Iluka – Middle Bluff – 22 November 2020

The swell came up and then subsided, a little. The wind swapped to south easterly, then northerly, then south easterly and then back to a morning south westerly, all in the space of about 48 hours. The moon had reached its first quarter. The dawn tide would be too high to fish at Woody Head so I decided to give Middle Bluff a try.

The challenge at Middle Bluff is the distance between you and the water, if you hook a fish. In some places on this rock platform you are fishing three or four metres above the water. In calm conditions you can gently coax a fish along the front of the rock ledges to a lower one and grab the leader to pull the fish up. But if there is any swell this is next to impossible. I have never mastered using a gaff as I am convinced I will most likely end up gaffing myself (I also like to release fish, if I am not planning to eat them). So like so many other rock fishing ledges it is only really safe when the swell is around 1 metre. Even then all the usual rules apply; wear boots or shoes with excellent grip, wear a life jacket, check the swell for 20 minutes or so before fishing and try to stay permanently on dry rocks – if in doubt, don’t.

I arrived and parked at Frasers Reef just after 4.00 am and walked north to Middle Bluff. By the time I reached the ledges I wanted to fish there was a long line of orange on the horizon. I started on the north end of the platform.

I cast out a 3/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead with a GULP 5″ Paddleshad soft plastic in the Pink colour on my heavy rig. I tried to get it as close to the edge of the ledge as possible as I believe the mulloway and other fish school up in the sea caves and overhangs which extend under the ledges. The idea is to drop it down next to the rocks and then hop it slowly along the bottom, parallel with the shoreline. The period between first light and sunrise is definitely my most successful period for catching mulloway/ jewfish from the rocks. I cast around close to the edge and just before dawn the line pulled tight and I felt the weight of a fish. It set off under the ledge but I turned it around. I was fishing with my heavier rod and reel with 40lb fluorocarbon leader and a fairly tight drag. I pulled hard to keep it away from the rocks but I was going too hard and fast and the hook pulled out. I was a little too eager. I carried on casting through dawn and swapped through a few different soft plastics. I had another bite that felt like a tailor but it also spat the hook. I had eaten all my mulloway/ jewfish so I needed something for dinner.

At about 6.00 am I moved south along the ledge, nearer to Frasers Reef. The swell was a little more relaxed here. I swapped to my lighter fishing rig which was rigged 16 lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/4 ounce, size 1 hook jighead and GULP 3″ Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. I cast this out and again focused on the area close to the base of the ledge. Leaving the plastic on the bottom for as long as I could without getting snagged. This tactic worked and I caught a decent bream just over 36 cm long. It hit the lure inches from surface and inches from the rocky shore. I put it in a rock pool and tried again in the same spot. A few casts later I caught another one about the same size.

Twins

A disappointing morning but I would have fish for supper.

Iluka – Middle Buff – Tailor – 14 June 2015

Sunday

The wind had picked up from the south-east on Saturday afternoon and then dropped off again overnight. I was not sure where to fish on Sunday morning. The swell had made the fishing tricky all week. I decided to try Middle Bluff, the headland between Frazer’s Reef and Woody Head, in the Bundjalung National Park.

I was up early and was pleased to walk out on to the beach to only a light breeze. It was about 6.00 am and the remainder of the moon was clearly visible as the horizon started to glow. I disturbed a couple of big kangaroos who were standing around down at the water’s edge. They took off into the undergrowth.  The broken clouds made for a fantastic pre-dawn with the red sun taking a quite a while to break through. The tranquillity was soon broken by the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks. The wind was light but the swell was definitely still up.

I walked round to the northern end of Middle Bluff and watched the surf for a while. Fishing safely off the front of the Bluff was going to be impossible. I decided to move to plan B and try spinning for some Tailor.

I rigged up the heavy rod. I wanted to try the DUO Pressbait Saira 175. This is effectively just a beautifully crafted and weighted 175mm, 50g sinking metal slug/jig. I fish it just like any other metal slug – long casts with a mixture stop/ start, continuous, slow or fast retrieves depending in the conditions and terrain. I was sure this would appeal to the tailor, if they were around.

The rocks protrude a long way into the bay at this spot so you need to put in long casts and keep the lure moving. I was now using a fairly short (0.6m) 30 lb leader tied on to 20lb braid with a long, solid uni-knot. The DUO Pressbait Saira is nicely weighted so you really do not need to hurl it out there. You just let gravity do the work.

I started casting at about 6-30 am, well after first light but before the sun had come over the horizon. On very long casts it is difficult to keep contact with the lure. The long length of line means there is a fair amount of slack which often initially disguises a hook-up. The rod tip only starts wiggling as the line gets really tight. After a few long casts and high-speed retrieves I felt a bit of weight and then the rod tip bent over. I had found a tailor. Frustratingly, about 20 metres from the shore it started leaping around and managed to free itself. I cast out in roughly the same location and after a few turns of the reel I had another fish. This one stayed hooked and I landed it successfully. I took a few pictures and threw it back, then cast out again.

Things went quiet for a while and the sun came over the horizon. At about 7.00 am I had the lure about 40 metres from the shore when something grabbed it and the reel started screaming. I held on tight but after taking about 15 metres of line the fish was gone and so was the Pressbait. I wound in a severed leader. I re-rigged with a 65 gram Raider metal slug and tried to find the fish with this. After another 30 minutes I had had no luck and I was exhausted.

I walked down to the corner of back beach and cast some soft plastics around in the shallows, I watched as a few schools of garfish follow and grab at the lures but I did not hook any. The swell showed no signs of calming down so at about 8.30 am I went off to find breakfast.

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.