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.
Follow me on Instagram, for more fishing pictures and updates;
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 mid-July I was back in Iluka after a fair bit of rain and wild weather. The swell was forecast to drop to about a metre so I decided to spend a morning fishing at Woody Head.
I was up before dawn and arrived on the platform at Woody Head at about 6.00 am. The tide had been low at 5.20 am and was now running in. It was a few days after the new moon, so it was about 20% full. The horizon was an amazing colour in the pre-dawn light. The swell was a bit angrier than forecast so I watched it for a while before I started fishing. As it got lighter I could see that the water was very cloudy.
When I felt I could cast safely between the bigger sets I tied on the ASWB 40g Flutter Drop fast sinking stickbait. This comes from Ebb Tide Tackle. I like this lure. It often seems to get a bite when other things are not working for tailor. I cast it out and started retrieving with long, fairly slow sweeps. I felt a couple of knocks on the first cast but nothing connected. I cast out again and repeated the process. This time the fish were ready and one grabbed it pretty quickly. I was fishing with my old battered Daiwa Demonblood 962 H rod and Daiwa TD SOL III LT 6000D-H spinning reel. I was using 40lb braid and a 40lb fluorocarbon leader. The Demonblood is such a solid rod and had no problem subduing the tailor. I pulled up a very fat fish – about 45cm long. I despatched it and put it in the keeper pool. It was now just after 7.00 am.
I kept casting in between some big wave sets, but conditions were tricky. At about 7.30 am I hooked another tailor, very close to the rocks. A big wave was coming so I loosened the drag and retired to safety while it washed over the ledge. I then retightened and felt the fish was still on. However the line was rubbing on the cunjevoi covered rocks. The swell forced me back again and I just flicked the bail arm over. The wave hit hard. As I moved back towards the edge, I flicked the bail arm over and wound like mad. The fish seemed to have freed/ untangled itself and I pulled it up to my feet. It was another tailor, about the same size as the first.
The BKK trebles (which are pretty tough) were all bent up and I was soaked, so I called it quits for the morning at about 8.00 am.
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.
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.
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.
A few days later I returned to the South Ballina wall for an early morning fishing session. If you fish in this area I urge you to email both Justine.Elliot.MP@aph.gov.au and Tamara Smith email@example.com; – (our federal and state parliamentary representatives) – and ask them when we can expect the road out to the rock wall to be repaired and re-opened. I know a number of elderly and disabled fishos who used to enjoy visiting the wall and the beach and I think we all have a right to have road access to this beautiful spot. So please take 5 minutes to drop them an email and ask them when will it re-open.
I arrived before first light and walked for 35 minutes to reach the end of the rock wall and started fishing just after dawn. There was a clear line where the brown water from the river was pushing out against the clearer blue green water of the ocean, pushing in.
Again I was targeting the jewfish/ mulloway but I caught an assortment of species. I started with a few small tailor from the river side of the wall. Tailor will nearly always smash a soft plastic if it is right in front of them. I think the dolphins were also targeting them.
The swell was lighter than I had expected so I moved round to the very end of the wall and cast to the east. It is amazing how over just one year the huge concrete tripod shapes have gradually broken down and slipped forward, from the relentless wave action. Some have even been broken in half.
The fish I had caught so far were pretty small, so at about 8.40 am I dropped down to my lighter rock fishing setup – Shimano Stella 4000 matched with a Daiwa Crossfire 1062, 30lb braid and a 16lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a 1/4 ounce size 2/0 hook jig head and loaded a 4″ GULP Minnow soft plastic in the Camo colour. The first taker was another small tailor, very close to the base of the front of the rock wall. I kept casting and had a few more bites then lost two jigheads in a row to the rocks. I re-rigged and this time after a few casts I hooked a decent fish. It was a school jewfish, about 60 cm long and I managed to haul it carefully up to my feet, photograph it and throw it back.
I carried on with the lighter rod and I was surprised to catch a few dart and then a scorpion fish and finally, a few small bream. At about 11.30 am I gave up and made my way back to the car.
On the way back I stopped to aim a few casts at the gutter close to the beach. This is where the jewfish had been the week before. They were not there but I did hook a decent flathead. It was about 50 cm long and I kept it for supper.
March proved to be the wettest month ever recorded in Northern New South Wales. From about the 20th it just did not stop raining for about a week. I had booked a week of fishing in Iluka for the end of the month. I still went and the sun did come out but the waters of the Clarence River rose and rose. The river came up and flooded parts of Maclean and the roads into Yamba and Harwood were cut for a few days.
Before the Yamba road was closed I spent a misty dawn fishing in the brown frothy water at the Clarence River mouth. The water was so muddy and there was so much debris floating out to sea that it was difficult to believe there could be any fish in it, but there was a big pile of jewfish scales on the wall, so they had been there recently.
