are the religious majority, preach tolerance and respect for other religions and cultures.  It is a pocket of calm in a troubled part of the world. I hope it stays peaceful and I will get the chance to come back.

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Iluka – Woody Head – 9 June 2015

Tuesday

Having confirmed the winter species are well and truly biting at Bribie Island, I decided to head south to Iluka to fish the headlands of the Bundjalung National Park.  I rented a unit for a week and set off on Tuesday morning. I arrived about 1.30 pm, quickly covered all available surfaces with my fishing gear and considered my options. Low tide would be at about 7.30 pm but with not much swell Woody Head looked like a good bet.

I took two set ups with me. The first – my heavy rig – is a Daiwa Demonblood 962H rod matched with a Shimano Stradic FJ 8000 reel. I rigged this with 25lb Super PE braid and a 35lb fluorocarbon leader. This is great for casting metal slugs, bigger poppers and hard bodied lures but it will also work reasonably well with big soft plastic lures on ¼ ounce (and above) jigheads. If you hook a big fish, this rod has the power to drag it up the rocks. The second – my light rig is an N.S Black Hole Cabin II – S-862 L Spin Rod. It is 2.59m long (8’6”) and rated 8-14 lb. I match this rod with a Shimano Sustain 3000 reel. I rigged this with 12lb braid and 12lb fluorocarbon leader.

I walked out on to the Woody Head rock platform and headed for the prominent rock opposite the wooden stairs. The wind was light but the swell was still quite powerful and I watched it for a while before moving forward to fish. I have left plenty of skin on these barnacles over the years so I am now very cautious when I fish here. At any moment a big set of waves can come through with the potential to knock you off your feet. I now wear a lightweight PFD, just in case I end up in the drink.

I started with my heavy rig fishing a 120 mm DUO Realis Jerkbait – this is a shallow diving hard body that has caught plenty of tailor for me. I would use it more, but there are not may spots where you can fish it without fear of losing it to the rocks. After about 20 casts in semi-circle, I had had no hits so I decided to put it away and switch to soft plastics.

 

I switched to the light rod and put on a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 jighead loaded with a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour.  I cast in to the wash about 10 metres from the edge of the rock ledge and counted to 10 while I let the soft plastic waft down in the foamy water. As I lifted it a fish slammed it. It was fairly powerful and took a bit of line, helped by the receding wash. I soon had it under control and pulled it over the barnacle covered terrain with the aid of the next wave. It was a very solid bream – about 35cm long. I cleaned it for supper and carried on fishing.

I swapped through a few soft plastics and had a couple of good bites on various jerkshads. I swapped to the GULP Mantis Shrimp in the Lime Tiger colour and caught another smaller bream.

At about 4.45 am the wind had picked up and  the sun had dropped behind the hill so I decided to give up for the day.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 25 March 2014

Tuesday

On Tuesday the tide and wind looked pretty good but it was probably going to rain. I could not resist another session at Bribie Island. I wanted to try a more scientific comparison of the GULP and Zman soft plastic lures, in an area where I was pretty sure there are fish. There are numerous problems in trying to measure lure success. However, flathead are a good species to work with, as they often lie around in groups of 4 or more.

I wanted to compare the performance of the Berkley Gulp range with the Zman range. Although the ranges have similar offerings, none of their lures match up, exactly. I decided to compare the GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour with the Zman 3.75” Streakz in the Shiner colour. Both have approximately the same profile, although the Zman is a little slimmer. The colours are similar but the Zman is more translucent.

I started with the Zman which I loaded on to a TT Headlockz 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. This set up caught a fish at about 6-15 am. It was a flathead between 50 and 55cm. I cast out again with the same soft plastic and had another hit but no hook up. I decided to give the Zman 10 casts in a semi – circle and then switch to the Gulp and do the same thing. On casts 5, 7, 9 and 10, I got hits but could not hook up with the Zman.

Then I switched to a regular, fine wire, 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and put on the Gulp Minnow. I cast right back at the spot where I had caught the fish on the Zman and hooked another, after a couple of hops. It was another flathead between 45cm and 50cm. I continued to cast into the now fairly shallow water in a semi-circle. At the end of 10 casts the Gulp had caught three more Flathead – all were just under the legal size limit of 40cm.

So on the face of it – it was GULP 4” Minnow that caught more fish. I have mentioned before my theory that the texture of the Gulp soft plastics is much more fish-like than other brands. They also seem to be more porous, so they retain a scent trail for longer than most other soft plastic lures. But I could not see how this could make much difference in this situation. In these circumstances, where the fish are really aggressive in their feeding, they seemed to hit almost every plastic/ hard body that I threw at them – so why was the hook-up rate not as good with the Zmans?

Then I figured it out. I loaded another Zman 3.75” Streakz in the Shiner colour, but this time on the regular TT  finewire, 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. On the first cast I felt the hit, paused and counted to 10. When I lifted the rod the fish was hooked. I kept fishing with the same plastic for a while and I hardly missed a bite, converting about five bites in to fish. I know it is not conclusive proof but it seems that either the TT Headlockz are less sharp or the broader gauge hook required to hold the lock in place, prevents them from penetrating as effectively.

