Skennars Head – Jewfish – November 2018

In November I spent a few sessions exploring the rocky headlands around Lennox and Skennars Heads in Northern New South Wales. I was fishing soft plastics lures on my new favorite outfit – a Daiwa Crossfire 1062 matched with a Shimano Stella 4000. I generally rigged a 12 to 20lb fluorocarbon leader and 20lb braid, for main line. As usual I was losing plenty of gear to the rocks as I felt around the rocky outcrops and bommies. My soft plastic of choice is still the GULP 4″ Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. It is as close to a pilchard as anything and pilchards catch plenty of fish. I keep the jighead as light as I can – a sixth of an ounce or even an eighth, if the swell will still let it sink.

On most sessions I found a bream or a dart or two, but on a couple of occasions I found some Jewfish/ Mulloway, hugging the base of the rocks. They appeared to be schooled up under the overhangs. Only one was big enough to keep but I was glad to have made contact.

Skennars Head fishing spot
Skennars Head

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 – 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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Fingal Head – The Lighthouse Rocks – 1 Feb 2011

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Tuesday

With the cyclone bearing down and the prospect of another wet and windy period, I thought I had better get out for a fishing session. So early Tuesday morning I headed down to the Tweed river mouth before dawn. I fished around the end of the rockwall for a couple of hours, either side of dawn but failed get a bite so, at around 6.30 am, I decided to head further south to Fingal Head, to fish the rocks there. There is no shortage of great rock fishing spots in Northern New South Wales. Fingal is another beautiful spot with some unique octagonal rock formations. There are good fishing locations in front of the lighthouse, all along the headland but my favourite area is just to the south of the main rock platform.

I started fishing here at about 7.15am. I was using my ROVEX Aureus 9ft rod with the SHIMANO Stradic 6000. It is spooled with 20lb Fireline and I had tied on a 25lb fluorocarbon leader. I attached ½ oz 4/0 jighead and decided on my favourite soft plastic lure for Jewfish – the GULP 5” Crazylegs Jerkshad in the lime tiger colour. On my first cast – I let the plastic sink to the bottom then jerked it back towards the rocks. As I lifted it clear of the water something took a swipe at it – but I could not see what. Next cast I slowed it down even further and let it drift in very close to the base of the rocks. As I lifted it I felt the bite, I dropped the rod tip, paused, then struck hard. I had a fish on and due to the proximity of the rocks I tightened the drag and just winched it up. It was a good size Tarwhine at just over 35cm.

The soft plastic was pretty mauled so I changed it for a new one in the same colour and pattern. I still had about half an hour of run in water before high tide. I got a good soaking from a passing rain squall but that was no hardship as it was so hot and humid. I was standing on the mainland to the south of the narrow causeway that leads out to the main rock platform. The water washes over the causeway at high tide and I was casting in to the area just south of it. The bottom is very rocky so inevitably I lost a few jigheads as my lures got snagged. After a couple of re-rigs I felt the line go taught and then the rod tip started wiggling and I could see silver. I waited for a wave to bring it up over the rocks onto the ledge below me. Then I tightened the drag and pulled the fish up successfully. It was a Jewfish, just on 50 cm long.

Four or five casts later I had the plastic down deep at the base of the rocks and again, I felt a solid bite and then lost a bit of line. Fortunately the swell pulled the fish out from under a ledge and on the next wave I brought it up, out of the water and onto the ledge below. Again, I winched it up to my feet and it was another Jewfish – perhaps a couple of cm smaller than the first.

I carried on for half an hour or so, but then the sky darkened and really heavy rain started, I decided to give up. I presume we will get some fairly big seas and rain as the cyclone passes through up north, but this might bring the Jewfish on in greater numbers. The challenge will be finding somewhere safe to target them.

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Jewfish Weather – 27 Dec 2010

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Monday

Rain – will it ever end? You have to look on the bright side – Jewfish/Mulloway must be hanging around all the mouths of our rivers and creeks in that murky, turbulent water that they love. They also love big soft plastic lures. With this in mind, I decided to brave the rain on Monday and drive back down to the mouth of the Tweed River to fish the north rockwall.

It was the usual drill, up at around 3.00am and on the rocks (in the rain) by about 4.15 am. As the faint glow on the horizon began to illuminate the river I could see it was a caramel coloured soup, with plenty of debris floating out on the last of the run out tide. I set up my rod and reel – 11’Ft Rovex Bario (which I think is now called the Aureus) matched with a Shimano Stradic 6000 reel. I had filled the spool with 20lb breaking strain, hi-vis yellow Fireline, with 2 metres of 30lb fluorocarbon leader. Jewfish love a plastic right on the bottom so I put on a ¾ oz jighead, to make sure that is where my lure would end up. I think Jewfish are not too fussy when it comes to colour. If you can find them and they are feeding – pretty much anything will do. But in low light, a dark silhouette seems to work well for me, so I started with a GULP 5” Crazylegs Jerkshad in the watermelon colour.

