Iluka – Shark Bay – Tailor, Tailor, Tailor – 12 April 2013

Friday

Friday was my last morning in Iluka. The weather had been good for fishing – light winds and swell. But it had been miserable for camping, with endless rain showers and no time to dry out in between. Fortunately, I had been in a cabin.

A big south-easterly blow was forecast for the weekend and on Friday morning; it was already about 15 knots on the Woody Head platform. The seas had not really picked up yet but it would be too hard to cast from ‘ the Barnacles’ so I decided to give the Shark Bay rock platform a try. This is a great spot in a south-easterly wind, as you can cast off the north tip with the wind behind you.

I arrived just after 6.00 am. The sky was fairly clear, initially. Low tide had been at about 3.40 am. The wind was blowing hard so it would only be possible to fish on the north edge and cast to the north-west. These were perfect conditions to get some long casts out of some hard bodied lures.

I knew there might be some big fish around but I have really enjoyed fishing with the lighter 10 ft Shimano Catana Coastline Light, this week – so I stuck with it. It is rated 3-5kg, but as long as you have a tough leader and a good drag, it can land some pretty hefty fish. When I break it (which I inevitably will) I will look for a better quality alternative – but so far, so good.

It has a poor reputation for durability and most coastal tackle shops have put their fair share of new tips on. Despite this, it is a very nicely balanced rod and I particularly like the way you can feel the action of the lighter hard bodied lures through the tip. I really wanted to catch some fish using my latest favourite DUO lure – the Realis Jerkbait 120SP and the Catana is perfect for it. The Realis Jerkbait 120SP is a clever sub-surface suspending lure that you can get down to about a metre below the surface without too much trouble . It is long (120mm) thin and flat sided, which accentuates light reflection, as it moves through the water and it has both a good slow and fast action. I have had a few of these in some great colours and lost them all to fish.

Now I was down to my last one, in a yellow/ cream/ gold colour known as S70 – Dead Ayu. I have swapped the trebles for single hooks, in the hope of hanging on to the lure for a bit longer! I had lost one to a good fish a few days before so I was determined to land something with this one.

I cast to the northwest into the choppy, white water. There is a patch of reef that breaks the surface, about 125 metres to the north-west of the rock platform. I aimed at this and with the wind behind me, I was able to put in a very respectable long distance cast. I started the retrieve, jerking the lure along for a few metres, then pausing and allowing it to suspend. There was action behind the lure on the first cast with splashes and surges, but it took about six casts to hook up.

I am fairly new to single hooks and my view is that they do not connect with as many fish as trebles do, but once they do connect, the fish stays hooked. That was the case this time and I soon had a 40cm tailor at my feet. I cast straight back out and watched as another tailor knocked the Realis Jerkbait 120SP out of the water but then failed to get hooked. Almost every cast was getting hit. Sometimes I could see the snouts and tails of long toms but usually, it felt like tailor.

About 10 minutes after the first tailor, I was on to another better one. This one put on an acrobatic performance with several jumps, before I tamed it. It was just over 60cm and the best of the week. There then followed a good tailor session with the DUO Realis Jerkbait 120SP accounting for six tailor around the 40 to 45cm mark, over the next 20 minutes. It also pulled up a couple of over enthusiastic long toms.

At about 7.00 am things went quiet so I swapped to a 65g Raider metal slug. I tried this for about twenty casts with no result, so I swapped to a soft plastic lure. I started with the small GULP 3” Minnow in Lime Tiger, that had proved so appealing to the mac tuna. I put it on a ¼ oz, 1/0 jighead and cast it out. There were no more tuna but after a few retrieves another good bream took it. I landed it and then caught another.

There was another quiet spell so I swapped to a bigger GULP Jerkshad in the Sweet & Sour Chicken colour. The tailor must have been passing through again because after a number of bites, pulls and aborted runs, I hooked up again. It was another 40cm fish.

The tide was now almost up to my waist so it was time to retreat. It had been a great session and good way to end the week. Bream, dart, tailor, tuna, trevally and flathead – another great week of fishing in Iluka.

More Tailor from the rocks – Fingal Head – 12 November 2012

Monday

A big south easterly blow had stirred things up over the weekend and it was still forecast to be blowing at 15-20 knots on Monday morning. It looked like I only had one day to fish this week, so I had to go for it. The recent rain would make the estuaries dirty, so I decided to drive back down to Fingal Head and fish the rocks.

I arrived at about 4.15 am and although the wind had calmed a little, there was at least a 2 metre swell. The horizon was grey with a hint of orange, as the sun started to appear. The swell would make it hard to fish but the Tailor love the white water and there was plenty available. I had to carefully time my hop across the causeway, between the big swells.

I rigged up the heavy rod. The reel is a Shimano Stradic 8000 FJ and I have generally used the pink Bionic 20 or 30lb braid on it. This is great line that lasts well but it has started to fray and so I have replaced it with a spool of 20lb Fireline, in the luminous green colour. I find this colour stands out better than all the others, especially in low light. Fireline has advantages and disadvantages. When its new it can be a little stiff but as it is a fused line, it does not take in much water and it slides through the rod guides very easily. Unfortunately, just as it becomes supple enough to be perfect for fishing and knot tying, it starts to fray. It is certainly much tougher than its advertised breaking strain.

