Iluka – Woody Head and the Floods – February 2022

We had plenty of rain through early February and there was not much fishing to be done in the muddy brown waters of the Brunswick, Richmond, Wilsons or Clarence River.

In the middle of the month the Clarence River started to clear up a bit and I fished the flats at Browns Rocks, near Iluka. I saw quite a few big flathead lies so they were definitely back in the river after the deluge. I fished my light rig with minnow and paddle tail soft plastics and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I was mainly using 1/8th and 1/6th ounce jigheads. I caught a few flathead and a lot of small jewfish. The tailor were also a constant and I had a few snip offs.

On the 20th the swell eased off and I had a fish on the rock platform at Woody Head in the Bundjalung National Park. I started with soft plastics on my heavy set up and caught a few bream. I moved around, casting until the tide started to run in and swapped to a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I was using a 3/8th ounce jighead and 40lb fluorocarbon leader. After a couple of drops I felt the weight of a good fish. I pulled its head out from under the ledge but it was too heavy and kept thrusting its nose back down into the cunjevoi. The swell wasn’t big enough to help me and soon my leader was tightly tangled. The fish swam away leaving my jighead firmly lodged in the rocks. It had felt like a jewfish but trevally are also good at using this technique to free themselves.

I tied on the same set up and threw it out again. Three casts later I was onto a fish again. It was not as powerful as the first but it still tried to get under the ledge. I let it run a little way but when I put some pressure on it swam out rather than in and I was abled to subdue it. It was a decent school jewfish about 65cm to 70 cm long. I took a picture and speared it back into the water pretty quickly.

There are so many sharks in this zone that I am not sure whether these released fish have much chance of survival. Hopefully they swim straight back under the ledge.

After a few more river fishing sessions the rain set in again. This time it just did not stop and the soaked river catchments could not absorb it. A low off the east coast dropped solid rain for three days and nights and the whole Northern Rivers area of New South Wales suffered the worst floods in living memory. Lismore was completed wiped out and Broadwater/ Wardel/ Mullumbimby/ Ocean Shores/ South Golden Beach/ Brunswick Heads, Fingal Head and many more areas were completely flooded and rendered in accessible for days.

Telstra and the NBN, it transpired, had chosen to route their entire regional telecommunications backbone through a basement telephone exchange at Wardell which was 5m under water. This made local communications next to impossible, severely hampering rescue and recovery efforts. The devastation was complete. People dragged their flooded belongings out onto the streets and the clean up began.

On the Clarence River the flood waters cause massive fish kills. Dead mullet, mulloway, flathead, bream washed ashore along the banks, unable to survive the sudden deluge of fresh and filthy water.

Miraculously, the flood levee held at Maclean

Iluka – The Clarence River at Browns Rocks – December 2021

As November rolled into December, Queensland and Western Australia remained cut off from the rest of the country as they realised that it might not be a bad idea to get vaccinated. I continued to go bankrupt and found solace in fishing.

The wind and swell were relentless out on the Iluka headlands but the lower reaches of the Clarence River remained calm and clear. There were a few shrimp in the river and almost as soon as they arrived in numbers the river trawlers set about catching them. They ploughed up and down, day after day trying their best to catch their quotas. This is almost exclusively a bait fishery; the prawns are frozen and sold for bait. The trawler owners say it is a traditional and sustainable fishery but it seems like a lot of activity for a very meagre return. I understand that they frequently receive less than A$1000 a tonne for the prawns. Since 2018 the average catch per licensed boat has been around 5 tonnes per year. If you deduct labour, fuel, boat maintenance and depreciation then no one is making any money. Maybe we could just buy back the boats and licenses, give them a tinny each and all start fishing with lures!

Despite the prawn trawlers the fishing was pretty good on the flats around Browns Rocks (so they may not being doing much harm). I concentrated on fishing the falling tides on the flats. I swapped between hard bodied minnow lures (the DUO Realis Rozante 63/ DUO Realis Shad 52 MR SP, the DUO Realis Jerkbait 100 SP and a variety of no name cheap ones) I also used my favourite GULP soft plastic minnows and paddleshads.

Some mornings were beautifully calm but the northerly winds usually picked up in the afternoons. We had a couple of big storms in the middle of the month. But the river stayed mostly clear.

I caught the usual range of species – bream, flathead, small jewfish, whiting and even the odd luderick. There were plenty of tiny tailor marauding around at dawn and dusk but not many keeper sized fish. On several days I managed a bag of 5 keeper size flathead. It was a month of flat river dawns and beautiful but very early sunrises.

