New Caledonia – Nepoui and Temrock – May 2018

New Caledonia – May 2018

In early May I had to visit New Caledonia for work reasons. I had never been before but had heard the fishing was amazing so I took along a rod, a few hard bodies and a few packets of GULP soft plastics. When travelling you are fairly limited in what you can bring so I chose my 6’6” 2- 4 kg Berkley Dropshot, two-piece rod with my trusty Shimano Stella 2500. This is not a very heavy-duty setup but it is a good all-rounder.

New Caledonia is a French territory in the Pacific. It is made up of one large and a number of smaller islands surrounded by fringing reefs. Between the outer reef and the shoreline, calm tidal lagoons hold plenty of fish amongst mini reefs, sandy bottom and sea grass beds. These lagoons can be huge but many are protected so you need to check where you can fish.

I was working near the town of Nepoui, half way up the main island on the west coast, for the first few days. On the instructions of the locals I took my rod down to the jetty after work, at about 4.00 pm. Their instructions were simple – cast anywhere off that jetty and you will hook up. It sounded too good to be true, but they were right. I put a GULP Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken (Black & Purple colour) on a ¼ ounce jighead and cast it out on 30lb main line and 20lb leader. I let it sink down to what I thought was the bottom and then bounced it along for a couple of hops.  On about the fifth hop, the rod bent over and line started peeling. I immediately realised I had brought the wrong rod with me. The fish headed away from the jetty and I tightened the drag but it hardly slowed. It soon became apparent I needed to tighten the drag more or get spooled. I wound the drag down and the leader snapped. I upped my leader to 30 lb and tried again. This time I started with much more drag pressure. I cast about four or five more times in roughly the same area and then I hooked up again. The fish swam out to sea but this time after a long initial run I got some line back and settled in to about 10 minutes of back and forth until I saw a small (50 to 60 cm) giant trevally coming towards the surface. It was well hooked but I was never going to be able to pull it up the side of the jetty and as soon as I tried, the jighead hook bent and it swam away.

I decided to change position and fish at the edge of the jetty, on the mainland, from the rockwall. This way I would have a better chance of landing the fish when I hooked up. There were thick schools of bait around the jetty pylons and I cast at these and let my soft plastic flutter down in the current. After about ten minutes I was onto a fish again. It felt very fast as it too headed straight for the open sea. It took about 15 metres of line on the first run then leapt clear of the water – it was a small queenfish. With the light rod I could not really put any pressure on but I manage to exhaust it eventually and grab it at the base of the rocks. I took a couple of pics and speared it back in to the water.

For the next few days I was staying at the Sheraton Domaine De Deva Resort at Bourail. The lagoon and reef in front of the resort is a Unesco World Heritage site and fishing is not allowed but I followed a four-wheel drive track about 10 kms north of the resort to the Plage a Temrock, where fishing is allowed. At Temrock a deeper channel comes in close to the shore and the locals told me this was where the really big ‘carangue geante’ (giant trevally) hang out.

I arrived in the late afternoon as the tide was running out. I met a couple of local lads who were casting big poppers out into the channel. My French is poor but through broken English they explained they fished a lot here but rarely stopped the big ‘carangue’. They explained they fight too hard and there is too much coral for them to rub through a leader.  They were hoping to catch a mackerel which they like to eat and have more chance of stopping.

I moved back from the point and fished in slightly shallower water on the edge of the channel. I was casting in between big brain corals that were almost exposed by the falling tide. As the sun dropped I caught a small tea leaf trevally on a soft plastic shrimp and then another, this time it was a ‘big eye’. It was now dusk. I was retrieving the soft plastic fairly quickly and fishing with a lighter, 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and a Lime Tiger coloured Jerkshad soft plastic. On about my third cast with the new plastic, I watched as a huge bow wave came up behind it and a silver shape turned on top of it, swallowed and ran. The reel screamed briefly and then the leader snapped, either on the fish’s teeth or the coral. I gave up for the day.

The next morning, I was back with 30lb leader and my toughest jigheads. The tide was running out and from the first cast I caught fish. In fact, the fish were destroying the soft plastics if I let them settle for too long. I caught a raft of multicoloured reef fish; a Robinsons sea bream, a yellow tailed emperor, several brightly coloured species I could not name and then a few very thick and toothy barracuda.

New Caledonia fishing

As the tide receded I perched ankle deep in water on a coral bommy and started casting into a slightly deeper channel. The trevally soon turned up. It was now around midday but the bite did not slow. I was almost out of soft plastics so I swapped to a small hard bodied vibe lure. Almost as soon as this one hit the water it was slammed. I kept the drag tight and wound like mad, straight from the start. I lost the first one to the coral but I managed to turn the head of the second one and eventually, pull it to my feet. As I fiddled around in my fishing bag for some pliers to release it, a big eel poked its head up through a crack in the coral and grabbed its tail. I held the leader and pulled hard but the eel won the fight and I lost another lure.

