South Ballina Rockwall – Early August 2020

I fished off the South Ballina rockwall for the first few days of August, in the run up to the full moon on the 4th. It had been consistently cold at the end of July but the weather warmed up for a few days and the wind and swell kept changing. Each morning, I arrived just after firstlight and was fishing before sunrise. The resident ospreys were always in position, above the gutter on the ocean side of the rockwall.

One morning I was taken for a ride by a couple of big fish that I could not stop. I presume they were jewfish/mulloway. I was fishing a 5″ Powerbait Nemesis paddletail soft plastic in the ‘bleak’ colour, on a 3/8th ounce jighead (see pic) on the first occasion and a 4″ GULP Minnow in the ‘smelt’ colour on a 1/4 ounce jighead, on the second occasion. They both headed out to sea around the end of the wall and rubbed through my 30lb leader.

I caught plenty of bream in the first few mornings of the month but they slowed down a little on the day of the full moon. The were nearly all decent sized, with most measuring over 35cm. I filleted a bagful for our weekly fish pie.

The tailor were completely absent. We had some rain and then a north westerly wind for a few days. This flattened the sea and perhaps it pushed the bait away for a while. The surprise catch was an Australian salmon, on a 5″ GULP Jerkshad soft plastic in the ‘lime tiger’ colour rigged on a 1/4 ounce jighead. It was part of a huge school that floated around the rivermouth for an hour or so. I tried everything in the lure box to get another one, without success.

NB – Landangler is now also on instagram, so please follow me if you use that platform https://www.instagram.com/landangler/ . I am afraid attempting to create more video and a You Tube channel would most likely result in falling over even more often, so it’s off the agenda for now.

Ballina – North and South rock walls – July 2020

As we moved from June into early July, the COVID 19 virus restrictions eased up a bit and, if you were not getting married, buried or going to an all-night dance party, life pretty much returned to normal. Victorians continued to face restrictions and the Queensland border remained closed to visitors from outside the state, but in the little town of South Golden Beach the organic chai turmeric lattes and kale smoothies still flowed.

For most of the month the swell stayed strong (often well over 2m) and the wind was predominantly from the south-east, south west and west. Early in the month, in the run up to the full moon we had a few days of very calm conditions, but these were exceptional. The sea temperatures continued to drop and at the end of the month an offshore east coast low passed and dumped a lot of rain into the Richmond and Brunswick river catchments.

I did some of my best bream fishing in the run up to the full moon on the 5th, but I caught plenty of them all through the month. I caught a lot of fish over 35cm on small GULP soft plastic minnows/ shrimps. The Watermelon Pearl or Smelt colours seemed to work best on the minnows and the Peppered Prawn for the shrimp pattern. I loaded them on a 1/6th or ¼ ounce jighead and stuck with a light leader (12lb to 16lb fluorocarbon).

On the calmest day of the month I fished at Flat Rock, south of Lennox Head. I was generally casting off the south side of the rock platform. As long as I could get my soft plastic beyond the fringing reef, I caught good sized bream on almost every cast. I also caught a very small school jewfish (about 45 cm) in this spot and was sawn off a couple of times on the reef.

When it wasn’t calm enough to fish the rocks (which was most of the month) I focused on the Richmond River mouth, fishing both the south and the north walls. In the first half of the month the birds and dolphins were constantly smashing into the ever-present bait schools. At the mouth, the most vigorous feeding seemed to take place as the tide turned to run in and the salt water started to push back up the river. As long as the bait was there so were the tailor and I caught a few but none over about 40 cm. I also caught a few small trevally and even a Luderick during a couple of north wall sessions.

Plenty of bait usually means plenty of tailor

But late in the month the passing east coast low and the wild weather that followed seemed to wash out the bait and the tailor with them.  By the end of the month the river was a brown soup during the runout tide. This was perfect for the jewfish/ mulloway fisherman and they were all in position most mornings and evenings around the new moon on the 21st and again for the last days of the month.