Iluka – Woody Head and the Clarence River – Late November 2021

Most of us were now getting vaccinated against the Wuflu with the exception of a few very boring people who insisted on sharing (at length) the reasons why they weren’t. I carried on fishing (and slowly going bankrupt).

We finally had a break in the swell in late November. It was still grey, windy and rainy but I was able to get back out on the rock platform at Woody Head and fish through a middle of the day low tide. The moon was 25 days old and waning. It was about 20% visible.

It looked like perfect jewfish weather but after a few casts a good tailor grabbed my soft plastic. I landed it and changed tactics. I rigged up a metal slug. I was using a 40 gram multi-coloured metal slug from Gillies. It soon found its mark and after a couple of casts I connected with another tailor. It was a decent fish, about 65cm long. I decided to keep that one for supper. I connected and then dropped another two tailor and then swapped back to a soft plastic set up to try for a jewfish.

I selected one of my rapidly declining store of GULP Crazylegs Jerkshads in the Lime Tiger colour and put it on a 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 jighead and lobbed it out just in front of me. I was using my battered Daiwa Demonblood 962 H rod and Daiwa TD SOL III LT 6000D-H spinning reel. I was using 40lb braid and 40lb fluorocarbon leader. I made a few casts with no results. I moved a bit further along the rock platform. I kept dropping the soft plastic in close to the rocks. After a while I felt some resistance, paused and set my hook. The fish tried to swim under an overhang but I managed to pull it out and land it. It was a school jewfish. It was about 60cm long and so after a few pictures I sent it back into the ocean. I could not find anymore fish that day.

The swell came back up but the Clarence River still fished pretty well for flathead and smaller tailor all through the month.

Browns Rocks flathead

Brunswick River at Brunswick Heads – Late October 2021

I was out of action for most of October as I had to have a hernia repaired (curse of any elite sportsman – fisherman and beer drinkers included). But at the end of the month the doctor approved a return to light exercise.

I chose to cast some soft plastic lures around in the mouth of the Brunswick River. The water was clear and there were plenty of bait schools in the shallows. I was using my light spinning set up and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I fished for a couple of hours in the middle of the falling tide. I caught three flathead, the largest of which was 44cm long.

Its great to be back fishing!

Goodwood Island – Browns Rocks – early October 2021

In early October we had a few big late afternoon storms and the swell came back up on the rocky headlands of the Bundjalung National Park. I decided to do my fishing wading around in the shallows around Browns Rocks, on the Clarence River.

I love this type of fishing, I was using light gear – a 6ft spinning rod with a fast action matched with a 2500 size reel. For line I use 12lb breaking strain braid and about 1.5 metres of 10lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader, tied together using a uni to uni knot. I use soft plastics most of the time and fish with the GULP range. I think the infused scent encourages fish to both bite and hang on, once they have. I sometimes also use small diving minnow hard bodies or surface lures if the bite is hot. I favour the run out tide and the most common catch is flathead.

The tailor are also often patrolling this area and it is quite common to lose your whole rig to them. They were getting especially hungry around dawn and dusk in October and I lost a few rigs to clean bite offs.

Iluka – Woody Head – 1 September 2021

The next morning I was back at the rock ledge, fishing at Woody Head. I assumed that the jewfish/ mulloway should still be around. In fact, if they were in this spot, they were probably schooled up under ledges all up and down the east coast of Australia.

The only thing that had really changed was that low tide would be about an hour later. It was a bright clear morning. The swell was just over a metre and the wind had been light from south west at dawn but was gradually turning south-easterly. The new moon was a week away.

I started at about 7.30 am. I was using my Daiwa Saltist rod and reel combination , I was pretty confident that the mulloway/jewfish would be around so I chose 40 lb fluorocarbon leader and a heavy gauge 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead. The soft plastic of choice was once again the GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger Colour.

I dropped it into the foamy swell just about 3 metres out and let it sink and drift back in. I felt I had the lure in the perfect spot and I did, because as I lifted the rod tip it caught hard against the cunjevoi cover rocks and was snagged. I snapped my line and re-rigged. Like all good addictions fishing is an expensive business.

