Richmond River – South Ballina Wall – Jewfish – 10 April 2021

By mid-April the water in all the major estuaries of the Northern Rivers area was a still a very dirty brown colour – particularly at the bottom of the tide. The initial flush from the March floods had washed a lot of debris down the rivers and out to sea. It had also washed plenty of mullet and other baitfish down to the river mouths. Jewfish/ Mulloway love to hang around in these conditions, ambushing mullet as they are washed out into the ocean.

I decided to try my luck on the south rockwall at the Richmond River mouth at South Ballina. As the road out to the wall is still closed it is a fair walk. I arrived at about 5.30 am, parked at the gate, got my gear together and started walking. I reached the rockwall just as the sun was coming over the horizon at about 6.00 am. High tide would be at about 7.30 am and we were two days away from the new moon.

A team of keen Korean fishermen had passed me on my way out to the wall. They had been smart enough to use mini foldable electric bikes for the journey out. My tackle budget won’t stretch to one of those anytime soon. They were fishing at the end of the rock wall so I decided to start on the ocean side of the wall, fairly close to the beach. The water runs out of the river mouth and forms a big eddy that circles round and carves a good gutter in the corner of the beach.

Even though the sun was now well and truly up, I still hoped there might be a monster mulloway cruising the beach gutter. I loaded the heavier of my rock spinning outfits (DAIWA Saltist X) with a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and a GULP 5′ Paddleshad in the pink colour. I was using 30lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I cast out about 10 metres from the wall, let the plastic waft down in the swell and slowly started to retrieve it along the bottom. I felt a few gentle hits and pulled up the soft plastic to see something had tried to pull it off the jighead – this is usually what the bream do. I cast a few more times with no result. At about 6.20 am I cast out and let the soft plastic sit for 20 seconds before starting my retrieve. This did the trick and as I lifted the rod tip I set the hook on a fish. It was a small school jewfish about 50 cm long.

That was the start of a great mornings fishing. Over the next few hours high tide came and went but I kept catching small jewfish. The biggest was about 60 cm long and the smallest was just over 40 cm. I lost count but I caught somewhere between 10 and 15 fish. They were all too small to keep and so I released them all. Mixed in among them I caught a few solid bream and a couple of small tailor that destroyed my soft plastics. The profile, size and colour of the soft plastics did not seem to be much of a factor. I was using GULPS all day but I swapped between the Crazylegs Jerkshad, the Paddleshad, the Turtlebackworm and the straightforward Minnow – and they all caught fish. At one point I swapped to a Croaker hard bodied lure to see if this might attract a bigger one but this did not work.

A few days earlier one of the Koreans had successfully landed a 130 cm mulloway off the ocean side of the end of the wall and there were several piles of big scales that suggested a few other anglers had been successful. The big ones were certainly out there. The jewfish specialists seem to be convinced that soft plastics will get you fish up to about a metre long but for the monsters you need a big hard bodied mullet imitation or a live mullet. One day I may have the patience to put this theory to the test!

Brunswick River – Brunswick Heads 13 February 2021

A fish eating friend asked us over for dinner one Saturday in February – but the invite came with a catch (no pun intended). They had bought enough fish ($49/kilo!!!!!!! fresh flathead fillets) for four but if we were coming, they would need a little more fish – preferably flathead. I checked the freezer and realised all of last week’s flathead was gone. So I decided to accept the challenge. I had about 7 hours to find, catch and clean about 500g of flathead.

It would be like competition angling. I decided the Brunswick River which is just down the road was my best option. I got my gear out and drove to the north bank and climbed down the sloping bank. The tide was running out, it was a few days after the new moon. The water was still fairly murky after the rain we had had earlier in the week.

I was fishing with my Samaki Zing ultralight spinning rod and 12 lb breaking strain braid and about a 1.5 metre long 10 lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader. I picked out a GULP 3 inch Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour and loaded on to a 1/8th of an ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast out in between the remains of the old decrepit oyster lease. I am not sure when this will be re-classified as litter but I have watched as it has gradually deteriorated over the five years that I have been fishing here and never seen anyone tending to it. I am not too worried as the piles of old netting, plastic pipes, floats baskets, ropes and concrete moorings are gradually being covered with oysters and form good fishing structure. After a few casts I got a solid bite and after ten minutes I hooked a decent bream. It was great to get a fish but it was the wrong species.

