1770 – Flat Rock – Dart, Perch, Flathead – 15 May 2016

Sunday

Sunday was my second morning at 1770 and the weather looked like it was going to be pretty good. The wind was forecast at about a 7 knot southerly on dawn and would pick up a little later on. The moon was 67% full in its waxing gibbous phase. Low tide would be at about 10.45 am.

Once again I drove down the four-wheel drive track into Deepwater National Park. They are carrying out fuel reduction burns in this section and several small fires still were still burning from the day before and the smell of burning gum trees was all around.

Today I decided to fish at Flat Rock beach. As it names suggest it has a long flat rock that runs parallel with the beach and makes for a great fishing platform. The long rock is accessible across a sandy bottomed gutter from about half way through the run out tide to about half way through the run in tide.

It was a cool morning (17 C) but not cold and the water was still very warm. When I arrived in the pre-dawn light at about 6.00 am the flat rock was almost completely submerged so I started fishing in the sandy gutter. I started with fishing with the Daiwa Air Edge rod and 12lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and squeezed on a GULP 3” Minnow shaped soft plastic in the lime tiger colour. The first takers where a couple of very small sand / flag /bar tailed flathead. These are pretty fish. They sit right at the base of the wave break and think nothing of trying to swallow soft plastics that are almost as big as they are.

As the sun came up and the tide receded I walked north along the beach stopping to cast at the spots where the water was rushing out through the breaks in the rock. I reached beach marker number 10 and spent a while trying to cast the DUO Vib 62 hard bodied vibe lure over the top of the flat rock into the deeper water beyond. This did not really work and I soon lost another of my favourite lures.

As the water dropped I climbed on to the rock and started casting around with a GULP Jerkshad soft plastic in the Cajun Chicken colour. I was now casting directly into the water beyond the rock and starting to feel a few bumps and knocks from the small perch and dart that patrol this area. After perhaps 25 casts I dropped down to a smaller GULP 2” Shrimp soft plastic in the Banana Prawn colour. Thi attracted a flurry of bites and after a few casts I hooked a small moses perch. I little while later I swapped back to the GULP 3” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. I moved north along the edge of the rock until a nice dart slammed the soft plastic and took off with it.

By now I was about level with beach marker 8. I straightened the soft plastic on the jighead and let it waft around on the bottom in front of the rock for as long as I could. Something grabbed it and immediately took off underneath the rock. After a few see saws the leader snapped. Perhaps it was a cod or a bigger stripey perch.

I tied on a length of 20lb fluorocarbon leader and put on a bigger, 4“ Minnow soft plastic in the same Lime Tiger colour. I started casting in the same spot. Perhaps 10 casts later – smash, then zzzzzz as the fish did exactly the same thing. This time I had a tougher leader on. I initially loosened the drag and then, when I felt the fish swim out, tightened it and tried to pull the fish out. I obviously did not tighten it enough and it swam straight back under the rock, despite my furious but futile.

I turned around and walked back to the south. I swapped down to a couple of smaller soft plastic minnows and caught a steady stream of dart, Moses perch and tiny flathead.

By low tide the wind was picking up and I was getting cold so I decided to give up for the morning.

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1770 – Flat Rock – Slatey Bream, Dart & Stripy Perch – 6 April 2015

Monday

I managed to persuade the family that my beloved 1770 would be a good place to spend some of the Easter school holidays. Fishing was strictly rationed, but I did get a few sessions in.

We drove up from Brisbane and passed through some monster storms on Sunday. We visited Cooks Monument and walked out to the tip of the headland on arrival. You could see there had been plenty of rain. The dirty water was clearly visible, running out into the sea from the creek.

Dirty Water at the bottom of the tide 1770

On Monday morning the skies had cleared and the wind had dropped so we drove down to deserted Flat Rock beach in Deepwater National Park. Despite the recent heavy rain and lots of Easter holiday visitors the sandy four wheel drive track down through the park was in good order.