I carried on with the same patterned lure in the same spot. After about 1 hour and 30 minutes and two more lost jigheads, I felt a solid bite. The fish initially swam in, under the ledge so I let it run and tried to minimise my line rubbing against the rocks. I kept up the tension but when it seemed clear it was not going to come out I flicked the bail arm over completely for about 15 seconds and paused. I then tightened the drag a little and flicked the bail arm back. This did the trick and by the time I had taken up the slack line, the fish was still hooked and was a couple of metres out into the open water. It pulled fairly hard and it made another run but now it was pretty tired. The swell was just right to help me lift the fish up a couple of rock ledges to me feet. It was a nice jewfish, approximately 85cm long.

In the late afternoon I went for a quick session casting around in shallows of the Clarence River at Browns Rocks. I used a DUO Realis Pencil 6.5 cm surface lure to target the small tailor that are almost always marauding around on dusk. I had great fun catching a few on my light gear until something bigger swallowed the lot.

Iluka – Woody Head – 31 August 2021

At the end of the month the swell eased for a few days and I set off to fish the rocks at Woody Head. The swell was forecast to be 0.9 m but was a bit higher than that when I arrived at first light. I was using my one of my heavier rock fishing rigs – Daiwa Saltist X 962 MH rod matched with a Daiwa Saltist 3000 reel. I had it loaded with 30lb braid and about 1.5 metres of 30lb fluorocarbon leader.

I put on a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Curried Chicken colour, on a 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead, cast out it out and let it sink. The target was a jewfish. So I kept the soft plastic on the bottom for as long as I dared. I repeated the process for about twenty minutes. I moved further to the south along the main rock platform and cast around in another promising jewfish spot. This time a fish hit the lure as it sank, but from the manic run and the head shakes I knew it was a tailor. It was about a 35 cm tailor and it had destroyed the soft plastic lure. I released it and moved again.

This time I put on a 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead and a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I cast out, let the soft plastic sink and hopped it back to me, along the bottom.

The fish must have been sitting very close to the foot of the rock ledge. They were probably sheltering under a rocky overhang. I kept my retrieve going as close as I could to the ledge.

The tactic worked and after about 30 minutes of casting and retrieving, a fish grabbed the soft plastic, off the bottom. It was now about 8.00 am, almost exactly dead low tide. It tried to swim deeper in to its underwater cave and took a bit of line, but it quite quickly changed directions and swam out. Jewfish of this size only seem to have a couple of really good runs in them and if they go in a safe direction, you can soon stop them. The swell helped with a big surge and I soon had this one at my feet. It measured in at just over 75cm. After a couple of pictures and a swim in the reviver pool, it went back.

Brunswick Heads – Brunswick River – 17/18/23/27 August

Through late August the weather was bright and sunny but the swell was still pretty difficult to manage on the rocks. I focused on fishing in the Brunswick River. I also had a few dawn sessions, fishing on the beach at New Brighton.

Most of the time I was fishing with my Samaki Zing Gen III 562SXL ultralight rod. But when I cast a lure into the surf (looking for tailor) I moved up to my Daiwa Crossfire CFS1202L. There was not much rain in August and the Brunswick River was fairly clear, even on the low tides.

I had a few sessions around the mouth of the river and caught a few small flathead on minnow soft plastics. On a couple of sessions I trekked up river on the south bank and caught plenty more small flathead. The star performer was the GULP Pulseworm soft plastic in various beige/ camo colours.

I had hoped to find some tailor from the beach on a few morning sessions. I have some new Samaki 40g Flash Minnow hard bodies which I think will be great for tailor. They are solid, sink fast, cast well and have a great action. I think they will be great in rough seas but this time I only caught flathead with them during my dawn sessions.

Iluka – Woody Head – 4 August 2021

Another lull in the swell meant I could get out on to the rocks to fish in early August. I stuck with Woody Head as I had caught some good fish there in July, last time I was down here. I started early, about 30 mins before first light and conditions were forecast to be pretty good. We were 4 days before the new moon. Low tide would be at about 10.20 am and the swell was forecast to be no more than 1.0 metre high.

I was fishing with my heavier rock fishing set up. This is a Daiwa Saltist X MH 962 rod now matched with a Daiwa Saltist 3000 reel. I have it rigged with 40lb braid and today I was using a 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I started with a GULP Jerkshad soft plastic lure in the satay chicken colour, loaded into a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead.

As soon as I could see what I was doing I had a couple of casts and retrieves with the plastic. At about 6.30 am something hit the plastic hard at the base of the rocks. It pulled hard for a while but swam away from the rocks. I tightened my drag a a little and recovered some line whilst looking for a landing spot. I love this Daiwa Saltist XMH62 as it is sensitive enough to stay in contact with the soft plastic even with quite a light jighead. However the flip side is that it is sometimes too light to muscle a fish past the rocks. The fish took a bit more line and I pulled hard, trying to turn its head. Suddenly the hook pulled and it was gone. I never got a look at it – so it could have been anything. But given what happened later I think it was a jewfish.

