Iluka – Middle Buff – Tailor – 14 June 2015

Sunday

The wind had picked up from the south-east on Saturday afternoon and then dropped off again overnight. I was not sure where to fish on Sunday morning. The swell had made the fishing tricky all week. I decided to try Middle Bluff, the headland between Frazer’s Reef and Woody Head, in the Bundjalung National Park.

I was up early and was pleased to walk out on to the beach to only a light breeze. It was about 6.00 am and the remainder of the moon was clearly visible as the horizon started to glow. I disturbed a couple of big kangaroos who were standing around down at the water’s edge. They took off into the undergrowth.  The broken clouds made for a fantastic pre-dawn with the red sun taking a quite a while to break through. The tranquillity was soon broken by the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks. The wind was light but the swell was definitely still up.

I walked round to the northern end of Middle Bluff and watched the surf for a while. Fishing safely off the front of the Bluff was going to be impossible. I decided to move to plan B and try spinning for some Tailor.

I rigged up the heavy rod. I wanted to try the DUO Pressbait Saira 175. This is effectively just a beautifully crafted and weighted 175mm, 50g sinking metal slug/jig. I fish it just like any other metal slug – long casts with a mixture stop/ start, continuous, slow or fast retrieves depending in the conditions and terrain. I was sure this would appeal to the tailor, if they were around.

The rocks protrude a long way into the bay at this spot so you need to put in long casts and keep the lure moving. I was now using a fairly short (0.6m) 30 lb leader tied on to 20lb braid with a long, solid uni-knot. The DUO Pressbait Saira is nicely weighted so you really do not need to hurl it out there. You just let gravity do the work.

I started casting at about 6-30 am, well after first light but before the sun had come over the horizon. On very long casts it is difficult to keep contact with the lure. The long length of line means there is a fair amount of slack which often initially disguises a hook-up. The rod tip only starts wiggling as the line gets really tight. After a few long casts and high-speed retrieves I felt a bit of weight and then the rod tip bent over. I had found a tailor. Frustratingly, about 20 metres from the shore it started leaping around and managed to free itself. I cast out in roughly the same location and after a few turns of the reel I had another fish. This one stayed hooked and I landed it successfully. I took a few pictures and threw it back, then cast out again.

Things went quiet for a while and the sun came over the horizon. At about 7.00 am I had the lure about 40 metres from the shore when something grabbed it and the reel started screaming. I held on tight but after taking about 15 metres of line the fish was gone and so was the Pressbait. I wound in a severed leader. I re-rigged with a 65 gram Raider metal slug and tried to find the fish with this. After another 30 minutes I had had no luck and I was exhausted.

I walked down to the corner of back beach and cast some soft plastics around in the shallows, I watched as a few schools of garfish follow and grab at the lures but I did not hook any. The swell showed no signs of calming down so at about 8.30 am I went off to find breakfast.

Fish stealing friends – Shark Bay – November 2014

Every time I fish at Shark Bay, near Iluka in Northern New South Wales,  I clean my fish in the rock pools. It is not uncommon to have an octopus stick a tentacle out and grab some floating fish guts or watch a crab sneak out to grab a free meal. But without fail, about three to five minutes after first drawing blood, the wobbegongs arrive.

Last time I was down there I caught a tiny moses perch on a big DUO lure and got mugged as I reeled it in. Watch where you are paddling in those rock pools!

 

Iluka – Shark bay – Plenty of Variety – 30 March 2012

Friday

Unfortunately the wind and swell were up again so my favorite Rocky spots were out of bounds. It was however, a beautiful clear morning. The wind was from the south at about 10 knots but there were also gusts from the west which made things very cool, once my legs were wet.

I started at Shark Bay with the light rod. I focused on the shallows, on the west side of the rock platform. There is often a Flathead lurking in here, amongst the rock bars and sea weed. I started with a big soft plastic – a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Curry Chicken colour on a 1/6th 1/0 jighead, with 12lb fluorocarbon leader. I had a few hits and then lost the tail. I moved down in size to a GULP 3” Minnow in the Smelt colour on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead and 8lb fluorocarbon leader.

The down-sizing converted the bites to fish but only tiny Moses Perch and then a Long Tom. I moved along the edge of the platform and there was a bite on almost every cast, but nothing significant. When the Tailor are around this is a great place to cast a 65g slug on the big rod.

I watched another great sun rise and kept catching small fish. Soon it was time to call it quits for the week. It had been a challenging week. The weather had made things tough, as it often does, but I had found some good fish – particularly the Bream. I had seen a few Tailor in the waves but only caught one from the rocks and one in the river. I always think that its a good trip if you are catching stuff and there was plenty of variety.

I managed 10 species this week – Bream, Flathead, Tailor, Luderick, Trevally, Jewfish, Moses Perch, Long Tom, Pike and even a few tiny Whiting. The weather had been too difficult for the hard bodies, so everything was caught on soft plastics.

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I drove back to Brisbane in the afternoon and as I unloaded the car, I was already considering my options for avoiding the wind and the Easter crowds to find some fish.

Iluka – Middle Bluff – Tailor – 11 April 2011

Monday – am

I have just got back from a week fishing the rocks at Iluka in Northern New South Wales. The weather was fantastic with only a couple of showers and very little swell, the whole week. For the beginning of the week we had early morning low tides, which also made it possible to fish some usually inaccessible spots. The week produced some great fish, as you will see.

I started on Monday morning at Middle Bluff in the Bundjalong National Park, just north of Iluka Bluff and Frasers Reef. I arrived around 5.00 am and faced a mild swell and a very light northerly wind. Low tide would be at about 7.00 am. I watched a few big waves slap over the rocks and decided to wait for better light to start fishing. At about 5.30 am I could see my feet and had got a feel for the wave pattern, so I started casting.

