On Wednesday the skies were clear but the wind and swell were still making it too hard to fish the rocky headlands around Iluka. So I decided to flick some soft plastic lures around in the shallows, near Browns Rocks on Goodwood Island.
I started around 7.00 am using a GULP 4 inch Minnow in the Lime Tiger Colour on a 1/8th, 1/0 jighead. I have been using the Gamakatsu Round 211, 1/8th ounce, size 2 hook jigheads lately, as I find they are better than the regular jigheads for hooking bream. They are a good fit with the 2, 3 and 4 inch soft plastic lures.
I always consider June and July the best bream fishing months in the estuaries and around the rocky headlands. As the water cools and the bait supply increases, the bream and several other species start to school up to spawn.
I was back fishing the main arm of the river. First I tried the flats to the east of the Goodwood Island Wharf and later, I fished along the bank – to the north of the wharf. I was fishing with my light rig and 12lb fluorocarbon leader. The water was clear and there was plenty of bait in the shallows. I caught a couple of keeper sized bream, several tailor around the 30-35 cm mark, two small flathead; one that would have been around the 40cm long size.
As I drove past the Browns Rocks Caravan Park on my way home. I saw the birds dive-bombing something close to shore. I stopped and tied on a MARIA MJ Twitch 90mm hard bodied minnow lure (another favourite). I put in three casts at where the birds were divebombing. On the third cast I connected with a 38 cm tailor. This is about as big a tailor as I have ever caught in the Clarence River. I am sure I have been bitten off by bigger, but as I am generally fishing with a very light leader (10lb-12lb, max 20lb), so I cant stop them. I released it and hooked and dropped a couple more, before giving up at about 9.15 am.
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On Monday the 19th the swell was up again and the wind came with it. I had a lie in, cleaned my light spinning rig and took it easy in the morning.
In the afternoon the wind dropped a little. So I went out to explore. I decided to fish through dusk on the north arm of the Clarence River. I drove down past the Goodwood Island Wharf and walked across to the other side of island. The river bank is fairly over grown but there are a few good fishing spots in this area.
I rigged up with a 12lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I put on a GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour. This is such a consistent performer for me and has caught jewfish, flathead, bream, dart, tailor, whiting and a whole range of weird and wonderful less common species.
In this area the north arm of the Clarence River is wide and shallow, There are open patches along the river bank and then large patches of young mangroves. Its is slightly muddier and swampier than the main arm.
The tide was pretty high and running in. I fished for a couple of hours until just after sunset. A couple of times a small school of tailor came past and bit the end of the soft plastic, but I did not catch any of them. I managed two flathead, one decent bream and an amazing sunset for the session. Its always good to explore.
On the 17th the swell was forecast to be light again so I decided to try fishing at Woody Head. Low tide would be at about 7.30 am and we were about a week away from the full moon. I arrived at about 6.00 am, 30 mins before first light. I walked out onto the rock platform and the swell was disappointingly powerful again.
I started fishing at the north end, casting a 60g metal slug towards the gap in the rocks north of the area known as the barnacles. There are nearly always tailor or trevally here on dawn and sometimes jewfish. It was too rough to cast a soft plastic so I stuck with the slug. I hooked and dropped a couple of fish, just after first light, which I assume were tailor. Then I lost my slug to the rocks.
I dropped to the lighter rig and put on a GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastic on a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast out in front of the rock platform and let the plastic sink through the wash. You cannot leave the plastic long on the bottom as it will get snagged, but you need it down there for five or ten seconds, to be in with a chance of attracting a bite. After a few casts I caught a decent bream and then dropped another.
After sunrise things went quiet and I moved further south along the rock platform, casting in various spots. I moved back up to the heavier rig (40lb braid/ 30lb fluorocarbon leader), as I approached a few known jewfish spots. I was now fishing with a GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour. I was still using 30lb leader but I had changed to a 1/4 ounce, 2/0 jighead. The swell was little lighter now and the tide was running in.
I kept casting and retrieving the soft plastic and leaving it for as long as possible right at the base of the rock ledge, on the bottom. I felt a pretty faint bight and then lost my rig to the cunjevoi again. I retied with the same set up and kept going south along the rocks.
