Iluka – Woody Head – 27 November 2014

Thursday

It was another grey and humid start on Thursday morning in Iluka. There had been several showers overnight and the rain seem to have stifled the wind and swell. I had been doing well at Woody Head so I drove back out there, before dawn.  It would be an early morning low tide – which is pretty much perfect for fishing the rock ledges.

The recent bite offs suggested there was something big and toothy around so I tried again with a big shallow running hard bodied lure – the DUO Jerkbait 120 SP. I cast it around all through dawn but could not stir anything up.

I moved south along the rocks and swapped to a GULP 3 “ Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour on a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 jighead. I was now on my lighter rock fishing NS Blackhole rod. I was using 14 lb fluorocarbon leader. I caught a small bream at about 5 am, from the spot which I believe the locals call the ‘Jew Hole’. It is a large inlet with a deeper channel in the middle, to the south of the area known as the ‘Barnacles’, where I usually start my fishing.

The sun came over the horizon and there was a brief glow of red before it got lost again, in the thick cloud. At about 5.30 am I hooked a fish and it took off. It was moving fast and I caught a flash of silver and realized it was a solid dart. I soon subdued it.  I caught another on the next cast and about 4 more, smaller ones over the next 20 minutes.  Then, I swapped to a GULP 3“ Minnow in the Green Camo colour and caught another, bigger dart. I bled the two bigger dart and left them in a rock pool that had a ledge overhanging it. Hopefully the various freeloaders – kites, pelicans, crows, crabs and wobbegongs, etc, would not find them.

Things slowed down a little so I moved further south to an area known as ‘Mossies’. This is a large, flat set of rocks covered in ankle deep green weed, at the southern end of the Woody Head platform. It is really only safe to fish here in gentle conditions, around low tide.  It was now about 6.00 am and low tide had been at 5.51 am. The first fish to grab the plastic was another solid 30 cm + bream. Another bream followed, on the next cast.

I was now almost as far south as I could go on the Woody Head rocks. I cast out the Green Camo minnow and let it waft down beside the ledge. Before it hit the bottom something smashed it. It took off to the south with a blistering run then turned back and torpedoed into the base of the rocks and snap went the leader.

I looked for tougher leader but I had used it all, so it was 14lb or 10lb. I tied a strong knot with the 14lb and put the same soft plastic minnow on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast back in the same spot and after a couple of tries, I was on to a fish again. I had the drag set tighter this time and I pulled pretty hard from the minute I hooked up. It was a tough fish but this time I kept it out of the rocks. After a few minutes it was tired and I landed it with the aid of the swell. It was a small king fish (or possibly an Amberjack – not sure) about 55cm long. I took some pictures and threw it back. A few casts later I was on to another one. This one was slightly smaller but put up just as tough a fight.

Next taker was a golden trevally which was longer than the king fish but not quite as mad. It was still a tough fight on the lighter rod and great fun. It was not even 6.30 am and I had caught four species. That is the beauty of Iluka.

I fished for another hour until the sun was really out and the cloud had burned away. Things slowed down a little but the bream and dart kept coming. I ended up keeping a few of the bigger dart, the trevally and a couple of bream, to make a mixed fish fried rice. I find using different flavoured and textured fish is great for this kind of dish. I fillet the fish and fry it, then add it to the cooked rice with some fried spring onions, crushed garlic, fresh coriander, Thai fish sauce and fresh lime juice.

By 8.00 am I was back at the car after a great mornings fishing.

Iluka – Woody Head – The Barnacles – 12 February 2013

Tuesday

It rained hard over night and I actually woke up cold on Tuesday morning. I made a huge mug of tea and fished out a long sleeve t-shirt. It was just after 5.00 am. The wind had already moved round from the south-west to blow from the east, but it was still fairly light. Low tide had been at 4.13 am. The swell might have eased a little overnight so I decided to start on the rock platform, out front at Woody Head. I walked out to the ‘Barnacles’ in the pre-dawn and things looked promising. There was only the occasional wave coming over the top and I would have an hour or so to fish before the tide got too high. It looked like it would even be possible to put out a few casts in front of ‘Barnacle Bob’.