Dawn at Middle Bluff - Iluka

I bought a new rod for this trip – the Daiwa Demon Blood 9ft 6. The Rovex Bario 12ft and Aureus 9ft have served me well, off the rocks, but I needed a rod with a faster action and more sensitivity when casting lighter weighted jigheads. I also broke the 9ft Aureus while landing a decent Jewfish a few months back and although Rovex backed the rod with a replacement straight away, I have lost a bit of confidence in it. The Daiwa is a much pricier rod but it is really light and should also be able to lift big fish – we will see.

I started with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour rigged on a 3/8/ 3/0 jighead. I was using my Shimano Stradic 8000, loaded with 20lb Fireline and about 2m of fluorocarbon leader. I join the mainline to the leader with a uni to uni knot. The first half an hour produced nothing. I used a few other large plastics in fairly bright colours but nothing got a bite. It had been raining on and off, for about three weeks before we arrived and the Clarence River was pumping out a solid stream of sediment. As a result the water was very murky and got dirtier as we approached low tide.

At about 6.00 am I decided to put on a GULP 4” Minnow in the Vader colour – this has a black back and crème coloured underside. On my second cast it was grabbed close to the rocks. There were plenty of head shakes and then a decent Tailor leapt clean out of the water as it tried to shake the jighead from its jaw. The swell helped wash him up the ledges and after a short fight, I had him safe at my feet. It was a great way to christen the new rod – a 55 cm Tailor.

55cm Middle Bluff Tailor

I bled the Tailor, dropped it in a rock pool and cast out the rather mashed Vader Minnow again. Before I had lifted the rod tip – bang – a fish grabbed the lure and took off. It was a good size and peeled line for 10 seconds or so before – ping – it snapped the leader on a rock. I was out of Vader Minnows so I switched to a 4” Minnow in the Rainbow colour. This soft plastic is very similar to the Vader pattern but with a slight silvery sparkle on its underside. Second cast and I was on again this fish gave me plenty to think about by lodging itself down low in the rocks. I loosened the drag and as the line wafted free of the rocks I thought I had lost the fish. I started to wind in and bang – it was off again. This time it did not have much strength and with the next big wave I had it up on the rocks – another good Tailor at about 60cm.

60cm Middle Bluff Tailor

I fished on for another hour or so through the tide change without another touch. I gave up around 8.00 am and headed home. A great start to the week.

Iluka – Frasers Reef – Jewfish/Bream – 12 Feb 2011

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Saturday – am

I woke around 4.30 am Saturday to meet a very sweaty dawn. There had been a northerly wind change overnight and it had brought warmer temperatures. Fortunately the wind was light so I decided to head back out to Middle Bluff to see whether the fish would still be biting.

I arrived on the rocks in the dark and carefully rigged up and edged out for my first cast. I was full of anticipation as the first few casts had produced some good results over the preceding few sessions. I was using the GULP 5” Jerkshad soft plastic in the lime tiger colour as I had run out of the ‘crazy legs’ version. It was rigged on a 3/8th oz 4/0 jighead.

The first cast produced nothing, nor did the next. In fact, after an hour of fishing, I had not registered a touch on the lure. I switched to a 70g HALCO Twisty slug to try and spin up a Tailor, but that technique was also unsuccessful. I reverted to the lime tiger soft plastic and at about 6.30am I connected with a fish. It was a small Jewfish/ Mulloway, just under 45cm so I released it.

I decided to move along the rocks to Fraser’s Reef. You can only reach this rocky outcrop about one to two hours either side of low tide. When the water is calm, there are a number of great spots to fish, particularly on the front of the promontory. In a number of places the waves break into narrow cuttings in the rocks which are constantly filling and draining. These provide great cover for the fish.

It was now around 8.30am and I decided to fish a paddle tail plastic. I chose the GULP Jigging Grub in the Nuclear Chicken colour. I put it in a 3/8thoz 4/0 hook jighead and fished it in as close to the rocks as I could. I would put in a few casts every few metres or so. The water was quite murky at the bottom of the tide – probably because of all the sediment that has been washed out of the Clarence River by the floods.

I cast down into a v-shaped channel between the rocks, as I lifted the rod I felt a double tap, I let the plastic sink again and when I lifted it for the second time, I had a fish on. I played it with the swell and eventually lifted it clear of the water. It was a monster Bream – around 39cm long. I continued fishing all around these rocks for another half an hour, but I could not find any more. At 9.30 am I gave up.

Woody Head – Dusk – 11 Feb 2011

Friday – PM

On Friday afternoon the swell had eased significantly, so I decided to try fishing off the front at Woody Head, another of Iluka’s great rock fishing spots. I started at the rock known as Barnacle Bob. I was casting a ½ oz weight soft plastic but it kept getting snagged and I kept getting soaked so I moved south.

I stopped in every safe place I could and put in casts with various plastics. I lost plenty of jigheads but only one went to a fish. It just grabbed the lure (a 4” minnow) close into the rocks and took off. It ran for no more than 5 or 6 seconds before busting me off. As the sun set I had nothing from a couple of hours of fishing. The wind had turned to a very slight northerly. I decided to give up around 7.30pm and headed home.

Iluka – Middle Bluff – Jewfish – 9 Feb 2011

Wednesday

I was early to bed on Tuesday – about 8.00 pm (7.00 pm QLD) – in fact. It still did not seem to make getting up at 4.30am Wednesday any easier, especially as it was raining solidly outside. I pulled on the felt soled rock boots and rain jacket and jumped in the car. I drove down to the beachside carpark for Frazer’s Reef, grabbed my gear and walked north along the beach, in the dark. The rain was gradually easing off, but there was no sign of dawn on the horizon, just dark cloudy shadows.