For the first cast of the day I usually start with 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I am out of DUO Minnow lures at present but fortunately RAPALA have sent me a box XRS 12s. I love most of the RAPALA lure range, especially their smaller hard bodies for Trout and Bream. But I am not sure they have the build quality of the DUOs, especially in the larger suspending and floating minnows. When you are fishing from the rocks, the lures get knocked around so they need to have a durable paint job. The X-Rap is nicely shaped and has a good action but after half an hour and a few knocks, the paint starts peeling, the loose flakes catch in the water and this changes the lures action. To get it to swim right you then start peeling off the rest of the paint – which is not ideal.

I tied on an XR12 in the Silver colour and cast out. I have tried different speed retrieves but I generally prefer to go fairly quickly, jerking the rod to the side in long sweeps until I can feel the vibration coming back up the line. On the second cast a fish hit the lure and I hooked up. It was a good Tailor about 50cm long. I took a few pictures and threw it back. Shortly afterwards I lost the lure to the rocks. I tied on another in a different colour but after 30 minutes this had not produced anything. I tried a smaller YOZURI Crystal Minnow but the swell was too much for it and I could not get it to run right. I put on a 65g Raider metal slug and fished it for a while, but it did not find a fish. Then I tied on a cheap, bottom of the tackle box, sinking vibe lure. I cast it out about ten times until it was grabbed at the base of the rocks by another 45cm Tailor.

The swell was pounding over the rock platform, so I could not stand on the eastern edge and cast at the area where the fish have been holding. I decided to give a heavier, 85g Raider metal slug a try. I would be able to cast this further and pull it over the area where I though the fish were. After a few casts I had another fish on. I pulled it round the rocks to the north and landed it. It was another 45cm Tailor. On the next two casts I hooked and then lost fish. A few minutes I hooked yet another.

I got it to the base of the rocks and then it shook itself free. When I pulled up the slug I could see the fish had broken off one of the hooks on the treble and the split ring was looking severely stretched. When the Tailor attack they really get stuck in.

By 9.00am the sun had come up but the swell was still crashing over the front of the rock platform. Even if I hooked more fish it would be very tough/dangerous landing them, so I gave up for the day.

The temperatures are up and it is mid-November but there are still plenty of Tailor about. I wonder how much longer they will hang around?

Fingal Head – Jew & Tailor – 1 November 2012

Thursday

I was up early again – full moon had passed on Wednesday. Low tide would be just before 4.00 am. It would still be a pretty big tidal flow. A northerly blow was forecast but it would be calm around dawn. I decided to drive back down to Fingal Head.

I arrived in between dawn and first light – just a little late. It was cloudy but as the northerly picked up it turned into a beautiful morning. I started with DUO Beachwalker MD 120 hard-bodied minnow in the orange colour. I had swapped back to treble hooks. There were bumps and splashes on each of my first three casts. On the fourth cast I hooked something. It pulled pretty hard and I thought I had connected with a good fish and then I realised it was a small Tailor – hooked through the back. I let it go and carried on casting but could not hook anything else.

I swapped over to a 65g Raider metal slug and moved round to the north edge of the rock platform and cast as far as I could. After about 20 casts I felt a knock at the base of the rocks. Then, on the next cast, a fish hit the lure right at the base of the rocks. It was a small Tailor – around 40cm long. I let that one go. I decided to try some soft plastics on the lighter rod and reel combo – the Shimano Catana Coastline light rod, 2500 reel, 6lb braided main line and 10lb leader.

A local fisho, Bill arrived with his Alvey and big rod and threw out a fresh prawn. His first cast produced an excellent Tarwhine, which looked to be about the 1kg mark. There were definitely fish around.

The strong northerly was making it easier to fish on the southern side of the rock platform now. I cast out a GULP 4” Minnow in the Smelt colour, on a 1/6th 1 jighead and let it slowly sink. I cast in all directions and did not get any interest for about an hour. The water was very clear and just in the mouth of the channel that separates the causeway from the mainland; there was a school of small baitfish, hugging the rocks. There is a slight overhang here and some deeper water close to the rocks. I dropped the plastic into the middle of the channel and thought I felt the faintest of bites. I flicked the bail arm over and released a metre or two of line. As I slowly retrieved it, it flicked tight and the rod bent over. Line started peeling and I started thinking – how and where will I land this?

I decided from the slow and powerful runs it was not a Tailor. I would try to coax it round the rocky outcrop, to the front of the rock platform. The northerly had flattened the sea and it was safe to jump down a few steps to the wash area, to grab a fish between waves, if I could get it that far. It did not want to come round the rocks and with the light rod and 10lb leader I could not apply much pressure. I left the drag quite light and just kept winding. Eventually I dragged the fish round the rocks and saw it was a small Jew. I used the surge to get it onto a flat rock at the water line and then hopped down and picked it up, between waves. It was a good looking 55cm fish. I slit its throat and put it in the keeper pool.

