Sharpes Beach, Ballina and North Head, New Brighton – July 2019

It took a long time for winter to arrive in 2019. In fact, the water stayed warm pretty much all through June and July. I persisted with exploring the beach fishing to the north of the Brunswick River mouth, whenever possible.

I also had a few sessions on the headlands between Lennox and Ballina. I did quite well fishing soft plastic minnows at the north end of Sharpes Beach. Over a few mornings I caught some 35cm + bream, trevally and even a few jewfish, one of which was just over 70 cm long and therefore big enough to keep.

As most of my followers will know I love to fish with soft plastics and light rigs. I was catching the odd flathead and bream in the surf on a traditional jig head rigged soft plastic minnows and shrimps, but I was putting in a lot of casts for very few fish. So in July I experimented with rigging my GULP 4″ minnows, unweighted on a regular baitholder or trueturn hook at the end of about 30 cm of 20lb fluorocarbon leader, running up to a small swivel and sinker. This seemed to be more successful and I had a few quite good bream sessions on the beach.

Bream on a soft plastic without a jighead

As we moved towards the full moon in the middle of the month, I noticed a few keen local anglers fishing for tailor on dusk, on the beach near North Head. On the evening of the full moon I decided to join them and with a GULP 4″ minnow rigged on a size 4 Trueturn hook with a size 1 sinker further up the leader. I was using my 3.6m / 12 foot Daiwa Crossfire Surf 1202L, 20lb braid and a 20lb flurocarbon leader. I was casting out as far as I could and letting the plastic waft around. I started about 40 minutes before sunset. Just after sunset I felt the rod tip start to bend and as I took up the slack I realised there was a fish on. This rod does not have much power so I had to be patient but after about 15 minutes of back and forth in the swell I pulled up a chunky tailor about 55cm long.

North Head Beach tailor

So on reflection there was plenty of variety on June and July, especially in the run up to the full moon

Iluka – Middle Bluff – Woody Head – 18 June 2015

Wednesday was a washout, there was intermittent rain and strong wind all day. I tried Iluka Bluff in the morning but the rising tide and big swell made things very hard. The rain kept coming and I soon gave up. In the afternoon, I went along to Woody Head to see if I could do any better. I walked along the rock platform looking for a safe place to cast but found it very difficult. All I caught was a big mouthed Eastern Wirrah (known colloquially as an Old Boot).

Thursday was my last day and although there was a morning high tide, the swell was dropping and the sky had cleared. I started at Middle Bluff and witnessed a beautiful sunrise with a clear sky. The relatively calm conditions made it possible to fish off the front of the rocks, although every 15 minutes or so a big wave set would smash through. This made things tough. I twice hooked reasonable sized fish on the GULP Goby soft plastic but had to abandon the fight as I could see a big wave set coming in. I think they were both tailor.

In the afternoon the swell had dropped some more so I decided to spend my last session fishing from ‘the Barnacles’, round at Woody Head. Low tide would be at 3.00 pm and I started fishing at about 2.00 pm. The swell had dropped right back and this enabled me to cast directly out in front of ‘Barnacle Bob’ (the prominent rock in this area), without getting washed away.

In this spot you have to cast out over about 7 to 10 metres of cunjevoi and barnacle covered rocks, to a point where the rock ledge drops away. This is where the fish typically wait. In the event of a hook up this presents an immediate problem. The fish grabs the lure and swims down, pulling your leader or line tight against the rocks. The next wave of surge tangles the line more firmly in the rocks and you are stuck see-sawing until the line snaps. So hooking a fish here is just the beginning.

I was fishing the heavy rig and with this week’s favourite soft plastic – the GULP BBQ Chicken coloured Jerkshad, on a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 jighead. I was now using 20lb fluorocarbon leader. After about 20 minutes of fish something grabbed the lure close to the ledge and the scenario I previously mentioned played out. It put its head down and see sawed on rocks, until the leader broke.