I passed the rocky peninsula which is actually called Frazer’s Reef and carried on to the next headland which is usually called Middle Bluff. Every now and then, I could hear a big wave slap against the rocks and then hear the water come crashing down. The wind was coming from the south east, but very light.

By about 5.30 am I was in position at the northern end of Middle Bluff. There is a large bommy just off shore here, and it provides a bit of shelter for the fish. There was now a faint glow on the horizon and the rain had turned to a fine drizzle.

I was fishing with the 9’ Rovex Aureus, my Shimano Stradic 6000, 20lb Fireline and about 1.5 metres of 30 fluorocarbon leader. For my first cast I chose the GULP Crazylegs lime tiger jerkshad soft plastic which I rigged on a 1/2oz 5/0 jighead. I cast out into the gloom and let it sink. You can’t leave it long – the bottom is littered with rocks and there are only a few sandy patches in between. There was plenty of swell and it was difficult to tell when the plastic had hit the sea floor. I generally count slowly to about ten then jerk up the rod tip, let it sink and then repeat.

I fished for about three more casts and then the line came up taught. There was a quick initial run and then just a few, slow tail slaps. I lifted the fish clear of the rocks on an incoming wave and got soaked in the process. It was a 51 cm school Jewfish. I unhooked it and dropped it into a rock pool, for safekeeping. It was 5.15 am and only just getting light. I carried on with the same plastic for about half an hour and then switched to a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the satay chicken colour. After a couple of retrieves I caught another school Jewfish, but it was just under 45cm so I threw it back. A few casts later I had another and this one was around 50cm, so it went in the rockpool.

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It was now fully light and the rain had stopped. The tide started running out at about 7.30 am and just as the tide changed I caught another fish – another Jewfish, about 50 cm. As the tide built up flow and the sun started to peek through the clouds, the swell really picked up and I got a good soaking from a couple of waves. At about 8.30 am I stopped fishing, cleaned up my catch and headed back to a hot shower.

Fingal Head – Jew & Trevally – 8 Feb 2011

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Tuesday

I could see that the weather looked reasonable for a few days so I decided to head south. Plenty of showers to come but the wind and swell looked like they were finally calming down.

I was heading for Iluka, in Northern New South Wales, to chase a few Jewfish from the rocky headlands of the Bundjalong National Park. I decided to stop at Fingal Head for a fishing session on my way down, on Tuesday morning. I arrived around 4.45am and crossed the causeway out onto the rock platform and rigged up my light 2-4g 7ft Nitro spin rod. I wanted to try fishing with lighter weighted jigheads – around a 1/4oz – and to do this effectively, I had to dump the traditional heavy rock fishing rod.

Unfortunately the wind was howling (southerly) and the swell was up – fishing a 1/4 oz jighead was not working, so I switched to a 3/8 oz. I was fishing with the GULP Crazy Legs Lime Tiger Jerkshad and using a 16lb fluorocarbon leader. I was casting out from the northern side of the rock platform and bumping the lure back along the sand to the base of the rocks. As dawn broke there was a huge school of birds working above a bait school, but they were too far to cast at.

After fishing for about 45 minutes the lure was hit about 6 metres from the rocks and I hooked up. It was a Jewfish – just over 50 cm and after a couple of runs, I landed it safely. I tried for another 30 minutes and then swapped to a more natural GULP 4″ Peppered Prawn minnow soft plastic. The birds were still working but not moving any closer.

I was casting out from the northern tip of the rock platform. The wind and swell was washing the plastic back into the rocks fairly quickly, but it was on the bottom. Suddenly there was a jerk and the line started peeling. There was a blistering initial run and then I tightened the drag and started to get line back. On a decent surge I pulled the fish up, on to the platform. It was a 45cm Big Eye Trevally.

Now it was really blowing, the tide had started to really run and the heavens opened. I took it as an omen and packed up. – Next stop Iluka.

Iluka – Shark Bay in the rain – 3 Dec 2010

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Friday
It wasn’t raining at 4.00am Friday – so I walked out on to the rocks in front of Woody Head. I was disappointed to still see a big sea. I tried casting from a few safer spots but after losing four jigheads to the rocks, I decided I needed another plan. I walked along the beach to Shark Bay. It is probably one or two km but at this time of the morning, it was a beautiful stroll. There were big black clouds everywhere but initially, at least, it stayed dry and there was not much wind.
I had swapped my heavy rod for a lighter set up and I was fishing with a 7’6” Nitro 2-4 kg Distance Spin Rod matched with a Shimano Stradic 3000 reel. I had loaded the reel with 3.8 kg Fireline in the yellow colour and tied on about 1.5 metres of 12lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader. I had decided to fish lighter as I wanted to see if there were any good Bream around. This rig is also quite capable of land the odd small jewfish or Tailor should they show up.
I walked out onto the rock platform at the southern corner of Shark Bay and moved out to the north east corner. I had a few hours in this spot before the incoming tide would force me off. Just as I put in the first cast a shower came over and I was soaked in a few minutes. At least it wasn’t cold.
I started by fishing the GULP 4” Pearl Watermelon minnow soft plastic. This is a great imitation of a pilchard and has proved to be excellent bait in this location. But today I could not raise a bite. Maybe it was the murky water. I switched to one of my new favourites the GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshad in the New Penny colour. I also switched down in weight from a ¼ oz to a 1/6th oz jighead both with 1/0 hooks. This gives me a little less distance when casting but increases the sink time and gives the fish more time to strike. After a few casts with the new rig, a fish slammed the lure at the edge of the kelp covered ledge. I struck hard and then let it have some line. On the next surge I pulled it up through the kelp. It was a nice 36cm Bream. I cast out again and over the next few casts pulled in three smaller fish around the 30cm mark all on the same plastic.
With another rain squall on the horizon and the tide moving up rapidly I decided to head back to the campsite to try to dry out. I would think with all the rain, good Bream would be all around these rocky headlands. The only problem would be finding a safe place to fish for them.

