Flat Rock & South Ballina – January 2020

I was away most of January but I managed a couple of fishing sessions at the end of the month. The first was at Flat Rock, just south of Skennars Head and just north of Ballina. This area is best fished through a falling or low tide. I fished with my lighter rock fishing rig – this is currently a Shimano Stella 4000 matched to a Daiwa Crossfire Surf 1062 rod.

It was a great sunrise but not a particularly good mornings fishing. I caught a couple of very small bream on my first two casts and later I caught a decent sized dart. I got everything on the Gulp 3′ minnow soft plastic in the orange and lime green “Lime Tiger” colour. The dolphins kept patrolling the edge of the rock platform, so I am sure the fish were there. There was a fairly stiff onshore breeze which made casting tough and I snagged plenty of my jigheads.

A few days later, I fished the run out morning high tide for about three hours from its peak, at Mobs Bay, South Ballina. As I waded in the shallows, I found a few fairly small (25 to 35 cm) flathead. But it was the bream that were out in force. I caught 5 keeper sized bream and a few smaller ones. I was using my light spinning rod and reel rigged with 12 lb braid and about a metre of 10 lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader. I caught them on a Gulp 3″ minnow soft plastic in the watermelon pearl colour, rigged on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I was amazed at how happy they seemed to be, cruising around the mangrove roots and weed beds in less than a metre of water. I started to catch them as I slowed everything down. I would let the plastic sit on the bottom for as long as 30 seconds before starting the retrieve. They would often then strike as soon as I lifted the lure of the bottom.

I fished a few evening sessions in the Brunswick River without much success. The holidays delivered a fairly constant stream of paddlers and boats which made it hard to find an undisturbed stretch of water to fish. There were a few whiting in the shallows and plenty of tiny flathead, but I could not land dinner.

1770 – Flat Rock – Dart, Bream and Cod – 18 May 2016

On Wednesday the wind had settled down a little, so it was back to Flat Rock to fish the last couple of hours of the run out tide. The moon and tides were getting bigger and the fishing seemed to be improving. I had a lie in and set off at about 9.30 am. The swell was light and so was the wind. It was bright with a few clouds and the water was just breaking over the rock.

I started fishing with a GULP 3” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/6th ounce, size 2 jighead. I was using the slighty heavier jighead to counter the breeze, that was slowly picking up. I was still fishing with 12lb fluorocarbon leader. I would not be able to stop anything big with this light set up, but I always get far more bites when fishing light.

The first takers were Moses Perch followed by a few small dart. As I moved north along the top of the rock I caught a couple of bream, more dart and a few tiny flathead. There are a few White Breasted Sea Eagles that live along the beach. As soon as you start catching fish they start hovering in the hope of grabbing a free meal. Many a released dart has fallen victim to these predators.

I moved further north and continued to catch dart. I was now fishing with a GULP Fry in the Lime Tiger colour. I reached a break in the rock, where the water was draining out. On about my third cast something grabbed the soft plastic and tried to swim back under the rock. The drag was fairly tight and I stopped it before it got too far under. I slowly levered it out with the aid of the current. I used the incoming surge to pull the fish over the rock and into the gutter beyond. It was a solid cod about 45cm long.

The fight had obviously taken its toll. I released the fish but on the next cast the rod tip snapped and so, reluctantly, I stopped fishing for the day just after 12.45pm.

1770 Deepwater National Park – Flat Rock – 20 October 2014

Monday

I had managed to get a few days off near Gladstone. The weather looked a bit windy but you have to take the cards you are dealt. I pointed the car in the direction of 1770 and set off. This time I decided to stay at Loka Santi Beachside Apartments – www.lokasanti1770.com.au . They are about mid-way between Agnes Waters and 1770, tucked in the sand dunes, 100 metres or so behind the beach. They have three bedroom / two bathroom units with kitchens and laundries but can offer these for singles and couples, at very reasonable rates, by locking off the extra rooms. All of the units have bbq’s, big balconies and outdoor spaces. There is a pool and the beach is only a stone’s throw away. Gavin and Kim run the place and will give you a very warm welcome. Gavin is a keen fisherman and has a side console Polycraft boat, on a trailer, that you can rent to explore the local creeks, if you have a boat license.

I arrived late on Sunday afternoon, after a long drive and decided to go to bed early and make the most of the fishing in the morning.  The wind was forecast to pick up from the south east on Monday afternoon and then blow fairly hard for a few days. In common with so many areas, I have lots of spots around Agnes Waters/ 1770 that are better to fish on a low or falling tide. Dawn on Monday morning would be just after 5.00 am and high tide would be at about 6.30 am on the beaches/ rocks to the south. I decided to fish at Flat Rock, in Deepwater National Park – about 10 kms to the south of Agnes Waters.

Flat Rock, Middle Rock and Wreck Rock are reached by passing along a 4 wheel drive only sand track that turns off the road just south of Agnes Water. The track can be very variable. I used to do it in my Suzuki Grand Vitara and rarely got stuck – but it was challenging.  With a little extra clearance, the FJ Cruiser has no trouble. At the moment the track is in great shape and the tough, steep sandy slope, which used to cause problems, has been filled in with some road base and firmed up.