I re-rigged bit this time with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour and tried again. A few casts with nothing then a solid bite. Fortunately this fish swam out wards initially and I was able to keep it above the ledge. It was yet another chunky bream, well over 35cm long. I threw it back and tried again.  After few more minutes of casting and then something faster took off with the lure and swam along, parallel with the ledge. It felt like a good fish but it was actually a small trevally. When they turn their bodies sideways they are difficult to pull in. I landed it and released it.

A couple more fisherman, down from the Gold Coast for the weekend arrived. One started fishing with a big soft plastic and soon connected with a 45cm tailor. The sun was dropping fast and it was now about 4.30 pm. Things went a bit quiet and I moved south along the rocks. I decided to swap down to the lighter rod and 14 lb leader.

 

I was casting to the south and retrieving the lure almost parallel with the rocks. I tried to let it sit on the bottom between hops. I lost a few rigs and then at about 4.45 pm I lifted the rod and there was a fish on the line. It took off in a long solid run straight out to sea. I am sure it was another mulloway/ jewfish and immediately cursed my decision to drop down to my lighter rod. I played the fish patiently and after two more long steady runs, it started swimming back towards me. I could not muscle it in and so I had to wait for the surf. Unfortunately the waves were not kind. The first was not quite powerful enough to lift the fish up and I tightened the drag and heaved little bit too soon. The leader caught on the rocks and a few moments later the fish was gone.

That was it for me. Both reels needed re-spooling and a good clean and I was exhausted. I reckon the only way to end a fishing holiday is needing a week in bed and a couple of appointments with the chiropractor and that was just how I felt. Hoping to be back again soon.

1770 – Getaway Beach – 21 October 2014

Tuesday

On Tuesday, I was up early to fish the rocks at Getaway Beach. This can be reached from Springs Road along a walking track, or by walking north around the headland from the new road that was constructed for the desalination plant inlet.

I have caught and dropped a few jewfish/mulloway here in the past. There are lots of spots that look promising, in fact it is pretty much perfect with rocky overhangs and sea caves all around the headlands. But I am much less confident in my ability to find them here than I am down south, in Southern Queensland or Northern New South Wales. They are very much creatures of habit but the more I think about it and the more I fish for them, I realise that there must be ready supply of bait for them to hang around. The moon and tides are also important. The run up to the full and new moons both seem to make them more active but, like most fish, it is a constant food supply that they are most interested in. I agree that they also prefer the water to be stirred up and foamy but not necessarily dirty.

The new moon was only a few days away.  The tide was running in. I started fishing about 5.30 am, a little after sunrise (late for work again!). I started with my lighter rock and beach fishing combo, based on the 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. Today I had some 14lb. When I am looking for a jewfish I start with the lightest jighead that will sink in the swell. That varies between a 3/8th ounce, down to a 1/8th ounce. A ¼ ounce was perfect for the conditions – a light south-easterly swell. I started with some big GULP Crazylegs Jerkshads and then regular Jerkshads, then 4” Minnows and finally 3 “ Minnows. Nothing produced a jewfish.

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I caught plenty of stripey perch and lost tails to small dart/ whiting. At one point, I hooked the resident turtle – who set off for New Zealand, before unhooking himself. I moved around the rocks and cast into every crevasse and at every bommy – but nothing produced what I was looking for.

The wind started to build and by 9.00 am it was a 25 knot south-easterly so I gave up. No fish pictures because you all know what a dart and stripey perch look like by now.

Iluka – Woody Head – 1 October 2014

Wednesday

Many claim it was Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But there is no evidence that he ever said it, thought it or wrote it.  However as with all good clichés, there is an element of truth in it, especially for fishermen.

For this reason I decided not to return to Middle Bluff on Wednesday morning and to go instead to Woody Head – the next headland to the north. When the swell is light and the tide is low or falling, there are few better fishing spots.

