Iluka – Shark Bay – Jewfish – 19 March 2016

Saturday would be my last morning in Iluka for a while. Despite praying for calmer weather the wind was forecast to pick up. I had a lie in as low tide would not be until 2.30 pm. I arrived at Shark Bay at about 10.30 am.

All week I had been expecting the stirred up seas to reveal a few Jewfish/ Mulloway. There was lots of bait around and previous trips, at this time of year have nearly always produced a few. The big seas had made it difficult to reach my favourite spots – perhaps the fish were there but I just could not get to them.

With this in mind I decided to start on the southern side of the Shark Bay rock platform. I would be casting straight in to the south-easterly wind so I needed to fish with something fairly heavy. There are lots of rocks on this side of the platform so I was not confident I would keep my lure.

I have a couple of Rapala 13g, 6cm Clackin Raps, lipless vibe lures which have been rattling around the bottom of the tackle bag for ages. I have never caught anything on these lures so I was not too worried about losing them. I rigged up the lighter of my rock fishing rods (the Daiwa Air Edge) and tied the lure on to my Aldi braid and 20lb fluorocarbon carbon leader. I cast the lure into the surf and waited for it to sink. The sea was very lively and I could only just feel the juddering vibrations as I yanked the lure along. After about three casts the lure pulled tight on something and I thought I had hit some kelp. I pulled the rod tip up and then line started peeling. I knew it was a Jewfish straight away. It made three long powerful steady runs and then started swimming back towards me. The game of cat and mouse continued for about 10 minutes. The rod was not powerful enough to force the issue, so I just had to be patient. After a couple more minutes the fish popped over on its side, a few meters from the shore. It looked as if it was beaten, so I tightened the drag a little and tried to pull it over the rocks with the next surge. Either the wave or sense of impending doom caused it to suddenly wake up and it put its head back down and tried to bury itself. The leader slipped down between the cunjevoi and I could not free it. I could see the fish and lure hanging on by just the single big hook on the front treble, a few metres in front of me, but could not get to it. Another big wave came over and when it receded the fish was gone and the lure was lodge firmly in the cunjevoi. They always getting bigger in your memory but I think it was about a 6kg fish. I realised I did not have my camera with me – perhaps that’s why I could not hold on to the fish.

Rapala

I had another, bigger Clackin Rap and I cast this around without success. As the tide lowered I moved to the front of the rock platform, also on the southern side. I swapped to a soft plastic on a ¼ ounce 2/0 jighead. I needed the weight to cast against the wind. I put on a GULP Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour. I lost the first to the rocks and tied another one on. After a few casts this was slammed in the surf, close in. The fished pulled hard and when I finally subdued it, I was surprised to only see a small Trevally.

The challenge in this spot was losing gear to the rocks and I lost a few more rigs over the next hour or so. I swapped to a Gulp Jerkshad soft plastic in the Sweet and Sour Chicken colour and when I got this one in to a good foamy patch of water just beyond the rocks, I almost instantly hooked up. This time it was a 55cm tailor and I managed to pull it in.

I finished the session casting the long DUO Pressbait Saira hard body off the northern end of the rock platform. As it had done all week the lure found lots of long toms and a few more small tailor.

Just after low tide I stopped for the day. It had been another great week of fishing at Iluka.

1770 Getaway Beach, Flat Rock & Wreck Rock – 6/7 November 2014

Thursday/ Friday

The weather stayed good at 1770 on Thursday and Friday. The winds were light northerlies and the sea flattened out. Unfortunately the low tide was in the middle of the day which meant the fishing timetable was not ideal. Low tide just after dawn and dusk would be my favourite, but you cannot have everything you desire.

I fished at Flat Rock and Wreck Rock on the dawn high tides without much luck. As the tide ran out towards lunch time, I found more and more fish. But they were generally small dart, stripey and moses perch and the odd whiting. During these middle of the day low tides I had to drop down to a 1/8thounce, size 2 hook jighead, 8lb fluorocarbon leader and GULP 3” Minnow soft plastics to entice the fish into action. Typically each session would produce a couple of good size dart and I kept a few for dinner.

Dart is really about the only fish I enjoy eating raw. It needs to be bled soon after capture, filleted and refrigerated and then left for about 12 hours.Then comes the tricky bit – take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature, before you eat it. The flesh is firm and perfect with a little chilli soy or fish sauce and lime.