I swapped over to a GULP 3 inch Shrimp in the Peppered Prawn colour and cast it out. Letting it bump along the bottom with the run out tide. I soon hooked another fish but again it was a bream.

Conditions were far from peaceful. It was the weekend and the swell was still up so there was plenty of activity on the river. Kayaks, tinnies, and the local tourist cruise boat all ploughed up and down. There was a brief pause and then the local hoons arrived taking it in turns towing everything – wakeboard, surf board, rubber ring, kitchen sink – up and down the river. They looked about 15 and alternated between screaming and vaping – how I longed for them to impale themselves on a submerged rock, but it was not to be.

Brunswick River hoons

Things were looking bleak I had been at it for almost an hour and all I had caught was bream. I moved a little further south, along the bank towards the river mouth. The new ground paid off and on my first cast I pulled up a small flathead. It was just on 35cm – too small. So back he went. I swapped to a brighter coloured 3 inch GULP Minnow soft plastic in the Lime Tiger colour. Maybe the change of colour did the trick or perhaps I had just stumbled across a group of fish lying together in one spot – either way the line pulled tight and I had another flathead, this time it was a keeper at 43 cm. I despatched it and put it in the keeper bag.

For the next 30 minutes I methodically covered the area with casts and it paid off – providing two more keeper sized flathead – one 38 cm and one 40cm. I now had just about enough flathead to take to the dinner party so I headed home.

This challenge was hard enough for me,so I do not think I will be entering competitions anytime soon.

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Evans Head – Piano Rock – 19 January 2021

In general, as the fresh water cleared out of the estuaries in mid January, the fishing improved. Suddenly there was plenty of bait around and the water cleared fairly quickly. Unfortunately the wind kept blowing and the swell stayed consistently high. On one slightly calmer day I decided to fish the rising tide, off the rocks at Evans Head.

Expectations were low as I would arrive at about 10.00 am am and fish through to about 2.30 pm. It was a hot and clear day with a building northerly breeze. After a quick scan of conditions from the Razorback Lookout, I decided to fish along the shore in the Piano Rock area.

I started with my heavier rod and bigger soft plastics but this combination did not raise any interest. I was soon down to my lighter rock fishing set up and had dropped all the way down to a 1/6th ounce size 1/0 hook jighead and I was using a Gulp 3″ Minnow in the Smelt colour. All this raised was a butter bream.

Butter bream

I moved further around the rocks and kept casting. I felt a few quick and violent bites and pulled up half a soft plastic. I reloaded and cast back out. This time a fish connected for a while and then let go. On the next cast I was bitten off as soon as the soft plastic hit the water. It was a school of small tailor. I tied a new jighead on, put the same soft plastic on and cast out again. I let it sink then retrieved it quickly and this time I hooked the fish and landed it. It was a small tailor – no more than 30cm long. I carried on for another hour and caught two more small tailor.

It was good to scout out a new spot and encouraging to find fish in the middle of the day. I would expect the bigger predators to be around at dawn and dusk on the bigger tides. I will have to come back.

Iluka – Middle Bluff – 22 November 2020

The swell came up and then subsided, a little. The wind swapped to south easterly, then northerly, then south easterly and then back to a morning south westerly, all in the space of about 48 hours. The moon had reached its first quarter. The dawn tide would be too high to fish at Woody Head so I decided to give Middle Bluff a try.

The challenge at Middle Bluff is the distance between you and the water, if you hook a fish. In some places on this rock platform you are fishing three or four metres above the water. In calm conditions you can gently coax a fish along the front of the rock ledges to a lower one and grab the leader to pull the fish up. But if there is any swell this is next to impossible. I have never mastered using a gaff as I am convinced I will most likely end up gaffing myself (I also like to release fish, if I am not planning to eat them). So like so many other rock fishing ledges it is only really safe when the swell is around 1 metre. Even then all the usual rules apply; wear boots or shoes with excellent grip, wear a life jacket, check the swell for 20 minutes or so before fishing and try to stay permanently on dry rocks – if in doubt, don’t.

I arrived and parked at Frasers Reef just after 4.00 am and walked north to Middle Bluff. By the time I reached the ledges I wanted to fish there was a long line of orange on the horizon. I started on the north end of the platform.