After I finished my experiment I moved to the south of the jetty and I decided to see just how big a soft plastic these flathead will attack. I pulled out a GULP 6” grub in a sardine-like colour. I put it on a Nitro Bream Pro 1/8th ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead. This was the biggest I had, and cast it out. After a few casts, I felt a bite. I paused then struck, but I was not attached. This happened three times, so on the fourth cast, when I felt the bite, I dropped the rod tip for a full count of 15 seconds. When I lifted it I had a flathead, but only a 42 cm long one. The lure was well on its way to the fishes stomach, so I kept it. I would recover the soft plastic later.

I finished the session with the DUO Realis Jerkbait 120 SP – a big hard bodied, suspending minnow. This also soon found the fish. In fact, it found the biggest two fish of the day – both well over 60cm. Just after 9.00 am, the incoming tide pushed me off the target area, so I gave up. The fish are still there and they are still hungry.

Iluka – Shark Bay – Tailor, Tailor, Tailor – 12 April 2013

Friday

Friday was my last morning in Iluka. The weather had been good for fishing – light winds and swell. But it had been miserable for camping, with endless rain showers and no time to dry out in between. Fortunately, I had been in a cabin.

A big south-easterly blow was forecast for the weekend and on Friday morning; it was already about 15 knots on the Woody Head platform. The seas had not really picked up yet but it would be too hard to cast from ‘ the Barnacles’ so I decided to give the Shark Bay rock platform a try. This is a great spot in a south-easterly wind, as you can cast off the north tip with the wind behind you.

I arrived just after 6.00 am. The sky was fairly clear, initially. Low tide had been at about 3.40 am. The wind was blowing hard so it would only be possible to fish on the north edge and cast to the north-west. These were perfect conditions to get some long casts out of some hard bodied lures.

I knew there might be some big fish around but I have really enjoyed fishing with the lighter 10 ft Shimano Catana Coastline Light, this week – so I stuck with it. It is rated 3-5kg, but as long as you have a tough leader and a good drag, it can land some pretty hefty fish. When I break it (which I inevitably will) I will look for a better quality alternative – but so far, so good.

It has a poor reputation for durability and most coastal tackle shops have put their fair share of new tips on. Despite this, it is a very nicely balanced rod and I particularly like the way you can feel the action of the lighter hard bodied lures through the tip. I really wanted to catch some fish using my latest favourite DUO lure – the Realis Jerkbait 120SP and the Catana is perfect for it. The Realis Jerkbait 120SP is a clever sub-surface suspending lure that you can get down to about a metre below the surface without too much trouble . It is long (120mm) thin and flat sided, which accentuates light reflection, as it moves through the water and it has both a good slow and fast action. I have had a few of these in some great colours and lost them all to fish.

Now I was down to my last one, in a yellow/ cream/ gold colour known as S70 – Dead Ayu. I have swapped the trebles for single hooks, in the hope of hanging on to the lure for a bit longer! I had lost one to a good fish a few days before so I was determined to land something with this one.

I cast to the northwest into the choppy, white water. There is a patch of reef that breaks the surface, about 125 metres to the north-west of the rock platform. I aimed at this and with the wind behind me, I was able to put in a very respectable long distance cast. I started the retrieve, jerking the lure along for a few metres, then pausing and allowing it to suspend. There was action behind the lure on the first cast with splashes and surges, but it took about six casts to hook up.

I am fairly new to single hooks and my view is that they do not connect with as many fish as trebles do, but once they do connect, the fish stays hooked. That was the case this time and I soon had a 40cm tailor at my feet. I cast straight back out and watched as another tailor knocked the Realis Jerkbait 120SP out of the water but then failed to get hooked. Almost every cast was getting hit. Sometimes I could see the snouts and tails of long toms but usually, it felt like tailor.

About 10 minutes after the first tailor, I was on to another better one. This one put on an acrobatic performance with several jumps, before I tamed it. It was just over 60cm and the best of the week. There then followed a good tailor session with the DUO Realis Jerkbait 120SP accounting for six tailor around the 40 to 45cm mark, over the next 20 minutes. It also pulled up a couple of over enthusiastic long toms.

At about 7.00 am things went quiet so I swapped to a 65g Raider metal slug. I tried this for about twenty casts with no result, so I swapped to a soft plastic lure. I started with the small GULP 3” Minnow in Lime Tiger, that had proved so appealing to the mac tuna. I put it on a ¼ oz, 1/0 jighead and cast it out. There were no more tuna but after a few retrieves another good bream took it. I landed it and then caught another.

There was another quiet spell so I swapped to a bigger GULP Jerkshad in the Sweet & Sour Chicken colour. The tailor must have been passing through again because after a number of bites, pulls and aborted runs, I hooked up again. It was another 40cm fish.

The tide was now almost up to my waist so it was time to retreat. It had been a great session and good way to end the week. Bream, dart, tailor, tuna, trevally and flathead – another great week of fishing in Iluka.