Incidentally, the more I catch fish the less I eat it in restaurants. When you know the texture, feel and taste of really fresh fish, it is very hard to eat something that has been sitting around, even a few days. I encourage everybody to catch some bream, whiting or flathead during the holidays, fillet them and eat them. Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle to take the fish home and clean it up, and sometimes it hardly seems worth it – but you will definitely taste the difference. It is also often the smaller fish like dart and whiting, that taste the sweetest.

In desperation I even tried a tiny popper at Flat Rock – hoping to tempt some larger whiting. Instead, this just caught another small dart. A constant stream of small fish still made the fishing fun and as usual the scenery and sunrises were spectacular.

Bribie – The old oyster jetty flats – 31 October 2014

Friday

On Friday I was back on home turf and had a few hours clear in the morning. I set the alarm for 4.00 am and drove up to Bribie to see what I could find. I passed through a few showers on the way up from Brisbane, but by the time I waded out under the bridge, at about 5.00 am, the rain had stopped.  The tide would be running out and would be low at 8.20 am. There was not much of a sunrise but the sky was getting lighter, as I waded south towards the old oyster jetty. I was fishing with my light spin rig – Loomis TSR rod, Shimano Stella 2500 reel, 10lb braid and 10lb fluorocarbon leader.

I started by fishing with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. This is always what I start with when I am not sure what to start with. It’s a consistent performer and looks just like a small pilchard or mullet.  I was using a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0  hook jighead. At about 6.15 am, I was 30 metres to the south of the jetty, I felt the tug of a flathead, dropped the rod tip and paused. I lifted and hooked it. It was a decent fish just over 50cm, I photographed and released it.

The clouds thickened and I got a light soaking. I waded further south. The bites were few and far between. I swapped to a GULP Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken colour and this produced a bite on the first cast. I threw it back in the same direction and paused for a little longer. This time I hooked it. It was a small flounder. I have never really found one big enough to eat here, but I live in hope.

By about 7.00 am I had reached a point about half way to the green channel marker. I was hopping the jerkshad along the bottom towards me. Just as it reached me a flathead popped up and engulfed it. It turned as it tried to swallow and hooked itself. It was a very solid fish, so I let it take some line and started slowly wading back to the sand bank, behind me. It pulled hard but after a few determined runs it gave up and came with me. It was a great flathead probably just under 70 cm. I took a few pictures and released it.

I returned to about the same spot and swapped to a GULP Jerkshad in the Orange Tiger colour. After a few more cast, this lure caught another 45cm flathead and, a few casts later, a slightly smaller one. It was now about 7.30 am so I waded back towards the bridge. I caught two more very small flathead on the way.

By 8.00 am  with more rain threatening and a slowing tide, I gave up.

Iluka – Middle Bluff – 29 September 2104

Sunday – Morning

It was another mild morning in Iluka. A light northerly wind was doing its best to flatten the sea. I decided to fish Middle Bluff again and see if I could find a legal sized mulloway (jewfish).

At this point I will say my piece about the raising of the jewfish size limit in NSW. I have read a bit about the surveys that were done to determine whether or not the existing limit of 45 cm, was adequate to protect the species. They were very small surveys that relied on a lot of subjective judgments by local fisherman and fisheries officers, but it would have been financially impossible for them to be developed any other way. After putting together these surveys, NSW fisheries concluded that fish at 45cm were not having a chance to reproduce before being caught, so they have raised the legal size to 70 cm and set a bag limit of two. Commercial fishermen also have to obey by the new rules, although they are allowed to keep some smaller fish, under by catch rules. If I have got any of this factually wrong, please comment and correct me.

If we want sustainable fish stocks we need to carry out credible scientific research. Our duplicated state fisheries departments do not need any more boats, trailers, life jackets, uniforms or rulebooks. They need scientists and scientific rigour in their research processes. The science used to support this decision may be proved right but I would have liked to see much more comprehensive studies. We now have the ridiculous situation where on one side of the Tweed River the Mulloway size limit is 70cm and on the other, it is 75cm.

It was another spectacular sunrise at Middle Bluff. I decided to fish with the light rig from the beginning and stick to the soft plastics. I was using 16lb fluorocarbon leader and a ¼ ounce, size 1/0 hook Nitro jighead. I loaded up with a GULP 4” Minnow in the new Green Camo colour.