The day before I had noticed the 20lb Fireline had started to fray on the heavy rod and I had lost a fair amount of the 10lb Platil Millenium braid, on the light rod. The Platil braid was getting a bit water-logged and heavy and not casting well. I decided neither was working particularly well in these conditions, so I drove into Big River Bait and Tackle at Maclean and asked for some suggestions on re-spooling. They were all a bit fed up after the floods. The Clarence River was still black and smelly and logically the fish looked like they had all fled out to sea for a while. The Clarence is a huge system and it will be a couple of weeks before the river improves.

As usual, the team gave me some good advice and suggested I re-spool both with 20lb Super PE braid. This would be thin enough to cast well on the light rig, but robust enough to handle a decent fish on the heavy rig. Best of all, they stripped off the old line and re-spooled both reels while I went off for a Pot Belly Pie (a local speciality) and a coffee.

So back at Woody Head the next morning I was fishing with perfectly loaded reels. This makes a huge difference when casting in difficult conditions. Every line change takes a little getting used too but the Sunline Super PE was a massive improvement. I started with the heavy rod and a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour on a ¼ oz, 3/0 jighead. I moved out carefully over the rocks to a spot just in front of ‘Barnacle Bob’. This has been the scene of a couple of big fish captures for me and whenever it’s safe I try a few casts here. I put the lure exactly where I wanted it but after five or six casts I had not found anything. I swapped through a few more soft plastic colours, but these did not produce any interest.

I moved south along the front of rocks to a safer spot and swapped down to the lighter rod. I put on a 1/6th oz, 2/0 jighead and tied on a 12lb fluorocarbon leader. I decided to try a different soft plastic lure. I have never been a fan of the pure white lures, I have always assumed they are an offshore, deep water idea. But I had a packet of GULP jerkshads in white and I was not having much luck, so I decided to give them a try.

It was a wise choice; I cast out wide and let the lure waft in on the swell. I left it as long as I could and it got snagged. I re-rigged with the same set up. This time, right at the base of the rocks, I felt a bite, dropped the rod down and then struck. I had a fish. I let the swell wash it up. It was a nice Bream, well over 30 cm long.

I cast out again and felt another bite, but did not hook up. I carried on for a few more casts, using exactly the same technique. About five minutes later at 6.15 am I felt a gentle tug and then a solid bite. A wave came crashing over the top and I thought the fish was gone but as the water drained, the line was still tight. On the next swell I tightened the drag a little and pulled hard. A school Jewfish came into view. It had a bit of fight left in it and I only had a 12lb leader so I let it swim back out again. The next wave was a big one and it washed the fish over the rocks and back, past me into the drain behind me. I waited for the water to drain away again and when it did the fish was stranded and I grabbed it.

It was the first school jewfish of the week and it had been lurking right at the base of the rocks waiting for dinner. It was no monster at about 50cm long (NSW size limit is 45cm) but it would make a good meal. I despatched it and put it in a keeper rock pool. I looked for more and fished for another two hours but could not find any. I lost plenty of gear trying to get my lures into the strike zone but as the tide rose and the wind picked up, it became harder and harder. At about 8.45 am the water was sloshing over the rocks with every surge and I had to retreat.

Jewfish stomach contents

I went back to wash clean up the jewfish. I gutted it and had a look in the stomach. It was full of the tiny whitebait I had seen jumping by the rocks. As I was doing this I was standing in the shallow rock pool. After a few minutes of cleaning and scaling, I nearly jumped out of my skin as I heard a loud snap and splash, just behind my heal.

I found a big hungry wobbegong already in attendance. It had swum up a series of very shallow rapids to reach the pool, just below where I had lay the jewfish. The blood and guts had attracted him. I hopped out of the water and quickly found another (stranded) patch of water to finish the cleaning. By the time I finished cleaning the bream there were four of them swimming around, like toothy puppies waiting for lunch.

I had cut off the bream’s head as I intended to pan fry it on my camp stove. I left it on the edge of the rock pool and was amazed as two of the wobbegongs wriggled out of the water, in their attempts to reach it. Eventually the bigger of the two lunged forward and inhaled the head, with a loud snap.