I parked up and walked out on to the rock platform at about 5.00 am. The wind had stayed a northerly and the swell was fairly gentle, but there was still the odd large set of waves coming through. Boots with felt soles or studs, or both are essential, if you intend to venture out here, as is a PFD. The tides ensure almost every surface is a suitable home for green and black slimy weed and the barnacles here are responsible for plenty of long term scar tissue. So it is only relatively safe when the swell is under 1 metre and the tide is about half way out and falling.

It was another magnificent sunrise. I wandered out to the front of the rock platform to a spot called the Barnacles. I rigged up the light rod (NS Blackhole) with 14 lb fluorocarbon leader and ¼ ounce, 1/0 size hook jighead and a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad, in the Curry Chicken colour. I lost the first rig to the rocks – fishing is expensive in this kind of terrain. I rigged up again with the same set up. I cast out and let the jig head sink. I left it as long as I dared and then hopped it in a little closer to the rocks. As I lifted it again I felt it stop and then line started peeling. The fish ploughed off to the south, parallel with the rocks. This was tricky as I could not stay lined up with it for long. I Let it run and then fairly quickly took back some line and tightened the drag a little. It turned but tried to bury itself at the foot of the rocks. It was now weakening but the leader was caught on some rocks and I could feel it rubbing. I loosed the drag right off and waited. Fortunately it swam out and freed the leader. Now I tightened again and pulled it up on the next surge of water. After a couple more waves I had it at my feet. A solid mulloway –  it was 76 cm and legal size in both Queensland and NSW. At last we would have a taste of the fish I had been catching all week and releasing.

I dispatched it, gutted and cleaned it. Then I headed back to the rocks for another try. It had destroyed my last GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshad so I put on a 4” Minnow in the Green Camo colour. Back to the same spot – bang, first cast and I have a fish on again. The drag was still set too tight from the final stages of the fight with the last one and after a big initial run, before I realised, it found a rock and snapped me off.  I assume it was another mulloway. I re-rigged and continued fishing for another 30 minutes with no result. The swell was building and the tide rising. So at about 7.45am, I gave up and took my prize back to the cabin.

Christmas Eve – Mulloway – Fingal Head – 24 December 2012

Christmas Eve

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the House – not a creature did stir – not even a mouse – except for a man with rod – who snuck out of the house.

I found myself awake at 2.30 am dreaming not of sugarplums, but of big fish. I loaded up my gear and arrived at Fingal Head at about 4.00 am. There were already a few cars in the car park. Clearly, some other fisherman needed their pre-Christmas fix.

The wandered out to the rocks to find a cloudy sky, virtually no breeze and a very big south-easterly swell rolling through. The tide was running in and would be high about 8.00 am QLD time. It took a while to cross the causeway out to the fishing platform – I watched the wave sets carefully and eventually found a gap. There were some big swells crashing through. A couple of fishermen were already out there and as the sky brightened I could see rods sticking up all along the headland.

The big swell made it pretty difficult to fish the front of the platform and I soon got a soaking from a big wave. At this time of year the water is warm enough to not be a problem – the risk is getting knocked off your feet.

I started with my heavy rod – the 9ft Daiwa Demonblood. I was using 20lb Fireline and a 25lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a RAPALA XRS 12 in the ghost colour and cast around. The other fishermen pulled up a couple of 35 to 45 cm tailor. They were casting directly to the north of the platform. They caught their fish on lures, one on an XRAP hard body and one on a Shimano Waxwing lure. I could not find anything on the XRS12, so I swapped to a smaller, suspending YOZURI Crystal Minnow in a silver colour. This produced a bite – in fact I had contact with a few fish before I finally set the hook in one. It was only a small tailor – probably between 25 and 30cm long.

