Evans River – Evans Head – Mid October 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If INSTAGRAM floats your boat please follow me for more photos and clips of my fishing adventures – https://www.instagram.com/landangler/

Flat Rock & South Ballina – January 2020

I was away most of January but I managed a couple of fishing sessions at the end of the month. The first was at Flat Rock, just south of Skennars Head and just north of Ballina. This area is best fished through a falling or low tide. I fished with my lighter rock fishing rig – this is currently a Shimano Stella 4000 matched to a Daiwa Crossfire Surf 1062 rod.

It was a great sunrise but not a particularly good mornings fishing. I caught a couple of very small bream on my first two casts and later I caught a decent sized dart. I got everything on the Gulp 3′ minnow soft plastic in the orange and lime green “Lime Tiger” colour. The dolphins kept patrolling the edge of the rock platform, so I am sure the fish were there. There was a fairly stiff onshore breeze which made casting tough and I snagged plenty of my jigheads.

A few days later, I fished the run out morning high tide for about three hours from its peak, at Mobs Bay, South Ballina. As I waded in the shallows, I found a few fairly small (25 to 35 cm) flathead. But it was the bream that were out in force. I caught 5 keeper sized bream and a few smaller ones. I was using my light spinning rod and reel rigged with 12 lb braid and about a metre of 10 lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader. I caught them on a Gulp 3″ minnow soft plastic in the watermelon pearl colour, rigged on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I was amazed at how happy they seemed to be, cruising around the mangrove roots and weed beds in less than a metre of water. I started to catch them as I slowed everything down. I would let the plastic sit on the bottom for as long as 30 seconds before starting the retrieve. They would often then strike as soon as I lifted the lure of the bottom.

I fished a few evening sessions in the Brunswick River without much success. The holidays delivered a fairly constant stream of paddlers and boats which made it hard to find an undisturbed stretch of water to fish. There were a few whiting in the shallows and plenty of tiny flathead, but I could not land dinner.

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.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 23 April 2014

Wednesday

It was a late start for me again on Wednesday – juggling work and fishing is hard.  But then most of my readers are probably well aware of that!

I arrived at the Bribie Bridge at about 9.00 am and waded out towards the flats to the south of the old oyster jetty. The sun was shining and there was a light south westerly wind. It is definitely getting cooler and the wind had some bite in it. The moon was 37% full and waning. It would be a 0.6m low tide at about 10.30 am.

I started fishing with a GULP 2” Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour and this soon found a fish. It was a Flathead – just over 40 cm. I released it and went looking for more.  The water was clear but there were still a lot of black clumps of ‘snot’ weed floating around. There were sand crabs everywhere. Plenty of them seemed to be in romantic embraces.

As the tide slowed, I moved further south. In one of the sandy hollows, I caught another fish. This flathead had the brightest coloured tail I have ever seen. I released it and carried on wading south. I swapped to a GULP Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour and as the tide started to run in, I caught another 45cm flathead.

 

 

I briefly tried fishing with a few small hard bodied lures, but they kept getting clogged with weed. I swapped back to a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger (orange and green colour) and at about 11.00 am I found a couple more small flathead that were probably just under 40 cm.

This had not been a bad fishing session – especially as the school holidays have just finished and this area has been fished pretty hard. All fish were released today.

Bribie Island – the oyster jetty flats – 22 February 2013

Friday

I was back in Brisbane considering the land based fishing options. Next week it looks like mad weather – just about everywhere. It’s a tragedy – I have no work on the horizon so I could go and fish just about anywhere, but it looks like the east coast of Australia, will be washed out.

Friday morning did not look very promising locally, either. The big south-easterly blow was not forecast to drop off until about midday and the Pumicestone Passage was pretty much full of fresh water, after all the recent rain.

But the point about fishing is you must never give up. So at about 8.00 am, as the sun came out, I set off for Bribie hoping to find some sheltered spots, where I could put in a few casts.

I arrived just before 9.00 am and decided to fish the mainland side of the Passage around the old oyster jetty. Despite the major tree clearance that took place last year, this area is still quite sheltered from a southerly wind and is a viable option, especially as the tide runs out. High tide had passed at 7.22 am at 2.2 m. I waded south, under the Bribie Bridge. The water was still lapping at the mangroves, but it was running out fairly fast. Predictably the water was pretty brown and full of sediment but you could still just see your feet through about 60cm of it.

