Hat Head – Tailor, Tailor, Tailor – 26 September 2015

Saturday

The September school holiday is a great time to go south from Brisbane. The weather can be unpredictable but the water is usually still cool and the winter species; kingfish, tailor, bream, jewfish, snapper – are all possible from the shore.

The coast of northern New South Wales has great fishing spots. They are liberally spaced all the way down to Newcastle and beyond. Fingal Head, Woody Head, Brooms Head, Crescent Head and our destination – Hat Head are all fantastic rock fishing locations.

The tricky thing with September is often the weather. The winter wind pattern of southerly blows is gradually giving way to the more consistent summer northerlies, which warm up the seas. These two patterns clash and this can bring storms, big seas and rain.

We were fortunate. We drove down from Brisbane in the rain and wind. By the time we reached the house we had rented, the rain had stopped. It soon started again, through Friday night but by Saturday, the sun was out. There had been a big southerly blow raging all week with lots of rain.

By dusk, I could wait no longer. I pulled on my fishing boots and set off to for the Spinning Ledge at the far eastern point of the Hat Head promontory. It takes me about 30 to 40 mins to walk from the township out to the ledge. The path is quite challenging and slippery in parts, so shoes with good grip are essential. Waterfalls lined the route as the recent heavy rain drained off the hill. There were plenty of frogs singing at each small water crossing. A large echidna wobbled along the path in front of me at one point before rolling into a ball in a not particularly cunning attempt to disguise itself.

I arrived at the end of the end of the headland at about 5.00 pm. There were a couple of fisherman already on the ledge. The birds were circling just offshore, to the north east and one of the fisherman was pulling in a 40cm tailor on a metal slug.

I only had about 30 minutes until sunset so I had to get on with it. The swell was up and there was still a strong southerly wind blowing. I was trying a new longer, slightly lighter rock fishing rod. It is the Daiwa Air Edge Surf. 96L (supplied on the recommendation of Steve at Jones Tackle). Which I matched with my Shimano Sustain 4000 reel, 15 lb breaking strain Aldi braid and 30lb fluorocarbon  leader.

This is what Daiwa have to say about it:

96L

Finesse and shore based spinning don’t generally mix but with the 96L is the perfect mixture of weight, action and taper to make the perfect light game spin and estuary baitfishing rod. Ideally suited for fishing small metals, bibbed minnows, poppers, sliders and plastics. Best suited to a 2500 – 3000 sized spinning reel.

I agree with most of that – but I will need to give it a good workout before I am prepared to agree that it’s “perfect”.

I could see the slugs where working but I decided to start with a soft plastic lure. I tied on ¼ ounce #1/0 hook jighead and loaded a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the curry chicken colour. I tried to use the rocks behind me as a bit of shelter from the very strong southerly but from my first cast, I could see that getting the jighead to sink would be difficult.

I cast out at low level and manage to land the soft plastic about 12 metres from the shore. I let it sink and started to hop it back towards me. As soon as it moved off the bottom, the fish were all over it. I could feel it being pulled in all directions before a solid fish finally took possession. I played the fish for a while keeping the line tight and safely pulled it over the oyster covered section at the base of the rocks. Then I grabbed the leader and slowly pulled it to my feet. It was a solid 43 cm tailor.

The soft plastic was destroyed so I swapped to a GULP 4” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. Two or three casts later I managed to get it back into about the same spot and the same thing happened. This was a slightly bigger one, just short of 50 cm. I decided to dispatch it and keep it for dinner. The fish kept coming and I caught three more over the next 20 minutes. However they were all between about 30 and 40 cm.

By now the sun had dropped below the horizon and to avoid walking back along the track in complete darkness, I decided to pack up. I am sure the bite would have continued but fishing lures in the dark is pretty hard. By the time I reached the path higher up the hill, the southerly wind must have been blowing well above 30 knots.

It was a great first session.

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Caloundra – Dirty water, a big tide & elusive fish – 27 November 2011

Saturday

After a rubbish session at Bribie Island on Thursday morning, I decided to go back to Caloundra again on Saturday. It would be the usual wind pattern – virtually no breeze pre-dawn, building to a solid 15 to 20 knot north-easterly by about 11.00 am.

The view from Bulcock Beach - just after dawn


The new moon had risen on Friday, so it would be a big, fast running tide. High was due at 8.40 am and would be 2.1 metres. I arrived at Bulcock Beach at about 4.00 am to find the water just starting the run in, with some force. The blowy weather and rain of the previous few days has stirred the water up and visibility is very poor. There is also a bit of sediment and floating around. I started off fishing with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour, on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead. I was walking along the shore, under the board walk, casting close in to the shore. Just on first light, I caught a small Flathead – about 35 cm long. I carried on up to the rocks at the mouth of the Passage and caught nothing else.