I re-rigged and put on a GULP 5 inch Paddleshad soft plastic in the nuclear chicken colour. This time I chose a tougher jighead – a Berkley Nitro Saltwater Pro, 1/4 ounce with a size 1/0 hook. These are pretty difficult to straighten. Two or three casts with this and I felt a very solid bite at the base of the rocks. I paused as long as I dared and then struck. I thought I had the fish but I was just snagged on the rocks. I yanked the jighead free and when I examined the soft plastic I realised from the bite marks, I had missed another fish.

I cast around for the next couple of hours with hardly a touch. At about 10.00 am, just as we were approaching low tide, I felt a bite in close to the base of the rocks again. I paused this time and dropped the rod tip. When I lifted the rod I had a fish on, but it went straight under the rock ledge and soon I could feel the leader rubbing. I moved along the ledge and changed my angle slightly. I flicked the bail arm over and let the pressure off. I waited about 10 seconds and then flicked it back over and pulled hard. The fish came out and ran again but buy now it was beaten. With the aid of a few decent waves I got it up to my feet. It was an 83 cm jewfish

I cleaned it up and kept it for supper. Bottom of the tide seems to be a good time for them.

Iluka – Woody Head – 17 July 2021

On the 17th the swell was forecast to be light again so I decided to try fishing at Woody Head. Low tide would be at about 7.30 am and we were about a week away from the full moon. I arrived at about 6.00 am, 30 mins before first light. I walked out onto the rock platform and the swell was disappointingly powerful again.

I started fishing at the north end, casting a 60g metal slug towards the gap in the rocks north of the area known as the barnacles. There are nearly always tailor or trevally here on dawn and sometimes jewfish. It was too rough to cast a soft plastic so I stuck with the slug. I hooked and dropped a couple of fish, just after first light, which I assume were tailor. Then I lost my slug to the rocks.

I dropped to the lighter rig and put on a GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastic on a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast out in front of the rock platform and let the plastic sink through the wash. You cannot leave the plastic long on the bottom as it will get snagged, but you need it down there for five or ten seconds, to be in with a chance of attracting a bite. After a few casts I caught a decent bream and then dropped another.

After sunrise things went quiet and I moved further south along the rock platform, casting in various spots. I moved back up to the heavier rig (40lb braid/ 30lb fluorocarbon leader), as I approached a few known jewfish spots. I was now fishing with a GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour. I was still using 30lb leader but I had changed to a 1/4 ounce, 2/0 jighead. The swell was little lighter now and the tide was running in.

I kept casting and retrieving the soft plastic and leaving it for as long as possible right at the base of the rock ledge, on the bottom. I felt a pretty faint bight and then lost my rig to the cunjevoi again. I retied with the same set up and kept going south along the rocks.

It was now about 8.30 am. As I pulled up the rod tip to recast, the jighead stopped. I pulled again and it moved a little more and then line started peeling. Unfortunately, I could immediately feel the line rubbing on something, so the fish was probably swimming in, under an overhang. I tightened the drag a fraction and it slowed. I got some line back and hoped it was coming out. However it got its breath back and ran the wrong way again. I decided to flick the bail arm open to see if it swam out, once I had released the pressure. I left the fish with slack line for about 15 seconds. In this time I got a little nearer to the edge, in between the wave sets. I then flicked the bail arm over, took up the slack line and heaved the fish out. It was just clear of the overhang and the line flicked free. I now had the drag very tight. The fish was pretty much beaten and it popped up, a big slab of silver. It rolled over on its side in the wash. The Daiwa Saltist 962 MH rod would not be able to lift it clear of the water so I would have to use the wave sets and the stepped rock ledges to land it. I managed this and got a soaking in the process. It was a solid jewfish / mulloway about 85cm cm long. I put it in a fresh rockpool to recover for a while. After a few photos I decided it looked well enough to release so I sent it on its way.