I did catch a couple of school jewfish  – one at the beginning of the month which was just under legal size and so I returned it to the water and one in the dirty water later in the month, that was just on 80cm. I kept that one for dinner. In between I hooked and got a look at several more that either buried their noses in the rocks or bent my jigheads and freed themselves. I caught both of the jewfish I landed on GULP 4 inch minnows in the Smelt colour. I am still not patient enough to persist with the heavy gear for hours and wait for a big jew bite.

The swell had really limited the rock and offshore fishing in July but the fish were definitely there. August should be good.

Bribie & Mackay – November 2016

November

I had four sessions at Bribie in November 2016. As the weather warmed up and the northerlies picked up, the fishing was not easy but in most of these sessions I found three or four keeper sized flathead. There were plenty of other species around including  grinners, long toms, pike, moses perch and whiting.

I also had a quick fish at Mackay where I saw a few queenfish jumping in the river, got bitten off on the rockwall and eventually managed to catch a few cod in the river.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 7 December 2015

Monday

I had time for a quick fishing session on the flats at Bribie Island. School holidays had not really started so I was still hopeful that I would find dinner. I wanted to fish the run out tide. Low tide would be at 12.40 pm. It had been fairly windy with strong northerlies blowing for the few previous days. Today a strong south-easterly was forecast and it was blowing at about 20 knots from that direction, when I arrived at the Bribie Island Bridge.

I parked on the mainland side and walked out under the bridge.  The new café is now open at the old oyster jetty so there is now plenty of space to observe the fishing opportunities in this area. I don’t think there will be a sudden flood of anglers, as the mud and oyster covered rocks will put all but the diehard flathead hunters off.

I was fishing with my light rod and reel spinning combination. I have swapped back to the NS Blackhole 6′ SGII 602L trout rod. This rod picks up even the slightest of bites and although it does not have any grunt it can handle a good sized flathead. I was using the 2500 size Shimano Stella reel with it. I think the braid on the reel is about 8lb breaking strain Sunline Super PE in the bright green colour. I was using about 1.5m of 10lb fluorocarbon leader.

I started fishing with a large GULP Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. After twenty minutes, I had passed the jetty with no bites, so I swapped down to GULP 4” Minnow in the green camo colour. Perhaps I had just found the fish or the change of lure and the fresh scent it contained, woke the fish up, but I almost immediately got a bite. I thought I had the fish hooked but after a couple of runs it was gone. I cast back at the same spot and slowed things down. On about my sixth repeat cast the fish grabbed the soft plastic again. I paused and dropped the rod tip for a few seconds. It took off again and I was sure it was hooked but unfortunately it wriggled off again.

I waded slowly south. Just before I reached the green channel marker, I saw a couple of big squid hovering in the shallows. I cast my plastic at them and managed to hook one through the wing. I slowly pulled it in, relieved that I would at least bring home something for supper.

The tide slowed and then started to run in. The wind made things very tough but I just could not find the fish. I swapped through lots of different shaped and coloured soft plastics but did not stir up any interest.

Finally at about 1.50 pm, with the tide running in and the water very stirred up, I felt an obvious bite. I was now fishing with the GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour (probably my all-time favourite flathead soft plastic). This time the jighead pulled home and I reeled the fish in. It was only a 30cm flathead – but at least it was a fish! I photographed it and let it go.

I waded slowly back across the exposed flats. There were soldier crabs everywhere so there is plenty of food for the fish here. I did not see any flathead lies so maybe the persistent northerly winds have blown them off to another spot for a while. The northerlies seem to have flattened out the terrain quite a bit in the last few months. At about 2.30 pm I gave up for the afternoon.

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.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 4 June 2014

Wednesday

After a pleasant but not very successful session at Whitepatch Beach on Bribie Island, it was time to head back to my favourite spot, on the mainland side of the Pumicestone Passage, beside the old oyster jetty, just south of the Bribie Bridge.

Low tide would be at 7.37 am and the fishing has consistently been good in the last few hours of the run out tide, in this area. First light is at about 6.00 am, at the moment and I drove up to Bribie so that I would be in position at about 5.30 am. We were about a week into a new moon.

