Evans River – Evans Head – Mid October 2020

There were more big winds and swell in October. Having slowed slightly for the European summer, COVID 19 was continuing its spread around the world and picking up pace, so international travel and any paid work looked a very long way off for me. At least I was not ‘confined to barracks’ like the entire population of Melbourne.

I gave up on the rocks and looked for alternatives. I decided to explore the land based fishing options along the Evans River at Evans Head on the Far North Coast of New South Wales. This is a beautiful estuary. It is wide and shallow very near its mouth, but there are some deep channels, holes and rockbars up river. It can be very busy at holiday times and when the seas are up, so mid-week is the best time to fish it.

I put in three sessions which were mainly aimed at getting to know the terrain. On the first, I fished a couple of coffee rock overhangs on the southern riverbank, about 1 km upstream of the rockwall and river mouth. I used my light spinning combo with 10lb fluorocarbon leader, 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and loaded a GULP 3″ Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I let this flutter down in the fairly strong current. The idea was to hop it down the shallow side of the river bed (in this case the opposite bank) and leave it wobbling on the bottom just under the overhang. This resulted in a snagging a couple of jigheads/ plastics but also in getting a couple of good bites. There was plenty of bait hanging around in the eddies. My first take was a very small bream, followed by a very small flathead. I moved further down towards the mouth and cast into any of the darker/ deeper pools. I felt a few quick bites and eventually hooked a small trevally before giving up at dead low tide, in the early afternoon.

For the second session a few days later, I fished the morning run out tide a little further up the northern bank of the river. Initially, with water waist deep I focused on bouncing a high contrast soft plastic – the GULP 2″ Shrimp in the Nuclear Chicken colour along the edge of the weed banks and in close to a few oyster covered rock clumps. This produced the best fish of the day which was a 42 cm flathead. I released it and kept wading up river. Over the next couple of hours I caught eight more flathead, all between 25 and 35 cm long. They were mainly sitting on the edge of sandbars. As I found a rockier stretch of river bank I also found quite a few small bream.

In my final exploration I walked through some bush to reach a stretch of bank even further up the river. I was fishing the top of the tide and the start of the run out. I battled through the scrub until I found an opening to cast from. The water looked about two to three metres deep close in to the bank and a turtle popped up to have a look at me, as I rigged up. It was going to be a struggle to land anything decent here as the trees and shrubs were hanging all over the bank which itself was about 1.5 metres above the water. There were plenty of small schools of mullet swimming by and lots of smaller bait. I started with a GULP 2″ Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I caught a couple of 25 cm bream and then something pulled the plastic off the hook. I reloaded, this time with my all time favorite – the GULP 4″ Minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I cast out and just as it reached the bank something powerful grabbed it and headed straight under the overhanging bank. With the light rod I could not muscle it out and I loosened the drag to see if it would swim out. After a couple of minutes the line started to drift out in to the channel, so I tightened up again but it was too powerful and went straight back in. I felt the line rubbing on something then it snapped. Probably a cod – maybe a jack? I re-rigged with another of the same soft plastic and after a few casts pulled up a remora – a very strange fish that basically sticks on to turtles, sharks and rays. I photographed and released it.

I moved to another spot a little further along the bank and cast into the eddies. There was plenty of small bait around and this stretch of coffee rock bank had a big school of tiny butter bream sitting next to it. I saw a flash of silver swipe at my plastic and thought it might be a trevally. I slowed things right down and let the plastic sit on the bottom for a while. When I lifted it I hooked a small school jewfish. I pulled it up to my feet. It must have been about 40cm long. I took a photograph and threw it back. I could not find anymore and gave up.

It was a great introduction to the Evans River and I am looking forward to some dawn and dusk sessions.

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Bribie Island – Buckley’s Hole – Stonefish Encounter – 5 May 2011

Thursday

The weather forecast looked windy but not until about 8.00 am, so I set out early to fish on Bribie Island. I crossed over the bridge around 4.30 am and decided to fish around the base of pylons on the island side. I met another keen fisherman there, flicking soft plastics. It’s always nice to know that there is someone just as mad as me out there!