It was now about 8.30 am. As I pulled up the rod tip to recast, the jighead stopped. I pulled again and it moved a little more and then line started peeling. Unfortunately, I could immediately feel the line rubbing on something, so the fish was probably swimming in, under an overhang. I tightened the drag a fraction and it slowed. I got some line back and hoped it was coming out. However it got its breath back and ran the wrong way again. I decided to flick the bail arm open to see if it swam out, once I had released the pressure. I left the fish with slack line for about 15 seconds. In this time I got a little nearer to the edge, in between the wave sets. I then flicked the bail arm over, took up the slack line and heaved the fish out. It was just clear of the overhang and the line flicked free. I now had the drag very tight. The fish was pretty much beaten and it popped up, a big slab of silver. It rolled over on its side in the wash. The Daiwa Saltist 962 MH rod would not be able to lift it clear of the water so I would have to use the wave sets and the stepped rock ledges to land it. I managed this and got a soaking in the process. It was a solid jewfish / mulloway about 85cm cm long. I put it in a fresh rockpool to recover for a while. After a few photos I decided it looked well enough to release so I sent it on its way.
The leader was pretty shredded, as was a good section of braid, so I cut it all off and re-rigged. I decided to stick with the winning combination and dug out another GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour. I cast out in the same spot let the lure flutter down and wash in to the base of the rocks. By the second hop I felt a bite and dropped the rod tip again and paused. After a few seconds pulled up hard and set the hook. It was another jewfish. This time I had started with a tighter drag and I kept the fish from getting its head down and swimming under the ledge. It made a solid run bit fortunately it was in the direction of the open sea. I turned its head and again used the waves to to lift it onto one ledge, then another and then up to my feet. It was another nice fish, closer to 90 cm this time. After five minutes this one did not perk up in the recovery pool, so I decided it would be dinner. I spiked it, then gutted and scaled it and later weighed it in at the shop – 5.7 kg. It was a beautiful fish.
I decided that two good fish was more than enough for one session and gave up for the day.
In mid-July I got back down to Iluka for some fishing. I decided to fish with my light rig at Iluka Bluff. Low tide was just before 7.00 am and a 1.1 metre swell was forecast. We were five days into the new moon and there had been some pretty significant rain the week before.
I arrived at about 6.00am, well before dawn. I started by throwing large stickbaits and a 55g Halco Twisty, looking for tailor or trevally. The in-shore swell was significantly bigger than forecast and I got my first soaking before the sun came over the horizon. The big lures did not get anything, so I dropped down to my lighter rock fishing rig which is the Daiwa Crossfire Surf CFS 1062, 3.2m, 3-5kg rod, matched with my very battered (but still brilliant) Shimano Stella 4000. I set it up with 40lb braid and16lb fluorocarbon leader. It is perfect for casting lightly weighted soft plastics off the rocks.
I put on my favourite soft plastic – the 5″/13 cm GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger Glow colour. As I have mentioned before it looks like this colour is disappearing from the GULP range (and possibly this pattern too). Grab them while you can, if you see them in your local tackle store. I rigged it on a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead.
The sun was up and and the clouds were clearing. I cast the soft plastic out into the area beyond the wash and let it sink. I hopped it a couple of times, then repeated the process. After five or six tries a small big eye trevally grabbed it. I threw it back and kept casting. About ten minutes later a fish pulled the plastic off the jighead. This is usually the bream who gather in the wash. I put on a 4 ” GULP Minnow in the Smelt colour and cast that out. I had a few hits and then hooked up with a decent, 35cm Tarwhine. I released it and moved further south, around to another ledge.
On my first cast on this spot I connected with a small jewfish/ mulloway. It put a decent bend in the lighter rig, but with the aid of the swell I successfully pulled it into a rockpool at my feet. It was about 55cm long. I photographed and released it. I cycled through a few more soft plastic colours and patterns and lost a few jigheads to the cunjevoi covered rocks, but did not land anymore fish.
At about 8.30am the incoming tide pushed me back from the edge of the ledge and I gave up for the day.
In early July, before more lockdown madness started, I did a bit of work in the Hunter Valley. Catching a plane anywhere has become such a lottery that I decided to drive down and stopped on the way back to fish at Port Macquarie.
I only had one morning and the weather was pretty rubbish so I chose to fish the rock-wall. I had arrived just on dusk the night before and seen the birds working over a school of something in the river mouth. So at first light I drove round and took the ferry across the river to fish the north wall. To my surprise I could drive almost all the way to the end and park more or less next to where I wanted to fish – very civilised.
It was soon raining and very grey. I cast a 40g metal slug for I while. I was using my old Daiwa Seabass rod which is great for casting small slugs or soft plastics for tailor – although it does take a while to land a decent greenback – if you find one. The slug was not working so I swapped to a soft plastic lure. I chose a GULP 4″ Minnow. First in the Lime Tiger and then later in the Camo colour. I loaded them on a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and both caught tailor for me. I caught half a dozen tailor and a couple of small trevally all between 30 and 40 cm, over about the next hour. Eventually the rain started to set in and I gave up.
The estuary looks like it would fish well for flathead, bream, jewfish and all the usual suspects. I look forward to visiting again soon.