I put my waders on. I have seen a few people trying to brave this area without them, lately. I would not recommend wading around this area without a pair of waders. The crabs often try to nip your heels as you walk past and I have kicked plenty of stonefish. I have stepped on rays and been stalked by a few big wobbegongs and the whole area is littered with oyster covered clumps of rock and debris. To round things off, the water is now cold, so you will get fed up pretty quickly if you are soaked.

It was still dark so I started fishing under the bridge lights with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic, in the Curried Chicken colour.  I had a couple of tugs and follows from the pike, that where circling under the lights and then a grab from a flathead. It suddenly appeared, almost on the surface behind the soft plastic. It snapped at the lure, but perhaps it felt some resistance or saw me standing a few feet away, either way, it turned and disappeared with a tail splash.

I moved towards the jetty following the line where the seagrass gives way to sandy bottom. The sky had turned bright red and it would be a fantastic sunrise. I felt a solid bite and dropped the rod tip for a few moments. Then I lifted it and felt a wriggle and a head shake and knew I had another flathead. It was about 45cm and the first keeper of the day. I caught another fish, a couple of casts later, in about the same place. I noticed a few small squid in the shallows but not much other bait.

I moved to the south of jetty and swapped to the small, hard bodied DUO Realis Shad 62. It was light now and the water was fairly clear. From about the third cast, this little hard body started catching fish. From 6.45 am through to about 8.00 am, it caught a steady stream, probably about 10 to 12 flathead in total, of which more than half would have been big enough to keep.

 

 

At around 8.00 am, the water was calm and shallow all around and it was a very bright and clear morning. The trebles on the Realis Shad were now all bent out of shape so I took it out of service and tied on a MARIA MJ Twitch 90 mm suspending hard bodied bibbed minnow and cast it out.  This is a big lure to throw at flathead but when they are around they seem happy to go after it. I varied the retrieve until I felt I was slowly moving the lure along, just above the bottom, with plenty of pauses. I felt a few aborted strikes and then there was a solid whack. The line started slowly peeling as the fish swam away with the lure, then it took off, as the treble hooks set. The first run was long and powerful, but fairly slow. I thought it might be a ray. Then it started shaking its head and I realised it was a flathead. There are only a few rocks in this area but there is small group that have sprouted tall seaweed clumps.  I soon realised the fish had the line wrapped around one of these. Fortunately the tide was still a low and I waded out to it and freed the line. I gradually tired the fish out and pulled it up into the shallows.

Unfortunately, in the prolonged fight, or perhaps in its initial hard strike, it had got the big hard bodied lure stuck a long way down its throat. I later measured it at 68cm – normally I would release a fish of this size but with the lure lodged where it was, I did not think it would survive the process of removal, so I decided to keep it. I would rather eat it, than let a shark have it!

I decided to give up at about 8.30 am and as I wandered back to the car, there where flathead lies everywhere. It seems the fish are back, in large numbers.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats and the Seaside Museum drain – 2 April 2014

Wednesday

Wednesday was an almost exact re-run of Tuesday, – except I arrived slightly earlier in the run out tide. It was another bright, sunny day with a light northerly wind. The water is still fairly murky on the bottom of the tide.

I waded around the area to the south of the old oyster jetty and caught fish on the Powerbait Rippleshad in a black and gold sparkle colour, the GULP Jerkshad in Pink Shine, The GULP 2″ Shrimp in the Natural colour and the GULP 3″ Minnow in the Smelt colour. I fished everything on a 1/8th ounce, 1/0 jighead on 12lb fluorocarbon leader. I fished for about three hours and caught eight fish (all flathead), of which only two were over 40cm long.

At about 4.00 I waded back to the car and drove over the bridge to Bongaree to look at the creek drain in front of the Seaside Museum again. I fished along the drop off for an hour, gradually working my way to the south. I caught nothing.