I tied on another small vibe lure and started casting again. Things seemed to go a little quiet. Then I noticed a light grey shape swim slowly past the base of the bommy in front of me. It was a shark of some kind and was followed by two more. I assume the eel was eating the trevally in its lair below me and this had brought the sharks in. They were between two and three meters long and I was a little unsettled. The water beside the coral outcrop I was standing on was about waist deep and it was now about twenty metres to the shoreline. The sharks circled and then one smashed into something on the surface about 20 metres away. Then it all went quiet again.

Despite the excitement, I had suddenly lost my desire to catch any more fish. I waited on the top of the coral for another 15 minutes, and then decided I would slip quietly into the water and wade calmly, quickly and quietly to the shore. I waited another ten minutes until I was certain they had moved on. I then jumped off the bommy and ran as fast as I ever have, splashing loudly, until I had two feet in dry sand.

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Yeppoon – Fishing Creek – 14 November 2013

Thursday

It would be my last chance to fish in Yeppoon, for a while. The wind had been blowing hard, so I decided to give Fishing Creek a look.I arrived at about 8.30 am but I had misjudged the tide. It was a big high and it would be a while before it ran out enough for me to proceed down the creek. I fished around the top end and saw a fair amount of bait moving around, but did not catch anything. The combination of a strong north-easterly wind and the big tide had stirred the water up, so I could not see much.

By about 9.30 am the water level was dropping fast and I could walk down the creek towards Corio Bay. I was using my new G.Loomis TSR Ultralight 6′ 7″ rod. It needed to catch a fish, to settle its nerves and I thought it would be fairly easy to find a flathead for it, in this creek. I waded down the creek for an hour, stopping at a every bend and sand bar, but I could not find a fish.

I liked the feel of the rod and its very sensitive tip. I gradually got used to the feel of the 1/8th ounce jighead hopping along the sand corrugations, on the bottom. I lost plenty of jigheads to the trees and snags, as I got used to casting with the slightly longer rod. At about 11.00 am I reached a bend in the creek where a big drain rounds a sand island and empties out into the main channel. The fast flowing water has carved some deepish holes and exposed the mangrove roots.

I thought there must be a fish here. I put on a GULP 5″ Jerkshad soft plastic, in the natural, Peppered Prawn colour and loaded it onto a 1/8th ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead. I cast around the mouth of the drain, still looking for a flathead, without any luck. I turned my attention to the eddies, at the foot of the mangroves on the other side of the channel. After about three casts at these roots, the line pulled tight about halfway back across the channel and a fish took off with the soft plastic. The rod bent right over and absorbed the initial smash, then line started peeling. I could feel the tail beats of something fast.

It kept making for the mangrove roots but I gradually subdued it. When I caught sight of it, it was a trevally – about 40cm long. It is amazing how powerful these fish can be when they have a strong current to run with. It took a while but I pulled it up on to the sand and took a few pictures.

The rod was off the mark but I could not find any more fish. With the north-easterly now almost gale force, I gave up just before noon.

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Fingal Head – Trevally, Tailor, Dart and Bream – 16 November 2012

Friday

The weather was going from one extreme to the other. On Monday the strong south-easterly had lifted the seas and made things tough. By Friday a howling north easterly was forecast. I managed to find a space for a quick fish but with the wind forecast to be blowing at 30 knots, I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it.

I wanted to have another try with the RAPALA lures I had been sent so I woke at 2.45 am and went outside to see what the wind was doing. In Brisbane there was no breeze at all so I decided to go for it. By the time I reached the rocks at Fingal Head, an hour and a half later, the wind was well and truly up.

I tried to walk over the headland to the rock platform and nearly got blown over. There was no point trying to fish off the rock platform so I had a look to the south for a more sheltered spot. The northerly had completely flattened the swell. I climbed down on to a ledge just to the south of the main platform.

I tied on the RAPALA SXR 14 – a 140mm hard bodied minnow. They describe it as a ‘slashbait’. This just means that it will move more violently from side to side than a normal minnow, but you need to work it, quite aggressively, to achieve this type of action. I had it in the ‘Clown’ colour – red head and yellowish body. I picked the size 14 as it looked like it would be the only one heavy enough to cast against the wind. It weighs 43 grams but with the wind blowing this hard from the north, my attempts to cast against it were fruitless.

The sun was just coming over the horizon and now all I could do was cast to the south and retrieve against the wind. The tide was just past low and would be high at 11.00 am so I was not fishing in much water.

After a couple of casts I felt a really powerful hit and then line started peeling. The drag was set pretty tight but the fish had no trouble stripping line. Initially it went south, with the current and wind, but then it turned north which helped me. I got back some line and climbed down as close to the base of the rocks as I could. It was not a tailor – it was too calm and powerful. I played it for few minutes but still could not get a look at it. Each time I got it towards the foot of the rocks it took off again. Eventually it came into view – a good looking trevally. It was pretty tired now so I used a wave to lift it onto a safe looking ledge and then hopped down and picked it up. It was a very handsome grunting fish, just about 70cm long. After a few pictures, I pulled out the treble and let the fish swim away.