I started by casting all around the bridge pylons. I was using a neutral coloured 3” GULP minnow soft plastic in ‘smelt’on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead. This produced nothing so I moved further south, to cast alongside and underneath the oyster jetty. I felt a few grabs in this area and soon realised there were some hungry long toms cruising around.

I crossed to the area just to the south of the jetty and swapped to a DUO Ryuki Spearhead hard body which is usually a great bream lure. Unfortunately I sacrificed this in the shallows to a patch of rocky bottom. I moved further south and changed tactics. I swapped back to soft plastics and tied on a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the lime tiger colour – still on a 1/8th oz, 1/0 jighead. I was using about 1.5 m of 10lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader.

By about 11.00 am the tide was about halfway out and I had reached the area where the water drains off the Sandstone Point flats, round the corner. You could not see the bottom but you could tell from the eddies on the surface where the slack water was. I put in a couple of long casts (the southerly wind was helping me). I felt the plastic pull through the see grass but it did not pick up too much. The advantage of all the rain and wild weather is that it washes away any loose stuff.

A few casts later there was a big splash, as the lure hit the water and then a solid tug and run. Line was peeling straight away but as I lifted the rod I clearly felt the jighead pop through the fishes’ lip. This was a sizeable fish so I let it run. There is not much structure in this area, just a line of rocky bottom as you move back towards the mangroves. This fish was too big to tangle with in the water so I would have to walk it back to the shore line. I slowly took back some line and started wading towards the mangroves. The water was now shallower and dirtier, so I had to be careful to steer it over the rocky patches and onto the shore.

It was a solid flathead. I pulled it up on to a ready-made envorimat; a pair of abandoned trawlerman’s waders, that had washed up on the shore. I measured it against the rod and could see it was pushing 70cm. I took a couple of pictures then released it.
Although the water was now very cloudy, there was not much weed floating around so I decided to try out my latest DUO favourite – the Realis Shad MR 59 hard body minnow. It is a small suspending lure and that has caught plenty of flathead for me, but I am sure it will catch good bream over the weed beds. I picked out a white and blue one tied it on and cast out. This lure has a great action but it is the pauses that seem to entice the strikes. So I slowly retrieved it with lots of long pauses. On the second cast my theory panned out as, on the first pause, the lure was first knocked out of the water and then, a moment later, connected to a fish.

The hooked fish was too fast for a flathead – although it may have been a flathead that attacked the lure first. I soon had it subdued – it was a solid 30cm + bream. After a few pictures I released it but I could not find any more.

As the tide level fell I moved further and further south, towards the green channel marker. I was trying to fish the edge of the weed banks but in the dirty water on the bottom of the tide, I was finding it hard to see the edges. I swapped back to a GULP 4” minnow soft plastic in the smelt colour, on the 1/8th 1/0 jighead. This drew the attention of the long toms who I saw follow it in a couple of times. Eventually I got the lure into the right spot and the line started peeling. It was another flathead – just over 50cm. I decided to keep this one and after playing it for a while I managed to grab it with my rag and slip it in my keeper bag.

I swapped to a different colour in the same soft plastic – banana prawn. A few casts later this produced a fish – it was a very lively long tom. It did plenty of leaping around and made a couple of runs straight at me which was not that much fun. Usually these fish will cut through the leader pretty quickly but this one seemed to be hooked on the side of its long snout. I managed to flick it off the hook and carried on prospecting for flathead.

Just before 2.00 pm I caught another flathead who was perched on the edge of the weed line. This one was just under 50 cm. I swapped over to the bigger GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic in the lime tiger colour. This did not produce a fish but it did pull up two sand crabs. I am not sure if they were hungry or mating – either way they ended up in a right tangle. I had been playing football with the crabs all morning – perhaps they were finding it difficult to see me coming in the muddy water.

Just after a 2.00 pm, a set of squally showers moved through and I decided to give up. Conditions had been very average but the fish were there – and I suppose that is all that really matters!

Bribie Island – the oyster jetty flats and Whitepatch – 2 January 2013

Wednesday

Flushed with the success of New Years Day, I invited a friend to come and fish the flats around Sandstone point with me on Wednesday morning. Andre is the perfect fishing companion. He comes well prepared, does not talk much, always pays for the coffee, but most importantly – he wants to catch fish.