Iluka – The Rockwall – 2 Dec 2010

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Thursday

I went to bed in a heavy rain shower and woke up to yet another one at about 4.00 am. After a while it eased off so I pulled on the (now very wet and fairly malodorous) fishing boots and made a cup of tea. The wind was light from the north east but as I walked out from Woody Head in the half light of dawn, I could see the swell was significant and the rocks were going to be too dangerous. I jumped in the car and headed down to the rock wall that runs out from the northern bank of the mouth of the Clarence River, at Iluka.
Fishing the Iluka rock wall is not for the faint hearted. You need good boots and good knees. It is a long walk from where you park to the best fishing spots. The first half of the wall has a nice pathway along the top, but as you reach about half way, the fill underfoot gets bigger and bigger until you a walking across wobbling boulders. Finally in the last 200 metres all the loose fill has been washed away and what is left is a mass of boulders. If you persist and clamber on, there are a few good flat boulders that make excellent fishing platforms on either side, but the most consistent fish holding spot, for me, is the wash around the base of the wall at the very end. Depending on the wind and tide you can either fish the river side or the ocean side
Depending on the wind and tide you can either fish the river side or the ocean side. I recommend giving both a try. I usually put in a few casts whilst walking out and one of these got smashed at the foot of the rocks by a small Tailor. I was using the GULP 5” Pumpkinseed Jerkshad soft plastic lure on a 3/8 2/0 jighead. I landed this fish after a short fight and as it was only just legal size at around 35cm, I threw it back. I had a few more casts here with no further action and so I moved on to the end of the wall.
The swell was calming down a bit, but the rain was still blowing over in 10 minute showers. There was too much swell to fish directly off the end of the wall, so I started off fishing the north side of the wall. The tide was running out and I assumed that the fish would shelter from the current on the ocean side of the wall. I switched to a ½ oz 4/0 jighead and put on a GULP 7” Limetiger Crazylegs Jerkshad. This is a great plastic with a split curly tail that flutters, as it sits or sinks, in the current. I was sure there would be some Jewfish around. I put in about 50 or 60 casts without result, so I switched to the river side. Fortunately, the rain was flattening the sea now. After a few casts out into the mouth of the river, the line came up tight and the rod tip started shaking. This is a tricky spot to land a fish. You are a couple of metres above the water line and you just have to heave the fish up. If you are on your own this is your only option. I find a long handle gaff is too hard without someone to hold the rod. I had a good size Tailor on. Tailor have such soft mouths that the final lift is even more difficult. Sure enough, as I tried to raise it clear of the water, I pulled the hook. I put on a fresh soft plastic and cast out in the same spot. After a few seconds I got a solid hit and I dropped the rod tip. When I lifted it I had another fish on. After a short fight, I successfully landed another Tailor. At about 45cm, I decided to keep this one.
I continued to cast in semicircle in the area but the fish had moved on or they had stopped eating because I could not raise another bite. Finally after another rain squall I packed up.

Iluka – Shark Bay – 1 Dec 2010

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Wednesday

It rained all night on Tuesday and most of Wednesday morning. I got up early and surveyed a few rock fishing spots around Woody Head and Iluka Bluff, but the swell had got up during the night and there was really nowhere to fish on the morning high tide. The Clarence River was now a tea coloured soup with lots of debris floating around, so that was not really an option.
I grabbed a cuppa and watched the rain pour down from my tent. Thankfully, it was doing a good job of remaining waterproof. Around 11.00 am the rain eased off and so did the wind. I decided to have a fish in Shark Bay which is a little to the north of Woody Head. There is a low rock promontory in the corner of the bay, which you can walk out to at low tide. On the north east side of the promontory there is a pronounced rock ledge that is covered in kelp. About fifty metres further east there is a partially submerged patch of reef that rises just above sea level, at low tide. As the tide runs in and out, it funnels bait into a twenty to thirty metre channel which is a great area to target all kinds of species. There are often birds smashing into the baitfish in this area but there was no action when I arrived around 11.30 am.

I had my new felt-soled Cloudveil fishing boots on. I prefer these to the rubber booties with studded soles, which I have been using. The felt gives you an excellent grip but the tougher boot also gives good ankle support. To cast out over the kelpy rock ledge you really need to stand about knee deep in the water. You can only really get close enough to it for a couple of hours, either side of low tide. The water was certainly cooler than I expected and definitely much cooler than usual for this time of year – maybe it’s all the rain. I started with soft plastic lures on a 3/8 oz 3/0 hook jighead. I tried a number of shapes in the Pumpkinseed and also a few other colours and apart from a tiny Moses Perch, I did not catch anything.

After an hour or so, I decided to put a metal slug on and have a spin for some Tailor. I put on a 60g Mojiko (Anaconda) slug in a pink/purple colour and started casting. I like the colour of these slugs but I suspect the reason Anaconda can’t give them away, is that after about ten casts, all the colour chips off and you are left with a zinc coloured battered piece of metal. This can still catch fish but it doesn’t look too impressive. I was putting in very long casts, trying to land the slug as close as I could to the exposed reef. With all the kelp and rocks it was very difficult to tell whether I was getting hit or just catching on debris on the retrieve. However after about 50 casts I tried to yank the lure free of what I thought was some kelp and the rod tip started shaking and line started peeling. As the fish came towards the ledge it made a good leap and I could see it was a nice Tailor. It tried to get down under the ledge but I tightened the drag and pulled it over the top and up to my feet. My arms were burning from all the spinning so after a couple of follow up casts, I cleaned up the fish and headed back to camp. After a couple of hours on ice, I ate fresh fried Tailor fillets for dinner. Only one fish – but a good one at about 55cm.