I cast out, due north from the end of the rock wall. Before my lure hit the bottom I had a fish. The frenetic activity suggested a Tailor and a couple of leaps confirmed it for me. I tightened the drag and safely hauled it up to where I could grab the leader. It was around 45cm long. We have been spoiled with plenty of fish in my house lately and there is enough ham and turkey around to feed a football team, so I put it back. It would be catch and release today.

A few more casts and then I decided to change soft plastics to the GULP 5” Jerkshad in the peppered prawn colour. The dirty, fresh water was running out round the end of the rockwall, where it met the clear saltwater water, to the left. There was a clear line marking the boundary between the two and this is where I was casting. There was a surface bust up every now and then and it looked like a school of mullet was breakfast for something. I decided to cast straight out the front into the dirty water for a while. The ¾ oz jighead enabled me to cast a good twenty metres or so. I let it sink and counted to 20 before starting the retrieve. On about the fifth cast I lifted the rod to start the retrieve and it was very heavy. It took a while for the fish to realise it was hooked and then it took off in a long solid run. I had the drag pretty tight but this was no real deterrent. Fortunately, initially it was heading out to sea. I let it go then started to get some line back. It began to come back to me but of course that meant it was also heading for the rocks. I had some success pulling it round to the left but it was too powerful and every time I got its head up, it just turned and, with couple of powerful tail pumps got back down into the rocks. After a minute or two the swell lodged the leader in the rocks and snap – it was gone. I only saw a flash of silver, but from the long slow runs and the rhythmic tail pumps I am pretty sure it was a decent Jewfish/ Mulloway. I checked the leader that had been rubbed through down near the jighead. It had also been thoroughly stretched, so I tied on another. I decided to stick with the same colour soft plastic lure but this time I switched to the 3” Shrimp shape. After three or four casts I was on again and we had a re-run of the first fight only this time, it was over even more quickly. It was a much bigger fish and the initial run was longer. But once I turned it round it paused in the current for ten seconds or so then dived straight down to the foot of the rock and ping – the leader was snapped.

I decided to go back to the clearer water. I put on a GULP 5” Crazylegs Jerkshad plastic in the pinkshine colour and was hit by a small Trevally right at the base of the wall. He managed to wriggle off. I carried on for a while and then decided to switch to a slug as there where now surface bust ups happening all around. I put on a 95g Spanyid Sniper metal lure and cast it out along the line between the dirty and the clear water. After about five retrieves I was on – another Tailor, about the same size as the first. I put in another twenty casts but could not find anymore. Back to plastics – it was time to try out the new GULP 4” Jigging Grub in the peppered prawn colour. I decided to go a bit lighter and rigged it on a 1/2oz 2/0 jighead. After a few casts – knock, knock and bang – I had a fish. It was another small Tailor. I released it and as the rain started to pour down again, I decided to give up. It was great session, I will land a jewfish in this spot eventually – I just need to find a smaller one!

NB – The end of the Stradic drag catch has snapped off again. The drag still works but now it is silent. Fortunately the chaps at Jones Tackle will fix it for me – but come on Shimano – they need to be made of tougher stuff – This is my third one in less than a year!

Yamba – Jewfish – 3 Dec 2010

Friday
As the rain poured down I headed in to Yamba, mid morning, to visit the local tackle store and replenish my supplies. I stopped for a coffee and the rain eased off. I decided to have a look at the fishing off the rocks, down below the light house in front of Yamba.
It was about 11.30 am and the sea was doing a good impersonation of a washing machine, but the rock walls at the mouth of the Clarence River provide some shelter for this area when there is a north easterly wind. I found a safe ledge on the rocks and watched the swell for a while.
I rigged up the big rod – a Rovex Bario 11”. I put on a 1/2oz jighead and a GULP 4” Pumpkinseed Minnow soft plastic lure. I cast around and lost a few jigheads as I got used to the terrain. After about 50 casts, I hooked up to a very small Soapie (juvenile Jewfish) around 30 cm long. After a quick snap, I released it.
The rain started again and by now even I had reached the end of my weather tether. With no dry clothes I decided it was time to pack up camp and head back to Brisbane.
So overall, the good news is the fish are there. The bad news is the weather may well make them very hard to get at this month.