I released this one after a swim in the recovery pool

The leader was pretty shredded, as was a good section of braid, so I cut it all off and re-rigged. I decided to stick with the winning combination and dug out another GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour. I cast out in the same spot let the lure flutter down and wash in to the base of the rocks. By the second hop I felt a bite and dropped the rod tip again and paused. After a few seconds pulled up hard and set the hook. It was another jewfish. This time I had started with a tighter drag and I kept the fish from getting its head down and swimming under the ledge. It made a solid run bit fortunately it was in the direction of the open sea. I turned its head and again used the waves to to lift it onto one ledge, then another and then up to my feet. It was another nice fish, closer to 90 cm this time. After five minutes this one did not perk up in the recovery pool, so I decided it would be dinner. I spiked it, then gutted and scaled it and later weighed it in at the shop – 5.7 kg. It was a beautiful fish.

I decided that two good fish was more than enough for one session and gave up for the day.

Port Macquarie – Rivermouth rockwall 1 July 2021

In early July, before more lockdown madness started, I did a bit of work in the Hunter Valley. Catching a plane anywhere has become such a lottery that I decided to drive down and stopped on the way back to fish at Port Macquarie.

I only had one morning and the weather was pretty rubbish so I chose to fish the rock-wall. I had arrived just on dusk the night before and seen the birds working over a school of something in the river mouth. So at first light I drove round and took the ferry across the river to fish the north wall. To my surprise I could drive almost all the way to the end and park more or less next to where I wanted to fish – very civilised.

It was soon raining and very grey. I cast a 40g metal slug for I while. I was using my old Daiwa Seabass rod which is great for casting small slugs or soft plastics for tailor – although it does take a while to land a decent greenback – if you find one. The slug was not working so I swapped to a soft plastic lure. I chose a GULP 4″ Minnow. First in the Lime Tiger and then later in the Camo colour. I loaded them on a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and both caught tailor for me. I caught half a dozen tailor and a couple of small trevally all between 30 and 40 cm, over about the next hour. Eventually the rain started to set in and I gave up.

The estuary looks like it would fish well for flathead, bream, jewfish and all the usual suspects. I look forward to visiting again soon.

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.

Brunswick River – Brunswick Heads – 10/11 May 2021

On the 10th of May I fished from about 10.00 am through to 3.30 pm. I had a great day and caught all through the day. I fished a falling tide and then the beginning of the run in tide. The new moon was due on the 11th. There was plenty of small bait in the shallows near the Brunswick River mouth. The water was clear and still much warmer when it started running in from the ocean. It was a fairly low, low-tide and there was plenty of tidal flow.

I worked my way through a number of large and small soft plastic lures and swapped between a 1/8th ounce, size1/0 hook jigheads and 1/6th ounce, size 1 hook jigheads, depending on how fast the current was moving. I even used one of my current favourites, which is not from the GULP range – the Westin ShadTeez Slim soft plastic in the 256 colour ( beige/ brown/ orange belly). I have 9 and 12cm (about 4″) versions. It has a great action and the small fish will not destroy it.

I worked my way down from the mouth of Marshalls Creek to the mouth of the river, casting my lures at all the sandy patches along the way. I caught about 15 flathead and 6 bream. I released most of them but I kept the five biggest flathead for a family fish pie.

There were quite a few bream around and they often beat the flathead to the soft plastic lures. At one point I watched a 70+ cm flathead follow a 25cm bream that I had hooked. It looked like it was considering it for a meal but turned away at the shoreline.

The flathead were not that fussy and I think it was probably the big tidal run and the plentiful bait that were key reasons for their presence

The next day I came back a little later and although I caught about 6 keeper size flathead things were definitely slower.

Overall it was a great couple of days.

Bribie flats & Mooball Creek, Pottsville – January 2017

In January I fished a couple of dawn sessions on the flats in front of the Sandstone Point Hotel jetty, at Bribie. I caught a few flathead, mainly on the bottom half of the run out tides. I also fished the mouth of Pacific Harbour which produced a few good sized flathead on various coloured jerkshad soft plastics.

Later in  the month I spent some time at Pottsville and Hastings Point. The Hastings Point headland always looks very fishy, but during the holidays it is a pretty busy spot. I tried a few daytime sessions with small soft plastics there, but only caught a few Butter Bream on light line.

On the bigger tides I fished in Mooball Creek (behind the beach). This is a sandy bottomed shallow creek that has a few holes and bends with some deeper water. I found plenty of small flathead, fishing with a 3″ GULP Minnow soft plastic on a 1/8th and 1/12th ounce, size #1 hook jighead. I stuck to 10lb leader and eventually found a couple of flathead that would have been been big enough to keep. There were also plenty of small bream and whiting in the clear water.