Iluka – Frasers Reef – 30 Nov 2010

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Tuesday
I am just back from a week down at Iluka. There were fish around but the weather did its best to stop me catching any. The consistent northerly winds created a constant swell at most of the rock fishing spots and the rain just kept coming.
I arrived last Tuesday, 30th Dec and, in hindsight, the conditions that day were the best. I started early in the morning, just on dawn, looking for some jewfish from the rocks around Frasers Reef. The swell was just fishable but every now and then I got soaked by a surge that slapped up against the rocks and came straight down on top of me – at least it was warmer than June and September. The tide was about half way in.
Any plastic in the Pumpkinseed colour is a firm favourite with the locals and I rigged a GULP 5” Jerkshad which has worked well for me in this spot. The swell was big and after a few casts with a 3/8 oz jighead, I switched to a heavier ½ oz jighead. Soon after sun up I got a few bites and nudges at the foot of one of the bommies that I like to cast at from the shore. As always, it is very difficult to get a plastic down on the bottom and leave it there for any length of time. If you jerk it off the bottom too quickly the fish don’t find it and if you leave it too long you get snagged. Add in the swell and the murky water and things did not really look promising.
I persisted and got soaked and snagged a few times and then switched to a smaller GULP. I also changed down from 30lb to 20lb fluorocarbon leader. It started to rain. A couple of casts later I had a fish on. I played it for a bit and then noticed a huge wave building, about fifty metres offshore. I tightened the drag and made an effort to get the fish up on the preceding, smaller wave, but I just could not pull it up. I crouched and the wave smashed against the rocks. The plume of water went straight up for 5 metres or so before absolutely soaking me. But as the water receded, I was delighted to hear some tail slapping and just beside me there was a small school jewfish, just about legal in NSW, at a little more than 45cm. I decided to release this fish in the hope of finding a better one. I removed the jighead without too much trouble and speared the fish back into the foam.
About twenty minutes later I had another one on and despite the strong current, it felt a bit bigger. I decided to walk it round to a more sheltered landing spot and got another soaking in the process. I managed to hold on and let the swell lift it onto a ledge. I then grabbed the leader and pulled it up. It was a better fish at around 50cm long, but it was no monster. This one I kept for dinner and after cleaning it up in the rain I decided to give up at around 9.30 am.

Broomes Head Lagoon – Wild & Windy – 21 Sept 2010

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Tuesday

I am just back from a trip down to Broome’s Head, just south of Yamba, in northern New South Wales. It is typical of the rocky headlands on that stretch of coast. You can fish on either side of the headland depending on the prevailing winds. However last week the weather really made things difficult. On Monday it rained all day while an enormous swell smashed over the rock ledges. I am pretty keen on my fishing but I could not find anywhere I could cast from.

Tuesday was better – well at least the rain had stopped. The seas were still enormous, with a three metre swell. Fortunately the northern side of Broomes Head has a sheltered lagoon. Just on dawn, I waded out into the lagoon and got as close as I could to its mouth. I cast out a 3” GULP Pearl Watermelon minnow soft plastic on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead. I wanted to keep my rig as light as possible to avoid getting snagged on the rocky bottom. I got a couple of touches and saw a few Long Toms following the lure in. After a few more casts, I hooked up with a small Bream – around 25cm. Then a couple of casts later I hooked up to a better fish. When I got him to me, he was a small golden Trevally. I hooked a couple more under-size Bream and a Moses Perch from this position before deciding to try to get closer to the lagoon’s entrance.

At its eastern edge the lagoon is filled through a gap in a long ridge of rocks. Here at the mouth of the lagoon there is some deeper water on either side. The outside of the lagoon entrance was far too rough to fish. But by walking out along the rocky ridge I found a spot from where I could cast into the deeper water just inside the lagoon. I started with the 4” GULP Swimming Mullet soft plastic on a 1/6th 1/0 jighead. I could not really let it settle for more than a few seconds on the retrieve, for fear of losing it to the rocks or kelp beds. I gradually got a feel for where I could stop and start the retrieve and what the sink rate was. After about 30 minutes of peppering the area with casts I caught a very good Bream – just on 35cm. On the next cast I caught another Bream, a bit smaller but also a good fish. Then things went quiet on the fish front and the wind was really howling. I switched to a 3”GULP Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour and cast it out into the wash at the foot of the rocks. Just as I was about to lift the lure from the water it was grabbed by a big dark shape. The fish took the lure down deep into the kelp at the foot of the rocks and then just sat there. I was only running a 10lb leader so I decided to ease off the pressure and let him swim out of his hiding place. I dropped the rod tip and counted to ten then pulled hard. It worked and I slid a very decent fish up on to the rock ledge at my feet. After giving it the once over, I decided it was a Morwong or Mother-in-law fish of some kind and kept it for the table. I later found out it was a Spotted Hind. It did not taste much good and apparently is quite common down here. I now had plenty of fish for a family supper so I headed off for a hot shower.