The sun came over the horizon at about 5.30am and by 5.45am, I had my first fish. It was another mulloway/ jewfish, but it would not be dinner because it was only about 45cm long. I unhooked it in a rock pool and took a few pictures, then speared it back down in to the wash. It had grabbed the plastic very close to the rocks again.

I put in plenty of casts but could not get another. I swapped down to a lighter 10lb fluorocarbon leader and put on a GULP 2” Shrimp, also in the Green Camo colour. I moved a little further north along the rocks and cast down into the wash. I let the soft plastic waft around, but I left it too long and got snagged. I re-rigged and put it back in the same spot. After a couple of casts I felt a solid hit and the rod bent over. Fortunately, the swell was light and I was able to get down quite close to the water. I let the fish take some line then tightened the drag a little and lifted it up, onto the rocks with the help of a wave. It was a very solid 37cm bream. So I would have something for dinner.

 

 

I fished on for another hour but the wind picked up and the tide started in, making fishing a bit hard. At about 9.00 am, I cleaned up the bream and walked back along the beach to the car.

Sunday Afternoon

On Sunday afternoon I decided to wade out on the stretch of the Clarence River – just in front of the Anchorage Holiday Park. There are sand banks and weed beds and it looks like an ideal flathead spot. I started just before 5.00 pm. The tide was running out and I waded across the sandy and muddy bottom until I came to the weed banks that fringe the deeper main river channel. As I was exploring, I started by fishing with a soft plastic that I am very confident using – the GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I was fishing with my estuary light spin rod, 10lb fluorocarbon leader and 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead.

It did not take long to find the fish. I caught a couple of small flathead first and then a legal one (40cm), that was sitting in a sandy hollow. I waded up river and decided to switch to a DUO Realis Shad 59 MR hard bodied lure. This is a medium diving lure and the flathead and bream love it. As the sun set, I caught a couple more small flathead on this lure.

I had fished at dawn and dusk and caught fish at both sessions – and had a nice bream for dinner – living the dream!

Bribie Island – The old oyster jetty flats – 4 September 2014

Thursday

By Thursday I had time for a morning fishing session. I have been hoping to get down to Fingal Head or Iluka to chase some bream, tailor and mulloway. But I just cannot seem to carve out the time at present, so it was back up to Bribie.

It was another mid-morning low tide at 10.20 am. The moon was about 60% full. Strong southerlies had been blowing for a few days but these were forecast to drop off by lunchtime. It was a bright, sunny morning, when I arrived at about 8.00 am.

I did not really have time for exploring so I waded straight out under the bridge on the mainland side. The tide was already a fair way out and I could see plenty of fresh flathead lies in the sandy area, under the bridge lights. They were not big fish but there were plenty of them. There were also plenty of track marks from cast nets. There must be some prawns or squid around.

The water was very cool but clear. I headed straight for the sandy depressions just north of the old oyster jetty. This area is not as peaceful as it used to be. The new hotel is going up fast just behind the jetty and cement trucks are constantly coming and going.

I decided to start with a small hard body for a change. I selected the DUO Realis Shad MR62. A small diving minnow. After a few casts, something grabbed it, but after a few violent headshakes, it was off. On the next cast I found another fish and this time it stayed connected. It was about 45cm so it went in the keeper bag.

I was feeling confident. I stuck with the hard bodied lure for about another 15 minutes but I could not find any more. I changed to a GULP Jerkshad and then a GULP Shrimp soft plastic, but neither of these got a bite. It was turning into another fairly tough session.

After about an hour, I was using the GULP 3“ Minnow in the Smelt colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I was fishing with about a metre of 10lb fluorocarbon leader tied on to a 10lb braid. I was now about halfway between the old oyster jetty and the green channel marker. I found a few sandy patches amongst the weed and hooked another flathead. This one was a more significant fish at about 55cm – another one for dinner. It was a confidence boost but I had to wait another 30 minutes to find another fish and this time it was just undersize, at about 38 cm.

At about 11.30 am the dolphins came in close and chased a bit of bait around. I had also seen some quite significant squid through the morning. It’s good to see a plentiful food source in the area.But the tide had turned and not much was happening so I made my way back to the bridge.

Just after noon I reached the bridge and stopped to cast around the pylons. This paid off and I caught another small flathead on the 3” Smelt Minnow. It was just under 40cm so I released it. That was it for the day.