Fishing in the middle of the day, northerly winds and not much bait around may all have been reasons for not finding many keepers. I released  all the fish, as the family will shoot me if I put another flathead on the table.

 

Bribie – the oyster jetty flats – 10 March 2013

Monday

I managed to stay away for Sunday, but by Monday the fish were calling again. It’s very hard to resist going back when you have had some great sessions. Fish don’t generally school up in one spot forever, so having found the Flathead, on the flats opposite Bribie Island – I wanted to make the most of it.

The productive spots I have been fishing can only be reached during the lower half of the tide.  This meant I had the luxury of starting fishing a bit later than usual. The wind was going to be a solid 10-15 knot south-easterly, and low tide would 0.9 m at 11.21 am, at Bongaree. I arrived on the mainland side of the Bribie Island Bridge at about 9.15 am.

I waded out to the old oyster jetty. The wind was blowing hard and it was quite cloudy. The area just to the south of the jetty is sheltered from the full thrust of the wind so this was where I started. To locate the fish, I decided to prospect with a GULP Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken colour. I upped my leader to about a 1.5m length of 12lb fluorocarbon.  The 10lb leader is usually adequate, but I had had such a good catch rate in recent sessions that It was getting worn too quickly.

Once again I soon found the fish. I caught the first flathead at 9.24 am – it was about 50 cm and then another, about the same size, a few minutes later. The wind was creating quite a chop now and it was still a little too deep to reach the ideal target area – along the edge of the weed beds. I waded a little further south to the mouth of the drain that runs off the flats, in front of Sandstone Point.

When I first started fishing about 12 years ago, I went out with a guide on the Noosa River. This was the first time I had used lures.  One of the lures we used was the RIO Prawn. This lure is a very lifelike resin imitation of the typical Noosa river system prawn. It is Australian made, near Noosa. The guide positioned us over some likely looking hollows and weed beds and cast the lure out, into one of the sandy bottomed areas. He let it sink, raised it up in a long fluid movement then let it sink back down, to the sand. He counted to ten then repeated the process. He did this perhaps three times before the lure pulled up a flathead. I then had a go and managed to catch one, as well. I, like the fish was hooked!

I have caught plenty of fish on RIO lures since, but I rarely use them at Bribie – because of the weedy and rocky bottom. Today I decided I would give them an outing. I chose the 13 gram size RIO Prawn in the red colour. The water was clear and I could see the sandy patches. I repeated the process that I had been taught all those years ago and after a few tries, I was on to a fish. The first was a small Flathead about 45cm. On the next cast I caught another and on the third, I hooked up to another. The RIO Prawn caught about five more flathead over the next 30 minutes. Then I lost it to a 60cm + fish. The leader must have been damaged in some of the previous fights and it snapped just as I was walking the fish to shore.

Next I went down in size to the small DUO Tetraworks Bivi – a sinking bibless vibe lure, in a black /rainbow colour. This small vibe is always good for Flathead. It casts a long way and quickly falls into a tight action. The only problem with these smaller vibes is stopping the fish from swallowing them. This one also produced on its first cast. The fish were clearly not fussy today. I swapped again, this time to the DUO Koikakko tiny squid imitation. Once again this tiny lure caught the biggest fish of the day – a 63 cm flathead.

As we reached the bottom of the tide I pulled out another Charles Talmans soft plastics, which I called a ‘prong’. It is a split tail in a clear/ white colour. It is quite a chunky plastic so I put it on a 1/8th ounce 2/0 jighead and cast it out. After a few casts the fish found it and it pulled in another three or four fish to end the session. If you want to know more about Charles’ plastics drop him an email on ctalman@hotmail.com.

With the wind howling at noon, I walked back to the car. Another great session fishing the flats at Bribie.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 8 March 2014

Saturday

After an extraordinary session on Friday, I had to get back up to Bribie again to fish the low tide. Fortunately, I could squeeze in a session on Saturday morning. The wind was forecast to be pretty lively again, with a couple of tropical cyclones hovering off the coast, up north. Low tide would be at 8.40 am. The moon was a week away from full.

