Iluka – Middle Bluff, Iluka Bluff & Fraser’s Reef – February 2017

In early February, I had a few days fishing at Iluka. The weather was not ideal with strong northerly winds, but generally clear skies. These made casting difficult but I fished all the rocky headlands of the Bundjalung National Park – Shark Bay, Woody Head, Middle Bluff, Frasers Reef & the Iluka Bluff.

I fished with soft plastics, metal slugs and some hard-bodied lures. For the soft plastics, I generally used 1/4 ounce and 1/6th ounce jigheads and the most successful slug was a brass colored 70g Halco Twisty. I swapped up and down between 12lb and 30lb fluorocarbon leaders. I caught Trevally, Bream, Pike, Dart and the highlight was a keeper size jewfish on a GULP Cajun Chicken Jerkshad soft plastic at Iluka Bluff. I did not catch a tailor all week but did see a few pulled from the water at Iluka Bluff.

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Iluka – Middle Bluff – 28 September 2014

Sunday

On Saturday, I packed up the car and drove 3 hours south, from Brisbane, to Iluka. It is about a year since I was here last and it feels like much longer. At last I had the opportunity to get away and fish for some different species. The weather was forecast to be pretty good for most of the week – with limited swell and wind and plenty of sunshine.

I arrived on Saturday night and ate at the Sedgers Reef Hotel. The food in here continues to go steadily downhill, while the prices go up. Everything is deep-fried (mostly from frozen) and hot chips are really the only thing worth eating. Still, the beer is cold and the location is fantastic. It’s a great place to watch the sunset across the mighty Clarence River.

The Clarence River empties into the ocean between Iluka to the north shore and Yamba to the south. The Clarence is a huge river and there is always activity at its mouth and on the rocky headlands, on either side. I prefer to fish the Iluka side of the river mouth, as it is quieter and has the beautifully unspoiled Bundjalung National Park.

This time I was staying at the Anchorage Holiday Park www.anchorageholidaypark.com.au in one of their deluxe cabins. I love to camp at the Woody Head camp ground, but they were booked out for the school holidays and its nice to have a proper fridge and running water, if you are planning to keep a few fish, to take home. There is also good fishing on the river, right in front of the park.

I went to bed early on Saturday night and as usual I found it hard to sleep. At about 4.00 am I woke before the alarm, had a quick cup of tea and set off for the rocks. I decided to start by fishing just to the north of Frazers Reef, at what is known as Middle Bluff (or sometimes Second Bluff). This is a rocky headland in between Woody Head and Iluka Bluff. I walked along the beach in the pre-dawn light and I was relieved to feel only a very light south easterly wind blowing. As the sky grew lighter I could see there was not much swell, which would make things much easier (and safer). I arrived at the northern end of Middle Bluff at about 5.15 am and started to rig up.

I had two rod and reel combos with me. The first – my heavy rig – is a Daiwa Demonblood 962H rod matched with a Shimano Stradic FJ 8000 reel. This is rigged with 20lb braid and I usually fish it with a 25lb or 30 lb fluorocarbon leader. The second is the much lighter, N.S Black Hole Cabin II – S-862 L Spin Rod. It is 2.59m long (8’6”) and rated 8-14 lb. I match this rod with a Shimano Sustain 3000 reel. This is rigged with 15lb braid and I usually fish it with a 12lb to 16lb fluorocarbon leader.

Around dawn I tend to fish with the heavy rig and try a few hard bodied lures or poppers. This morning I tied on a small but fairly heavy (31g) sinking bibbed minnow from Maria – called the Duplex. It is designed for long casts and high speed retrieves and it is ideal for casting from the rocks. I threw it out about 15 times and felt a few bumps. The sun was just coming over the horizon when I felt my first solid hit. I had the drag set quite tight as I did not want to get dragged down into the rocks. I did not hook up, so I cast out again and cranked up the retrieve. This time the hit was much more solid and the rod bent over, there was a fairly slow initial pull followed by a massive yank and the lure pulled free. When I got it back the rear treble had been completely pulled out – not happy.