Bribie Island – the old oyster jetty flats – 20 June 2014

Friday

Sorry readers but I need to post one more very old report for the sake of the historical record. In a thousand years, when the new inhabitants of our planet decipher this blog from a fossilized hard drive, they will be truly perplexed. Imagine the discussion: ‘Yes it appears they wandered around in shark infested waters in long rubber trousers and then used brightly coloured plastic fish to try to catch more fish…….. and when they did finally catch them, they usually let them go!’

So cast you mind back to late June and a cold snap. The flathead fishing had been good but was gradually slowing. The temperature had been down to 9 Celsius overnight and the water was very cold. A light, cold, south westerly wind was forecast. The moon was 50% full and waning. There had been some very light showers overnight and after sun up, the sky was grey and cloudy.

I waded out under the Bribie Bridge at about 6.00 am. Low tide would be at about 9.00 am, so there was still plenty of water covering my favourite target areas. The first taker was a 40 cm flathead, lurking under the lights to the north of the bridge. It swallowed a GULP Pearl Watermelon Jerkshad at about 6.20 am. I was fishing with a 1/8th ounce, 1/0 jighead and using 10 lb fluorocarbon leader. I let the fish go and moved on.

The sky looked ominous. I moved south towards the old oyster jetty. It took about an hour to find the next fish. 45 cm long, it was sitting on a sandy patch of bottom, in the middle of the weed beds, just east of the big sand bank and south of the jetty. I then caught three more fish from the same patch of sandy bottom, in quick succession. They were all just over 40 cm long.

I carried on wading south. After no luck for a while I swapped to a Zman Minnowz paddletail soft plastic, in the Opera colour. This one stirred up another flathead, after a few casts. It was probably about 35 cm long. I carried on with this plastic for another 20 minutes and kept moving. Then I swapped again, this time to a GULP 3” Minnow in the Sardine colour. Once more the change of offering produced a fish – but again it was under the 40cm legal size limit.

As low tide approached I had to give up for the day. Despite the cold water and wind, there were still a few fish around.

Bribie Island – the old oyster jetty flats – 18 June 2014

Wednesday

Here is a very old report that I forgot to post. I am ashamed to say that I did not wet a line in July. It was not just because I was afraid of freezing my nuts off.  The requirement to find some money briefly diverted me from my true purpose. I was out again yesterday, at Bribie and things were very tough and cold. I will post that report later.

So here is a report for 18th of June. I arrived early – about 5.30 am and there had been some very could south westerlies in the preceding days. The forecast was for a 15 knot south-westerly, first thing, but the wind was actually much lighter.

I ran into Dave, a keen local fisherman who works for fisheries. He told me about the fisheries Keen Angler programme – you can find out more at http://www.daff.qld.gov.au/fisheries/monitoring-our-fisheries/recreational-fisheries/get-involved-in-fisheries-monitoring/keen-angler-program. The program website has links to research updates and species population structures, which are quite interesting.

It was a bright clear morning. The water was fairly clear but the big night time high tide had lifted the weed. I waded past a dead flathead carcass in the shallows. Perhaps it was a fish that had not survived a release. The pelicans, kites, cormorants and wobbegongs usually tidy these up pretty quickly. There were a couple of Pelicans cruising the flats and it looked like they were chasing the tiny squid that I keep coming across.

 

Low tide was at 7.37 am. In theory it should have been perfect session. I could access all the fish holding areas at the bottom of the tide and the wind was not strong enough to make things difficult. But, in practice it was pretty tough.

After cycling through a few bigger soft plastic jerkshads I swapped down to a 2” GULP Shrimp (floating) in the grey colour. I understand these new floating GULPS are designed for targeting Bream in the upper water column – but that only works if you put them on zero weight jigheads, which I have always found impossible to cast. I picked them up because I could not find any in my favorite Peppered Prawn colour. The floating ones are made of a different material (to make them more buoyant) and they do not look as appealing.

But Flathead will eat anything and about 30 metres south of the end of the old oyster jetty, I caught a 43cm model. I gradually waded all the way along the big sand bar to the green channel marker and after swapping back to a GULP Pearl Watermelon coloured jerkshad, I found a slightly smaller flathead. I turned back and about half way between the jetty and the marker I caught another, similar sized Flathead on the same soft plastic.

As I waded back to the car the dolphin family arrived and started hurling themselves around under the bridge.  Beautiful day, fantastic scenery but the fish were hard to find.