Bulcock Beach - Small Flathead by the boardwalk


I moved down to the flats and weed beds in front of the Power Boat Club, just south of Golden Beach. The water was flooding over the flats when I arrived. I tried a Strikepro hard bodied, bibless vibe lure for a while, but there was a lot of sea grass floating around and the lure was getting fouled up on every cast, so I switched back to a soft plastic lure. I chose the GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I hoped the fluttering tail might draw a strike.

I moved further north across the flats in ankle deep water. I cast along the edge of the channel, bouncing the soft plastic along the bottom. The water was still very murky, with the strong tidal flow washing around a lot of debris as it approached high.

Flathead grabs a Crazylegs soft plastic - Caloundra

After about an hour of fishing this area with the hard bodied lure, I had not found a fish. Three casts with the soft plastic – and I had one. It was no monster – a Flathead, about 45cm long. I released it and spent the next few hours trying, in vain, to find another.

A bit of a frustrating session – but the fish are there.

Bribie Island – Buckley’s Hole and the old Oyster Jetty – 20 October 2011

Tuesday and Thursday

Back in Brisbane and time to zip up to Bribie Island for some local land-based fishing. But the wind had other ideas. I arrived at around 4.30 am on Tuesday and it was blowing hard from the south-east. It was only about 15 knots on dawn but it soon picked up to about 25 knots.

I started fishing at the mouth of the Buckley’s Hole tidal lagoon. The water from this ever changing land mark now comes out almost level with the new Bribie Island seaside museum. Low tide was around 6.00 am and I started fishing here just after first light, at around 5.00 am. I was using my Loomis GL2 light spin rod, Shimano Stradic 3000 reel, 10lb braid, 12lb fluorocarbon leader, a 1/6th oz 1/0 jighead loaded with a GULP 5” Jerkshad soft plastic in the Pumpkinseed colour.

I moved along the edge of the drop off casting up, into the falling tide and jerking the plastic slowly along the bottom, back towards me. The jighead kept slowing and as it got lighter, I realized there were large blue jellyfish everywhere. I was casting the plastic on top of the ledge in no more than 30cm of water. Suddenly I felt a tug and then saw a swirl in the water, then I had a fish on. I played it for a while and after a couple of runs, I started to pull it slowly back towards the sand. But the fish had other ideas and with a couple of furious headshakes it dislodged the jighead and swam slowly back towards the deeper water.

As I stood wondering what went wrong, I was surprised to see a couple of good sized Tuna leap clear of the water right at the edge of the drop off. I cast all around but they were gone in seconds. I am not sure how I would have subdued one if I had hooked up! Back to the Flathead – I cast in every direction but as the sun rose, so did the wind and by about 9.00am it was just too hard.

On Thursday I was back in the same spot just after dawn. The wind had dropped considerably and low tide would be around 8.00 am this time. I started with the same soft plastic – the 5” Pumpkinseed Jerkshad. I waded out to the same area where I had lost the fish on Tuesday and after 20 minutes of peppering the terrain with casts, I was onto a fish. It was a Flattie, I played it very carefully back to the sand and where it measured in at around 55cm. I waded back out and caught another 35 cm Flathead about ten minutes later.

I then decided to move south along the beach towards the southern tip of the island. As a walked across the mouth of the big drain, I caught another undersize Flathead, but spooked a much bigger one, that took off across the sand.

I walked down the beach casting as I went. I swapped through a few different soft plastics but did not get a touch. Finally just as I reached Beach Flag No.1, I sent a large Flathead skittering off across the sandy bottom. I was in ankle deep water and there was absolutely no structure around at all. It was right on low tide. I stopped and cast all around. I swapped down to a 3” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour, still nothing. I turned and walked back towards Buckley’s Hole. I cast inland, in to the shallower water. Infuriatingly, I almost stepped on another three Flathead, who went flying off passed me into the depths. I could see them, but I could not seem to catch them.

I found myself back where I had started and decided to dump the subtle approach. The tide had now just started to run in. I put on a GULP 5” Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Curry Chicken colour. After three or four casts it paid off and I had another fish on. I safely steered it back to land – it was a 42 cm Flathead.