The next morning the swell came up and the rocky headlands of the Bundjalung National Park were too tough to fish. I had a bit of a lie in and then drove up the Clarence River to fish on Goodwood Island at Browns Rocks. There are fish to be found all the way along the banks of Goodwood Island. At this time of year it is mainly bream, flathead and schools of 30 cm to 40 cm marauding tailor.
On this particular morning I arrived about 7.00 am and drove down to fish an area of the river bank, where I could see the birds dive bombing some bait. It was about 7.00 am and I was fishing with my light spin rig and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a 1/8 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and GULP Minnow in the Camo colour. By the time I got organised the birds and bait had moved on. The tide was running in.
I cast my soft plastic up into the incoming tide and hopped it along the bottom, with lots of long pauses. It was a cold morning and the water was very clear despite the recent rain. A small flathead about 30 cm long, was the first taker. It grabbed my lure as it lay still, beside a fallen tree. I kept casting in the same spot and found two more flathead. One was bigger but probably not legal to keep. Dusky flathead need to be 36cm long in New South Wales. The other was a little smaller. I moved along the bank but that was it for the morning.
The next morning I tried again and started a little earlier. This time the birds were still around when I started casting and I could see there was a school of tailor chasing small herring along the shoreline. I knew they were tailor as, on my first cast my jighead and soft plastic were almost immediately bitten off.
I re-rigged and put on a new soft plastic. This time it was a GULP Minnow in the green and black speckled orange Lime Tiger colour. I carried on moving along the bank casting and retrieving and soon found a decent flathead – 43 cm long. I released it and carried on. The next taker was a solid bream about 35 cm long.
The fish were on the bite and I caught a couple more smaller bream. I swapped up to a bigger GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic in the same colour and kept casting. Nearly all the flathead had taken the soft plastics at the base of the rock wall, that lines the river bank. So this is where I kept pausing. This tactic worked again at about 8.00 am and I connected with a solid 50 cm flathead that headed for the middle of the river. After a short fight, I had it at my feet. I took a picture and let it go. I decided that would do for the morning
That afternoon I drove over to the north side of Goodwood Island to fish through until sunset. The wind dropped and the water was pretty flat. I had a few grabs from what I think where passing tailor and then caught a couple more keeper flathead which I took home for supper.
It was back to Woody Head the next morning as the swell was forecast to be light. I started again with a big soft plastic, looking for a jewfish on the bottom of the run out tide. I tried for about 30 minutes from first light through to dawn. I did not get a touch in all my favourite spots.
As the sun came up I switched to a brass coloured 55g Halco Twisty and threw that out towards the horizon. On my third retrieve, a fish grabbed the lure close to the rocks and tried to head down into them. Fortunately it was only a small trevally and I muscled it up, took a picture and threw it back. We were coming up to low tide and the water was still very cloudy.
About ten minutes later a tailor grabbed the same lure. I landed it and threw it back. It was about 45cm long. On the next cast I lost the whole rig to something big and toothy. It was only on the line for about 10 seconds before cutting through my 40lb fluorocarbon leader. I re-rigged and put on a new Halco Outcast 60g metal slug. I moved a little further north along the rock platform and kept casting. I soon found some more tailor. I caught 4 more – all between 35cm and 45 cm before things went quiet.
By about 9.00 am the tide started to push me away from the rocks so I gave up for the morning.
Conditions were perfect again for fishing at Woody Head on the 17th. There would be an early morning low tide. The moon was a waxing crescent – 43% full. The wind was light from the south west and there was a fairly light swell. The water quality was still poor but you can’t have everything. I was hoping for a jewfish and was in position very early, around 5.15 am.
I decided to try the southern end of the rock platform where I have caught good jewfish in a couple of spots. I tried to find them with a big soft plastic in the low light but did not get a bite. Once the horizon started to really glow orange I swapped to a stick bait to look for some tailor or even tuna (which were still around). I have a new favourite in this lure category – its the ASWB 40g Flutter Drop from Ebb Tide Tackle. I had it in the brown/ gold Sunbaker colour. Its a fairly slow sinking stick bait. Its easy to cast and has a great action. It also seems pretty hardy although I rarely get a 50 casts out of one lure before I lose it to the rocks or a fish.
I was fishing with my heavy rock fishing rig – Daiwa TD SOL III LT 6000 DH reel and Daiwa Saltist X MH 962 rod, 40lb braid and a 40lb fluorocarbon leader. I cast out as far as I could and brought the lure back to me fairly quickly. I did this about four times and on the last time a fish swiped at it, but missed. I cast out again in the same spot and slowed the retrieve down a little. This did the trick and I soon had a fat tailor, around 50 cm long at my feet. I decided to keep it, so I brained it, cut its throat and left it in a rockpool. The sun was over the horizon now. I cast out in the same spot and this time the lure was initially knocked out of the water by something which then came round for another try and swallowed it. It was another tailor and it pulled hard with several jumps on the way in. I muscled it out of the water. It was almost exactly the same size as the first. I cleaned it up and kept on fishing. I had a few more bumps on that lure but no hook ups.