Port Augusta – Spencer Gulf – Mulloway – 17 October 2016

Monday

Back in October I was on my way up to a mine in South Australia, and I had to stop at Port Augusta overnight. I had my Shimano telescopic rod and a few soft plastics lures and so I wandered through the Arid Lands Australian Botanic Gardens http://www.aalbg.sa.gov.au/ and down to the river, by the railway bridge, in the afternoon.

This spot is almost at the top of the Spencer Gulf. It was fairly windy but the water was clear and the terrain looks very fishy, with mangrove lines banks and a mixture of sand, mud and rubble on the bottom.

The Shimano telescopic rod is a very unsophisticated tool, but it is easy to pack and if you put on a decent reel (in this case my Shimano Stradic 4000) it functions well. The tide was running in and it was about 3.30 pm when I started fishing.

I was using 12lb fluorocarbon leader and 16lb braid for my main line. I put a GULP 3” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and cast at the bottom of the railway bridge pylons.  The first takers were a few juvenile salmon, that always seem to be present in the area.

I lost a couple of rigs to the rocks on the bottom. At about 4.00 pm I thought I was snagged again but the rod tip started moving. The fish took a bit of line in a long initial run and then paused sitting in the strong current. I made sure the drag was not to tight and let the fish run again. I kept winding and after a few minutes I had a healthy mulloway/ jewfish at my feet. It was about 60cm long and after a few pictures I released it.

I could not find anymore and at about 5.15 pm I gave up. However, the episode reinforced my belief in never travelling without a rod – however unsophisticated.

 

Bribie – The oyster jetty flats – 17 June 2016

Friday

I was back on home turf and I finally had the chance to chase some cold weather flathead at Bribie. I drove up to Sandstone Point at about 9.30 am, to fish the last few hours of the run out tide. I arrived and pulled on my waders and wandered out under the bridge.

Four new large pylons had been installed at the end of the old oyster jetty and a local contractor was surveying the area. He said he had been instructed to clear away any debris from the bottom so that they can put in a large floating pontoon. I have no real objection to this (all structure attracts fish) but I think it will be fairly tricky for any boats get close to the pontoon, as the area is very shallow and littered with rocks and reef.

The moon was 92% full and low tide would be low at 1.10pm. I was fishing with my new Lox Yoshi 7’6” 1-3 kg rod. I wanted to try fishing with a longer rod on the flats to see how it performed. It can put in some nice long casts but is still light enough to soak up the lunges. Unfortunately, after only a few casts I remembered why longer rods are tricky on the flats. Each time I hopped the plastic along the bottom, in the shallows – the slack line would loop around the tip, which soon got very boring. But even worse was to come. As I put in a long cast with a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 jighead the line wrapped around the tip and took it off.

I had only just started fishing so I was going to have to carry on – tipless. The rod proved pretty versatile and I soon hooked a 47cm flathead on a 4″ GULP Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I played it to the shallows, photographed and put it in the keeper bag for supper. I moved to the south of the jetty and soon found another slightly bigger flathead on a GULP BBQ Chicken Jerkshad.. It was now about 12 noon and the tide had about another hour to run. I thought things would really get going but I just could not find the fish.

I waded down towards the channel marker and I noticed the odd school of mullet swimming around. I swapped through a few soft plastics and caught a couple of small pike. Once the tide slowed I turned and waded back towards the bridge. I caught two more undersized flathead but that was it. At about 1.45pm I gave up.

Full marks to the team at BCF Virginia – they took the tipless rod back and quickly ordered in a free replacement which I now have.

1770 – Tom’s Creek – 17 May 2016

Tuesday

On Tuesday the wind was forecast to blow pretty hard from the south east so I decided to fish the run out tide in Toms Creek. This is a small shallow creek system that comes off Round Hill Creek. The Town of 1770 is situated on the banks of Round Hill Creek.

The moon was about 85% full and low tide would be at about noon. You can reach Tom’s Creek down a very rough four-wheel drive track that leads off from the showground/ market area. I started fishing from the bank and as the tide receded, I followed it out.

I fished with various soft plastics all on a 1/8thounce, 1/0 hook jighead, using 10 lb fluorocarbon leader and my light spin rod. I caught a few small Moses Perch, one flathead that was just about legal size at 40 cm. It was good to explore this territory on a very low tide and see where the holes and slightly deeper patches of water are located.

I fished until about noon and finished by catching a few tiny trevally that enjoyed attacking my small minnow soft plastics.