In the afternoon I came back to the same spot as soon as the tide would allow, at about 2.30 pm. I fished all through the afternoon but the swell and wash made it difficult again. I caught one good Bream, about 33 cm and dropped a bigger one, both on a smaller GULP 3” Minnow in the Banana Prawn colour, on a 1/6th, 1/0 jighead, around 3.00pm. There was plenty of bait, jumping, in close to the rocks but I just could keep the lure where I wanted it.

By 5.00 pm I was soaked through and decided to give up and head for the wood fire, fried bream and a bottle of red.

Iluka – Woody Head – Golden Trevally & Bream 26 June 2011

Sunday

Sunday morning was slightly less grey and cold. I arrived at ‘the Barnacles’ on the Woody Head rock platform around 9.00 am. The wind was a little stronger than the day before, but had swung round to blow from the north-west. Low tide would be around 11.00 am. The swell was under a metre.

I started with a GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshad soft plastic in the Pink Neon colour. I had it rigged on 3/8 oz 3/0 jighead. First cast and bang, a fish grabbed it, as I was about to lift it out of the water, just at the edge of the rock shelf. I ran up and down the ledge a couple of times and then I lifted it over the edge with a surge of water. It was a Trevally, around 40cm long. It had tea coloured flecks all over it – so I suppose it was a tea leaf Trevally.

The plastic was smashed so I bit the head off and loaded it back on to the jighead. A few more casts and I was snagged. I pulled the rod slowly backwards in a straight line until the leader and jighead separated. Fishing these ledges is expensive. The fish are always very close in so you get snagged in the rocks regularly. I put another plastic on, cast out and a fish hit it a couple of times on the retrieve. On the next retrieve in the same spot – bang – zzzzzzzzzz as a fish grabbed it. After a few runs it washed up at my feet and I could see it was a Golden Trevally – about 50cm long. A couple of casts later I caught another about the same size.

I fished on for an hour or so and caught a few good Brea, between 28cm and 35cm – on a range of GULP soft plastics, both big and small. The Bream were a consistent catch all along the rocks and I think they are all schooling up to spawn now. I gave up as the tide started to run back in again at lunch time. It had been another great land based fishing session, off the rocks at Woody Head.

Iluka – Woody Head – Trevally at ‘the Barnacles’ – 25 June 2011

Saturday

Saturday morning was dull, grey and cold. The wind was still from the south west and there had been some early showers. Low tide would be around 10.45 am. There was a light swell off the rocks in front of Woody Head.

I arrived about 9.00 am and I started with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic in the Pink Shine colour. I had it rigged on 3/8 oz 3/0 jighead. On my first cast a fish grabbed it, just at the edge of the rock shelf. It ran up and down the ledge and then I lifted it over the edge, with the swell. It was a decent Trevally, around 55 cm long. I bled it and went back for more.

I cast out and a fish hit the lure as it sank – but there was no hook up. On the next cast as a fish grabbed it as I jigged it up off the bottom. After a few runs I calmed it down and lifted it over the rocks, with the swell. It was another Trevally – about 50cm long. I carried on for a while and caught a couple of Bream and a smaller Trevally, which I released.

Iluka – Woody Head -The Barnacles – 24 June 2011

Friday

A long weekend with my daughter, camping at Iluka, gave me the opportunity to put in a few fishing sessions on the rocks at Woody Head. I was limited to fishing when she got up, which meant no early starts, but fortunately, the low tides were mid-morning. The chilly morning weather and occasional showers also made staying in bed a little longer, an attractive option.

I wandered out by the boat ramp with my light rod at about 7.30am, thinking I might catch a Flathead or a few Bream on the receding tide. The wind was light from the south west. I rigged up with a 3” GULP Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour on a ¼ oz 1/0 jighead tied on to a metre of 12lb Fluorocarbon leader and 10lb braid.

I was fishing along the line of partially submerged rocks that juts out from the shore just to the north of the boat launching area. I felt a couple of knocks and bumps that did not feel like the rocks and so concentrated my fire by casting in the same area for a few minutes. After about ten retrieves, a fish grabbed the lure, just at the edge of the rocks. It took off, jumping clean out of the water. It was an Australian Salmon and it carried on leaping for the next few minutes as I wrestled it to the shore. These fish really fight hard and they just never give up. Every time I got it near the rocks, it took off again and on the light rod it took a while to wear it out. Eventually I dragged it out of the water and took a few pictures. Although they look magnificent and fight hard, they taste dreadful. So I took a few pictures and then released it.