I carried on fishing the SXR 14 and a few casts later it hooked a small tailor. Then all went quiet – except for the wind which just got stronger and stronger. I decided to switch locations and move round to the more sheltered southern side of the headland. There is not much sea bed structure here but there are a couple of large rock pools that are constantly filling and draining. I cast around these with the SXR 14 and then tried an 85g Raider. Neither produced a fish so I decided to swap down to the light rod.

I swapped over to the DUO Tetraworks Yurameki lure. This is a small bibless sinking lure. It has a tight action. It weighs 6.3 grams and is 48mm long. Normally it sinks fairly fast but with the wind blowing a big bow in the line, it dropped very slowly. I could see the Bream come up to look at it but they did not strike. I cast around and got a few hits further out. I persisted in the same area, leaving the lure for a long time, to make sure it had reached the bottom before I started the retrieve. After a long wait I lifted the lure for its first hop and a fish hit it. It pulled hard on the light rod and as it came to the surface I saw it was a swallowtail dart. It was a good size and another species notched up on the DUO Tetraworks Yurameki. I threw it back and carried on battling the wind.

I eventually swapped over to a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic lure, on a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 jighead and this got the bream going. I kept feeling them hit the plastic but could not hook up. Eventually I caught one and then another, and another but they were only just legal size, at about 28cm. The wind was now too difficult to deal with so, at about 10.00 am, I gave up and headed home.

Wreck Rock – Deep Water National Park 1770 – 13 May 2011

Friday

Having seen the Tuna working just offshore, all afternoon the day before, at both Wreck Rock and Flat Rock, I decided to spend dawn on Friday casting slugs from the southern tip of Wreck Rock. The tides where getting bigger in the run up to the full moon. Low tide would be at 11.10 am, so there would be plenty of water close into the rocks, at dawn.

The south end of Wreck Rock at dawn

The southern tip of the Wreck Rock bay has a couple of rocky outcrops and submerged bommies. At low tide there is only about a metre of water in front of them, but at high tide, this can increase to almost 4 metres. South of these rocks is a long, almost completely uninterrupted beach ( Rules Beach), that runs all the way down to the mouth of Baffle Creek. At the moment, the big seas and storms through the summer months have created a very steep, sloping beach with a few nice wholes and gutters. This means there is good deep water on high tide, all along this section.

Looking south from Wreck Rock - towards the mouth of Baffle Creek

It was another bitterly cold morning, the sky was crystal clear, but there was a light south-westerly wind blowing. As the sun came up I was casting a 90g slug from the rocks. I then tried a River to Sea – Dumbbell Popper and various heavy blades and big hard bodies. I could not interest the fish. I could see the Tuna, in small groups, smashing into the bait fish and the birds diving in to get a free breakfast, but they stayed at least 800m away the whole time.

Wreck Rock bay - just after dawn


I switched from the Daiwa 9’ 6” Demon Blood rod, which I use for slugs and poppers, to the light spin rod and rigged a soft plastic on a ¼ oz 1 jighead. I chose the GULP 2” Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour. After about 30 minutes I had caught two tiny Dart and a Long Tom. At about 8.30am I headed back into my camp to thaw out with a hot cup of tea and some breakfast.

Mackerel, Trevally, Tailor and a few reef species all cruise around these rocks at the southern end of Wreck Rock bay


I considered my options and spoke to another keen fisherman who was camped nearby. He too had seen the Tuna and was planning to spend the day casting slugs at them. As low tide approached I decided to head out the rocks on the southern tip of Wreck Rock bay. The Tuna were there but always just out of reach. They would swing in tantalizingly close and I would cast slugs at them then they were gone again. As the tide dropped I moved as far as I could out onto the exposed rocks to the south. I cast out at about 45 degrees to the shoreline and as my slug landed a huge circle of bait scattered around it. Then ‘zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ….fftt’ and the fish was gone. I wound the line back in and it looked like a clean bite through the 40lb leader. I presumed it was a Mackerel or some other toothy species. I rigged a wire trace and carried on, but after twenty more casts I was still without a decent fish.

The bait that shelters around this bommy at Wreck Rock, attracts all sorts of predators

I switched from the slug rod to the light spin rod again and rigged a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I wanted to cast a bit of distance, but I also wanted to make sure the lure wafted around in the strike zone for as long as possible. I settled on a ¼ oz 2/0 jighead and downgraded to 16lb fluorocarbon leader. First cast was hit on the drop but then the fish dropped it. Third cast and I had a solid hook up. The fish took line in a couple of fast blistering runs then swam round in front of the rocks into a good position. On the next surge I tightened the drag and pulled it up to my feet (getting soaked in the process). Then I grabbed the leader and pulled the fish clear. It was a Giant Trevally around 50cm – no monster, but a decent fish. Cold and wet, I decided I had enough – it was just after noon.

Finally a decent fish - 50cm GT at Wreck Rock

As always when fishing an area that you have not been to for a while, you need to spend a few sessions figuring out what works and where the fish are. It was my fourth day and I finally felt I understood when and where to concentrate. I headed back to camp for some fish cleaning.