The tide turned in and I swapped to my lighter rock fishing rig and dropped back down to a 16lb fluorocarbon leader and a GULP 4″ Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. I rigged this on a 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead. The first taker was a big eye trevally who grabbed the lure very close to the base of the ledge. About 20 minutes later I found a couple of decent bream, but then things went quiet.
It was now a beautiful morning but the tide was rising and the swell was picking up enough to make things hard so I packed up and walked back to the car. Tailor for supper.
We had some heavy rain in mid-June. I decided to spend a week at Iluka. When I arrived the water in the Clarence River was surprisingly clear but the water around the headlands was very cloudy. The swell was reasonably light so on my first morning I fished at Woody Head. I started by casting a metal slug all through the pre-dawn period. I hooked and then dropped one decent fish before sun up which I presume was a tailor.
As the sun rose in the sky. I swapped to my lighter rock fishing rod and reel and cast 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 jighead around, loaded with various GULP soft plastics. As is often the case, as soon as I dropped down the light tackle a tailor struck. I held on to it long enough for it to jump and then it was gone. I kept fishing and found a solid bream and a small striped trevally but at the end of four hours I had nothing to take home.
I was hoping the tailor would come back to the beach so I kept revisiting it over the next few days. But the wind picked up and started blowing from the north east and north west. We had a bit of rain and the edge of a low pressure system passing the bottom of Australia, stirred things up a bit.
On Thursday 10th June the sun came out and the wind eased off. It was new moon so I thought the fishing would be worth a try. I walked out onto the beach at North Head at about noon. Low tide was due just before 2.00 pm, so I would be fishing the last of the run out tide.
I was using my light rock fishing rig with 16 lb fluorocarbon leader, in case the tailor re-appeared. I was using a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I needed a heavy jighead to put in a decent cast against the breeze. The water was crystal clear so I chose a bright colour. I also did this because if big dart are around, they seem to attack the brighter patterns. This was a 4 inch, Savage Gear Minnow in a yellow and pink colour. I sometimes put a few of the cheaper Savage Gear plastics in the GULP packet to soak up a bit of the GULP scent. This keeps my average tackle cost per fish a little lower! You have to be careful doing this as some plastics simply dissolve if they are mixed together.
I aimed at a sandy bank at the mouth of a gutter and let the plastic waft along its edge with the current. Once I figured out where to cast I got a hit straight away. After a few more casts I had a small flathead. I released it. I cast back in the same spot and hooked and then dropped another one.
I moved south along the beach to where it meets the rocks known locally as ‘seagulls’. I swapped to a small GULP 3″ Minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour and caught a 48 cm flathead. By about 2.00 pm the wind started howling and I gave up for the afternoon.
On the morning of the 4th of June conditions were perfect for fishing. The moon was a waning crescent, about 30% full. There was little wind, a clear sky and a very light swell. I set off for the mouth of the Brunswick River to see what I could find at about 10.00 am. Low tide was at 10.09 am at the river mouth.
I parked in the small car park at the southern end of North Head Road. I picked up my light spin rig (flathead fishing gear) and decided to walk along the wooded path down to the north bank of the river and Harry’s Hill Beach. As I walked parallel with the beach, I could see the birds circling, close in. I broke off the path down to the beach and realised they were dive bombing bait schools, very close to the beach.
I ran down to the shoreline, rigged a big bright soft plastic and cast in to the mayhem. I got a couple of hits on the first cast, but no hook up. On the next one I did a faster retrieve. Half way back to me a tailor slammed the soft plastic. It was a bigger fish than I had expected, my ‘noodle like’ Samaki Zing Gen 2 rod was in for a work out. I was rigged with 12Lb fluorocarbon leader, so I did not think I had much of a chance but after a fairly protracted fight a wave washed a 40cm tailor up to my feet.
I should have quit at the point but I released the fish and cast out again. I hooked up almost straight away and this time the Samaki Zing had had enough. It snapped just above the join as the tailor took off. No complaints about the rod – I had just brought a knife to gunfight.
I jogged back to the car got out my light rock fishing rig – Daiwa Crossfire 1062 and Shimano Stella 4000 reel, 30lb braid and (luckily) 30lb fluorocarbon leader and my keeper bag. I made it back to the beach in about 10 minutes and the mayhem was in full swing.