I arrived just after first light at about 5.30 am. I ran into Matt, another keen fisho who had had the same idea. We walked out towards the old oyster jetty and swapped a few fishing stories. He headed south along the sandbank towards the channel marker and I settled on a spot just to the south of the jetty.

It took a while to find the fish. The sun came over the horizon and the wind started to pick up. The tide was running out quickly. I started by fishing with a GULP Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken on a 1/8th 2/0 jighead. I was using my G.Loomis TJR fast action, light spin rod and a 15lb Super PE braid and 10lb fluorocarbon leader. At about 6.20 am I dropped a small flathead, but on the next cast, I felt the bite and paused. When I lifted, the fish was attached.

Now I had found the fish and I caught a fish on almost every cast for the next 30 minutes.  A hot bite is a great time to experiment. A gent named Charles Talman from Mount Gambier in South Australia makes his own soft plastics and recently was kind enough to send me some to try out. There were plenty of prawns jumping so I decided to start by rigging up one of his 4” Shrimp soft plastics. These plastics do not quite have the finesse of the major brands, but as you will see from the pictures, they are cleverly designed and have good actions and texture – both essential characteristics. I rigged the first one on a 1/8th ounce, 2/0 jighead and cast it out. I knew the fish were here but I wasn’t sure they would go for it. There was no need to worry – half way into the retrieve a fish hit it. I dropped the rod tip and paused. About five seconds later, I struck and I pulled up a flathead, about 45cm long. A few casts later, I caught another. Over the next hour, they kept coming. I cycled through a couple more of Charles’ lures and then put in a GULP 4” Shrimp in the Natural colour. There was no difference in the catch rate between the two types of shrimp soft plastic.

I now decided to try the DUO Tetraworks Koikakko tiny hard bodied squid imitations. These are made with the usual DUO care and attention to detail. They can be used in deep water as a jig or hopped across the bottom like a traditional sinking hard body. They are only 34mm long and weigh 4.6g. They are ideal to cast across the flats in crystal clear water, on light leaders and will tempt almost any species.  I knew there had been a lot of small squid around this area so I thought they would be perfect. My only concern was that perhaps they would be too small for the flathead to notice. I checked my knots and decided to slow everything down and increase the pauses on the bottom.

Success was not immediate, but after about 15 minutes I saw a flathead come up behind the lure and then turn away at the last minute. I cast back in the same spot and left the lure on the bottom for about 20 seconds. On the second hop, I felt the violent thud of a flathead mouth crunch down on my lure. The fish took the lure and slowly swam away with it. It took a while for it to register that this was not an ordinary squid and when I lifted the rod tip to ensure the tiny treble was lodged, it took off.

It was obviously bigger than the small flathead that had swiped at the lure on the previous retrieve and it made couple of blistering runs out towards open water. You cannot muscle a fish with the fast and flexible G.Loomis TJR rod. It absorbs the lunges beautifully but you have to be patient and let the reel’s drag do the rest. I have traded up the single tiny treble hook on the DUO Tetraworks Koikakko for a slightly tougher Gamakatsu version. I waded back to the shoreline with the fish. It was tired now, but as we reached the shallows, it continued to try and turn and then shake its head. I pulled it across the weed in the shallows and on to the sandbank. It was the biggest fish of the day – a 68cm flathead. I released this one and carried on fishing.

The Koikakko lure caught plenty more flathead and its tiny size did not seem to have much bearing on the size of fish it attracted.  By low tide I had five good fish in the keeper bag – all between 50 cm. and 60cm.

By 9.00 am, the wind was howling and making it pretty hard to fish. I decided to finish the session with a couple more of Mr Talman’s soft plastics. I particularly like his small, three legged monster – not sure what it is but the flathead love it. I lost the green version to a fish that wrapped itself around an abandoned crab pot.  Fortunately, there was also a fluorescent gold/creamy coloured one, so I re-rigged with this. The flathead could not resist and I caught about 5 more, all good sized fish, on this soft plastic lure. I finished up with a 5” worm in a green colour. This also delivered and after a few casts it connected with a 50cm flathead.

