Iluka – Shark Bay – Tailor – 18 March 2016

Friday.

It was Friday and although the wind and swell was forecast to drop off slightly in the morning – it would soon pick up again. I stuck with Shark Bay and arrived at about 5.45am. The skies were the clearest they had been all week and I was treated to a magnificent sunrise.

I fished in the bays on each side of the rocks while I waited for the tide to recede. I started with a small no name popper and attracted plenty of long tom interest but nothing else. At about 7.00 am I waded through the tide and out on to the north side of the rock platform.

At this stage of the run out tide I had to stick with a surface lure so that I could cast out over the kelp covered ledge. I chose the Fluoro Pink Roosta Popper again.  This hooked up to a good tailor straight away but it wriggled off. I kept casting and the long toms kept swiping. After about 30 casts, I found another smaller tailor but it also wriggled off in the shallows. I swapped to the Spanyid Maniac 45g wide metal spoon. I soon caught a 25cm Tailor and then a few casts later, a 50cm model.

I swapped lures again. This time to a 55g HALCO Twisty in the gold colour – this was the most successful lure of the morning. But the fish were not feeding furiously. They seemed to come and go. I caught 5 more fish over the next 90 minutes. But none of them were over 35cm long.

As low tide approached I decided to switch locations and walked back to the car and drove round to Woody Head. I wandered out to the area known as ‘the Barnacles’. The sun was finally out and the swell had dropped off a little.

I tied on a ¼ ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and cast out a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Curry Chicken colours. As is so often the case in this spot, a fish grabbed the lure on the first cast, as I started to retrieve it. I landed it with the aid of an incoming wave. It was a 35cm bream. As a warning, the next wave came up and soaked me so I decided it was time to retire. No monsters and interestingly, no jewfish but plenty of action.

I was soaked but the sun was out and the water was warm so I took a dip in one of the many rock pools (which were even warmer). I can just see the advert – Woody Head Day Spa with sea minerals and slimy kelp rub – what would they pay for one of those in Sydney?

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Iluka – Shark Bay – Tailor / Bream – 17 March 2016

Thursday

On Thursday the weather was much the same and low tide was not until 11.20 am. Most of my favourite fishing points around Iluka are low or falling tide spots, so I decided to have a lie in. Of course a fisherman’s lie in just means getting up at dawn, rather than 90 minutes before dawn, but it was nice to get a full 8 hours sleep.

At about 8.30 am I drove round to Woody Head to have a look at conditions. Although the tide was far enough out to make fishing possible, the swell was still bashing up against the rocks. The swell had been a steady 1.5/ 1.8m all week. It was caused by the slow moving tropical storm that had missed the Queensland coast the week before, but stirred everything up. Discretion is the better part of valour and I was not going to risk my life for a fish, so I walked back to the car.

I drove round to Shark Bay again. I walked out onto the rock and tied on 55g HALCO Twisty in the brass/ gold colour. I catch far more fish on the brass/ gold colour of this lure than the silver colour – no idea why. I started with big long casts on the heavy rod and after five or six casts, I had a 30 cm tailor. A few casts later I had another…. and another. I swapped up to an 80mm HALCO Roosta Popper in the Fluoro Pink colour. I blooped this back towards me, making plenty of splashes and stopped for a few seconds every now and then. After a few bloops, a bigger tailor grabbed it and I soon had a 50cm tailor at my feet.

It was now about 11.00 am and I swapped to the lighter rod, 14lb fluorocarbon leader, a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 hook jighead and a GULP 4 inch Minnowp soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour. The first cast was smashed by a tailor which then spat it out. The second, attracted a few snaps from a long tom, which followed the soft plastic right back to me. After about ten more minutes of casting I caught another 30cm bream.

I decided to try the other side of the rock platform but neither soft plastics nor slugs could raise anything there so at about 12.00 noon, I gave up.

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.

North Stradbroke Island – Tailor – Dune Rocks – 14 August 2015

Friday

I had managed to arrange a weekend away at Stradbroke Island with the family. Although there would be the inevitable expectation that I would spend some time with them, in the usual holiday fashion, I felt confident of sneaking off at dawn each day for a quick fish.