1770 – Flat Rock – Stripey Perch – 16 May 2016

Monday

Clear skies and light south-westerly winds strengthening and turning south easterly, were forecast for Monday. Flat Rock would be covered by the tide until about 8.30 am, so I drove down to the rocky outcrop, just to the south of Getaway Beach. This area always looks very fishy, but I have yet to catch anything very serious here. A few times I have been towed around by a resident groper before being busted off.

I started fishing with a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour matched with a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I was using the Daiwa Air Edge rod and a 12lb fluorocarbon leader. Just on dawn, I felt some pretty aggressive grabs and pinches and after a few more casts, I hooked a snapping long tom. About ten minutes later I lost the whole rig to another toothy long tom, who sheared through the leader.

I re-rigged with a lighter 1/8th ounce jighead and loaded a GULP Mantis Shrimp in the colour with a red body and a yellow tail. I like this fairly new pattern from GULP. It seems to be quite the fish attractor with its prong tail and sparkly colour range. I think this shape is ideal for fishing close to rocky overhangs. The soft plastic flutters down and can entice a territorial strike from the resident fish.

This morning it was the Moses perch that woke up and attacked it. They were only small but they were very persistent. In about 30 minutes I caught four fish – none over 25cm long. I moved a little further to the south and caught a couple more. I am not sure if these are Moses perch or juvenile stripeys or even tiny fingermark. They all look very similair and are clearly all part of the same Lutjanidae (tropical snappers and seaperches) family. If you can catch one over 25cm long, they are some of the finest tasting fish in the sea.

I dropped the same soft plastic close to a bommy and let it float down in the current. Something grabbed the lure then did not really move. It then swam slowly north. I thought I may have hooked a turtle but then it started to swim off a little more quickly. I could not turn its head and after I tightened the drag and tried to put some pressure on the fish, it put its head down and the leader snapped.

I gave up in this spot and drove down to Flat Rock. The water was running out and I waded out onto the rock and walked along the top of it. I started with a GULP 3” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. This colour seems to be particularly attractive to dart in the clear water. It was now 9.45 am and after a few casts I caught a small dart, then a slightly bigger one.

I moved along the rock casting out beyond it and caught more dart, a couple of tiny flathead and a Moses Perch. After about 45 minutes I swapped to a slightly bigger GULP Fry soft plastic in the same colour. I was standing on the south side of a gap in the rocks where the tide runs out.  I was casting into the wash and just letting the soft plastic float down in the current and  bump along the bottom. After a few attempts another dart hit the plastic and took off. This was a much bigger one, about 40 cm long.

I caught a few more then moved down to the next opening in the Flat Rock. After few casts here the rod bent over and line started peeling. This was quite a powerful fish. I played it for a few minutes and still had no idea what I was on to. As soon as it came close to the rocks it would charge off again. Eventually it tired and I pulled it clear of the water. It was a remora (sucker fish). I took a few pictures and released it. I wondered what it might have been attached too.

I was now almost at the southern end of the Flat Rock. The tide was low and just turning back in. I swapped to a more natural GULP 3” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I was right in the spot where I had been bitten off the day before. It was the same drill but this time I had the drag set tighter and I was ready for the fish. As soon as it struck I wound hard and pulled it clear of the rock overhang. It made some good runs but I kept it away from the rocks and soon landed it. It was a chubby 35cm Stripey Perch – the perfect fish for supper.

I cleaned it up and continued fishing for another 30 minutes or so. I caught a few more dart before giving up for the morning.

1770 – Middle Rock, Wreck Rock -14 May 2016

Saturday

I had some work to do in Gladstone in mid-May and this year I have decided to add fishing to work, at every opportunity.  I was driving up and decided a few days of land based fishing at 1770 would be a good move. I rented a unit from Gavin and Kim at the Loka Santi appartments (nestled in the sand dunes behind the beach) which are my favorite place to stay.  You can book through http://www.1770beachaccommodation.com.au/. I packed the car full of rods and lures (and reluctantly my work boots).

I arrived late on Friday, looked at the weather for the next few days and planned where I would fish. Failing to plan means you are planning to fail, so they say. There is certainly some truth in this. Optimum fishing times (in my opinion) are dawn and dusk. If the change of tide coincides with dawn and dusk, even better. If it’s the lead up to the full or new moons, even better again. The week looked prett,y good with light south-easterly winds in the morning rising in strength through the days. The moon was about half full.