I started with another big bright soft plastic and that landed a couple of tailor before it was destroyed. I swapped to the 40g Duo Dragmetal Cast Slow. This is a jig designed to be worked quite slowly. It has two assist hooks at the top and one on the bottom. I cast it out and jigged it back to me. I immediately caught a couple of solid dart.
By now I could see the reason the fish where here. All along the wavebreak there were thick schools of small baitfish. A huge school of dart and tailor were roaming the shoreline smashing into this bait. I cast the jig out again and it was picked up almost immediately. I started playing the fish and let it take some line. When I pulled the fish towards me it suddenly felt much heavier. It also started moving really erratically. There were a couple of swirls and splashes and then I realised I had hooked two tailor on the one jig. I kept up the pressure and then one of them pulled the hook/ bit through the jig and I landed the single fish on one of the remaining hooks.
I swapped around between soft plastics metal slugs and jigs for about an hour. Everything caught fish and at one point I reeled in a big popper that someone else must have lost. By just after 11.30 am the bait school gradually moved to the north along the beach and took the tailor dart and birds with it. I kept six tailor for a family fish pie and let the dart and the rest of the fish go.
A couple of days later on the 6th June I arrived at dawn, to see if the fish were there. This time I started fishing further to the north on the beach at New Brighton, just before sunrise. There was a good gutter and cast into its mouth. The first taker was a tailor. It bit down hard on a 55g Halco Twisty metal lure, in the gold colour. But there was only one and I put in a lot of casts trying to find another. Once the sun was truly up, I swapped to a big GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic in the lime tiger colour. I fished this on 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast it into the gutter and let it waft around. I hooked a fish, almost immediately. As I pulled it towards me it wriggled off. I carried on peppering the area with casts and after about 10 more I came up tigh on another (or perhaps the same one).
On Tuesday, 8th June I came down to fish the area again at about 11.30 am. It was now two days before the new moon and the tidal flow was quite powerful. There had been some rain the day before and the river was a little murky on the run out tide. I walked out to the end of the rockwall at North Head. I started fishing with a 40g Halco Twisty. I cast and retrieved it across the mouth of the river and then along the line where the river running out met the clearer ocean wash. I soon had a fish – a 35cm tailor. I released it and caught another two straight way. Then things went quiet.
I swapped to a soft plastic minnow and caught a couple of 30cm bream and then things went quiet again. On the way back to the car I had a quick cast in the shallows in the corner of the beach. On about my 4th try, I felt the unmistakable thud of a flathead bite and after a short tussle I had a 45cm fish at my feet. Not a bad session but the big tailor school had clearly moved on.
The 28th of May was a beautiful morning with a cool north-westerly wind blowing. The water in the Brunswick River was crystal clear. But the big bait schools that had been in the lower reaches of the river had moved on. I cast around with lots of different soft plastics on my light spinning rig, loaded with 10lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader, but I did not get a bite.
When I can’t catch a flathead in a spot where I usually have, my constant question with is – Are they still there but not eating or have they moved on? I think my current conclusion is that they move up and down the river systems with the moon cycle and therefore the stronger current flow, on the bigger tides. Sometimes this process is interrupted by excessive amounts of food in a particular area or spawning and they stay in the same spot for almost the whole lunar cycle. The advantage with flathead is that even if you are not catching them you can usually see where they have recently been from their ‘lies’. These are the marks they leave in the sandy bottom.
On the 1st of June I fished on the south side of the river, upstream of the caravan park and Mangrove Island. I was in my waders – even though the water is still fairly warm. I started in the area where the river narrows and turns to the south. This is where the seagrass beds start to appear and it looks like very good flathead territory. I came across a few big flathead lies so felt fairly confident that the fish had moved up stream.
I started at about 11.30 am and fished through the second half of the run out tide. I cast a few soft plastics from the shallows and caught three flathead of which two would have been legal to keep. I released them all. Unfortunately the stretch of river further up from here is pretty hard to access so I may have problems testing my flathead movement theories. I finished fishing just after 1.30 pm.
After catching and releasing a big female flathead in the third week in May, I continued my thorough survey of fish in the Brunswick River. On Monday the 24th May, I was back out wading around in the shallows at the mouth. The water was still warm and clear and the bait was not as plentiful as it had been, but it was still there.
I started at about 10.30 am. Low tide would be just after noon, so I was fishing the bottom of the run out. I focused on the area where I had caught the big fish the week before – just as the tide had picked up speed running in, but I could not find another one there. I moved up river a little. I was fishing with a GULP 4″ Black Silver Paddleshad soft plastic loaded onto a 18th ounce, size 1/0 jighead. Just at the lower mouth of Marshalls Creek, I felt a single thud. I dropped the rod tip, paused for about 10 seconds and lifted it again. The fish was hooked and I pulled in a small flathead about 40cm long. I peppered the area but there were no more.
