Brunswick River – Flathead, Bream, Trevally – 21 April 2021

I have always done well targeting flathead in March and April. Those of you who have followed me for a while will be aware that when I was based in Brisbane I spent a lot of time exploring the flats at Bribie Island. My experience of catching flathead in that area have shaped my fishing process for every estuary I subsequently explore. Look for the edges of weed beds, sand banks and drop offs and fish the last couple of hours of the run out tide – these have been two of my best my most successful habits.

I now live very close to the Brunswick River in northern New South Wales, but I have not really had a lot of success fishing in the river. The much bigger Richmond and Clarence Rivers are nearby and if I have a day to fish I often head for one of these. In the Brunswick River I have caught flathead, bream and the odd trevally but nothing very big and I have not found many consistent fish producing spots. The Northern Rivers area of New South Wales has been very busy with holidaymakers since COVID 19 locked us all into Australia. However with Easter behind us we were beginning to get a few quieter days on the river. The swell was still playing up offshore so there were less big boats heading over the bar. The caravan parks were gradually emptying out so there were a few less tinnies ploughing up and down fishing the river.

Out on the beaches the water was still warm and now crystal clear. There were big schools of mullet cruising along behind the wave breaks. On a calm afternoon I caught a couple of legal size flathead in a gutter at New Brighton. I was using a 2″ GULP Shrimp on a 1/6th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and 12lb leader.

The water in the lower reaches of the Brunswick River was fairly clear once the tide started running in and there seemed to be plenty of bait around. On the bottom of the tide the water was stained brown with tannin, as the rain drained from the tea tree and paperbark swamps that surround the river.

On the 21st I decided to fish for a few hours of the run in tide after low, which was just before 10.00 am. I arrived at the mouth of the Brunswick River on the north side at about 10.45 am and got rigged up on my light spinning outfit. I stuck with 10lb fluorocarbon leader as the water was now very clear. I noticed something smashing into a bait schools out in the middle of the river. I put on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and loaded it with a GULP 2 inch Shrimp profile soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I cast this at the spots were I saw the surface bust ups. After a few tries I hooked a small bream and then a small trevally. As the incoming clean water washed in I noticed there were big schools of small whitebait coming with it. I swapped to GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour and after a few casts something pulled this plastic off the jighead. I put another one on and slowed my retrieve down. After about ten minutes I caught another small flathead.

As the tide started to run in strongly I swapped through a few different soft plastics and caught four more legal size flathead and two that were less than the 36 cm limit. I kept a couple of fish for supper and released everything else.

Let’s hope the bait sticks around and lures the predators up river.

Bribie -still at the oyster jetty flats – 13/14 March 2014

Thursday – Friday

I accept that these reports are getting predictable but it is very hard to stay away when the fish are so prolific. So on both Thursday and Friday, I returned to Bribie to fish the last few hours of the run out tide.

The tides would be low at 1.50 pm on Thursday and 2.36 pm on Friday.  The tides were getting bigger, as we headed for the full moon on Saturday. The water was therefore running in and out faster. It was the same wind pattern – east-south-easterly, building through the day. A northerly change was forecast to raise temperatures and blow up on Sunday.

On Thursday, I started at about 10.15 am. There was plenty of water at the base of the mangrove roots, so I started off by casting in to the shallows, just north of the bridge. There is a nice weed bed here and a few sand banks. I started with the GULP 2” Shrimp in the Peppered Prawn colour. I was fishing with 12lb leader and my light spin rod. After a couple of casts, I found my first flathead at about 10.20 am. It was just about 40cm long. I released it and five minutes later I had a much more aggressive bite. I reeled in a tiny moses perch, which had been hovering close to the first bridge pylon.

I moved south past the old oyster jetty and at about 10.45 am, I caught a bigger flathead – about 50 cm long,  on a Gulp 3” Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour. It was about three hours from low tide and the band of sandy hollows and weed beds, where I have been catching most of the fish in recent sessions, was now within casting range.

I caught a few more fish on the Gulp 4” Minnow and Jerkshad soft plastics and at about 11.30 am, I decided to give the DUO Tetraworks Toto a work out. This is a 2.8 gram, 42mm sinking minnow. It has a tight rolling action. You just cast it – count to five to let it sink, then start a slow and steady retrieve, hop it along the bottom in short bursts like a soft plastic.

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My first cast with the Toto connected with a fish. This lure caught 5 more flathead over the next 30 minutes. The largest was just over 60 cm. At about noon, I swapped to the DUO Realis Shad 59 MR – a slightly larger, suspending minnow. This really is a great flathead lure and will also catch bream, if they are around. It has a good rattle and the buoyancy balance is perfect. It will suspend in the water column for about 5 seconds, before slowly floating upwards – giving a bottom dwelling predator plenty of time to strike.

First cast with the Realis Shad also produced a fish and over the next hour it produced a fish every 3 or four minutes. On average the hard bodies seemed to attract slightly bigger fish than the soft plastics had done.

Just before 1.00 pm, I was playing a decent flathead that had locked on to the DUO Realis Shad. It was a big fish – well over 60cm, so I decided to pull it in to the shoreline to unhook and photograph. I was a bit impatient and had the drag set a little too tight. When it saw that we were heading for the mangroves, it turned, shook its head and snapped the leader. When you are catching plenty of fish the leader gets worn very quickly, so it pays to keep checking it. At this point I gave up for the day.

On Friday it was a similar story. The fish were a little less plentiful, but the wind was far stronger, which may have made them a little harder to catch. I focused my efforts on an area further to the south of the oyster jetty and again found that the hard bodies – particularly the Rio Prawn lure, found the bigger flathead of the day.

I must go and explore if the fish are everywhere or just clustered over on this side of the Passage. Maybe next time.