Iluka – Middle Bluff and the Clarence River – 23 November 2014

Sunday

With another year almost over I was determined to get in a few more days of fishing down at Iluka. The weather looked good so on Saturday, I drove down from Brisbane in the afternoon. I rented a unit in the Riverview Apartments – which look straight out on to the Clarence River. I love to camp at Woody Head, but the weather looked a bit tricky so I chickened out. I arrived in time for a beautiful sunset. I sorted out my rock fishing gear, checked the weather forecast for the morning and went to bed early, with the alarm set for 3.30 am, NSW time.

On Sunday morning I got up in the dark had a cup of tea. Then I drove round to Frazers Reef beach car park. I walked down the path and onto the beach. There was not much moon in the sky – it had been ‘new’ on Saturday. There were a few clouds along the horizon and there was a light north-easterly wind blowing. A couple of kangaroos were close to the water but they decided to bounce back to the undergrowth, when they saw me walking along the beach.

I walked north, past Frasers Reef to Middle Bluff. This rocky platform sits about half way between Iluka Bluff and Woody Head. My favorite spot to fish is at the north end. Before I start, I will offer my words of warning. The wind and swell are very unpredictable here, so always take care. I now wear a pfd and felt-soled rock fishing boots. The wave sets and swell heights vary dramatically between high and low tide, so tread carefully and watch what’s coming all the time.

This morning the swell was fairly tame but every 15 minutes a big set would come through and slap against the rocks. The tide had been low at about 3.30 am and it was now running in. I rigged up the heavier of my two rock fishing outfits – the Daiwa Demon Blood 962H rod matched with a Shimano Stradic FJ 8000 reel.

Now a whinge for Shimano – I have had a lot of trouble with the drag clicker arrangement on your reels. On the previous Stradics – the problem was the part kept breaking. This has now been changed to a more robust part. But it keeps going silent on me.  Aside form the springs and clips that keep failing or popping out, I think the basic problem is the clicker is metal and the wheel it clicks against, is plastic. I know I use my reels a lot and I treat them mean, but I think this sort of basic design fault should not keep appearing.  To add to my disappointment in Shimano it took three months for you to find a new bearing for my Stella, last year. I could have flown to Japan (Kuala Lumpur, Shenzhen) myself and machined one. The folks at Jones Tackle have done a great job of repairing the reels and covering for you, but overall the product is not robust enough for Australian conditions. I have decided my next reel of this size will have to be another brand.

Back to Middle Bluff – I started by casting big shallow diving hard bodies without much luck. You can catch just about anything off these rocks. Tailor are around all year, as are jewfish, dart, trevally and some monster bream.  I have seen a 25 kg Spanish mackerel caught off here, on a 40 cm live tailor. It’s a very fishy place.

However, this morning it was proving tough. I swapped from the hard bodies to big soft plastics – a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. To counter the swell I initially rigged it on a ¼ ounce jighead and later dropped down to a 1/6th ounce jighead. I moved up and down the rocks without much luck. I was fishing with 30lb fluorocarbon leader. The water was murky because of the big tides of the last few days.

I fished through the dawn with hardly a bite. I swapped rods to my lighter rock fishing rig – the N.S Black Hole Cabin II – S-862 L Spin Rod. It is 2.59m long (8’6”) and rated 8-14 lb. I dropped the leader down to 20lb fluorocarbon. I put on a smaller GULP 3” Minnow, also in the Lime Tiger colour. The smaller soft plastic immediately attracted attention, with a couple of grabs and even a solid bite, but I did not hook anything. After another 20 minutes of casting I connected with a fast fish, I soon subdued it and pulled it clear of the water. It was a dart.

I moved a little further south. I cast down into some foamy water and let the plastic sink to the bottom. I paused for about 20 seconds and as I lifted it – bang – something grabbed it and took off. It went hard and fast and I struggled to slow it down. I tightened the drag a little and it paused, then took off again. I just kept pumping and winding, whenever I could and eventually it started back towards the base of the rocks. I suddenly realized I was a long way away from anywhere I could safely land this fish. I was standing about four or five metres above the water on the rocks and there was no way the 20lb leader would pull this fish up. I saw a flash of blue/silver as it headed in to try and bury itself. Kingfish/ Tailor/ Salmon – I am not sure, but it was a good size. I started to walk it towards the south, where I might be able to land it. I got about 20 metres along the rocks and after a big surge, the line went slack. I pulled up the mashed plastic. The hook must have just fallen out.

Now I had found some fish I decided to go back to the bigger soft plastic and tied on a 5” Lime Tiger jerkshad. I fished this around the rocks hoping to find the fish that got away. It was only about 7.00 a.m. but it felt like I had been fishing all day. The sun was high in the sky and it was very hot. At about 7.15 am a fish grabbed the lure close in to the rocks. After a brief site it pretty much gave up. It was a small jewfish about 45cm long. After a few pictures I threw it back. At about 8.00 am I set off back to the car, stopping for a morning swim on the way.

The wind picked up during the day and the sky clouded over. I decided to try fishing the rock walls just to the south of the boat ramp, in town. I started at about 4.00 pm. It was almost low tide. I dropped down to my light spin rod with a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I was expecting a few bream to be swimming around this area, so I started fishing with a GULP 3” Minnow in the Smelt colour. I had it rigged on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I cast parallel with the base of the rock wall and soon found a few bream. I moved to cast at a gap in the wall and swapped to a GULP 3” Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour. I felt a few bites, so I left the plastic to sit in the bottom for a while. This did the trick and when I lifted the rod tip there was a fish on it. It was heavier than a bream and after a while I saw a longer flash of silver – it was a school jewfish, about 40 cm long. On the way back along the rock wall, I caught a small flathead.

With good weather and a few fish, it had been a good start to the week.

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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Woody Head – Dusk – 11 Feb 2011

Friday – PM

On Friday afternoon the swell had eased significantly, so I decided to try fishing off the front at Woody Head, another of Iluka’s great rock fishing spots. I started at the rock known as Barnacle Bob. I was casting a ½ oz weight soft plastic but it kept getting snagged and I kept getting soaked so I moved south.

I stopped in every safe place I could and put in casts with various plastics. I lost plenty of jigheads but only one went to a fish. It just grabbed the lure (a 4” minnow) close into the rocks and took off. It ran for no more than 5 or 6 seconds before busting me off. As the sun set I had nothing from a couple of hours of fishing. The wind had turned to a very slight northerly. I decided to give up around 7.30pm and headed home.