Iluka – Browns Rocks – Final Session – 14 August 2010

On Saturday the swell from the big low that was moving past offshore, arrived. This was my last day at Iluka. The rocky headlands were a no go area and the key sign that fishing was out of the question was the arrival of all the surfers. I decided to have a lie in and fish in the afternoon.
At about 2.00pm I headed off up the Clarence to look for a good Flathead spot. I crossed the bridge over to Goodwood Island, at Woombah and drove past Browns Rocks and the Norfolk Island Jetty to a couple of weed beds that have produced good fish in the past. It was the perfect afternoon. The tide was running out, there was a bit of breeze and the water was about 2- 3 feet over the weed beds. The water was very clear and I have been told that the wild colours go best when this is the case – so I put on a 5” Lime Tiger Jerkshad and used a 1/6th 1/0 jighead and 12 lb leader. I would usually go lighter, but with all the choppers around, bite off’s are a common problem.
I put the waders on and wandered out until I was about waist deep and walking through the weed banks, up river, parallel with the shore. I was casting up into the run out tide and letting the plastic sink. I would then bump it along the sand beside the weed, at the edge of the main channel. I walked about two hundred yards like this, before I got a hit. I hooked up with a small (30cm) flathead. I released him and cast back in the same spot a few more times. Third time, I got another one, slightly bigger. I carried on for another 30 feet and got a decent, 48 cm keeper. On the walk back to the car I got bitten off by what I presume was a Chopper. I had to get back for dinner but I had that feeling that all fisherman get – if only I could have stayed a little longer the really good fish would have come on the bite!

Iluka – Frazers Reef – Jewies – 12 August 2010

On Thursday morning conditions were as near perfect as you can get on the rocky headlands around Iluka. There was a light (but cold) westerly wind which had flattened the swell and despite the rain earlier in the week, the water was fairly clean. I decided to fish the rock ledges around Frazer’s Reef, a rocky outcrop, located just to the south of Woody Head at Iluka. This is another spot you can only get to 3 hrs or so, either side of low tide. As the tide rises, it swamps the rocky causeway of boulders that you cross to get to the fishing spots.
At dawn on Thursday, the only other sign of life on the walk along the beach were the tracks in the sand made by the kangaroos. It was seriously cold. I was hoping for something more than a Tailor or Trevally. So again I rigged up a plastic on a 3/8 3/0 jighead but this time I went for a 5” GULP Lime Tiger Crazy Legs Jerkshad. This is a Jerkshad shaped plastic with twin curly tails and has a fantastic action both on the drop and when sitting in the current on the bottom. I not convinced about the colour, but I love the action.
I started fishing in the red glow before the sun came up and had a few bumps and nudges and lost the tails on the first plastic. As the great orange ball broke the horizon just on 6.00 am, I hooked a fish. It put in a solid run but it was difficult to follow as the Stradic’s (my expensive reel !!) drag ratchet chose this moment to give up on me. The drag was still working but I could not hear the clicking as the fish took line. It is a very strange sensation fighting a fish without the ‘zzzzzzzzzzzzz’ every now and then. I had subdued the fish but now had to get him up the rocks. I moved him to a corner where there are a few stepped ledges and used the swell to lift him on to the lower one. Then I jumped down one step, wrapped the leader round the glove and lifted the fish clear. It was a beautiful school Jewfish. It was in great condition and measured just on 80cm.
I bled the Jew and put him in a keeper rockpool (one without a wobbegong!). I then got straight back into it. This time I got snagged on a bommy. Next cast produced another, smaller (65cm) school jewfish which I again landed with the aid of the swell. Now I knew they were obviously right on the bottom just behind the bommy. This kind of fishing requires deep pockets – I must have lost 10 more jigheads to that bommy over the next hour. I had a couple of runs with decent fish which I judged from the headshakes were Tailor, but I failed to hook up with either of them. Finally, as the tide was going to force me off my spot I was on to a fish again. This time I had swapped to a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Pumpkinseed colour. This fish felt big but when I got him up the rocks he was actually the smallest of the day at around 60cm – another school jewfish.
I now had to wade, waist deep, through the water to get back across the causeway to the beach, but I reckon getting my nuts chilled was a reasonable sacrifice for some great fishing.

Iluka – Woody Head – 11 August 2010

Tuesday was a washout with 24 hours of almost solid rain. Fortunately the tent kept me dry throughout. By the lunchtime low tide on Wednesday, the sky was still overcast but things where brightening up. The ‘Barnacles’ at Woody Head, where I had been fishing the day before, were out of bounds due to the swell. I decided to try fishing the northern side of the Woody Head rock shelf which was a bit more sheltered. I started with the same terminal tackle as the day before – 3/8 3/0 jighead, 25lb fluorocarbon leader and a 4” Pearl Watermelon Minnow. Fishing these spots is always difficult. You need the plastic down in the water column, but leave it too long or weight it too heavily and you will just get snagged. On the first three casts I lost three jigheads to the rocks. This was the price of getting a feel for the swell and terrain. After a few more successful casts I felt a distinct hit but no hook up. Two more casts and just as I was about to jerk the jighead out of the water, at the end of the retrieve – bang! I had a solid fish. It tried to dip down and bury itself in the rocks but fortunately the swell was on my side. I tightened the drag and towed him straight up to my feet with the rising water. I had a nice trevally, about 45cm. I fished on for an hour or so and lost two similar fish to the barnacle covered rock ledges.
I then decided to clean the Trevally in a rock pool. I gutted the fish and started tidying it up when I noticed a splash a few feet away. A decent sized Wobbegong had turned up hoping for a free meal! I retreated, in case he mistook my foot for a fish and made a mental note to check the content of the next rock pool before I start gutting.