It may sound odd but when you say you are a fisherman almost everyone seems to think you are in desperate need of company. Wives in particular, are constantly volunteering their husbands to go fishing with you. I think the problem might be that the annual ‘fishing trip’ away with the lads rarely yields any fish – this is because it is primarily a drinking trip. Perhaps the wives are thinking after 12 years of buying new gear, going to Fraser and coming back with 4 small dart and a shocking 3 day hangover, their husbands need some tips!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When I fish with Andre we have none of that ‘well it was a beautiful morning even though we did not catch anything” nonsense. The focus is on the fishing. However I have noticed that it is often a lot harder to find and catch fish when you are with someone else. Perhaps you over plan or analyse or maybe the two of you and wading and casting causes more disturbance either way today was not easy fishing.

It started very well – we waded out under the bridge on to the exposed mud flats on the mainland side of the Pumicestone Passage, at about 4.30 am. The tide was running out but was just slowing. The sun was not yet over the horizon and the air was still and warm. The south easterly that had been blowing up until the day before, had died away. Low tide would be at 5.52am. We waded down along the exposed sandbank to a point about half way between the old oyster jetty and the green channel marker – where I had caught plenty of fish the day before. The only real difference was that we would be fishing the last of the run out tide, whereas the day before, I had caught most of my fish on the beginning of the run in.

I rigged up with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour on a 1/8th oz, 1/0 jighead, 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I cast the soft plastic at the edge of the weed beds and a fish hit it almost as soon as I lifted it off the bottom. It was a nice 45cm flathead. A few casts later I pulled up a sub 40cm flathead which released itself before I could get a picture. Then, a little while later Andre pulled in another fish that was just about 40cm.

We gradually waded north as a couple of boat based anglers slowly electric motored right along the line of the edge of the weed banks. We carried on towards the old oyster jetty. I swapped to a Minnow in the smelt colour and caught another sub 40cm flathead. On the bottom of the tide the weed started to lift and made the fishing difficult so we decided to switch locations.

We drove up to the north end of Whitepatch and waded around on the edge of the drop off, trying to rustle up some more fish, but we could not find anything. Eventually the weed problem also arrived there on the incoming tide, so we gave up for the day.

Bribie Island – The old oyster jetty – 7 May 2012

Monday

I was time to hit the flats and weed beds of Bribie Island. The weather forecast was pretty much perfect – no wind or rain and we would have a low tide at about 4.00 am.

I set out at about 4.30 am. The moon was full and, with a clear sky I did not need the headlamp, as I waded out under the bridge at about 5.30 am. This is a great time of year to be fishing. The mornings are crisp, but not too cold and the sunrises are fantastic.

I started on the mainland side under the bridge. Now I am not a ‘tree hugger’ but like any serious fisherman I care about the environment. Just recently, a large area of woodland has been flattened just behind the old oyster jetty – huge gum trees, pines and mangroves all torn down. The area now looks like a bomb site. Apparently, a new ‘eco’ resort is on its way. I would have thought it could have included some more of the beautiful old trees. I am glad it will provide jobs and I hope what they build will invigorate the area – but I am not convinced.

I waded down out under the bridge cast around in the rocky area, just to the south. I was using a GULP 2” Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour and my first customer was a Pike. There were plenty of prawns jumping and I presume that is what the Pike and Moses Perch were feeding on, under the bridge lights.
I carried onto the south. I swapped to a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour, but the bigger plastic did not get the fish going. After about 15 minutes I swapped down to a GULP 3” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. This produced results – on the first cast I felt a solid bite, but could not connect. Three slow retrieves later, in the same spot, I got the fish. It was a small Flathead about 35cm long.

SANDSTONE POINT - SMALL FLATHEAD LOCATIONS

SANDSTONE POINT – SMALL FLATHEAD LOCATIONS

I kept going south and picked up 7 more fish on the flats on either side of the Oyster Jetty, over the next 2 ½ hours, but unfortunately only one was over 40cm. I swapped plastics between the bright and dark colours, big and small. I certainly caught more fish on the 2/3”plastics, I could not get a bite on the bigger ones.

They may have been small today but where there are small fish, there are big mothers – so I will be back out looking for them again soon.