I moved down to the river mouth and caught another small flathead on a GULP 3″ Minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour. It was now about 11.45 am and I had a few casts out on the beach on the north side of the river mouth. This yielded one more very small flathead.
On the 25th I decided to fish upstream, around the top of the island west of the Ferry Reserve holiday park. This is accessed via the south bank of the river. I waded out in to the shallows at the eastern tip of the island at about 11.30 am. I was fishing the run out tide. The area is fairly shallow and usually covered in rays. I could see lots of tiny jelly prawns hanging around the edge of the weed beds and sunken timber. I moved slowly round the island, casting at the edge of the weed beds and channels and caught two very small flathead and one very angry bream. I finished up at about 1.00 pm.
May 20th was a Friday. The tide was low at 9.50 am and the moon was 6 days away from being full. I was once more fishing midmorning in the Brunswick River, starting at about 10.15 am.
I started down by the river mouth on the northside. I caught a bream on a minnow soft plastic and then the bream pulled it off the jighead, as they so often do. I opened a packet of GULP 4″ Pulseworm soft plastics in the Moebi colour (beige) and put one on my 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I was using my light spinning outfit and about 1.5 metres of 12lb fluorocarbon leader.
To my surprise the next fish was an ambitious whiting. I released it and moved slowly up river. I lost my plastic again and put on a GULP 2″ Shrimp in the Peppered Prawn colour. The next taker was a small flathead, about 35cm long. I let it go. The tide was now beginning to flood in.
I moved further up the river bank and cast my soft plastic at the sandy patches in between the rocky bottom. I lost a jighead, snagged on one of the rocks that was out of wading distance. I put on another GULP Pulseworm and carried on casting.
I was now keeping the soft plastic moving fairly quickly across the bottom as I did not want to get snagged again. I was fishing in about 30 cm of water. I felt the plastic stop dead and assumed I was snagged again. I pulled hard and there was a little bit of give, so I pulled harder. Suddenly my drag was screaming and a fish was swimming away. It was a big flathead that had been sitting in the shallows between the rocks.
It made a couple of long slow runs. I left the drag alone. I only had a 12lb fluorocarbon leader and a very light rod so I was going to have to play it very patiently. When they get this big their head shakes are slower and less numerous and as long as they are hooked on the outside of the mouth, you have a good chance at landing them. I let her go where she wanted to and took back line whenever I could. After about five minutes I pulled her onto the sand. She was a beautiful fish and by measuring her against my rod I estimate she was about 75cm long. I took a few snaps and turned back into the water. I held her by the mouth and let some water run back and forth over her gills and then she slowly swam away.
This is by far the biggest fish I have found in the river so far. I am delighted they are there and I hope to tangle with a few more.
The next day I went back to see if she was part of a gang. I tried out the GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshad in my favorite; Lime Tiger colour. I fished around for a few hours in the same area and found another decent 55cm flathead. I also released this one.
On the 14th May, I decided to see if the fish were up river. I was fishing land based and I started on the sand flats on the south side of the river, around the highway bridge. The first catch was a tiny flathead, just under the bridge. Then I moved up river to the boat ramp, near the caravan park. The water was crystal clear again.
It was now about noon. The tide had been high at about 10.00 am and was now running out. I was fishing with my light spin rig and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I was using a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and a GULP 2″ Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I paused beside the boat ramp as there was a big school of tiny bait fish close to the shore. I cast up river, into the fast running tide and gradually hopped the lure back along the bottom, under the bait. On about my tenth try I felt a solid thud and I had another flathead. It was probably 35 cm long and I let it go.
I made my way along the rockwall in front of the caravan park, casting all along the base of the rocks. There was bait everywhere. But I could not find anymore flathead.
A few days later I had a beach session at New Brighton, just to the north of the Brunswick River mouth. The swell and wind was fairly light and so I cast around in the corner of the beach using my medium weight beach rig. This is a Daiwa Crossfire CFX1062 – a 10 foot 6 inch long beach fishing rod, matched with a Shimano Stella 4000 reel. I spool it with 30lb braid and today I was using a 16lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader. I thought there might be a few tailor around as there had been so much bait in the river. I was using a big soft plastic (GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the lime tiger colour) on a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead.
It was about 4.00 pm and it was almost low tide. After a few casts I caught a 40 cm flathead. I released it and kept casting. About 10 minutes later I hooked another flathead. This was a better fish (just under 50 cm long) and I decided to keep it for supper. I carried on for about half an hour but I was now wet and the wind chill got too high, so I cleaned up the fish and quit for the day. The water is still warm but it won’t be for much longer, now the wind is coming from the west.