The swell was creating plenty of white water; a bird kept diving and coming up with fish so I knew there was bait around. We are now in the run up to the full moon so I was pretty sure there would be some jewfish / mulloway around. I stuck with the heavy rod and put on a ¼ oz jighead with a 2/0 hook and rigged up a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the New Penny colour. I cast around the south east side of the rock platform – withdrawing to a safe distance, every time a big wave set came through. As I started to cast more east than south, I felt a tug and then a bite and the rod bent over. The fish decided to swim north which immediately posed problem. With swell crashing straight against this side of the rock platform there was nowhere to land the fish. I moved it a little way north but as huge wave set was coming in I had to retreat, keep contact and hope for the best. I survived a few waves but now the fish was getting bashed against the rocks and soon, the line snapped.

I re-rigged, this time with a soft plastic that I have been meaning to try out for ages – a Powerbait 4” Ripple shad Swimbait. I had it in the black and white ‘natural’ colour. I wanted to try it because when there is lots of foamy water I think a paddle tail vibration can attract the fish more effectively than the simple minnow shapes. I also decided to use a heavier 3/8th oz, 2/0 jighead. I moved back round to the south side and cast into the mouth of the channel that runs up to the causeway. I let the soft plastic lure sink to the bottom and then retrieved it, in short bursts. The swell was throwing the plastic around but I could still feel the paddle tail vibrating. After about three casts I felt a solid hit and the drag went to work. This time the fish stayed in the channel and I gradually walked it back towards the causeway. In a big swell this was the only place I would be able to land it.

I let it play itself out as I did not want it thrashing around once I was pulling it clear of the water. I soon had it close to the causeway and, with the aid of a big surge, I pulled it up on to the rocks at the bridge. It was still in the swell zone so I watched the waves and then stepped down and grabbed it behind the gills and lifted it to safety. It was a nice jewfish/mulloway – just over 70cm long.

While I was re-rigging I spotted a rod bend over from the top of the cliff, on the mainland. Peter, a local fisherman, had a long surf rod/alvey combination and was fishing with worms. He clearly had a good fish on his line, but he was going to really struggle to find somewhere to land it. He played it for a few minutes from the top of the cliff then slowly slid down to a lower rock platform. A few more minutes went by and although he was now closer to the fish, the swell was crashing in and he was at least 3 metres above the water.

A big surge lifted the fish onto a rock ledge. But as Peter tried to lift the fish by the leader, the line snapped or the hook pulled. The fish was pretty tried, so it just sat on the ledge – Peter was not going to let this one get away. He climbed along the rocks and down to the fish. He grabbed it behind the gills just as he was completely obscured by a huge wave. It crashed over the top of him. Somehow, when the water drained away, he was there, drenched but still holding his jewfish and clinging to the rocks. He made his way to safety and we all breathed a sigh of relief. It was a good fish – I would estimate it was about 90cm long.

Landangler’s advice – don’t try this at home!

It seems the jewfish/ mulloway love the rough water and stirred up conditions, especially if it is near the full moon. It had been a very exciting morning and was not even 7.30 am. I left, off to find a Christmas recipe for stuffed jewfish.

Happy Christmas to all and please remember rock fishing can be very dangerous – so take sensible precautions, wear good boots and a flotation vest, fish with a mate and stay safe.

Fingal Head – more Tailor & more Jewfish – 7 November 2012

Wednesday

Monday’s rock fishing session had me all fired up. There was plenty of bait around and the Tailor and Jewfish would probably stick around as long as it was there. I set the alarm for 2.45 am and arrived at Fingal Head just after 4.00 am (QLD time).

There was not much swell or wind, but the light breeze was from the north east. I walked out to the rocks and rigged up the heavy rod. I was fishing with 20lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a DUO Roughtrail. This is a 130mm sinking, hard bodied, minnow lure. It is designed for tough swell conditions and has a fairly thick bib that keeps the rolling action on track,even in choppy water. It is also a bit tougher than the standard range.

The sun was not yet over the horizon, and it was about 4.50 am when I finished rigging up. The first cast flew away nicely and the lure quickly found its rhythm. On the second, there was an obvious bump, as the lure passed over a submerged bommy. On the third, the line pulled tight and I hooked up. I pulled the fish round the rocks to the north of the platform and landed it – another 50cm Tailor. I took some pictures and bled it. This fish had a treble through its gills so I had to keep it. I quite enjoy eating Tailor when its fresh, but one fish per session is usually enough for me.