Bribie Island – Sandstone Point and Buckleys Hole – 5 August 2010

BRIBIE - THE MAKINGS OF A FISH PIE

Thursday looked like a great fishing morning – cool, not much wind and a run out tide through dawn. I decided to start off on the sandbanks of Sandstone Point. I put the waders on in the dark and wandered along by the old oyster jetty, on the mainland beside the Bribie Bridge. The sky was beginning to glow red. I have noticed that I don’t seem to catch many flathead in the dark. I get them around the bridge lights at night, but rarely seem to catch them out on the flats until there is a bit of light on the water. This may just be because I spend more time fishing in the daylight!
High tide was around 4.00 am and I started fishing at about 5.30am. I walked as far as I could along the sand banks and then turned back northwards. I was wading in about a metre of water, parallel with the exposed sand bank. I was casting up into the outgoing tide, trying to land my soft plastic lure right on the edge of the weed banks. As usual, it was the Pike that struck first – a few small ones then a monster – I thought initially it was a flathead but soon realised it wasn’t when it started thrashing around. I got it to the shore and measured it at 46cm – the biggest Pike I have ever caught.
Usually in these conditions I would expect to be getting plenty of flathead but things were a bit slow. I hooked then dropped a small on, about 30 metres short of the jetty and then a couple of casts later; I caught a 42cm fish. I was using the 4” GULP Minnow Grub in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead. I could not raise anymore so I walked back to the car and drove over the bridge to Buckley’s Hole to fish the drop off there.
I arrived there at about 8.00am – with low tide scheduled around 10.00 am. I walked to the south and started wading north and casting a 2” GULP Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour. I was looking for the Bream that are often to be found here. The tide was running fairly hard so I rigged the soft plastic on a 1/6th 1/0 jighead – this meant that I could get the plastic down deep fairly quickly. I waded up and down the beach casting out over the drop off and letting the plastic float down to the bottom with the current. After about 45 minutes of this, I found a patch of Bream and caught seven in quick succession, all on the soft plastic shrimp. Only three were big enough to keep and all three were about 28cm. The wind was now getting up and it was still cold and overcast so at about 10.00 am I decided to give up and grab a hot cup of coffee.
Next week I am off to Iluka in Northern New South Wales, to fish the rocks and beaches of the Bundjalong National Park. I am hoping to find some Tailor, monster Bream and no doubt, a few surprises. I will post the results as soon as I am back.