My last fishing session in April was on the Richmond River at Ballina. It was a Friday lunchtime and I decided to look for some flathead as the tide ran out. The tide was high at about 11.00 am and I started fishing as the run out got going at 11.30 am. I was using my ultra-light spinning set up; 2-4 kg rod and a 2500 size spin reel. I had 12lb braid for main line and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. The first soft plastic I selected was the GULP 4″ Pulseworm in the beige Moebi colour. I rigged it on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I like the look of this shape it has a ribbed body and a curly tail, and it has caught a few flathead for me.
The weather was cloudy and overcast. March had been a very good flathead fishing month in the local estuaries. We had had some rain earlier in the day and we were due some more. The wind was from the north-east, and the sky was gradually turning greyer and greyer. I started fishing from the rocky shoreline, just down river from the small boat harbour, opposite the Ramada Hotel.
I cast back towards the mouth of the harbour, let the soft plastic sink and hopped it back along the bottom, with the current. Just a few minutes after starting I caught a 40cm flathead. It struck very close to the shore. I cast out again and hooked up again, but the hook did not stick and the fish swam away before I got a look at it.
I moved a little way further along the bank towards the river mouth. I swapped to a GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastic in the Chartreuse (yellow and white) colour. After a few casts with this I caught another good sized flathead. It was just over 55cm. I carried on moving along the bank for another 20 minutes or so and caught two more smaller flathead on the same soft plastic. Every fish had hit my lure less than two metres from the shoreline – so you don’t have to cast right out into the middle of the channel to find them.
The rain started and before long it was torrential, so I withdrew. I love fishing the Richmond River at Ballina. There are a lot of great land-based fishing spots that consistently produce fish and many are only 5 minutes from the centre of town.
On Saturday I had another session fishing land-based at Brunswick Heads. I started at 1.30 pm on a Saturday afternoon. This is pretty much breaking every rule in my fishing book. ‘Fish at dusk and dawn’, I am always telling everyone. But the last couple of days had produce lots of fish and I had other commitments at dusk and dawn. I was enjoying a good red wine at dusk and sleeping it off at dawn, so I decided to get some fresh air and put in a few casts.
It was a cloudy day and there was a light south easterly wind blowing. I was fishing the beginning of the run in tide. Low tide had been at 12.08 pm. The water was clear and once again there were small schools of tiny baitfish close to the shore line and around the various rocky outcrops.
I was using my light spinning combo and I put on a 4 inch GULP Pulseworm in the Moebi colour. This was another of GULPs short lived shapes in Australia. I found it was pretty good for flathead but it obviously did not sell very well and is now disappearing. However Pure Fishing/Berkley Gulps’ loss is my gain and I picked up an armful of packets for for $5 dollars each to feed my habit.
The first taker was a 20 cm flathead that must have been sitting in the shallows. It was about 30 cm from the shoreline. It had been buried in the sand and grabbed the soft plastic lure just as I was about to cast again. I cast around the rocks and lost a few jig heads by hooking the river bed.
I moved further down towards the river mouth and kept casting. Just before 2.00 pm my line pulled up tight and I caught another flathead – it was probably just 36 cm long. I released it. Almost immediately I caught and released another one, about the same size. I carried on fishing and swapped through a few different soft plastics. At 2.06 pm I caught yet another, This one was about 43 cm so I decided to keep it.
I kept casting. I was now fishing the GULP 4″ Minnow in the Smelt colour. The bream kept trying to pull this one off the jighead. Eventually one of them struck and hooked itself. Just after 3.00 pm I caught the best flathead of the day on a GULP 2″ Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. It was about 50 cm long.
At about 3.30 pm I gave up and cleaned up the two biggest fish to take home for supper. So you can catch fish in the Brunswick River on a Saturday lunchtime – but probably only when the river is teeming with bait and it’s not the school holidays.
A few days later I was back at the north bank of the Brunswick River mouth looking for more flathead. The bait schools were not as thick but they were still around. Occasionally a small bream/ trevally/ tailor/ flathead would smash into them from below, and send them flying. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day. The water was still brown and tannin stained at the bottom of the run out tide but it was now crystal clear on the top of the tide.
We were about 5 days from the full moon, The wind was light from the south east and low tide had passed at about 11.45 am. I started about 2.15 pm and the tide was running in strongly, pushing the tannin stained river water back upstream.
I put a GULP 2 ” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and started casting just down river from the rocks, near the mouth. Fish were snatching at the soft plastic lure from the very first cast. I soon hooked a 30 cm bream and then a few casts later, I found a patch of flathead. I caught three, small but legal sized fish in quick succession.
As I moved towards the river mouth.The fish kept coming. A steady stream of flathead. Many were too small so I released them, but I managed to find four legal ones.
I finished at about 5.30 pm out on the rockwall, where I caught another couple of small bream and a 45 cm flathead. April was turning into a good month for fishing this river.
