Brunswick River – Brunswick Heads – 28 May/ 1 June 2021

The 28th of May was a beautiful morning with a cool north-westerly wind blowing. The water in the Brunswick River was crystal clear. But the big bait schools that had been in the lower reaches of the river had moved on. I cast around with lots of different soft plastics on my light spinning rig, loaded with 10lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader, but I did not get a bite.

Good conditions – Brunswick River

When I can’t catch a flathead in a spot where I usually have, my constant question with is – Are they still there but not eating or have they moved on? I think my current conclusion is that they move up and down the river systems with the moon cycle and therefore the stronger current flow, on the bigger tides. Sometimes this process is interrupted by excessive amounts of food in a particular area or spawning and they stay in the same spot for almost the whole lunar cycle. The advantage with flathead is that even if you are not catching them you can usually see where they have recently been from their ‘lies’. These are the marks they leave in the sandy bottom.

On the 1st of June I fished on the south side of the river, upstream of the caravan park and Mangrove Island. I was in my waders – even though the water is still fairly warm. I started in the area where the river narrows and turns to the south. This is where the seagrass beds start to appear and it looks like very good flathead territory. I came across a few big flathead lies so felt fairly confident that the fish had moved up stream.

I started at about 11.30 am and fished through the second half of the run out tide. I cast a few soft plastics from the shallows and caught three flathead of which two would have been legal to keep. I released them all. Unfortunately the stretch of river further up from here is pretty hard to access so I may have problems testing my flathead movement theories. I finished fishing just after 1.30 pm.

Lockdown at South Golden Beach – April 2020

I returned to South Golden Beach at the beginning of April. I realised how fortunate we were to be located in this small town, close to Byron Bay, on the Northern New South Wales coast. Our beaches were not closed, our fishing was not curtailed and social distancing was very simple. The outlook for any kind of paid work looked pretty grim, but there would be plenty of fishing time.

I spent most of April extracting myself from my contracts in Asia and ‘furloughing’ everyone who works with me. Realistically, none of us could work until I could leave Australia and visit our various projects again. And that prospect looked a long way off. Unlike here in the ‘lucky country’ none of my team would receive any welfare assistance, so it was a pretty depressing process.

In between times I had a few fishing sessions in the Brunswick River. For once the river was very quiet. The caravan parks had emptied out and no one was allowed to leave home except for essential activities. Fishing was allowed under the exercise category – which was a relief. I caught flathead under the highway bridge and down by the river mouth, at Christmas Beach. I fished GULP soft plastic minnows and shrimps, using light leaders (10lb fluorocarbon) and light jigheads (no heavier than 1/8th of an ounce). Only about one in five of the flathead was over the legal size limit in New South Wales, which is 38cm. I caught about twenty over three sessions.

I also fished the beach gutters, when the weather was calm enough. I caught a few flathead this way, but not many bream. The northerly winds gradually change over to southerlies and the air temperature dropped. One cool morning I noticed a few abandoned chopper tailor heads on the beach in front of the New Brighton.

Brunswick River, Lennox Head Beach & Flat Rock – August 2019

In August the weather had warmed up a little but the water had finally cooled down. I tried a few different fishing methods in the Brunswick River, where the bream can be easy to find but hard to catch. I started with small soft plastics, which would mostly just catch small flathead. In the end I worked out that throwing in some burley (small bread cubes) seemed to get the fish in the mood. Once a decent crowd of fish had assembled I would pull a jighead with some bread on it, along the bottom. This method caught a few fish. So I refined it and started floating an unweighted size 6 hook with a small dough cube down towards the fish. This worked better but, overall it was hard work and most of my catch was barely big enough to keep.

Brunswick River bream like bread
Clearwater and plenty of food makes the bream hard to catch
The Brunswick River

I was only fishing the river when the swell made fishing the beaches or rocks to tricky. Whenever I found a good gutter on the beach between the northwall of the Brunswick River and South Golden Beach, I would go down at dusk and try flicking soft plastic lures around. I found a few little flathead using this method (but not many keepers) and no tailor.

On a couple of calmer mornings, I fished the beach at Lennox Head. There is plenty of structure here and if the swell permits, it is great to fish the gaps in the rocks for flathead and bream. Over a few days I caught trevally, bream and flathead, all on soft plastic minnows. The back half of the run out tide was the most productive time to fish.

Lennox Head mixed bag

I also took advantage of the lighter swell to have a fish at Flat Rock, just north of the Richmond River mouth, near Ballina, in August. This is a great fishing platform but it requires wind, tide and swell to be friendly – to deliver the fish. I started off fishing the eastern side on a falling tide and caught a beautiful elegant wrasse on a soft plastic. A little later, as the tide turned to run in I caught a few bream on the same lures.

I then moved round to the southern side, where I have seen fishermen catch some very good tailor and jewfish. I was using my Daiwa Crossfire Surf 1062 rod matched with a Shimano Stella 4000 reel. I wrigged them with 20lb braid and a 16lb fluorocrabon leader. This rod is just big enough to throw a 40 gram slug and so I tied one on and threw one out over the reef ledge into the surf. After a few casts I hooked a fish which I though was a very solid tailor. It pulled really hard. When i finally go a look I was very surprised to see it was a small kingfish about 45cm long. I released it and carried on casting but did not get another.

I rounded out the month with a trip across the river on the ferry to South Ballina. I fished my lighter spinning rig along the south rockwall and caught a few flathead and bream. The end of the wall always seems to produce good bream and there are usually flathead around, as you move upriver and the water gets shallower.