Iluka – Woody Head – the ‘Barnacles’ – 8 February 2013

Friday

After a few delays and cancellations, I decided it was time for an Iluka fishing trip. I had a booking at Woody Head for the week before, but with the Clarence River pouring out mud, I delayed it for a week. By Friday the weather looked reasonable, so I decided to go for it.

I arrived at Woody Head at about lunchtime and set up camp. When I camp, I use the Oztent RV2 as it is quick to set up and very durable. It took about 20 minutes to get sorted and then ten more to get my fishing boots on and light and heavy rods rigged.

For the purposes of rock fishing I use the following outfits:

Heavy – Daiwa Demonblood rod, Stradic 8000FJ reel, 20lb Fireline and usually a 25lb or 30lb fluorocarbon leader.

Light – Shimano Catana Coastline Light rod, Sustain 4000 reel, 10lb Platil Millenium braid and 10lb or 12lb fluorocarbon leader.

I usually carry both out to the rocks with me. My general plan is to start with the heavy rig, throwing big lures or soft plastics and gradually work through to the lighter rig. It is amazing how often down-sizing in this way, produces fish.

I walked round the headland to a spot called ‘the Barnacles’, by the locals. This is a fairly treacherous place and you need to watch the swell carefully for 30 minutes or so before figuring out where is safe to fish. Even then, you can still get caught by a rogue wave, so good boots, a pfd and a willingness to get wet are essential.

I soon got wet as a huge wave slapped against the rocks and came down on top of me. In the bright sunshine, it was quite refreshing but it was a timely reminder to watch my step. I cast around with the big rod using the GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastics in the Lime Tiger and New Penny colours. I initially rigged them on 3/8 oz 3/0 jigheads and then dropped back to the ¼ oz 2/0 size.

Low tide had been at 2.15pm and the swell was making keeping the lures in the strike zone hard. The water was pretty dirty, but each time I pulled the lure in close to the rocks, small whitebait would scatter in front of it.

This was perfect jewfish water but the problem was getting my lure to them. During the daytime they will hug the rocks and sit underneath the overhangs. If you want to catch them you lure has to be on the bottom right in front of the overhang. They also can be fussy, so you have to fish light, even a ¼ oz jighead is sometimes too heavy. With a 1.5m swell it was very difficult to keep my lure where I wanted it.

I swapped to the light rig and dropped to a finer wire 1/6th 2/0 jighead and 12lb leader. I put on a plain GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. It was now just after 3.00pm. After a few casts, something hit the lure right beside the rocks and took off. It was fast and stripped some line. It was not a jewfish. I waited for the swell to bring it up over the ledge and then tightened the drag a little. It was a big eye trevally, about 40cm long. I snapped it and bled it – just enough for dinner.

I continued fishing but as the tide turned and the afternoon breeze picked up, I was forced off ‘the Barnacles’. I walked back to camp cleaned the fish and washed up. I got the fire going and the red wine open and planned the next morning’s session.

Iluka – Frasers Reef – 27 March 2012

Tuesday

There had been some very heavy showers through the night and at 5.30am, when I left the cabin, it was still pitch black with low cloud cover. But the wind seemed to have dropped so I headed for the rocky headland just to the north of Frasers Reef.

First light was well after 6.00 am but I could tell from the sound of the sea and the lack of spray crashing over the top of the rocks that I was in with a chance. I waited for about 20 minutes and watched the swell as the waves sets came in. It was a fairly light sea with the swell below 1.5 metres, but every 15 minutes or so a bigger set of waves would come through and soak everything. As it was just past the dark of the moon the tidal variation was still very big. On the turn of the tide, which had been at around 5.30 am, the swell can also behave erratically – so you always have to keep your eye on it.

I have felt-soled rock fishing boots which I ordered online from Cabelas in the US – http://www.cabelas.com. I currently have the Cabelas Ultralight 2 Felt-soled Wading Boots and I am very happy with them, so far. With the high Australian dollar they are currently reasonably priced at about A$80.00 a pair. They provide excellent grip even on the slimiest surfaces and also provide good ankle support. My last pair lasted about 3 years which I think is pretty good considering the work out I give them.

I started with the heavy rod and loaded up with a 3/8th 2/0 jighead, 30lb fluorocarbon leader and a Gulp Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic in the Lime Tiger Colour. I fished around in the pre-sunrise light for a bit, lost a few jigheads to the rocks and copped a soaking from a few waves. It is rarely easy fishing this spot.

As the sun came over the horizon I switched to a GULP 4” Minnow in the Vader colour – which has been successful here before. On the first cast I felt a tug, on the second I had a fish. It was a small Jewfish, about 43cm long. I snapped it and let it go. I peppered the same area with casts and about five minutes later I felt a solid bite. The fish took a bit of line and I thought it was well hooked. I put some pressure on but then the line went slack and it was gone. It was no monster but probably a bit larger than the previous one. Now I was fired up but repeated lure changes could not raise another fish and after an hour I moved further south along the rocks – in the direction of Frasers Reef.

I was now fishing with the GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Vader colour again, still with the same weight jighead and leader. I cast out into the foamy water at the base of the rocks and felt a solid hit. I was probably 4 metres above the water line so I slowly tightened the drag and lifted the fish up onto the rocks – it was another good sized Bream – about 35cm long. The rain and perhaps the dark of the moon seemed to have the big Bream fired up. I continued to fish all along these rocks but could not find anymore and at about 10.00 am I gave up and went in search of breakfast.

Iluka – Woody Head – Golden Trevally & Bream 26 June 2011

Sunday

Sunday morning was slightly less grey and cold. I arrived at ‘the Barnacles’ on the Woody Head rock platform around 9.00 am. The wind was a little stronger than the day before, but had swung round to blow from the north-west. Low tide would be around 11.00 am. The swell was under a metre.

I started with a GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshad soft plastic in the Pink Neon colour. I had it rigged on 3/8 oz 3/0 jighead. First cast and bang, a fish grabbed it, as I was about to lift it out of the water, just at the edge of the rock shelf. I ran up and down the ledge a couple of times and then I lifted it over the edge with a surge of water. It was a Trevally, around 40cm long. It had tea coloured flecks all over it – so I suppose it was a tea leaf Trevally.

The plastic was smashed so I bit the head off and loaded it back on to the jighead. A few more casts and I was snagged. I pulled the rod slowly backwards in a straight line until the leader and jighead separated. Fishing these ledges is expensive. The fish are always very close in so you get snagged in the rocks regularly. I put another plastic on, cast out and a fish hit it a couple of times on the retrieve. On the next retrieve in the same spot – bang – zzzzzzzzzz as a fish grabbed it. After a few runs it washed up at my feet and I could see it was a Golden Trevally – about 50cm long. A couple of casts later I caught another about the same size.

I fished on for an hour or so and caught a few good Brea, between 28cm and 35cm – on a range of GULP soft plastics, both big and small. The Bream were a consistent catch all along the rocks and I think they are all schooling up to spawn now. I gave up as the tide started to run back in again at lunch time. It had been another great land based fishing session, off the rocks at Woody Head.