I like to fish this spot on a falling tide and anything can happen. Locals have told me they have caught saltwater barramundi, mackerel, tuna and jewfish here. I have caught the bread and butter species – stripey perch, estuary cod, dart, tailor, bream, whiting, flathead, all along the flat rock that runs parallel with the shore. I have also been bitten off by plenty of powerful predators, but I have never landed any trophy fish here.

I find the best time to start fishing is about an hour after high tide, through to about an hour before low tide. I wade out to the Flat Rock and walk along it fishing over the edge into the surf which breaks on its front edge. There are a couple of places where the rock breaks and the water runs out. These are great spots, the fish accumulate to feed on what is being washed out from the beach gutter.

The tide reveals Flat Rock

I was fishing with my lighter rock fishing rod and reel setup – the NS Blackhole Cabin 2 S862L, rated 8-14lb, 2.59 m long matched with a Shimano Sustain – 4000 reel. I use 12 lb braid and a 12 lb fluorocarbon leader.

I started by choosing my current favourite fish finding soft plastic lure – the GULP 3” Minnow in the lime tiger colour. I rigged it on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead and cast out. Within a few minutes I caught a small dart and then a small moses perch. I had started fishing at the side of one of the breaks in the rock and the water was gushing through the gap. I kept casting the soft plastic just on to the edge of the Flat Rock and let the water push it out through the gap.

After about half an hour a fish grabbed the soft plastic and shot under the rock. I had the drag fairly loose and by the time I tightened it, the fish had tucked himself right in. I tried to put a bit of pressure on it but the light leader quickly snapped.

I tied on another Lime Tiger Minnow but it did not tempt another fish. After another 20 minutes, I swapped to a GULP Mantis Shrimp in the Peppered Prawn colour and a slightly heavier, 1/6th ounce, size 1 hook, jighead. It was now just before 1.00 pm and the resident sea eagle who had been watching me form the tree line, was getting restless. I cast out the Mantis Shrimp and let it sink and be carried off by the fast running tide. I paused for about 15 seconds, to make absolutely sure it was on the bottom, then slowly lifted the rod tip and started hopping the soft plastic back towards me. On about the 3rd hop, a fish snaffled it and turned to run out to sea. It was not very fast but it was powerful. It took plenty of line but eventually I slowed it down and it just sat in the current, about a metre from the rocks. I used the light swell to heave it over the rocks and on to the beach. It was a slatey bream (painted sweetlip) with magnificent red flashes behind its lips and around its gills. It was about 40 cm long. As long as they are quickly bled and carefully filleted, these fish taste great. They have flaky white fillets and are great fried in a little olive oil. This one was coming home for supper.

It was now lunch time and the fainthearted tourists (my family) had had enough of watching me fishing, so we packed up.

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

Thursday/ Friday

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

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

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

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

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

1770 – Flat Rock at Baffle Creek and Wreck Rock – 23 October 2014

Thursday

On Thursday the seas were still up and low tide would not be until about 2.30 pm. The wind would hopefully have dropped by then and I could try fishing the beaches and rocks again. In the morning I decided to drive back out to Flat Rock on Baffle Creek and see if I could have some more fun with the Tarpon.

It takes about an hour to drive south from 1770, down the four wheel drive sand track, past Flat Rock, Middle Rock and Wreck Rock beaches, across Deepwater Creek and on to Flat Rock boat ramp on Baffle Creek.

By the time I arrived, the sun was already up and the insects were humming in my ears. You need plenty of insect repellent in these parts! The wind had dropped away and the tide was coming in. It would be high at about 9.00 am.  There were a few surface strikes and the bait was jumping around. I worked through a few different soft plastics on the light rod. The usual minnows, jerkshads and shrimps did not work, so I swapped to a Watermelon coloured GULP Minnow grub. I slowed the retrieve and let it flutter around in the current. After a few casts, there was a solid bite and I hooked up. The fish headed for the rocks and immediately tried to get under them. I was still fishing with 14lb leader so I tightened the drag and pulled it out. It was an estuary cod – about 45cm long. I released it and after another hour with no luck, I went off to the Baffle Creek Township, to find some breakfast.