Landangler’s Tailor on Soft Plastics

I am sure you have all heard it said a million times – if you want to catch some Tailor you can’t go past a lightly weighted, West Australian Pilchard floating down off the back of the boat or a well place chrome slug cast from the rocks. Don’t get me wrong – it’s sound advice and it definitely will get you some fish, but I thought I would offer my experience of catching Tailor on soft plastic lures.
As you may have worked out, I love to fish with soft plastics and I almost only fish from the shore. So my experience of catching Tailor is based on those parameters. Firstly, most of the time when I get a good (keeper size – 35cm + QLD or 30cm + NSW) ‘chopper’, it is an accident. I am usually not targeting them; they just wallop whatever I am fishing with. I am usually prospecting on some sand flats, beside a bridge or rock wall and suddenly the line starts peeling and the rod starts shaking and I realise that I either have a Flathead on steroids or it’s a Tailor. This usually results in a bite off as I fish pretty light (10 to 12lb leader), but occasionally, if the fish is nicely hooked, I will get it safely to the bank. The plastic is usually pretty smashed up but if I cast it straight back out, I often get another. Then they are gone.
So this year, as the weather cooled, I decided I would actually try to catch some tailor with plastics. The first thing I did was switch to heavier tackle. I decided on a 6000 size spinning reel, loaded with 12lb Fireline down to a 20lb fluorocarbon leader. I also made sure I had the toughest jigheads that I could find, from 1/6th to ½ ounce. Then I thought about my rod. The problem, when choosing a rod for plastics in these circumstances, is the immediate compromise between strength and sensitivity. A ‘medium’ weight estuary spinning rod (something like a 7’6 3-6kg Berkeley Dropshot) gives you a good, sensitive connection to the soft plastic and so you can fish fairly light weight jigheads (1/8 to ¼ ounce) and still cast them out effectively. However if you hook up to a decent fish (in my book that is anything over 2kg) you are really going to struggle, especially if you need to pull it up a rock wall or onto a ledge. The alternative is to go heavier but then, inevitably, you lose a bit of the sensitivity. My ‘heavy’ plastics rod is the 11 Ft 6-15kg Rovex BARIO. This rod still has some feel in the tip but it is strong enough to heave some decent fish up the rocks. The downside is that it is very difficult to fish with much less than a 3/8 ounce jighead, as the rod is really too stiff to feel anything lighter. I have landed plenty of 2 to 5 kg fish with this rod – if you hook up with anything much heavier then you really need a mate with long handled gaff.
Once I had decided on the set up I looked for likely locations. This was tricky as I have caught Tailor from Yamba in Northern NSW right up to 1770 in Queensland, but I have usually caught the bigger ones when chasing jewfish from the rocks.
So my first experimental Tailor plastics session was fishing the end of the rock wall at the mouth of the Tweed River, about a month ago (in mid June). I find that the north side of the north rock wall is a good fishing spot, so I arrived an hour before dawn and found a large flat boulder near the end of the wall. I rigged up the ‘heavy’ rod. So which plastic to choose? Working on the principle that Tailor love Pilchards – I chose the GULP 4” Minnow in Pearl Watermelon – as it looks quite like one. It is basically a dark green on top with silver coloured under body and v shaped tail. It is an excellent all rounder that I often start with it. I rigged it on a 3/8 2/0 jighead. The first few casts – in the dark – produced nothing. Fishing from the rocks in the dark is pretty hit and miss, not to mention dangerous, so I usually wait for the pre-dawn light to see what I am doing. Yes – I have a headlamp but it is pretty easy to spook the fish by shining a few high powered LEDs down at them. Sure enough just as the horizon started to glow I got a couple of solid hits and then a good fish took the plastic right at the foot of the wall, on a fairly quick retrieve. A bit too big for a Bream and a bit too frenetic for a trevally, sure enough it was a good ‘chopper’, probably around 40cm. Once I turned it around, it broke the surface, in the foam, by the rocks, but as soon as I lifted it clear of the water, it started wriggling and wriggled off the jighead. In the space of half an hour, I had four more fish of a similair size. I landed two and lost two in a similair manner to the first. They have very soft mouths and once they are out of the water it is very difficult to stop yourself pulling the hook out. Then all went quiet for about forty minutes and they were back again. They were obviously chasing the bait schools up and down the rock wall. This time round (using the same plastic) I dropped the first fish and was bitten off by the second. By the time I had re-rigged they were gone. I stayed the rest of the morning and caught a few bream but the Tailor did not come back. The plastics had certainly taken a beating – I had to put a new one on after every successful hook up – but it seemed like a reasonable trade off.
The next trip was down to Iluka Bluff in Northern New South Wales. I had a couple of days there but due to the weather I could only manage two fishing sessions – the morning and evening of the first day. Conditions on that morning were perfect with only a light swell and virtually no wind. The Bluff is a large flat ledge at the end of a headland and there are tailor here all year round although they improve in size and numbers in the cooler months. Again I arrived in position pre-dawn on the southern side of the Bluff. I started with the same rig except I ran a 40lb leader and switched to the same shaped plastic in the Pumpkinseed colour. About 30 mins after dawn I was bitten off, then after re-rigging, I landed a nice 50cm Tailor and dropped two more in quick succession. Things slowed for an hour or so and then I down sized to a twenty pound leader. Third cast with the lighter leader and I was onto a decent fish which rubbed me off, but after a quick re-rig I got another 45cm fish which I landed. Downsizing the leader as the sun gets higher in the sky often works for me in this way, as does matching the size of the plastic, as closely as possible, to the bait that’s already in the water.
That evening the wind was up and so was the swell. Again the fish appeared to come on and off every 20 to 30 minutes. It certainly seemed like they were cruising up and down in front of the headland, chasing the bait. Each time they came by I would get a couple of knocks and nudges and sometimes a hook up. I like to use a pretty standard retrieve – it is always a tricky balance between getting the fairly heavy jigheads (3/8 ounce) down low in the water column and not getting snagged on the bottom. I usually cast out and count slowly to ten. On ten, I jerk the rod tip up, and pause while the plastic sinks again. Then I wind in some line and repeat the process. Finally, just on dusk I got the best fish of the trip – a 65cm Tailor and fortunately the rising swell more or less landed it for me, by washing it up over a ledge right at my feet. This time I had switched to the 5” Jerkshad plastic also in the pumpkinseed colour.
Although two trips hardly make a definitive study, I have had many rock fishing sessions which have produced Tailor on soft plastic lures and I think I can draw the following key conclusions.
There are a few disadvantages to using plastics. Firstly, they are expensive – the Tailor destroy them and you will rarely get two fish out of one plastic, often they will get munched before you even get a fish to the shore. Secondly, you certainly cannot cast them as far as a heavily weighted bait or slug. Thirdly, jigheads often do not hook up as solidly as a treble right in the mouth – so slugs can make it easy to lift the fish to safety without pulling the hook.
However, the single biggest advantage of using soft plastics for Tailor is the ability to fish a moving lure through the lower part of the water column, more consistently, than you could a bait or a slug. You simply cannot move bait along the bottom with the action of a plastic and a slug is almost always on an upward trajectory once it gets up to speed. So if the fish are travelling along, or close to the bottom, I think you will get more hooks ups with a soft plastic, than with a slug or bait. Of course, if they are feeding on the surface they will still take the plastic on the drop, but maybe they will be more interested in a surface popper, fast moving slug or lightly weighted pilchard.
Of course, none of the above applies in the weeks that lead up to spawning off Fraser Island. If you can locate the fish at that time – they are usually so thick and so competitive that you can catch them with almost any type of bait, lure or even an old sock!
I hope you found this useful and, as always I would welcome any comments – questions or experiences that you may wish to share.

Bribie Island – Buckleys Hole – 15 July 2010

Thursday morning – I got up at 4.15 am and drove from Brisbane up to Bribie looking forward to a good fishing session. Low tide would be around 6.40 am and although the forecast was for moderate West to Southwest wind, it was pretty flat when I arrived.

I decided to start off under the Bridge lights on the island side. I find the bridge lights attract the bait and there is often something waiting to pounce on your lure/ bait from the dark water around the pylons. I loaded a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 jighead with Gulp 3” minnow soft plastic in the pearl watermelon colour and sure enough, first cast I pulled up a Pike and next cast 15cm Tailor. I moved up and down the weed banks, along the edge of the Passage, on either side of the bridge. After about half an hour I picked up a 45cm Flathead about 15 metres north of the bridge., right on the edge of the weed.

The first glow of dawn was showing so I decided to move down to the mouth of the tidal lagoon in front of Buckley’s Hole. This is an excellent Bream spot especially when they are schooling up to spawn. Using the same plastic and weight I cast up into the last of the run out tide and let it sink down along the coffee rock ledge – jigging every 5 seconds or so. After a few casts I caught an undersized Bream, followed by a few Pike and gradually I started to catch a few keeper Bream. Every third fish or so, was legal and after an hour I had 5 keepers between 25cm and 30cm.

At about 8.30am I called it quits and went to find a hot drink.

PASSAGE BREAM ARE BEGINNING TO FIRE
BREAM FROM BUCKLEY’S HOLE – BRIBIE ISLAND