I continued to fish with another Maria Duplex for about 15 minutes, but I could not find that fish again. I decided to switch to a soft plastic and chose the trusty GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I started fishing on a ¼ ounce, 2/0 hook jighead. The swell was light and the ¼ ounce jighead ensured the lure would drift around in the water column, before it reached the bottom. I tried to keep the jighead on the bottom for as long as possible without getting snagged. After about five casts a felt a faint bite, very close to the rocks. I dropped the plastic straight back down, only a meter or so away from the rock ledge. I paused for about 10 seconds as it sank to the bottom. When I lifted the rod, the line pulled tight and the rod tip started wriggling. I had the drag set tight as I was fishing very close to the barnacle covered rocks, but the fish predictably tried to swim under the rock ledge. It was no match for the heavier Daiwa rod and 25lb leader and I muscled it out and up on to the rocks beside me. It was a small Jewfish/ Mulloway – I estimated it at just under 50cm – a long way off the new NSW legal size limit. I let it recover in the rock pool for a bit, so that it might avoid becoming a shark snack. Then I speared it back in to the water. I continued with the same rig for about another half hour and had another faint hit, but did not hook up.

I decided to swap to the lighter fishing rig with a 14lb fluorocarbon leader. I had tried a number of bigger soft plastics but none of these had created any real interest. I now swapped down to a GULP 3” Sardine Minnow which I rigged on a ¼ ounce, size 1/0 hook, Nitro breampro fine wire jighead. I lost a few of these to the rocks but at about 8.30 am I felt a solid bite in very close to the rocks. This was a stronger fish but the swell had dropped off a little, which made things easier. I could not muscle this one in, so I let it play itself out and then landed it with the help of a good wave surge. It was bigger than the last at about 55cm – but still not big enough to keep. I took some photos and threw it back in.

I continued fishing for another 90 minutes without any more success, but the birds were working a few hundred metres away. The dolphins came through a couple of times – so I assume that there was some bait around. At about 10.00 am, I gave up for the morning. There was no fish for supper but it was a great start to the week.

Iluka – Middle Bluff and Shark Bay – 11 February 2013

Monday

The wind started a little cool from the south west but was forecast to move round to the east and north east. The tide would be too full to fish the dawn at Woody Head, so I decided to give Middle Bluff a try again. I arrived in the pre-dawn light, just before 6.00 am and immediately set to work with the heavy rig. I started with 3/8th oz, 3/0 jighead and a Gulp Jerkshad in the Pumpkinseed colour. The bommie, beside which the jewfish lurk, was covered in wash and the sweep took a few of my lures in quick succession. I had done too much of this the day before, so I changed tactics.

The sun was up and I moved right to the north end of Middle Bluff. I switched to the light rod with 16lb leader and put on a 1/6th oz, 3/0 jighead. I started with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad, in the Lime Tiger colour. I could just about cast the lure out, over the edge of the fringing reef and leave it there for a few seconds. Then I would have to quickly retrieve it with a wave, that was breaking over the reef. After a couple of casts, I lost the tail of the soft plastic, so I put on another. Each time I retrieved, small baitfish leapt ahead of the lure, as it approached the reef edge. After about three casts, a fish grabbed the lure right at the edge of the reef. I let it have some line and looked for a wave to bring it over the reef.

I had not caught much in the few days previously and I was a bit too eager. As the next wave washed over the edge, I pulled a bit too hard and the hook came out. I did not get a good look at it, but I would say it was more likely to have been a tailor or trevally, than jewfish.

I threw a lot of lures at this spot over the next hour, with both the light and heavy rod. After about twenty minutes one of my GULP 2” Smelt Minnows was bitten off right next to the edge, but that was it, I did not hook anything else. By about 10 am the water was surging over the rocks too often and I had to move off. The fish were definitely there, but they had again proved hard to get at.

By late afternoon the north-easterly breeze had picked up. I decided to try fishing at Shark Bay, to the north of Woody Head. This is another spot that is only really accessible around low tide. The rock platform at the southern end of the bay is exposed for a few hours either side of low. There is a large patch of reef just north of the main platform and the channel between is often a good target area.

The sea was fairly flat here. I decided to start with the light rod. I tied on 12lb leader and a 1/6th oz, 2/0 jighead and loaded a GULP 2” Minnow in the Banana Prawn colour. I cast north and waited for the lure to sink. As it did so,…….bang, it was hit on the drop. The Shimano Catana Coastline bent over and took the lunges. After a few runs I reeled in another good size bream.

A few casts later I pulled in a tiny Moses Perch and then I started to lose tails to some rapid hit and run attacks. I decided to put a bigger lure on and loaded a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad. On the first retrieve it was slammed. I knew it was a tailor from the mad head shakes. I wound in steadily and soon had it by my feet. It was about 40 cm long. Over the next hour I had several more plastics mangled, but could not hook up. At one point I saw a couple of long toms following the lure in. At about 7.00 pm, exhausted, I gave up for the day.