I cast out a 3/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead with a GULP 5″ Paddleshad soft plastic in the Pink colour on my heavy rig. I tried to get it as close to the edge of the ledge as possible as I believe the mulloway and other fish school up in the sea caves and overhangs which extend under the ledges. The idea is to drop it down next to the rocks and then hop it slowly along the bottom, parallel with the shoreline. The period between first light and sunrise is definitely my most successful period for catching mulloway/ jewfish from the rocks. I cast around close to the edge and just before dawn the line pulled tight and I felt the weight of a fish. It set off under the ledge but I turned it around. I was fishing with my heavier rod and reel with 40lb fluorocarbon leader and a fairly tight drag. I pulled hard to keep it away from the rocks but I was going too hard and fast and the hook pulled out. I was a little too eager. I carried on casting through dawn and swapped through a few different soft plastics. I had another bite that felt like a tailor but it also spat the hook. I had eaten all my mulloway/ jewfish so I needed something for dinner.

At about 6.00 am I moved south along the ledge, nearer to Frasers Reef. The swell was a little more relaxed here. I swapped to my lighter fishing rig which was rigged 16 lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/4 ounce, size 1 hook jighead and GULP 3″ Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. I cast this out and again focused on the area close to the base of the ledge. Leaving the plastic on the bottom for as long as I could without getting snagged. This tactic worked and I caught a decent bream just over 36 cm long. It hit the lure inches from surface and inches from the rocky shore. I put it in a rock pool and tried again in the same spot. A few casts later I caught another one about the same size.

Twins

A disappointing morning but I would have fish for supper.

Iluka – Woody Head – 14/15 November 2020

Very strong south easterlies had been blowing all week. I had tried a few sheltered spots around Iluka, but had only managed a few bream and small trevally. Everything was just too stirred up and finding anywhere safe to stand was too hard.

The winds dropped off on the Friday and the south easterlies were replaced by a strong northerly wind. This flattened out the seas a little and by lunchtime on Saturday I decided to try fishing at Woody Head. It was an early afternoon low tide at about 2.30 pm. The northerly wind was forecast to fall through the afternoon. The moon would be new on Sunday. The wind was still gusty from the north but the swell had flattened considerably.

I started fishing with my heavier set up – 40lb leader, 40lb braid, casting a DUO Drag Metalcast around. This produced nothing. Then a Gulp Jerkshad (various colours). This produced a 45cm trevally and then a 35cm bream. Initially I was fishing with a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and then on a heavier 3/8th ounce, 2/0 hook jighead, to counteract the fairly strong northerly wind.

I had been casting a GULP Lime Tiger coloured jerkshad around and I was thinking of swapping to a more natural coloured soft plastic when something grabbed the plastic very close. It initially turned to swim away but soon rethought its strategy and headed under the ledge. The drag was pretty tight but the fish didn’t even pause. My braid was soon rubbing on the rocks and then – snap! I re-rigged and tightened the drag, but things seemed to go quiet for a while. The tide was now pushing in quite quickly. I kept casting and the next fish on the scene was a trevally, about 45cm long.

At about 3.30 pm I had moved a little south along the ledge. I dropped down to the light rock fishing rig with 16lb leader and 20lb braid. I cast out a GULP Lime Tiger coloured Crazylegs Jerkshad. This was smacked on the drop and taken straight under the rock ledge – the braid snapped almost instantly. I cursed my impatience and swapped back to the heavy rod with 40lb leader and a 3/8th ounce size 2/0 jighead. I put another GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad on. This paid off and after a few casts something whacked the soft plastic on the drop and took off. Fortunately it decided to swim away from the ledge and this gave me some time. It was powerful but after an initial run I seemed to have it under control. I pulled it up with a wave surge and was delighted to see it was a snapper (later weighed in – gutted and scaled – at 3.8kg)

The next day would be an even lower low tide and I started fishing in the same spot at about 3.00 pm. The swell had continued to drop off and the wind was a light south-easterly. The first taker was a bream. I released it and carried on. About 10 minutes later I felt a fish grab then lure then drop it, a few metres out from the ledge. I cast out again and slowed down my retrieve. Something fast grabbed it and took off with a long run. I got some line back but then it ran again. I tightened the drag and wound like mad as it suddenly turned and decided to swim straight for the ledge. Fortunately, by the time it tried to change its mind, I had virtually locked up the drag and pulled it in on a wave. It was a surprising small (50cm) kingfish. I have only ever caught a few of these and their power and speed always surprises me. I released it, hoping for more, but did not get any.