 

I am not really sure why the fish have suddenly appeared but I hope they hang around for a while. I’ll be back.

Bribie – The old oyster jetty flats – 7 March 2014

Friday

On Friday the wind situation was not promising with a 10-15 knot easterly forecast for mid – morning.  But it has been a long time since I wet a line so I had to go for it and I was very glad that I did.

I have been struggling to wake up recently and I managed to sleep through the 4.00 am alarm. I woke at about 4.45 am and rushed up to Bribie, arriving just after 5.30 am.  It was very cloudy and I passed through a few showers on my way up from Brisbane.  They had cleared by the time I reached the Bribie Bridge. I pulled on my waders and walked out under the bridge towards the old oyster jetty. There was plenty of light but the sun had not yet come over the horizon. The wind was much lighter than forecast – as it often is, for the hour either side of first light.

Low tide would be a fairly high low at 0.8 m, at 7.40 am. The moon was about half way to full. I waded out to the south of the old oyster jetty and loaded up the light spin rod with a GULP Jerkshad on a 1/8th ounce, 1/0 jighead. I was using a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. It was now just before 6.00 am.

On the first cast, I felt the lure drag a little and I thought it was stuck in the weed. I yanked the rod tip up to free it and a small angry flathead (about 35cm long) came flying out of the water towards me. It managed to catapult itself off the jighead so I did not have to release it. The next cast produced another bite but no hook up. On the third cast, I paused and connected with a fish, as soon as I lifted the plastic off the bottom. This was a decent sized flathead so I decided to wade with the fish, back to the beach. It turned out to be about 55cm.

At this point I realised I did not have my camera. This was a shame because it turned into an extraordinary session. I was joined by Lee – another keen plastics fisherman. We had a chat and as we were talking and casting, we realised this was going to be one of those fantastic fishing sessions. Almost every cast produced a fish and the majority of those fish were between 45cm and 55cm long.

As the sun rose and the wind picked up the fish carried on biting and even the tide change did not seem to slow them down. I swapped through various Gulp soft plastics – Minnows, Jerkshads and Shrimps, which all caught fish. I put on a Z Man Minnowz with a paddle tail and this caught a few.  Lee was fishing with a Gulp minnow grub in the Banana Prawn colour that was catching a fish on almost every cast.

I decided to experiment with some hard bodies. I started with the DUO Realis Shad 59 MR suspending minnow. This caught a couple of nice flathead but their violent head shakes soon reduced the small trebles to one remaining hook. I took it off and decided to test just how hungry these fish were. I tied on a MARIA MJ Twitch 90mm Suspending hard body. This is a great lure but I would generally consider it a bit of a mouthful for flathead. It has a great action but usually gets clogged in the weed before a fish gets to it. Not today – I cast it into the strike zone and after a couple of twitches, a flathead smashed it. It was a decent fish and the trebles struck home. I waded back to the shore with it and pulled out the trebles. It was about 65cm and one of the best fish of the day.

It was now low tide and the weed was everywhere so I swapped back to soft plastics. Every size and colour caught fish. Lee was equally successful. In three hours, between us we must have caught upwards of 60 flathead. We kept five each and released the rest.

It is difficult to know what fired them up or how long they have been there. There were lots of small squid and prawns around, but no massive bait schools. The terrain of sandy hollows and weed beds is ideal flathead country but I don’t ever remember a session were the fish were so easy to catch. Something must have drawn the fish to this area but it is not immediately obvious what.

At about 9.00 am I decided to take my catch home and Lee also gave up. We are in for some wild weather over the weekend. Let’s hope it does not blow the fish away.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 21 December 2013

Saturday

Saturday morning was clear, but hot and humid. I set off for the Bribie sand flats at about 3.30am and was wading out in the pre-dawn light, just after 4.30 am. Low tide was due at 4.58 am. Then it would be another big run in tide – getting up to 2.3 metres.