The wind had dropped off so I decided to make my way to Wreck Rock to fish the last few hours of the run out tide. It would not be possible to get out to the spots I like to fish there, until two to three hours before low tide, from about 10.30 am onwards. So I drove back up the sand track and stopped for a nap in a shady spot. I woke to some rustling and found a mother emu and three chicks walking past. This really is a very unspoilt spot!

I drove on to Wreck Rock and walked out on to the beach. The sun was out and there was no one else around. The wind was now a 10 to 15 knot north-easterly and the swell was dropping. I decided to stay with the light spinning rod and 10lb leader. It was the middle of the day and I thought the fish would be fairly picky.

I started fishing on the calmer side of the rocky peninsula that sticks out to the north of the little bay. I put on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead with a 2” GULP Shrimp soft plastic, in the Banana Prawn colour. After a few casts, the first taker was a small stripey perch, this was followed by an equally small bream. Both these fish where sitting at the base of the rocks in a few feet of water. About 20 minutes later, I dropped a bigger bream, as I tried to land it.

It was pretty warm so I decided to risk getting wet and wandered a bit further out along the rocks. I wanted something chunkier to throw out into the breaking waves, in front of the rocks and I chose a GULP Jerkshad in the Waremelon Pearl colour. I also upped my jighead to a slightly bigger 1/6th ounce with a 1/0 hook. I cast this out in to the gaps between the rocks and let it sink for as long as I could before hopping it back towards me. I lost a couple of rigs to the rocks and gradually moved further out as the tide dropped. At about noon I was almost at the end of the rocky peninsula. I cast clear of the rocks and let the jerkshad sink. On the drop, it was slammed and line started peeling. The swell was still significant and this fish new how to use it. As soon as I applied some pressure, it took off. There were rocks everywhere and I had a 10lb fluorocarbon leader on the end of a very light, fast action trout spinning rod. Patience – Patience – Patience would be necessary. I got a little line back and tightened the drag, very slightly. I watched the swell and used the waves to steer the fish towards me. I took several tries but eventually I had it out of the water and at my feet. It was a trevally, about 50cm long.  I love to eat fresh trevally, so I killed and bled it and put it in a keeper pond, about 10 metres back from the shoreline.

A climbed back out along the rocky peninsula and put on another Jerkshad soft plastic. This time it was in the green and orange Lime Tiger colour. I cast around for another trevally but could not find any out the front. I started casting into the foamy water right at the end of the line of rocks. Small dart kept attacking the soft plastic just as it reached the rocks and on a few occasions they almost beached themselves trying to eat it. On the next cast there was a solid hit and then a clean bite off. I re-rigged with 14lb fluorocarbon leader and put the same soft plastic/ jighead combination on again.

I cast out wide again and let the jighead sink but then I added some urgency to the retrieve, a few quicker, more violent jerks. This did the trick and just before I got the soft plastic back to the rocks, a fish grabbed it, dropped it, and then grabbed it again. I felt the hook set in the jaw and then the fish went ballistic. I knew it was a Tailor before I could see it and I suspect this was what had bitten me off, before.

 

I pulled up a wriggling 40 cm tailor – I photographed it and released it. I shortened the mashed soft plastic then cast it out again. After a few jerks of the rod tip I had caught another slightly bigger one. Over the next 20 minutes I caught 4 more and dropped a few. The biggest was about 45cm. I am not sure how long they would stay in this area, but I suspect they are nearly always around until the water really warms up.

By 1.30 pm I was soaked and the fish seemed to slow a bit, as the wind and swell picked up again. I waded back towards the keeper pool, where I had left my trevally but I could not find it. Then I saw a big brahminy kite circling the shallows, about 50 metres away towards the beach. I watched as it swooped and plucked up the trevally – which it or another bird must have dropped halfway back to its nest. It struggled to get airborne again but eventually it got its full wingspan deployed and made it to the tree line. That was the end of my fish supper.