Kingfish fight very hard

I moved further south to where I had caught the snapper the day before. I was temporarily out of the Crazylegs Jerkshads so I found a 6″ GULP Squid Vicious in the New Penny colour and cast that out. It was now almost 5.00pm and the tide was running in. On about the third cast I thought I had the bottom, then it started wriggling and took off. One long solid run and then a couple of head shakes but no real power (compared to the kingfish). It was decent school jewfish and I was able to successfully pull it up to my feet. It was just over 75 cm long and so it joined the snapper in the fridge.

A couple of great sessions once the weather allowed me to get to the fish, lets hope it stays calm for a while.

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Dead Whale – Shark Bay – Iluka – 6 November 2020

While I was fishing the Clarence River at Goodwood Island a dead whale had washed up on the beach at Shark Bay in Iluka. I drove past the beach entrance and found it closed with a large cohort of National Parks trucks in attendance and a 30 tonne excavator just being delivered. I parked up and walked out onto the beach to have a look.

It was amazing to see this huge creature washed up. It had obviously only recently died as there was no smell or predator damage. Two chaps from the Coffs Harbour Dolphin Marine Research Centre were on hand to cut it open and see what it had died of. It was covered in more than normal numbers of sea lice, which they said meant it had probably been sick for some time. The plan was to move it up the beach with the excavator so that the high tide would not carry it away before they could conduct their a post mortem, the next day.

There is no easy way of getting rid of a dead whale. So it was decided it would be sent to landfill after the postmortem. Not a very dignified end. I think it would be more noble to tow it out to sea and let the other predators ‘recycle’ it. However there was a risk it would keep washing back in and the sharks would be around for months following it, so it was cut up and sent to landfill.

I had hoped the blood and guts might bring the fish in but the excavator crew did a pretty good job of tidying up and the next day there was little trace on the beach. Just a few barnacles and dead sea lice.

Dead Whale – not easy to shift

That evening in another howling south easterly wind I tried to fish the north side of the Shark Bay rock platform. I cast metal slugs and hard bodies and eventually dropped down to small minnow and other soft plastics. I found a few fish but not what you would expect –  a big pike, butter bream and a few small bream. Finally something crunched through my jighead in the shallows – I suspect a wobbegong.

I am hoping that the wind will stop blowing soon.

Brunswick River – Brunswick Heads – 1 September 2020

Thanks to the machinations of our newly powerful state leaders, Brunswick Heads was very quiet in August and September. Despite vanishingly small numbers of locally identified cases of COVID 19, the Queensland border snapped shut. It was soul destroying for our local businesses that rely so much on visitors from north of the border, and further afield. But, every cloud has a silver lining and for once the Brunswick River was very peaceful and largely undisturbed.

I started September with a midday session wading the flats above the highway bridge. The tide was running out to low at about 1-30 pm. I parked up beside the caravan park at Ferry Reserve.

I was using my new light estuary spinning set-up. The guides on my old favorite NS Blackhole trout rod nearly all needed replacing and I had knocked about 10 cm off the tip over the last couple of years – it had to go. I had loved that rod so I decided to go for another NS Blackhole rod from EJ Todd. I chose the ultralight fast action NS Amped II Trout S-602UL rod. It is a 6′ long two piece, rated for 2- 10 gram lures and 2-6 lb (1-3kg) line. I match it with a Daiwa TD-SOL III LT 2500D spinning reel. So far it has met all my expectations. It is ultra sensitive but has the power to stop good sized bream and flathead. It might struggle to turn the head of a decent mangrove jack or snapper, but I rarely run into those. It cost me A$ 149-99 (with free shipping) from Tackle Warehouse and arrived in good shape, three days after I ordered it.

I pulled on my waders and wandered up the inside of Mangrove Island, casting a GULP 3″ Minnow soft plastic on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead, into the shallow water ahead of me. I found my first tiny flathead close the edge of a weed bed in about 20 cm of water. The tide was running out towards me so I cast at the edge of the weed beds and hopped the soft plastic slowly along the sandy/ muddy bottom, with the tide. I carried on wading up river, around the tip of Mangrove Island and across to the deeper water, in the main channel of the river.