Thursday had been clear and sunny but with a strong, cold westerly wind. On Friday morning I woke just before first light. It was pretty cold – around 9 Celsius. I put on a few layers and pulled on my Cabela’s stocking foot chest waders. I then put on my felt-soled rock fishing boots, also from Cabela’s http://www.cabelas.com/ . Cabela’s seem to be one of the few retailers that produces excellent quality own label gear. I have yet to find these in Australia, so if you want some you will have go online. This combination works well on both the rocks and the beaches. The felt soles give excellent grip on wet rocks and from the chest down, they keep me completely dry. The water is rarely very cold in Queensland but once you get wet on a breezy day, it feels a lot colder.

I walked down to Deadman’s Beach as the horizon started to glow, just after 6.00 am. It was still cold but the westerly had dropped off and flattened the sea. I was fishing with my light rock/ beach fishing rig. The NS Black Hole Cabin II – S-862 L Spin Rod matched with a Shimano Sienna 4000 (a substitute for my Sustain 4000 which is in for an overdue service). Just to prove I will try anything I had loaded the Sienna with ALDI 15lb yellow braid. This stuff looks like you could pull a tractor with it and the breaking strain must be way above 15lb.

I started with a GULP Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken colour on a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 jighead tied on with a 14lb fluorocarbon leader. I cast around the rocks and into the gutters as I walked along the beach towards Dune Rocks. At the submerged rocks, about half way along Deadman’s Beach something quick had a couple of grabs at the soft plastic, but did not take it.

As the sun gradually broke the horizon I saw a big flock of birds feeding just out in front of the rocks. I could not cast that far but perhaps there were also fish closer in. I swapped to a GULP 4” Minnow in the lime tiger colour and cast out as far as I could. Something grabbed the soft plastic just after it hit the water and I soon had it hooked. I assumed it was a tailor and I wound it to a few metres away. But as the swell pulled back and forth the jighead fell out of its mouth. I cast straight back out and was soon connected to another fish. However the line suddenly went slack and I wound in my leader minus my jighead and soft plastic.

I went back to the rocks to re-rig. I tied on some 30lb fluorocarbon leader (the heaviest I had) and a 55g HALCO Twisty metal slug. After a few long casts and a fairly slow and steady retrieve I felt a couple of hits on the lure and then hooked up. This time the fish stayed attached and I had a 35cm tailor at my feet. I released it and cast out again in the same spot. I hooked six fish on the same slug over the next thirty minutes but only managed to get 2 to the shoreline. They were all about 35cm to 40cm long. After a while one of them chewed through the leader and I lost the Twisty. I tied on a YOZURI suspending hard bodied Crystal Minnow lure and cast it around for a while, but this drew a blank.

I did not have another HALCO Twisty but I did have a 65 gram SPANYID Raider metal slug. I tied this on and put in another long cast. It took about three casts to find the fish again. I caught another couple and then things slowed right down. I looked out beyond the rocks and could see the birds had stopped feeding and moved on.

I tried moving around the rocks and tried a few different spots but by about 7.30 am the fish also seemed to have moved on. It had been a great introduction to land-based fishing on Stradbroke Island.

Iluka – Woody Head – Wild weather and Australian Salmon – 6 December 2011

I am just back from a week of land based rock and beach fishing at Woody Head, in the Bundjalong National Park, just north of the town of Iluka, in Northern New South Wales. As is often the case here, the weather made the fishing pretty tough. Heavy rain freshened the mighty Clarence River and big seas, wind and swells conspired to limit access to the best fishing platforms. But there were some good sessions and some good fish.

To the north-west of the Woody Head rock platform there is a sheltered bay that remains calm in all but the biggest gales. On the afternoon of our second day, there was a light northerly breeze blowing and the tide was running in. There was a heavy swell crashing on the rocks to the south, but the bay was calm. It had been raining, on and off, all day and the water was murky and the sky, overcast. The birds were working furiously, diving into bait schools close to the shore. Just on dusk, I walked down to the beach with my heavy outfit – Daiwa 9’6’ Demon Blood rod, Shimano Stradic 6000 spinning reel loaded with 30lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a 45g silver HALCO Twisty slug and cast it about 25 metres, towards the diving birds. After a couple of casts – bang – and line starts peeling. It was a solid fish and then it leapt clear of the water – an Australian Salmon. It did a couple of tail walks and even with the heavy rod, it was hard to subdue. I eventually got it to the beach and it immediately started spitting out mouthfuls small whitebait/anchovies (not actually sure which). This was clearly what had attracted the birds.