Pre-dawn there was virtually no breeze but the wind had been a fairly persistent northerly the day before and was forecast to pick up again later. On the still water, at the bottom of the tide there were clumps of seagrass everywhere. The big tides have been lifting it up and spreading it all around. This always makes the fishing tricky. As soon as your lure lands it starts collecting seagrass.

At 4.45 am, I caught my first flathead of the day on a Gulp Orange Tiger 5” Jerkshad soft plastic. Just to the north of the old oyster jetty on the mainland side of the Pumicestone Passage. It must have been lurking in a sandy depression. I could not find any more in this location, so I waded further south, while I waited for the tide to start running in.

The weed got worse as the tidal flow picked up. I was restricted to casting into patches of weed free water, which meant I could not really put my lures where I wanted them to be.

After an hour of frustrating fishing I thought I was attached to another clump of weed, but suddenly it started wriggling. It was another flathead about 50cm long. It had felt much bigger.  I swapped to a smaller GULP 2” Shrimp soft plastic and after another 30 mins I caught another slightly smaller flathead.

I continued to battle the weed but decided to wade back to the bridge. The tide was running in fast and I disturbed a few small flathead in the shallows. The northerly winds had brought the usual herd of blue jellyfish the stingrays were everywhere.

At about 8.00 am I reached the bridge. I fought the weed for a few more casts and then gave up for the day.

Bedford Weir & Rileys Crossing – Blackwater – 25/6 November 2013

Monday/ Tuesday/ Wednesday

Back out to Blackwater for the last time (for a while). I had the afternoons to myself, so I went exploring along the Mackenzie River. There had been a couple of good rain storms, since I was last out here, which had raised the water levels. It had also made the track alongside the river, to the south of Bedford Weir, too sticky to negotiate on my own. As soon as I hit the muddy ruts, the standard tyres I have, just clogged with mud and started spinning. I did not get stuck but without someone on hand to pull me out – it would have been silly to carry on. The weather had warmed up and the rain had brought the humidity up to very unpleasant levels.

One of my blog followers had recommended I have a go, fishing upstream of the weir, where the Mackenzie river runs alongside Rileys Crossing Road. This is also a dirt road, but it is a real road, not a dirt track, so it is in pretty good shape. I drove along it until I could see some tracks down to the river bank, then turned down one of them. I parked up and climbed down the still fairly steep banks to the water’s edge.

The rising water level had covered the base of many of the trees that line the river. The water was pretty stirred up. There were three dried catfish hanging off a fence post. I am not sure what the correct fishing etiquette is for disposing vs releasing catfish. The locals often seem to throw them up the bank or hang them off a tree branch. I appreciate they compete for food with the stocked fish in the impoundments, but they are a naturally occurring species. There appear to be so many of them that it makes me think killing the ones I catch will hardly make any difference, so I just release them. I would love to hear what others think – should we destroy them or release them?

I think by now you can predict where this post is going. I caught more catfish. I fished from about 5.00 pm through to 6.30 pm. I fished with the GULP Ghost Shrimp soft plastic in the Pink Belly colour, on a 1/12th ounce, 1/0 jighead and 8lb fluorocarbon leader. As the sun dropped the fish came to the surface to swallow various insects and you could see them ‘rising’, in all directions. Occasionally, I would make out the wake of a Saratoga, cruising just below the surface. I would cast the plastic in front of its nose and it would usually turn and come over to have a look, but I still could not illicit a strike. There were catfish sitting under just about every fallen branch or submerged root. I caught about ten – and was beaten by two or three who tangled me up.

The next afternoon I fished the pool below Bedford Weir. The increased turbidity from the rain had definitely turned the catfish on. I started with a 1/8th ounce, Zman Chatterbait in a white/ yellow colour. This is like a mini spinner bait lure. I cast next to the big branch, sticking out of the water in the middle of the main pool, below the weir. As the lure sank, a fish grabbed it. It was a weighty beast and took a while to subdue. As I pulled it to the surface I could see it was , of course, a catfish. I caught another, smaller one on the Chatterbait and then swapped to the other side of the pool. The catfish were so thick I could see their fins breaking the surface. I swapped to a small soft plastic GULP 2.5” Crabbie in the Camo colour in the hope of attracting something else, but this just caught more catfish.