I decided to put on a bigger soft plastic – a GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour. I was now just upriver from the tip of the island, about 30 metres from the northern riverbank. My rod tip bent over, I paused and then lifted it. I had hooked a small flathead, just under 40cm. I let it go and gradually moved down river, casting backwards up river. I swapped through a few soft plastics – the GULP 2″ Shrimp also in the Peppered Prawn colour and another 5″ Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour, and found three more flathead, all about the same size.

As the tide slackened around 2.00 pm, I gave up and waded back to the car. It was great to have the river virtually to myself, I will have to make the most of it.

South Ballina – 17 August 2020

We had some wild weather and rain over the weekend, so I decided to fish on Monday. The swell was set to drop throughout the day. I walked out onto the rockwall at South Ballina just after first light but about 20 minutes before dawn. The wind was cold but light from the west. As the sky lit up, the birds started circling as did the dolphins, so the bait had to be there. Sunrise was at 6.15 am and high tide was at about 7.00 am. It was three days to the new moon.

I started fishing with my heavier Daiwa Demonblood 962 rod, Daiwa TD SOL III LT 6000 D reel, 30lb main line braid and 30 lb fluorocarbon leader, a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead, loaded with a 5″ GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I caught a couple of decent bream, but then I started losing the tails of my soft plastics at the base of the rocks. I then swapped to a 60 gram Halco twisty and threw that around until just after dawn. That lure did not elicit any hook-ups.

Once the sun was up, the birds started dive bombing but there were no surface bust ups.

The bait was back

I swapped back to soft plastics and a couple of times I saw decent sized tailor follow my soft plastics in and swipe at them but they always missed. I swapped down to Daiwa Crossfire 1062 with 20lb braid, 16lb leader and 1/6th oz size 1/0 jighead. Then predictably, a big tailor grabbed my Mad Scientist Lime Tiger jerkshad (I had finished all my GULPs in the Lime Tiger colour) at the base of the rocks, pulled for a few seconds and then bit through. I re-rigged with a 1/4 ounce jighead and put on a GULP 4″ minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour. This caught a solid 35 cm plus bream, followed by a few smaller ones, then they bit through the tail. I put another Mad Scientist Lime Tiger coloured Jerkshad on and, after a few casts I hooked and landed a decent 50 cm tailor.

The birds were really working now, but always just out of reach. I was casting and retrieving fairly quickly now. I saw a group of tailor follow the lure in and right at the base of the rocks a decent sized one swallowed the jighead and lure and bit through. I moved back to my heavy rig and tried the 60 gram Halco Twisty for about twenty casts with no luck.

I fished here a few more mornings later in the month, after the new moon. I caught and was bitten off by tailor during both sessions but it was long time between the fish. As usual I swapped down to my lighter gear when things got quiet. I caught a few good bream and then got monstered by something at the base of the rocks. Not sure when I will learn some patience.

Evans Head Goanna Headland – 10 Aug 2020

I have always wanted to fish at Evans Head and with a light swell forecast and a mid-morning low tide, Monday looked good. I wanted to fish off the front of Goanna Headland and with a south-westerly breeze this looked possible. I arrived well after sunrise at about 8.00 am and parked in the carpark at Chinamens Beach.

As it would be my first time fishing here I decided to just take my lighter rock fishing rig with me. This is presently the 3.2m Daiwa Crossfire CFS 1062 rod and my Shimano Stella 4000, rigged with 30lb braid and usually a 16lb leader to start off with. I like to look around any new spot with this setup. The relatively light leader will not stop a really big fish but it will also get you more hook ups, so that you can figure out who the local residents are.

I walked around the headland, found a good spot and watched the swell for a while . The water was clear and fairly calm – it was sheltered from the south-westerly wind by the headland. I started with a 1/6th ounce jighead and a GULP 3″ minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour. My second cast was hit hard by a fish that tried to head straight down into the rocks. I tightened the drag and pulled it out, fairly easily. It was a bream about 30 cm long. A found a couple more over the next few casts.

The bream had pretty much destroyed the minnow so I swapped over to a 2″ GULP Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. The tide was rising and starting to wash over the ledge, so I could not stay in this spot for much longer. I cast out and let the plastic flutter down until I felt it was on the bottom. As soon as I lifted it a fish hit. It was bigger and faster than the bream and it pulled quite hard. It tried to take me under the ledge, but soon tired. It was a small silver trevally. I released the fish and cast straight back out. I caught three more small silver trevally in pretty quick succession and then something bigger hit the soft plastic on the drop and took off, straight under the rock ledge. After a few seconds I could feel my leader rubbing and then it snapped – cod, groper, wrasse, bigger bream, snapper or trevally – could have been anything. I re-rigged with a completely new 16lb fluorocarbon leader. This time I tied on a 1/6th ounce jighead but with a bigger size 1/0 hook and loaded it with a GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour. After a few casts I hooked up again. This time it was another silver trevally – a little bigger than the others.