A 50cm Australian Salmon at Woody Head

It grabbed a 45g Halco Twisty metal slug - and spat up some Whitebait

It was now dark and raining so, after a few pictures, I released the fish and went to dry off. I have never been able to make these fish taste good, so I have given up keeping them for the table. It may not have been dinner but it was a great fish to open the account.

Tweed River – The Rockwall – 14 Dec 2010


Tuesday

I had seen a few recent reports of anglers catching good fish off the Tweed River mouth rockwall. I have always loved fishing this spot, so on Tuesday I decided to give it a try. The problem with the Queensland summer is that early starts need to be really early. To be at the Tweed for the best fishing, you really need to arrive just before dawn. That means a 3.00 am departure from Brisbane at this time of the year.
The Tweed River (like just about all the rivers in Queensland and New South Wales at the moment) is in flood. It’s brown and murky, like the colour of strongly brewed tea. Theoretically, the most likely time to get fish around the mouth is the end of the run in tide, when the water will be at its clearest and saltiest. However, fish hang around the mouth all the time in these conditions, as the surge of fresh water washes down all sorts of potential food for them. There is often a clear line on the surface were the brown river water mixes with the clearer blue/ green ocean. This is usually my target area.
The rockwall on the north side of the Tweed is easily accessible and has a number of rock ledges that make for great casting platforms. I walked out to the end of the wall at around 4.30 am. Unfortunately I had missed dawn, but I rigged up as quickly as I could and got started. I have caught fish here on soft plastics, metal and hard-bodied lures, but at this time of the year I prefer to use slugs and surface poppers. The surface poppers seem to work best for me, just before dawn, in the half light. I believe it is the combination of slightly lower light and hungry, feeding fish that makes them successful. I have caught plenty of Tailor and Trevally at this time, in this spot.
As I had missed dawn I decided to fish lower in the water column and use a metal slug. I like to use the HALCO Twisties in the 85gm weight or the SPANYID Raiders/ Snipers in the 85/95gm weight, but just about any metal lure will catch fish here. I use my trusty 11Ft ROVEX Bario rod with a SHIMANO Stradic 6000 reel. For line I use 40lb PLATYPUS Bionic braid in the hi-vis pink colour and tie on a two metre, 25lb fluorocarbon leader. The knots need to be good and the reel needs to be carefully spooled. The long rod and relatively heavily weighted lures means you are putting a lot of pressure on the terminal tackle with every cast so, it needs to run smoothly.
I started with an 85gm HALCO Twisty in the chrome colour. I generally cast the slug about 30 to 40 metres, let it sink (count to ten) then wind it in very fast, keeping the rod tip down as close to the water surface as I can. The idea is to keep the lure sub-surface for as long as possible. If I believe the fish are in close, I may stop the retrieve twenty metres from the wall, allow it to sink back down and crank it up again.
I cast all around the end of the wall with no result. The tide was running out and it was around 8.30 am. I started putting in big casts, along the line were the dark water from the river meets the sea, directly off the end of the rockwall. About 25 metres out, half way through the retrieve – whack! The rod tip bends and line starts peeling. Initially the fish is running out to sea – ok, at least it is not heading for the base of the rocks. I look around for where to try to land it and conclude that I have to get it round to the side of the wall. The front is too rocky and there is still too much swell. I opt for the ocean side as this is a little more accessible. The fish has made a couple of solid runs but a couple of minutes into the fight it decides to head towards the wall. All the work I had done trying to get it round the corner is instantly undone, as it dives down towards the base of the rocks. The first surge of water lodges the leader firmly in the barnacles and on the next one – ping, the fish is gone.
I don’t know what it was. I doubt it was a Tailor as there was no mad shaking – my guess would have been a Trevally or possibly a Kingfish. I will never know. I carried on until my shoulders burned from the casting but I could not find another. At about 10.00 am I was drenched by an incoming shower and so I gave up. The fish definitely won today – perhaps I will try a forty pound leader next time!