 

 

It took about 25 minutes to drive from Loka Santi to Flat Rock beach. Flat Rock is a spectacular spot and, unsurprisingly at 5.00 am on a Monday morning – I had it to myself. The beach is named for the long Flat Rock that runs parallel with the shore for almost its entire length. The rock creates a huge gutter at high tide and great fishing platform at low tide. My preference is to stand on the rock on a run out tide and fish into the drains that run through the rock as the tide drains.

This morning I was using my light spinning rig – 8lb braid and 10lb fluorocarbon leader, 1/8th 1 or 2, sized hook jigheads. I was not expecting anything too big as I would be mainly fishing the gutter on the inside of the rock. Small soft plastics – GULP Minnows, Minnow and Jigging Grubs and Shrimps are the best choices along here. I started with a 3 inch GULP Minnow in the smelt colour. The water was clear but foamy and the Flat Rock was completely submerged. Ideally you would like to cast a very light jighead here, perhaps 1/12th of an ounce or 1/16th, but fishing in surf/beach conditions nearly always makes the lightest castable size a 1/8th ounce. This is what I selected.

I walked north along the beach casting towards the inner edge of the Flat Rock. Straight away my plastic was getting hit at the foot of the beach, where the wave breaks. I assumed this was Whiting or Dart. This was confirmed as I pulled out a few tiny Dart.

I moved down to an area about 500 metres to the south of the beach entrance, where there is a break in the rock. At this point the water was rushing in through the break, as the tide filled the inside gutter.

I cast right into the centre of the gap, level with the rocks on either side and let the plastic sink. When I lifted the rod I felt a light tug and then a solid bite. I set the hook and the fish took some line. Fishing in the surf takes some getting used to. The pull of the waves makes it difficult to gauge what you are dealing with. It is essential to try to maintain the tension, as a large wave can lift the fish and give it some slack, then the hook falls out and the fish is gone. You also need to be careful as you pull the fish up the beach. Basically, patience is the key.

I tried to be patient but it has never been my strong point. I kept winding and after a few minutes I had a nice sandy coloured flag tail flathead at my feet. It was a nice fat fish about 50cm long. I took a few pictures and released it.

I carried on fishing this area and swapped to a slightly bigger 4” GULP Minnow in the Green Camo colour. I kept getting hits from fish in the mouth of the drain but could not hook up. I slowed everything down and let the plastic waft around a bit on the bottom. This strategy worked and I felt a good bite and struck. I was surprised to see a fat whiting; about 30 cm long had swallowed the 4” Minnow. I released it and was hopeful of more.

I fished for another hour or so but the wind was building from the south east and this eventually made the fishing too difficult. I caught several more dart, and a couple of really tiny flathead. I think I may have also dropped a couple of larger flathead, but it was difficult to tell. At about 9.00 am, I surrendered the beach to the wind and went for breakfast.

Middle Rock and Flat Rock – 1770 – 9 October 2011

Sunday

The storm passed and I woke around 4.00 am thinking the sun was coming up. In fact it was the moon – high above, in a very clear sky. It was a few days off full and so bright, that I did not need a torch to get the billy on and brew up some tea. After a few nights of instant noodles, I needed some protein, so it was time to stop looking for trophy fish and go and catch something to eat.

I started at dawn at Middle Rock. High tide would be at about 7.00 am and first light was about 5.00 am. It is just a few km north of my campsite at Wreck Rock, in Deepwater National Park. There are three main rocky outcrops with rubble, coral bommies and sandy patches in between. As the sky brightened only the tops of a few of the bommies and the big rocks were visible. I have had a few good Trevally from this spot on high water.

I was using the Shimano Catana Light rod again but put on a 16lb leader – just in case something big appeared. I loaded up with the GULP 3” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/8th 1 jighead. I cast out, as close as I could to the edge of the half-submerged bommy. I started a quick retrieve – there are too many rocks to let the soft plastic hang around in one spot. I had only jerked the rod tip a couple of times and then I had a fish. It was a nice Bream about 30cm long. A few more casts produced another. Then I caught a couple of tiny Moses Perch and finally a couple of smaller Bream.

The water was calm and glassy and crystal clear, despite the storm. At about 9.00 am I drove up to Flat Rock and waded out onto the partially submerged rock, to fish the rest of the run out tide. Flat Rock is great to fish on once you can stand safely on the rock itself. There are a couple of breaks in the rock that runs the length of the beach and these are good fish congregating areas.

I started at the south end where the front of the rock has an almost vertical edge, in some places. These are usually a good Bream spots as there is plenty of wash. Sure enough, as I wandered along the rock casting into no more than 1.5m of water, I caught about five more Bream, a handful of small Whiting, a tiny Bar Tailed Flathead, Butter Bream and lots of small Stripey Perch and Dart. All of the Bream were just about 30cm – so I kept the biggest three. I was impressed with the range of fish but disappointed by the size.

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I moved down to the southern end where the rock breaks down into a surf beach dotted with submerged bommies, but by about 11.00 am the northerly wind had come up again and the fish seemed to stop biting. I cleaned up the Bream in the rock pools and headed back to camp for some hammock time.