As November rolled into December, Queensland and Western Australia remained cut off from the rest of the country as they realised that it might not be a bad idea to get vaccinated. I continued to go bankrupt and found solace in fishing.
The wind and swell were relentless out on the Iluka headlands but the lower reaches of the Clarence River remained calm and clear. There were a few shrimp in the river and almost as soon as they arrived in numbers the river trawlers set about catching them. They ploughed up and down, day after day trying their best to catch their quotas. This is almost exclusively a bait fishery; the prawns are frozen and sold for bait. The trawler owners say it is a traditional and sustainable fishery but it seems like a lot of activity for a very meagre return. I understand that they frequently receive less than A$1000 a tonne for the prawns. Since 2018 the average catch per licensed boat has been around 5 tonnes per year. If you deduct labour, fuel, boat maintenance and depreciation then no one is making any money. Maybe we could just buy back the boats and licenses, give them a tinny each and all start fishing with lures!
Despite the prawn trawlers the fishing was pretty good on the flats around Browns Rocks (so they may not being doing much harm). I concentrated on fishing the falling tides on the flats. I swapped between hard bodied minnow lures (the DUO Realis Rozante 63/ DUO Realis Shad 52 MR SP, the DUO Realis Jerkbait 100 SP and a variety of no name cheap ones) I also used my favourite GULP soft plastic minnows and paddleshads.
Some mornings were beautifully calm but the northerly winds usually picked up in the afternoons. We had a couple of big storms in the middle of the month. But the river stayed mostly clear.
I caught the usual range of species – bream, flathead, small jewfish, whiting and even the odd luderick. There were plenty of tiny tailor marauding around at dawn and dusk but not many keeper sized fish. On several days I managed a bag of 5 keeper size flathead. It was a month of flat river dawns and beautiful but very early sunrises.
I have been alternating between the rocks and the Clarence River at Iluka, this year. This is why I love the area so much. When the swell is up on the headlands, I grab my waders and light rig and fish in the river. July and August are also my favourite fishing months. Bright sunshine, cooling water and with the shorter days, it is easier to fish at dawn and dusk.
The Clarence River around Goodwood Island was very clear and there was plenty of bait in the water. I fished with my favourite GULP soft plastic and also had some success targeting flathead with bigger hard bodied minnow lures. I caught plenty of flathead between 36cm and 45cm, but not many bigger than that. I also caught a few good (35 cm plus) bream.
The tailor were still coming and going, especially at dawn. The birds would chase them up and down the river and signal their location. I rarely caught one over 35cm but the biggest few always grabbed my lure just before or after sunrise/ sunset.
The highlight was a decent jewfish which I caught while wading in the shallows looking for flathead. It grabbed my GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour while I was casting over a coffee rock ledge at Browns Rocks. It was the bottom of the tide and the water was fairly dirty. I only had a 12lb fluorocarbon leader and my Samaki Zing SZG-562SXL 2-6lb ultralight rod so it was a long slow fight. Fortunately, the 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead was lodged tightly in the corner of the fish’s mouth. I initially thought it was a ray, then a big flathead and then I caught sight of silver and knew it was a jewfish. I had a beach to land it on so, after about 25 minutes of to and fro, I pulled it on to the muddy shore. It measured 73cm so I decided to keep it for a family feed – great fish.