I had to change spots now so I moved a little south, to fish in a horse-shoe shaped bay. I looked like it was only a few metres deep but there were overhanging rocks on all sides and few bommies in the middle.

I cast the jerkshad out into the middle of the horse shoe mouth and let it sink to where I thought the bottom would be. I then hopped it back towards me. I repeated this for about an hour. I hooked a few small bream. It was now around 1.00 pm. The wind was picking up and turning south-easterly, so it was getting hard to cast straight out in front me. I was casting as close as I could to the overhanging rocks. As I started another retrieve of the soft plastic I felt a quick tug and then a real take. I set the hook and the fish took off. It was not quick like a tailor or trevally. My rod did not really have the power to slow it down but I kept the pressure on. It arched left, then came back to the right and I got some line back. I felt I was making some headway and tightened the drag a little. It arched over to the left again and then felt like it was beaten and was about to pop up. There was not obvious landing spot and just as I was thinking where to drag it to, it turned the thrusters on and took off again. I tried to hold slow the spool a bit with my hand and then I felt the jighead pull out.

I had found a great spot and had a great session. I will be back at dawn or dusk when the swell permits and I am sure I will encounter some great fish.

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

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

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

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

Bream on a soft plastic without a jighead

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

North Head Beach tailor

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

New Brighton, South Golden Beach, Bribie – Bream – August 2017

In August the bream where still around in numbers at Bribie and I also started to explore the beaches near the mouth of the Brunswick River in New South Wales. I am planning a move in that direction, so I need to get to know where to fish.

Sticking with mainly Gulp soft plastics, I had success with various coloured 3 inch minnows on the bream at Bribie. Fishing in front of the drain that empties into the Pumicestone Passage, over the coffee rock ledge, in front of the seaside museum at Bongaree was very successful. A light, 10lb fluorocarbon leader and 1/8th or 1/12th ounce jigheads seemed to do the trick.

Down on the beach at New Brighton the same size plastics found dart, flathead and a few good bream.

 

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – March 2017

March saw some wet and humid days on the flats at Bribie. I only managed to fish a few fairly quick sessions when the tides were not ideal.

I fished around the old oyster jetty with soft plastics and managed about 9 keeper sized flathead over three sessions and probably an equal number of undersized fish.

The flounder suddenly appeared and displayed a liking for the GULP Cajun Chicken Jerkshad soft plastic. If you feel the bite you need to pause for at least 10 seconds to get them, as they take a while to swallow the lure.

There were also small groups of squid around and reports of some decent sized jewfish chasing the squid under the bridge lights.

Bribie flats & Mooball Creek, Pottsville – January 2017

In January I fished a couple of dawn sessions on the flats in front of the Sandstone Point Hotel jetty, at Bribie. I caught a few flathead, mainly on the bottom half of the run out tides. I also fished the mouth of Pacific Harbour which produced a few good sized flathead on various coloured jerkshad soft plastics.

Later in  the month I spent some time at Pottsville and Hastings Point. The Hastings Point headland always looks very fishy, but during the holidays it is a pretty busy spot. I tried a few daytime sessions with small soft plastics there, but only caught a few Butter Bream on light line.

On the bigger tides I fished in Mooball Creek (behind the beach). This is a sandy bottomed shallow creek that has a few holes and bends with some deeper water. I found plenty of small flathead, fishing with a 3″ GULP Minnow soft plastic on a 1/8th and 1/12th ounce, size #1 hook jighead. I stuck to 10lb leader and eventually found a couple of flathead that would have been been big enough to keep. There were also plenty of small bream and whiting in the clear water.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 16 October 2016

Sunday

We had had some wild weather through the end of the week in Queensland. A strong south-easterly had been blowing since Wednesday and fishing would have been pretty difficult. This was a shame as it was the run up to the full moon which is usually a good time to fish in the Pumicestone Passage.