The plastic and leader was a bit gnarled but OK, so I threw it back out. Two or three casts later and I was on again. This time it was a much bigger fish and initially I really was not making much of an impression. But Jewfish tire quickly and after a while the fish was beaten but the swell was still making things tricky. I aborted a couple of attempts to pull the fish round the rocks but eventually it swam in the right direction. I got it on to the same ledge as the previous one, jumped down and grabbed it under the gills. This was a much bigger fish at about 75cm. I decided to keep this one as well. It was 8.15 am.

I swapped the soft plastic for bigger one – a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Black Shad colour. I stuck with the 10lb leader and the 1/6th 1 jighead. After about 10 more minutes of casting and retrieving, close to the overhang – bang, I was on to a fish. This one was bigger again and after a long tussle I got it to the same spot. But this one was too much for the 10lb leader and as I pulled the fish onto the rock ledge, it snapped.

I decided to upgrade to the bigger rod and use 20lb leader. I stuck with the 1/6th 1 jighead and the same soft plastic. I carried on or another hour but did not get another bite. Was it the heavier leader or had I spooked them? I am not sure. All the fish were caught in no more than 2m of water – the Jewfish certainly don’t mind feeding in the shallows.

At about 10.00am I left the platform to Bill, cleaned up the Jewfish and went in search of ice.

Fingal Head – Tailor – 30 October 2012

Tuesday

I never get bored of catching fish but I have enough Flathead in the fridge so it was time for a change of scene. I decided to drive down to Fingal Head on Tuesday morning, to fish the rocks around the lighthouse and the causeway.

My view is there are some things you can be late for – work, submitting your tax return, your wedding, the births of your children, etc – and then there are some things you must never be late for – fishing. I am ashamed to admit that I was late on Tuesday morning. I was up at 3.45 am and on the road south, a few minutes later, but the sun was well over the horizon as I pulled into the car park, at Fingal Head l. It was just before 5.00 am (QLD time). I quickly pulled my rock boots on and hiked out to the causeway and promontory, below the lighthouse. The skies were grey and rain was on the way. The wind was from the south east, initially.

There were a couple of guys fishing and plenty of fresh blood in the rock pools. This just emphasised for me, the need to arrive just before dawn (rather than just after). One of the fisherman confirmed they had landed a good Tailor just after first light.

I rigged up one of my DUO hard bodied favorites – the Beachwalker Mid120. This is a fairly shallow diving minnow. I have swapped a few of my lures over to single hooks to see how this affects my hook up and capture rates. I think trebles may connect with more fish but bigger, single hooks give you a better chance of landing the fish, from the rocks, once it is hooked. I was using a bright orange coloured DUO Beachwalker and after a few casts I saw the small Tailor following it in. There were some splashes behind the lure and a couple of knocks but I did not hook up.

I swapped to a soft plastic GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Black shad colour on a 3/8th oz, 3/0 jighead and threw that out. I was fishing with my Daiwa Demonblood, 9’6” rod, 30lb braid and 20lb fluorocarbon leader. The soft plastic did not seem to interest the fish. In fact, I did not even lose the tail to the smaller fish, which is what usually happens here.

I swapped through a few more plastics and hard bodies but could not connect with anything. At about 8.15am I swapped down to my lighter Shimano Catana Coastline rod and 2500 size reel 8lb Fireline Exceed and 16lb fluorocarbon leader. I tried fishing a few smaller soft plastics on light jigheads but they did not attract any fish.

I swapped over to another of my DUO lures – the Bay Ruf Manic 115. This is an 18 gram stick bait that is cleverly weighted to cast long distances and sink slowly. At only 18 grams it is a little light to cast with my big rig but it is perfect with the Catana. I had left the original trebles on this one. It does not look like it has much action but on closer inspection, it has a very tight sub-surface wobble which leaves a pulsing wake.

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I cast it out and let it sink for a few seconds. On the first retrieve I saw a fish come up behind it then turn away. On the next cast a fish grabbed it right at the base of the rocks and took off. It was at this moment that I remembered the rod is called the Shimano Catana Coastline LIGHT. It bends over nicely and is a great shock absorbed but it cannot apply much pressure to decent sized Tailor. After a few frenetic runs, I started to get a bit of line back. The fish jumped and I saw it was going to be a headache to land – it was a good Tailor well over 50cm.

I steered it round the rocks and tried to pull it in close to a ledge where I might be able to grab the leader and pull it up. I increased the pressure and tightened the drag but then the lure pulled free of the mouth and the fish was gone. I pulled up the lure which had scale on it and a slightly bent rear treble. Things went quiet again and I had a chat with another angler – Steve. We were distracted from our chat by a few swooping birds who started dive bombing the swell, a few metres out in front of us.

We both chucked a lure at the boil – I had the Bay Ruf Manic and Steve had a 45g metal slug. We both hooked up straight away. After a brief fight I had a 50cm Tailor at my feet and Steve had landed a slightly smaller model. The Bay Ruf Manic had lost its tail-end treble – half of which I later found lodged in the roof of its mouth. DUO lures had produced for me again.

By this point my shoulders and back were killing me, so I decided one fish would do. I walked back to the car – covered it in ice and drove back to Brisbane.