After a quick breakfast, I headed out to the rocks at the front of Woody Head, to the area known as ‘the Barnacles’. The weather was gloomy and rain was threatening but there was virtually no swell and a light south westerly wind. Low tide would be around 10.00 am. I was now using the heavy rod – the Daiwa 9 Ft Demon Blood, with a Shimano Stradic 6000 reel – loaded with 20lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I loaded up with a GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshad in the Curried Chicken colour mounted on a 3/8 oz 3/0 jighead.

I cast out over the rock ledges and let the soft plastic sink for five seconds or so. As soon as I took up the slack, a fish hit the lure. A few more jerks and pauses and I was hooked up to something. After a quick tussle, I pulled the fish up, over the rocks on an incoming surge, grabbed the leader and landed it. It was a nice Trevally, around 50cm long.

10.5 kg Jewfish

Caught off "the Barnacles" at Woody Head

A solid fish

The next cast got snagged – so I broke the line and re-rigged with another GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad, this time in the New Penny colour, on a 3/8 oz 3/0 jighead. I cast out again and waited for the lure to sink, when I lifted the rod, I had a fish on the end. It made a long, steady initial run. The steadiness suggested it was a Jew. It swam up and down parallel with the shore a few times then tried to bury itself in the rocks. It seemed like it was stuck but I loosened off the drag and it swam out again. I gradually tightened the drag again and pulled it round to where I thought I could land it. After about 10 minutes it was pretty tired and with the aid of a big wave, I pulled it to my feet and grabbed the leader. It snapped, but I got my hand in behind the gills and pulled it across the rocks. It was a great Jewfish at 10.5 kg (gutted and gilled) and measured around 1.1 metres. It was my ‘personal best’ Jewfish and I was delighted.

At 10.30 am after just three casts I called it a day. I had a great fish and I was knackered but I had a very big smile on my face.

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Iluka – Woody Head – 11 April 2011

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Monday – pm

After a good start earlier in the day, I could not resist an afternoon fish. We were staying in a cabin at Woody Head – so I was ideally placed to fish off the rocks, on the afternoon low tide. I walked out on the rock ledges, directly in front of the camp site, at about 5.00 pm. Low tide would be at about 7.30 pm.

There was a strong north easterly breeze and a few small rain squalls were coming over. I started around 5.00 pm with a 3/8oz 3/0 hook jighead and a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I was using a 30lb fluorocarbon leader again.
It is always difficult to avoid losing tackle in this location. The fish tend to bite just at the edge of the rock ledges and very close in. If you pull your lure to safety to fast, you will miss them. If you leave it too long, you get snagged. After a couple of casts I was stuck firm in the rocks, so I snapped off the jighead and plastic and re-rigged with the same set up.

I sent out five or six casts in a semi – circle, from my position on the edge of the rocks. Every now and then I would carefully retreat in the face of a big wave but only my feet were getting wet. The rocks are incredibly slippery so you need good rock fishing boots and you need to move slowly – running away from a wave is a recipe for disaster as you will almost certainly fall over. It is better to duck down and hang on if you see a big one coming – you may get wet, but hopefully you will not break your neck! Remember rock fishing is a dangerous activity, stay safe and if in doubt – don’t go out.

I moved along the rocks and just on 5.15 pm I hooked a fish. I let it run until I could see a good wave that would bring it up the rocks. I then tightened the drag and lifted the fish clear. The wave pushed it up and broke over the ledge. It was a school Jewfish/ Mulloway, just under 50cm. I unhooked it and cast out into the same spot. Before the lure had hit the bottom it was grabbed again. This time it was a much faster and more powerful fish. It headed out to see and then turned and ran along the edge of the rock ledge. I tightened the drag to slow it down as I could see it was going to try and bury itself in the rocks. The leader got stuck between the sea squirts that line the rocks, but a big wave lifted it clear and up came the fish. I was soaked but I had a good sized (45cm +) Trevally at my feet.

These two would be dinner and as another rain squall came over I decided to head back to the cabin for a warm shower. It had been another great land based session fishing with soft plastics from the rocks.