Sunday was full moon and a very low 0.11m low tide had passed at 3.11 am.  I arrived and to start fishing in the dark at about 4.15 am. The water was still not really moving at this stage and there was lots of strap weed floating about. There was a pause in the strong winds with a change in direction, to north-easterly forecast in the late morning.

I was fishing with my G.Loomis SJR 6400 Rod. I started with a GULP Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. After an hour this had not produced a bite so I swapped soft plastics to the Lucky Craft Mad Scientist Swimming Shad in the Ayu colour. These are fantastic soft plastic lures with a long streamline body and an enormous beating paddle tail.

Just after dawn at about 5 .15 am I felt the bite, paused and then struck. The hook held and I soon had a 45cm flathead swimming around me. There is plenty of fish left in our fridge so I released it.

Soon after dawn the tide started running in very quickly and I caught another flathead almost at the at green channel marker. It was a big slow fish and it initially swam towards me. Then it took off on on the first of three long runs after which it seemed content to be towed in to the shallows. It settled on the sand covered in water and buy lining it up against my rod, I could see it was over over 80cm long.  I tried to pull it on to sand to unhook, but 10lb leader snapped, and it swam off.

It was Sunday morning and the wash from the constant flow of boats heading out into the bay made the water very murky. I tied on a new jig head and loaded it with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I waded back towards the bridge.  Just to the south of the old oyster jetty hooked and dropped two more flathead.

Finally, casting around just north of bridge, I caught one more flathead. It was just about 40cm long. At 6.30 am with the wind rising, I gave up for the day.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 11 October 2016

Tuesday

Monday had been pretty good so I decided to go back up to Bribie on Tuesday morning. Low tide would be about an hour later, at 10.30 am. There was not much tidal flow as the moon was not really doing much. This time I chose the oyster jetty flats on the mainland sided of the Pumicestone Passage.

It was another hot, clear morning but with a little more northerly wind, when I arrived at about 8.00am. I was still fishing with my short, fast action G.Loomis trout rod and 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and put on a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour.

I was just south of the bridge and once more the first taker was a long tom. These fish are tricky to hook. They have plenty of teeth and usually the bigger ones thrash around until they slice through your line or shake the hook loose. This on managed to wrap the light line thoroughly around its snout. I untangled it and released it.

I moved south and swapped soft plastics to a GULP Cajun Chicken Jerkshad. This black and pink lure seems to stir things up sometimes probably because it is such high contrast. I was now well to the south of the old oyster jetty. I felt a slid thump, dropped the rod tip and paused. When I lifted it the fish was on and the hook pushed home. It took off and felt like a pretty good flathead. It later measured 58cm. I took a few underwater shots with my new camera. This is a fairly hit and miss operation when you are not swimming with them!

I carried on moving south and caught another 30 cm flathead about 3 casts later. After another 30 minutes I swapped to a GULP Satay Chicken Jerkshad and not long afterwards I caught another 50cm plus flathead. As the tide stopped running the action slowed. I caught three more smaller flathead before giving up at about 11.00 am.

Bribie – the oyster jetty flats and Bongaree – 10 October 2016

Monday

On Monday it was back up to Bribie to fish the bottom of the tide. Summer had arrived and so had the warm water and northerly winds. September and October are traditionally thought to be good months for flathead fishing. In my experience the cooler months and consistent south easterly winds tend to produce more legal sized fish but it is often around the start of summer that I catch and release a few really big fish.

I could not start really early on Monday and arrived at about 8.30 am. I started off fishing just south of the bridge on the old oyster jetty flats. There was virtually no wind and it was hot and clear. I started to cast a GULP Mantis Shrimp soft plastic (in the peppered prawn colour) in to the shallows. The clear water and bright sun has probably contributed to a thick blanket of snot weed forming over the bottom in this area. It does not seem to bother the fish but makes bouncing a soft plastic along the bottom pretty difficult. I swapped to a GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I felt a couple of bites and soon hooked a toothy long tom. I carefully released it.

I moved south under the jetty and swapped soft plastics again. This time to the Mad Scientist Optishad. The paddle tail on this one did the trick and a 50 cm flathead snaffled it from a sandy hollow. Ten metres further south I caught another – this time a little smaller and things were looking promising. I kept moving south, towards the green channel marker. By now I had swapped to a GULP Jerkshad soft plastic in the Satay Chicken colour. At about 10.45 am I caught one more 45 cm flathead.