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I decided it was time to try the other side of the Pumicestone Passage. I drove over to the old oyster jetty and waded out onto the muddy flats. The sea grass is now growing quickly and most of the ‘snot’ weed seems to have died off. I stuck with the GULP 5” Crazylegs Jerkshad and after a few casts, just south of the jetty, I saw a decent Flathead roll over onto the lure just after it hit the water. I paused, then struck. I had it on for a bit and then it spat the lure out. I moved south and after wading for about 50 meters, I cast out and hooked up with another. This time I dragged it carefully, all the way back to the sand. It was a 45cm Flathead.

By now the water was getting to high to fish the edge of the weed banks so I decided to call it quits. I had only landed three fish but encountered many more. There are obviously plenty of Flathead around – but I need to get better at catching them!!

Iluka – Woody Head – Golden Trevally & Bream 26 June 2011

Sunday

Sunday morning was slightly less grey and cold. I arrived at ‘the Barnacles’ on the Woody Head rock platform around 9.00 am. The wind was a little stronger than the day before, but had swung round to blow from the north-west. Low tide would be around 11.00 am. The swell was under a metre.

I started with a GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshad soft plastic in the Pink Neon colour. I had it rigged on 3/8 oz 3/0 jighead. First cast and bang, a fish grabbed it, as I was about to lift it out of the water, just at the edge of the rock shelf. I ran up and down the ledge a couple of times and then I lifted it over the edge with a surge of water. It was a Trevally, around 40cm long. It had tea coloured flecks all over it – so I suppose it was a tea leaf Trevally.

The plastic was smashed so I bit the head off and loaded it back on to the jighead. A few more casts and I was snagged. I pulled the rod slowly backwards in a straight line until the leader and jighead separated. Fishing these ledges is expensive. The fish are always very close in so you get snagged in the rocks regularly. I put another plastic on, cast out and a fish hit it a couple of times on the retrieve. On the next retrieve in the same spot – bang – zzzzzzzzzz as a fish grabbed it. After a few runs it washed up at my feet and I could see it was a Golden Trevally – about 50cm long. A couple of casts later I caught another about the same size.

I fished on for an hour or so and caught a few good Brea, between 28cm and 35cm – on a range of GULP soft plastics, both big and small. The Bream were a consistent catch all along the rocks and I think they are all schooling up to spawn now. I gave up as the tide started to run back in again at lunch time. It had been another great land based fishing session, off the rocks at Woody Head.

Iluka – Woody Head – Trevally at ‘the Barnacles’ – 25 June 2011

Saturday

Saturday morning was dull, grey and cold. The wind was still from the south west and there had been some early showers. Low tide would be around 10.45 am. There was a light swell off the rocks in front of Woody Head.

I arrived about 9.00 am and I started with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic in the Pink Shine colour. I had it rigged on 3/8 oz 3/0 jighead. On my first cast a fish grabbed it, just at the edge of the rock shelf. It ran up and down the ledge and then I lifted it over the edge, with the swell. It was a decent Trevally, around 55 cm long. I bled it and went back for more.

I cast out and a fish hit the lure as it sank – but there was no hook up. On the next cast as a fish grabbed it as I jigged it up off the bottom. After a few runs I calmed it down and lifted it over the rocks, with the swell. It was another Trevally – about 50cm long. I carried on for a while and caught a couple of Bream and a smaller Trevally, which I released.

Bribie Island – Sandstone Point – the Channel Marker to the Bridge – 5 June 2011

Sunday

A great Bribie Island sunrise

Back up to Bribie Island for a quick Sunday morning land based fishing session on the flats. With low tide at 6.00 am, just on dawn and a light south-westerly wind. I took advantage of the exposed flats to walk, then wade all the way down to the green channel marker, by the old oyster leases, at Sandstone Point. Along the way I caught a few more monster Pike.

The bigger Pike have some serious teeth

From about 6.45 am to 8.45 am, I waded slowly back towards the Bribie Island bridge, about 15 metres out from the exposed sandbar, casting all around. I fished with the GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Curried Chicken colour, rigged on a 1/6th 2/0 jighead and also the 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I caught a total of three Flathead – two keepers; 64cm and 48cm and one that was two small and numerous big Pike, between 30 and 45 cm. I caught the biggest fish just to the south of the channel marker at about 7.00 am. It was lurking on the edge of a weed bank.

I covered a lot of ground for only a few fish, but they can be hard to find when the tide run is fairly weak, as it was today. It’s a good way to keep warm and burn a few calories! I am waiting for my Daiwa Demon Blood to get fixed (I bent a couple of the guides) and then I will head for northern New South Wales to chase some fish from the rocks. It is getting too cold to be standing in that water at 5.30am!!