Woody Head – “The Barnacles’ – Bream – 27 June 2011

Monday

Monday morning was my last session, land-based fishing at Woody Head. The weather had improved and we had clear skies and no swell. I started fishing around 9.30 am at ‘the Barnacles’ area, again. Low tide would be around 11.30 am.

The first cast produced a small Trevally, who fell for the GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Lime Tiger colour. I then caught a few snags and then a small Bream. Over the next hour or so I caught six or seven more Bream – all between 25 and 35cm.

I moved all along the front of the rock platform, casting at any fishy looking water. There were plenty of people around – taking advantage of the excellent conditions. One guy had caught a nice looking 50cm Tailor on a slug. It was the only Tailor I had seen caught in the whole weekend. Further along I saw another fisherman with a 50cm school jewfish, which he caught on some fresh mullet strips.

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I caught more Bream as I walked along the rocks, down to the area at the southern end of the platform, known as ‘Mossies’. I caught more fish on the smaller 3” GULP minnows on light jigheads – 1/6th and 1/8th oz. Another fisherman was catching plenty of Bream on unweighted squid pieces.

By about 12.30pm it was time to go. It had been another great few days of land-based fishing, from the rocks in Northern New South Wales. The big Jewfish had been the highlight but there were plenty of Trevally and Bream, as well. I had not been fishing at dawn, but I was a little surprised by the lack of Tailor – maybe next time.

Iluka – Woody Head -The Barnacles – 24 June 2011

Friday

A long weekend with my daughter, camping at Iluka, gave me the opportunity to put in a few fishing sessions on the rocks at Woody Head. I was limited to fishing when she got up, which meant no early starts, but fortunately, the low tides were mid-morning. The chilly morning weather and occasional showers also made staying in bed a little longer, an attractive option.

I wandered out by the boat ramp with my light rod at about 7.30am, thinking I might catch a Flathead or a few Bream on the receding tide. The wind was light from the south west. I rigged up with a 3” GULP Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour on a ¼ oz 1/0 jighead tied on to a metre of 12lb Fluorocarbon leader and 10lb braid.

I was fishing along the line of partially submerged rocks that juts out from the shore just to the north of the boat launching area. I felt a couple of knocks and bumps that did not feel like the rocks and so concentrated my fire by casting in the same area for a few minutes. After about ten retrieves, a fish grabbed the lure, just at the edge of the rocks. It took off, jumping clean out of the water. It was an Australian Salmon and it carried on leaping for the next few minutes as I wrestled it to the shore. These fish really fight hard and they just never give up. Every time I got it near the rocks, it took off again and on the light rod it took a while to wear it out. Eventually I dragged it out of the water and took a few pictures. Although they look magnificent and fight hard, they taste dreadful. So I took a few pictures and then released it.

After a quick breakfast, I headed out to the rocks at the front of Woody Head, to the area known as ‘the Barnacles’. The weather was gloomy and rain was threatening but there was virtually no swell and a light south westerly wind. Low tide would be around 10.00 am. I was now using the heavy rod – the Daiwa 9 Ft Demon Blood, with a Shimano Stradic 6000 reel – loaded with 20lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I loaded up with a GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshad in the Curried Chicken colour mounted on a 3/8 oz 3/0 jighead.

I cast out over the rock ledges and let the soft plastic sink for five seconds or so. As soon as I took up the slack, a fish hit the lure. A few more jerks and pauses and I was hooked up to something. After a quick tussle, I pulled the fish up, over the rocks on an incoming surge, grabbed the leader and landed it. It was a nice Trevally, around 50cm long.

10.5 kg Jewfish

Caught off "the Barnacles" at Woody Head

A solid fish

The next cast got snagged – so I broke the line and re-rigged with another GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad, this time in the New Penny colour, on a 3/8 oz 3/0 jighead. I cast out again and waited for the lure to sink, when I lifted the rod, I had a fish on the end. It made a long, steady initial run. The steadiness suggested it was a Jew. It swam up and down parallel with the shore a few times then tried to bury itself in the rocks. It seemed like it was stuck but I loosened off the drag and it swam out again. I gradually tightened the drag again and pulled it round to where I thought I could land it. After about 10 minutes it was pretty tired and with the aid of a big wave, I pulled it to my feet and grabbed the leader. It snapped, but I got my hand in behind the gills and pulled it across the rocks. It was a great Jewfish at 10.5 kg (gutted and gilled) and measured around 1.1 metres. It was my ‘personal best’ Jewfish and I was delighted.