I decided to give up for the day and drove back up to 1770.

1770 Deepwater National Park – Flat Rock – 20 October 2014

Monday

I had managed to get a few days off near Gladstone. The weather looked a bit windy but you have to take the cards you are dealt. I pointed the car in the direction of 1770 and set off. This time I decided to stay at Loka Santi Beachside Apartments – www.lokasanti1770.com.au . They are about mid-way between Agnes Waters and 1770, tucked in the sand dunes, 100 metres or so behind the beach. They have three bedroom / two bathroom units with kitchens and laundries but can offer these for singles and couples, at very reasonable rates, by locking off the extra rooms. All of the units have bbq’s, big balconies and outdoor spaces. There is a pool and the beach is only a stone’s throw away. Gavin and Kim run the place and will give you a very warm welcome. Gavin is a keen fisherman and has a side console Polycraft boat, on a trailer, that you can rent to explore the local creeks, if you have a boat license.

I arrived late on Sunday afternoon, after a long drive and decided to go to bed early and make the most of the fishing in the morning.  The wind was forecast to pick up from the south east on Monday afternoon and then blow fairly hard for a few days. In common with so many areas, I have lots of spots around Agnes Waters/ 1770 that are better to fish on a low or falling tide. Dawn on Monday morning would be just after 5.00 am and high tide would be at about 6.30 am on the beaches/ rocks to the south. I decided to fish at Flat Rock, in Deepwater National Park – about 10 kms to the south of Agnes Waters.

Flat Rock, Middle Rock and Wreck Rock are reached by passing along a 4 wheel drive only sand track that turns off the road just south of Agnes Water. The track can be very variable. I used to do it in my Suzuki Grand Vitara and rarely got stuck – but it was challenging.  With a little extra clearance, the FJ Cruiser has no trouble. At the moment the track is in great shape and the tough, steep sandy slope, which used to cause problems, has been filled in with some road base and firmed up.

 

 

It took about 25 minutes to drive from Loka Santi to Flat Rock beach. Flat Rock is a spectacular spot and, unsurprisingly at 5.00 am on a Monday morning – I had it to myself. The beach is named for the long Flat Rock that runs parallel with the shore for almost its entire length. The rock creates a huge gutter at high tide and great fishing platform at low tide. My preference is to stand on the rock on a run out tide and fish into the drains that run through the rock as the tide drains.

This morning I was using my light spinning rig – 8lb braid and 10lb fluorocarbon leader, 1/8th 1 or 2, sized hook jigheads. I was not expecting anything too big as I would be mainly fishing the gutter on the inside of the rock. Small soft plastics – GULP Minnows, Minnow and Jigging Grubs and Shrimps are the best choices along here. I started with a 3 inch GULP Minnow in the smelt colour. The water was clear but foamy and the Flat Rock was completely submerged. Ideally you would like to cast a very light jighead here, perhaps 1/12th of an ounce or 1/16th, but fishing in surf/beach conditions nearly always makes the lightest castable size a 1/8th ounce. This is what I selected.

I walked north along the beach casting towards the inner edge of the Flat Rock. Straight away my plastic was getting hit at the foot of the beach, where the wave breaks. I assumed this was Whiting or Dart. This was confirmed as I pulled out a few tiny Dart.

I moved down to an area about 500 metres to the south of the beach entrance, where there is a break in the rock. At this point the water was rushing in through the break, as the tide filled the inside gutter.

I cast right into the centre of the gap, level with the rocks on either side and let the plastic sink. When I lifted the rod I felt a light tug and then a solid bite. I set the hook and the fish took some line. Fishing in the surf takes some getting used to. The pull of the waves makes it difficult to gauge what you are dealing with. It is essential to try to maintain the tension, as a large wave can lift the fish and give it some slack, then the hook falls out and the fish is gone. You also need to be careful as you pull the fish up the beach. Basically, patience is the key.