I cast out again and a few metres in to the retrieve, the DUO Roughtrail was slammed and line was peeling, this was a bigger fish and it took me straight down into the rocks and released itself. Disastrously, it left the Roughtrail behind – snagged firmly below the water line. I snapped the line and reviewed my tackle options. I was pretty much out of hard bodied minnow lures. I tried a couple of slugs, a 65g and 85g raider, but these did not get any interest. I also tried a big popper, without success.

By 7.00 am I decided to try the light rod and fish with some soft plastic lures. I put on a 16lb leader and a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 jighead. I chose a GULP 4” Minnow in the Smelt colour. I let the plastic sink, in close to rocks and after a couple of casts I caught a Bream.

I released it and tried casting the plastic so it would float down beside a submerged bommy, about 6 metres out. Just as I was pulling the plastic over the top of the bommy, a fish grabbed it and the rod bent over. The fish was slow and powerful and immediately headed south. I had the light rod, so I had to go with it. I started to exert some pressure but it was still setting the agenda. I assumed it was a Jewfish but I still had not seen it. It swam round into the mouth of the channel, between the rock platform and the mainland and then I caught sight of a 70-80cm Jewfish.

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The fish was nicely hooked but had plenty of kick left in it. Con, the other fisherman on the rocks, came over to assist but with no gaff and a long way down to a point where we could grab the fish, our options were limited. I tried to ease the fish on to some flat rocks that I could get down to, between wave sets. The swell had built up through the morning and was now easily strong enough to knock me in, if I timed it wrong. I pulled the fish clear of the water and it lay, obligingly on a rock about a metre below. Just then a big wave came through and I had to retreat. As I tried to keep the fish on the rocks the leader snapped, but miraculously the fish just lay there for what seemed like ages (probably 30 seconds) until the next set came through and washed it back into the water.

It seemed like fishing light had done the trick but how would I land them? I swapped up to 20lb leader to give myself more of a chance, but I stuck with the light rod and jighead. About 15 minutes later I was on again. This time the fish had struck right at the base of the rocks, on the eastern side of the rock platform. There was a big swell by now, crashing into the rocks every few minutes and the fish took off to the south again. The last one had shown me that south was not a good option. I tightened the drag and pulled hard, hoping to pull the fish round to the north. I made a bit of headway, but then the line went slack and the fish was gone.

I swapped to the heavy rod with 30lb leader and carried on fishing for another hour. I cast all around the platform and tried a few more different soft plastics, but I did not get another bite. At about 9.30am, I cleaned up the Tailor and gave up for the day.

Hat Head – The Spinning Ledge – 21 September 2012

Friday

Friday was another beautiful but frustrating day. My only real fish producing spot, this week, was at the northern tip of the Hat Head headland. So at 4.30 am I was marching out to this spot with all my gear again.

Sometimes I got the feeling I was being watched

On Thursday there had been some Tuna out there and a couple of guys, fishing on the Spinning Ledge had tangled with some kingfish, but not managed to land one. The wind was light from the northwest in the morning and then turned into a stronger northerly around lunchtime. I was there early and tried the usual routine –starting with hard bodies and then changing over to soft plastic Jerkshads.

I tried everything, but nothing worked. The Dolphins were in close just after dawn and maybe they had scared the fish off or eaten them. I tried a few more spots around the headland and came back to the Jewfish spot at dusk, hoping to take advantage of the 5.30 pm bite. I don’t know what I did wrong, but the fish did not show up.

This was my last session at Hat Head. It had been a great week in a great spot. I had learned the cold water temperatures often mean the clarity improves and fish are harder to fool. I had also confirmed that if there is no bait around then there are no Salmon or Tailor either. I had also proved that there are always fish out there – somewhere.

There are endless rocky headlands to fish along this coast

I will definitely be back here, soon.