For my first session, I drove along the four wheel drive track just south of Agnes Waters into Deepwater National Park. I set off before dawn in order to fish through first light and sunrise at 6.21 a.m. I rigged up my Daiwa Air Edge rod, Shimano Sustain 4000 reel. I was using the 8lb Aldi braid and I started with a 20lb fluorocarbon leader to give myself a chance against a bigger fish if one was around. Low tide would be at 9.43 am and there was not much swell.

There are lots of submerged rocks in this spot and I have caught stripey perch, trevally, bream, flathead, whiting and morwong/slatey bream here. I started by casting a DUO Realis Vib 62 (a sinking vibe lure) all around the rocks using the 9′ the Daiwa Air Edge rod. This did not get a bite. After 15 minutes, I swapped to 12lb leader, a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and a GULP 4-inch Minnow soft plastic lure in the Lime Tiger colour. As soon as it hit the water this was attacked by the ugly local long toms.

About 7.30 am I jumped back in the car and drove down the track to Wreck Rock. I walked out on the rocks at the north side of the small bay and started casting again with the same set up. The long toms were here as well.  I swapped through a couple of small and big GULP soft plastics, gradually moving further out along the rocks as the tide receded. At about 8.30 am the wind started to pick up from the south east. By now I was fishing with the GULP Cajun Chicken Jerkshad (black and pink colour). I was hopping it along the sandy bottom between the rocks, when I saw a fast shape swim up and grab it, at the foot of the rocks. Line started peeling and in the blink of an eye it was a silver flash in the waves 25 metres away. I tightened the drag a little which did little to slow it. But the fast action, fairly whippy Daiwa Air Edge rod soaked up the lunges. After a few minutes I had a 50 cm trevally at my feet. It had completely swallowed the soft plastic.

I bled the fish and re-rigged but could not find anymore. I swapped to a MARIA MJ Twitch suspending hard bodied minnow. This seemed to drive the long toms crazy but did not entice any other fish. By 10.15 am the wind had picked up to about 15 knots from the south east and the tide had turned, so I gave up.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 28 April, 2016

Thursday

I was back in Brisbane and it was time to get amongst the flathead. This has traditionally been a very productive time on the flats around Bribie Island. But this year I have fished far less in this area than usual. The weather has also been very warm and fairly dry, which may have affected the movement of the flathead.  In my last few sessions I had found fish, but not in the big groups that have been around in the last few years. I think this may change as the water cools down.

The moon was 67% full. The day would start with a light south-westerly wind, that would turn south-easterly later in the day. Low tide would be at 7.17 am and I was fishing with my light spinning rod and reel (Shimano Stella 2500 and NS Blackhole 6′ SGII 602L trout rod). This was loaded with the ALDI 8lb yellow braid and I had tied on a 12lb fluorocarbon leader.

I arrived, on the mainland side of the Pumicestone Passage at about 5.30 am and waded out on to the sandy/ muddy flats under the bridge. The horizon was beginning to glow and the water had a slight ripple on the surface from the cool breeze. The tide was running out quickly. I cast some big and small GULP soft plastics around the reefy area, just to the south of the bridge, without success.

As dawn approached I moved south and started fishing the area south of the old oyster jetty. I was now using the GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. It was 5.50 am. A fish grabbed the lure and scurried off. Then it felt like it was stuck. This is typical estuary cod behaviour. I loosened the drag and dropped the rod tip. After about 30 seconds the leader started moving and the fish swam out. I re-tightened the drag and soon had a 40 cm cod on the surface. I released it and moved on.

About thirty minutes later I was casting around the weed beds by the drain that comes off the Sandstone Point flats and I felt a solid bite. I dropped the rod tip, paused and hooked a 43cm flathead. It went in the bag for dinner. There did not appear to be much bait around.  I put on a bigger GULP soft plastic Jerkshad in the BBQ Chicken colour.  I connected and then dropped what I thought was a flathead, just after 7.00 am.

I continued to the south. The sun came up through the clouds and I moved along the edge of the weed beds. I felt another good bite but did not hook up and then things went quiet. The tide was slowing and the water was now fairly murky. I waded all the way down to the green channel marker without another bite.

At about 7.30am as the tide turned back in, I turned around and walked back towards the bridge. I was now fishing with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead.  My next catch was a blue swimmer/ sand crab that took a swipe at the soft plastic.

About half way back to the bridge I caught another, bigger flathead about 50cm, which I also kept. I kept moving and stuck with the same soft plastic. Frustratingly, I dropped two more flathead before hanging on to a third, just north of the bridge. At about 10.00 am I left the water with three keepers in the fishing bag.

It had felt like hard work but on reflection, there were plenty of fish around.