I tried to be patient but it has never been my strong point. I kept winding and after a few minutes I had a nice sandy coloured flag tail flathead at my feet. It was a nice fat fish about 50cm long. I took a few pictures and released it.

I carried on fishing this area and swapped to a slightly bigger 4” GULP Minnow in the Green Camo colour. I kept getting hits from fish in the mouth of the drain but could not hook up. I slowed everything down and let the plastic waft around a bit on the bottom. This strategy worked and I felt a good bite and struck. I was surprised to see a fat whiting; about 30 cm long had swallowed the 4” Minnow. I released it and was hopeful of more.

I fished for another hour or so but the wind was building from the south east and this eventually made the fishing too difficult. I caught several more dart, and a couple of really tiny flathead. I think I may have also dropped a couple of larger flathead, but it was difficult to tell. At about 9.00 am, I surrendered the beach to the wind and went for breakfast.

1770 – Middle Rock – Flat Rock – Deepwater National Park – 15 May 2011

Sunday

On Sunday morning the weather was beginning to change. The breeze was moving round from the south west to the south east. It was much warmer and conditions were good as the south easterly was still light. I had worked out that low tide presented the better fishing opportunities at Flat Rock and Wreck Rock and so, with high tide a few hours after dawn, I headed back to Middle Rock and more specifically the set of rocks in the middle of Middle Rock.

Middle Rock - an hour before high tide pre-dawn

Jupiter and Venus had been bright and visible in the eastern sky just before dawn, all week. Since about Thursday, Mercury was also clearly visible. Venus was so bright that it cast a clear light across the water. It had been similarly bright when I was fishing down at Iluka, in NSW, last month and I wonder if it has an effect on the fish.

I was fishing with the heavy rod – the Daiwa 9’ 6” Demon Blood, matched with a Shimano Stradic 6000 reel, loaded with 20lb braid and a 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I was hoping to encounter some bigger fish at dawn and thought that the cold snap would have got the Tailor going. My camping neighbour had caught a few off the beach to the south of Wreck Rock, the evening before. They had taken cut up Pike baits about an hour after sunset.

I rigged up with a GULP 5” Pumpkinseed Jerkshad soft plastic lure on a 3/8 oz 2/0 jighead. I cast all round the rocks in the pre-dawn light. I could not raise a bite so I dropped down to a ¼ oz 1/0 jighead and 16lb Fluorocarbon leader and cast around again. Third cast, in very shallow water, only a couple of metres from the beach, I had a fish. It was a Bream about 30cm long. I released it and cast back in the same spot. I hooked up straight away – it was another Bream – slightly bigger at around 34cm. I carried on but all I could not find anything bigger so at 8.00 am I went back to camp for breakfast.

Middle Rock Bream

Whilst there were fish around it was becoming clear that this week was right in the middle of the changeover between the dominance of the warm weather species –Tuna, Mackerel, Dart, Whiting and the emergence of the cold weather species – Tailor, Bream, Flathead. The air temperature had been bitterly cold but the water was still very warm. It was hard work trying to figure out what to try next!

After breakfast I decided I would fish the run out tide at Flat Rock. The moon was almost full so the tide would be very low. I arrived just after 10.00 am and the long rock was already exposed. I waded out and climbed up onto it. I was back to the light spin rod, using a 1/6th 1 jig head, 12lb leader and 2” and 3” GULP Shrimp and Minnow soft plastics. For the next few hours I walked all the way along the rock to the northern end of the beach, casting out over the edge. There was no shortage of fish but the problem was size. Everything seemed to be under 30 cm long. I caught Whiting, Flathead, Bream, Stripy Perch, Dart and Long Toms, but nothing was worth keeping. By 2.00 pm the wind was getting up and the tide was running in so I gave up.