I decided to move downstream to a pool just below the road, which crosses beneath the weir. There was a bad smell on the bank and the flies were buzzing. The source was four big dead catfish lying in the grass. I moved away from the smell and cast out my soft plastic with predictable results – another catfish.

On my final afternoon I drove out to Riley’s Crossing and walked a little way along one of the tracks, up stream. This is another beautiful spot – even if it was stinking hot and humid. The results were exactly the same as the previous two days. I varied my lures, swapping between spinner baits, soft plastics (in various colours) and hard bodies, but I could not find anything other than catfish.

I have had great fun exploring some freshwater fishing in Central Queensland, over the past few months, but now it is time to head home and reacquaint myself with some Moreton Bay flathead.

Rockhampton – Fitzroy River – 29 October 2013

I came across this keen angler a few weeks ago, on the banks of the Fitzroy River. He was fishing with live bait and told me a few good stories about catching monster barramundi and salmon in these waters. He has already caught more metre plus barramundi than I probably ever will. Glad to see that not all the youth of today are glued to facebook and the playstation.

Bedford Weir – Blackwater – The Mackenzie River – 17 October 2013

Thursday

Back to Blackwater – theoretically to do some work but, of course, my true purpose was to have a go at those fussy saratoga, swimming around down-stream of Bedford Weir. I arrived on Wednesday and got the paid work out of the way. On Thursday I had some time in the afternoon.

It was full moon. I had fished the full moon last time I was here and I had found a few good fish. This time I drove down the four wheel drive track, which runs to the east, alongside the Mackenzie River downstream of the weir wall. I followed it almost to the end – about 6 kms in total. The track is reached by turning to the east, off the Blackwater Cooroorah Road (right – if you are coming from Blackwater) just before you reach the weir.

Take care on this track. It is fine while the ground is dry and solid but it would be fairly tricky once it has rained. Also be aware there is a very high fire danger at this time of year, with tall dry grass lining the river banks and tracks.

At this point the banks of the river are quite steep and there is wide pool that has formed as the river runs against a rock bar, which slows it to a trickle, beyond this point. It looks like the fish cannot comfortably travel beyond this pool so it should be a good fishing spot.

Sure enough, as I approached the bank I could see several large saratoga lurking under the overhanging branches. The only thing that had worked on them before was a GULP soft plastic with arms and legs flailing everywhere – the 3 inch Ghost Shrimp. The hard bodies had just spooked them. I was out of suitable plastics so I started with a ¼ ounce spinner bait in a yellow and white colour. The fish were very well protected by the overhanging branches and it was pretty difficult to approach them without spooking them. I managed to get the spinner bait quite close to them a couple of times, before they dived down out of sight. These are very cautious fish.

I moved a little further along the bank and loaded a 1/11th ounce/size 2 hook jighead with a 2” GULP Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour. I hopped this along the bottom around the snags and soon connected with a small catfish. I caught three of these.

I moved a bit further along and switched to the same soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I cast this at some sunken branches, which were close to the bank and felt a slightly more urgent tap, as I retrieved the lure. I cast back in the same spot and this time I hooked up. It pulled hard and fast, faster than the catfish. But it was not big enough to be a saratoga. I kept the rod tip up and pulled it clear of the snaggy timber. It was a respectable golden perch/ yellow belly.

I looked for a few more and may have had one on, that I did not land. After a while I could see the saratoga out in the middle of the stream, again. I swapped back the spinner bait and even though I pulled a few directly past their noses, I could not entice them to strike. They would turn towards the lure as it hit the water and sometimes swim towards it – but then lose interest. Its pretty tough fishing in the fresh water but I learn a little more on each session.

At about 5.30 pm, having caught a couple more catfish – I gave up for the day.