I have always done well targeting flathead in March and April. Those of you who have followed me for a while will be aware that when I was based in Brisbane I spent a lot of time exploring the flats at Bribie Island. My experience of catching flathead in that area have shaped my fishing process for every estuary I subsequently explore. Look for the edges of weed beds, sand banks and drop offs and fish the last couple of hours of the run out tide – these have been two of my best my most successful habits.
I now live very close to the Brunswick River in northern New South Wales, but I have not really had a lot of success fishing in the river. The much bigger Richmond and Clarence Rivers are nearby and if I have a day to fish I often head for one of these. In the Brunswick River I have caught flathead, bream and the odd trevally but nothing very big and I have not found many consistent fish producing spots. The Northern Rivers area of New South Wales has been very busy with holidaymakers since COVID 19 locked us all into Australia. However with Easter behind us we were beginning to get a few quieter days on the river. The swell was still playing up offshore so there were less big boats heading over the bar. The caravan parks were gradually emptying out so there were a few less tinnies ploughing up and down fishing the river.
Out on the beaches the water was still warm and now crystal clear. There were big schools of mullet cruising along behind the wave breaks. On a calm afternoon I caught a couple of legal size flathead in a gutter at New Brighton. I was using a 2″ GULP Shrimp on a 1/6th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and 12lb leader.
The water in the lower reaches of the Brunswick River was fairly clear once the tide started running in and there seemed to be plenty of bait around. On the bottom of the tide the water was stained brown with tannin, as the rain drained from the tea tree and paperbark swamps that surround the river.
On the 21st I decided to fish for a few hours of the run in tide after low, which was just before 10.00 am. I arrived at the mouth of the Brunswick River on the north side at about 10.45 am and got rigged up on my light spinning outfit. I stuck with 10lb fluorocarbon leader as the water was now very clear. I noticed something smashing into a bait schools out in the middle of the river. I put on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and loaded it with a GULP 2 inch Shrimp profile soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I cast this at the spots were I saw the surface bust ups. After a few tries I hooked a small bream and then a small trevally. As the incoming clean water washed in I noticed there were big schools of small whitebait coming with it. I swapped to GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour and after a few casts something pulled this plastic off the jighead. I put another one on and slowed my retrieve down. After about ten minutes I caught another small flathead.
As the tide started to run in strongly I swapped through a few different soft plastics and caught four more legal size flathead and two that were less than the 36 cm limit. I kept a couple of fish for supper and released everything else.
Let’s hope the bait sticks around and lures the predators up river.
About a week later I decided to return to the South Ballina rockwall to see if the jewfish/ mulloway were still around. The new moon had arrived a couple of days previously. The tide was running in and would be high at about 11.00 am. The water in the river was still dirty but it was no longer opaque. The dolphins had appeared again. A couple of them had very small offspring under close supervision.
I started early but still only managed to reach the start of the rock wall after first light. I had a couple of casts with big soft plastics in the spot where I had caught the jewfish previously. I got no hits so after about 20 casts I moved down nearer to the end of the rockwall.
I was fishing with my heavier spinning rig – Daiwa TD SOL III LT 6000 DH reel and Daiwa Saltist X MH 962 rod. I had 40 lb braid and a 30 lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I chose one of my all time favorite soft plastics the GULP 4″ Minnow on the Watermelon Pearl colour. This is pretty much as close to a pilchard/ whitebait as you can get. After a while, I felt a couple of frenetic tailor attacks. The soft plastic had been munched but was largely in one piece so I cast it out again. The fish struck hard as it sank and then it hooked itself and took off. It was a decent tailor about 45 cm long. I landed it safely, bled it and put it in the keeper bag.
I carried on casting the same mangled soft plastic until a bream pulled it off my jighead. I decided to drop down to the lighter of my two rock fishing combinations – a Shimano Stella 4000 reel matched with a Daiwa Crossfire 1062 rod. This is loaded with 30 lb braid and 16 lb fluorocarbon leader. I dropped the jighead to a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook. I put on the GULP 3″ Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour and started casting again. The first taker, to my surprise, was a dart. Things went quiet for a while then the dart came back again and I caught a couple more.
After an hour of not much action the tailor arrived again and I caught two small choppers. When the tailor moved on, the bream took their place and I caught four fish – all between 25 cm and 30 cm long. I released them all.
I had not found the jewfish/mulloway but I expect they were there on the bottom of the runout tide, before dawn. The schools of mullet kept hovering around the rivermouth and tracing the rock wall, so there was plenty of food to tempt them.
As the tide peaked and the current slackened off I gave up. The water was now very clear on the ocean side of the wall. I am looking forward to the tailor and bream getting much bigger over the next couple of months.