At 10.30 am after just three casts I called it a day. I had a great fish and I was knackered but I had a very big smile on my face.

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Iluka – Woody Head – Jewfish – 13 April 2011

Wednesday

After catching a monster Tailor the day before – expectations were high. I had to go back to the ‘The Barnacles’ at Woody Head. The tide was a bit higher on dawn and therefore made things a bit harder.

I rigged up on a dry rock, in the pre-dawn light, at about 5.30 am. There was a light but cold, south-westerly wind. The water, which came over the rocks and sloshed around my feet, felt very warm in comparison. Unfortunately the tide was higher and I soon got a good soaking from a wave that slapped into the rock face. Now the wind felt really cold.

I started with a GULP 5” Pumpkinseed Jerkshad on a 3/8th oz size 3/0 hook, jighead. On about my fourth cast, a fish nailed the lure and took off. It head down into the rocks and ping – the leader broke off at the jighead and it was gone. I put on another soft plastic and jighead and a few casts later I had another fish on. This time I got it over the first ledge of rocks and I could see he was a decent Tailor. As I tried to get him over the next set, the leader broke again. The same thing happened twice more in the next twenty minutes.

When I returned to my bag I figured out why. While rigging up earlier in the dark I had grabbed the 16lb, instead of 30lb leader. I quickly tied on the heavier leader. I had now run out of Pumpkinseed coloured soft plastics, so I switched to a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I cast back out. I walked up and down the ledge casting directly in front of me and pausing for as long as I could with the lure in the wash, in front of the rocks. The wind was behind me so I could put in good, long casts.

After a few retrieves another fish grabbed the lure as it sank. It felt like good one and made a slow but forceful initial run. I turned its head, tightened the drag and surveyed the swell. I pulled it to my feet with the aid of the next surge, which soaked me to the waist. I reached down and grabbed it behind the gills – it was a very healthy 70cm Jewfish/ Mulloway. That was enough for me and soaked and cold, I headed home with another nice fish.

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Iluka – Woody Head – 11 April 2011

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Monday – pm

After a good start earlier in the day, I could not resist an afternoon fish. We were staying in a cabin at Woody Head – so I was ideally placed to fish off the rocks, on the afternoon low tide. I walked out on the rock ledges, directly in front of the camp site, at about 5.00 pm. Low tide would be at about 7.30 pm.

There was a strong north easterly breeze and a few small rain squalls were coming over. I started around 5.00 pm with a 3/8oz 3/0 hook jighead and a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I was using a 30lb fluorocarbon leader again.
It is always difficult to avoid losing tackle in this location. The fish tend to bite just at the edge of the rock ledges and very close in. If you pull your lure to safety to fast, you will miss them. If you leave it too long, you get snagged. After a couple of casts I was stuck firm in the rocks, so I snapped off the jighead and plastic and re-rigged with the same set up.

I sent out five or six casts in a semi – circle, from my position on the edge of the rocks. Every now and then I would carefully retreat in the face of a big wave but only my feet were getting wet. The rocks are incredibly slippery so you need good rock fishing boots and you need to move slowly – running away from a wave is a recipe for disaster as you will almost certainly fall over. It is better to duck down and hang on if you see a big one coming – you may get wet, but hopefully you will not break your neck! Remember rock fishing is a dangerous activity, stay safe and if in doubt – don’t go out.

I moved along the rocks and just on 5.15 pm I hooked a fish. I let it run until I could see a good wave that would bring it up the rocks. I then tightened the drag and lifted the fish clear. The wave pushed it up and broke over the ledge. It was a school Jewfish/ Mulloway, just under 50cm. I unhooked it and cast out into the same spot. Before the lure had hit the bottom it was grabbed again. This time it was a much faster and more powerful fish. It headed out to see and then turned and ran along the edge of the rock ledge. I tightened the drag to slow it down as I could see it was going to try and bury itself in the rocks. The leader got stuck between the sea squirts that line the rocks, but a big wave lifted it clear and up came the fish. I was soaked but I had a good sized (45cm +) Trevally at my feet.

These two would be dinner and as another rain squall came over I decided to head back to the cabin for a warm shower. It had been another great land based session fishing with soft plastics from the rocks.