The next day the road in and out of Iluka was cut by the rising flood waters. I was staying at Browns Rocks on Goodwood Island. I anxiously watched the river level inch up for the morning high tide. It gradually begin to trickle over the road and into the cane fields, just on high tide. Fortunately that was as high as it got.
The weather had cleared and the wind had completely dropped away. I could not go anywhere so I threw a line in. I was flicking around a small paddletail soft plastic. The water was so muddy that it was completely opaque. After a few casts I hooked something strange. It was moving fairly slowly. It was an eel hooked through its back. I released it.
I spent a fruitless morning casting everything I had off the rocks at Woody Head. It was only when I dropped down to 12lb leader and 2” soft plastic lures that I finally caught a few fish. I caught bream, butter bream and Moses’ perch – none of which would have been big enough to keep. The water was soon a murky brown all along the headlands and the swell kept on hammering in.
Each day the high tides got a little lower and the water became slightly less milky in the Clarence River. Each day I tried casting soft plastic minnows for bream in the dirty water and soon enough I caught a couple of 30 cm units, around dusk.
By the end of the month I started casting around for a flathead. It took a while, but I did eventually find a couple, tucked in close to the mangrove roots, along the shore at Browns Rocks. I headed home. The fishing had been turned upside down by the floods but major damage had largely been avoided.
I managed to get down to Iluka again in late February. The rain was forecast to clear up for a week or so. The river would still be a brown mess but if the swell played ball I could probably catch some decent fish from the various headlands of the Bundjalung National Park.
On Saturday and Sunday 27/28th of February I fished at Middle Bluff just to the north of Frazers Reef, in the mornings and then at Woody Head, for the mid afternoon low tides, in the afternoons. The wind was fairly light in the mornings but built up through the day and turned northerly or north easterly. There was a southerly swell still coming through with some big sets every 10 minutes, so as usual I had to watch where I stood. The moon was full on the Saturday so there was plenty of tidal run.
I caught some great sunrises. But the net result was a lot of casting of hard bodies, metal slugs and big and small soft plastics for not many fish: A few small bream, one dawn chopper tailor and one small striped trevally at Middle Bluff. One decent tailor, a big run and bust off and a very small trevally at Woody Head.
Fishing the full moon can be hard and the recent big rains had really stirred things up – this can also be good or bad. It was time for a day off to reflect on my strategy.
More mad seas and wild weather came through in early February so I decided to fish the north bank of the Richmond River in Ballina. The only advantage of wild weather is that there are quite a few less boats on the water and that means that the fish are often not disturbed between several tide cycles. Typically flathead move up and down with the tides; following bait up as it comes in and and slowly retreating again, as the tide runs out.
I was fishing from the shore, not far from the Ballina Memorial Swimming Pool. I fished for four sessions over 7 days and caught flathead during all of them. The wind was swapping between south easterly and north easterly and the moon was a week or so away from new. The water quality was not too bad, but after all the rain it was very dirty on the bottom of the run out tides. Despite this, the back half of the run out tide produced the most fish.There was not much tidal flow.
I was fishing with my light spinning outfit and 10lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. My starter soft plastic was the GULP 4″ Minnow in the Smelt colour. As I cast and retrieved it, the bait scattered in showers, especially in the shallows close to the base of the rocks. In fact, this is where I have caught most of my flathead. It seems they like to sit in the sand/ mud just inches from the rocks, under the bait. The bait was thick and several times I pulled up a plastic with mini-live bait attached.
The great thing about this stretch of shore is that it is less than 5 minutes walk to the River Street and all the shops. A coffee/ lunch break is the perfect time to have a cast and you may catch dinner.
It was back to the southwall at Ballina for my first fishing session in February. I arrived a few minutes after first light and walked out to the wall. I arrived at the end of the wall just before sunrise and started off fishing on the ocean side. I started with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour on a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I caught a small bream, and then another. It’s amazing how often that first cast produces a fish. A few casts later I lost the end of the jerkshad to something fast – presumably a tailor.
There was a bit too much swell at the end of the wall and as the sun came up so did the north easterly wind. It it is quite disturbing how many of the huge concrete lumps have been broken down by the swell over the summer.
I decided to retreat a little and fish the river side of the wall. I caught more small bream and the foul hooked a small tailor. I cast the remains of the soft plastic back out and caught another small tailor. It was bleeding and hooked in its guts so I decided to offer it to the osprey. I broke its neck and left it in the middle of the path, while I re-rigged. Not more than a minute later I saw the shadow of the bird coming over me for a look. The gulls fussed over the fish but they could not lift it. The osprey made three circuits before swooping down and grabbing the fish. I watched it fly off down to a log on the beach to the south.
The wind was howling so at about 9.30 am I gave up and walked back to the car. I am looking forward to a calmer swell so I can fish the end of the wall soon.