The bridge lights had attracted the prawns, and they had attracted the Pike and a few small chopper Tailor. We cast either side of the bridge for about 45 minutes. I hooked up with a few Pike, but could not find anything bigger. The other fisherman had found a couple of Flathead earlier and then been busted off.

The Pike are back with the cooler weather

At first light I moved down to fish the drop off in front of Buckley’s Hole. The wind was starting to pick up and it had stirred up the water. The tide was running in. I waded south, in about waist deep water and cast around in the area just before the coffee rock forms a ledge at the main channel. I was using the GULP 3” Crazy Legs Grub on a 1/6th 1/0 hook. After ten minutes or so I hooked up with a Flathead that was just under 50cm. I released it and cast back in the same area. I hooked another fish immediately, but then somehow it wriggled off the lure.

50cm Flathead

I moved further south, parallel with the shore. Then disaster struck. I felt a sharp needle under my wader boot and instinctively hopped away. Something had pierced the gumboot sole and gone into the sole of my foot. I thought things through and concluded it was probably a Stonefish. It did not hurt initially but after about ten minutes all that changed and it really went off! I limped back to the car and fortunately for me, the ambulance station was only a few hundred yards away. It was around 6.30 am, so I rang on the bell. A paramedic sat me down and had a look at the puncture mark. She then put my foot in a bowl of hot water. The relief was pretty much instant. Apparently the heat neutralises the toxin. After 15 minutes the pain was far more manageable and I hobbled off to the car and drove home. A few hours later the pain was just a tingle.

I was lucky. I was wearing my Horne waders which have a very thick soled, Blundstone boot. This meant that only one spike actually got to my foot. I was also able to find a qualified paramedic only a few hundred yards away. The paramedic explained that without the boots on it would have been very messy! If you are ever fishing in that area, I would certainly advise protecting your feet with some form of shoe and being very careful where you tread. I will certainly be a little more cautious in future.

Bribie Island – Old Oyster Jetty – Flathead & Cod – 20 Feb 2011

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Sunday

Back in Brisbane and it was time to go looking for some fish in the Pumicestone Passage at Bribie Island. Conditions looked pretty good for Sunday morning so I was wading out in the pre-dawn light, by the old oyster jetty, on the mainland side of the Bribie Bridge at around 4.45 am.

It was just after low tide and there was no real current flow. The water was very murky with plenty of sediment stirred up by the big tides of the full moon (which was the night before). I started with a 1/8th 1 hook jighead and a GULP 3” minnow soft plastic in the lime tiger colour.

There is plenty of debate about the use of bright coloured soft plastics for murky water. I am yet to be convinced that they work better than natural colours, in these conditions. I think darker, natural colours, which create a clear silhouette in the water, probably work better. I am also a convert to using bright colours in extremely clear water, although this is somewhat counter intuitive and has taken a while for me to accept. Today the lime tiger had produced nothing in the first twenty minutes and as this was the bite window around dawn, I switched to a more natural coloured pearl watermelon minnow in the 4” size.
I waded slowly south, parallel with the shoreline casting in between the patches of rocky reef that are exposed on a low, low tide in this area. I got a couple of bites from what felt like Bream, or perhaps Long Toms, but no hook ups. At about 6.00 am the tide started to flow in with a bit more power and the water began to clear slightly.

At a point about 50 metres to the south of the old oyster jetty, I felt a light thud as I jerked the soft plastic off the bottom. I waited and then struck, but there was no fish. I cast back in the same direction and in the same spot, another thud. I dropped the rod tip slowly and then struck and I got the fish. It was a very small Flathead, around 20cm long, but at least I was off the mark.

The tide was really moving now and it was covering the weed beds very quickly. I found a patch of weed in about one metre of water. I cast up current and let the plastic hop across the bottom. As it reached the weed patch – thud. I set the hook and realized this time I had a better sized fish. I walked it back to the shoreline – it was another Flathead – just over 40cm long. With plenty of fish in the fridge I decided to let this one go.

I waded back out to the same area and over the next hour or so caught three more similar sized Flathead and a 40cm Estuary Cod – all on the same 4” pearl water melon coloured soft plastic. The water had been quite clear for a while at the beginning of the run in tide but now it was full of stirred up sediment again. By 8.45 am it was already around 30 ° C so I stopped fishing and headed for the air con.