The wind had turned south easterly and the incoming tide forced me back from where I wanted to fish. I waded back to the car and drove across to Bongaree. I just wanted to put in a few casts in the gutter that had formed in front of the Seaside Museum. I was back fishing with the Mad Scientist Optishad soft plastic and after only a couple of casts, I found another 45 cm flathead. It was lying in just 40 cm of water a couple of metres out. They really move up very fast on a rising tide. I peppered the rest of the gutter with casts but could not find another, but I shall certainly be back.

Bribie – The oyster jetty flats and Bongaree – 6 October 2016

Thursday

October saw some good fishing on the Bribie Island sand flats. On Thursday the wind was forecast to be a west south-westerly at 10 to 15 knots, easing off through the morning. It was a fairly cool 13 degrees when I arrived to start fishing at about 5.15 am. Low tide would be at about 5.45 am. The moon was a waxing crescent and six days old.

I started fishing on the mainland side of the Pumicestone Passage under the bridge. The sun was just coming up. There was lots of bait in the shallow water under the bridge. I waded to the south and saw a school of small tailor swim through. There were also lot of small garfish, herring, mullet and long toms around.

I was fishing with a GULP Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour. On a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I was using about a metre of 10lb fluorocarbon leader tied on to the Aldi 8lb yellow braid, which I now have on most of my reels.

I dropped a couple of flathead close to the new floating pontoon then steadily started catching legal sized fish, just to the south of the jetty. In 30 minutes I had filled my bag with five good fish and then caught a couple more, which I released.

As the tide slowed I waded back to the car and crossed the bridge to fish the start of the run in tide at Bongaree. I started fishing on the sand flats in front of the fresh water lagoon at Buckley’s Hole and soon found a 45 cm flathead. I waded north along the shore towards the seaside museum drain and found a deep gutter close to the shore that was filling quickly. As I walked along beside it, a couple of decent flathead went flying off.

I moved back a little and put in a couple of casts. After a few tries I felt the solid bite of another flathead. I pulled it ashore and released it. It was about 55cm long. As I released it, a small eagle ray glided past in the shallows. A few moments later I heard a loud slap, as it flew out of the water and landed just behind me.

At about 10.00 am I retired to breakfast with and esky full of flathead. It had been a great morning of fishing.

Bribie – Bongaree & the oyster jetty – 14 September 2016

Wednesday

On Wednesday I was fishing again in the morning but I decided to try the other side of the Pumicestone Passage and fish along the shore at Bongaree. This area has a sandy ledge that runs down to a drop off of a few metres. There are fish to be found all along the ledge at various stages of the tide.

I arrived and started fishing in my waders at about 9.30 am.  I started with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. The first fish I caught was a small bream about 30cm long. It grabbed the soft plastic just as I hopped it up, over the coffee rock ledge and into the shallows. I released it and caught two more in the next few minutes.

A hungry Pelican swam over to see if it could secure a free lunch but all the bream swam away unharmed. The next taker was a pike, then at about 11.30 am things went quiet.

I drove back over the bridge and had a quick cast around under the bridge and along by the old oyster jetty at Sandstone Point. As the wind picked up and conditions got difficult I managed to hook one 48 cm flathead on the Mad Scientist Optishad.

By 1.00 pm it was too windy so I gave up for the day.

Bribie – The oyster jetty flats – 12 September 2016

Monday

I drove up to Bribie, arriving at about 9.30 am to fish the bottom of the tide. I chose the old Bribie oyster jetty flats, in front of the new Sandstone Point Hotel.

The wind had started as a cool 10 knot south-westerly before changing into to a 10 knot south-easterly at about 10.15 am. Low tide would be at 11.20 am. I was fishing with the superfast tipped G.Loomis Trout rod, 12lb fluorocarbon leader and a 1/8th ounce,  1/0 jig head.

The tide was a fair way out when I arrived and so I started off by fishing along the inside edge of the new floating pontoon. I tried a small GULP 3” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I had walked out on to the pontoon a few weeks before and seen plenty of baitfish that were about this size, so it was a logical choice. I moved from one end to another cast right up to the edge and let the soft plastic flutter down in the shadows. There were no takers.

I moved to the south of the jetty and started casting. On about the third there was a solid bite, run and the leader snapped. I realised I still had the 6lb fluorocarbon leader I had been using for King George Whiting a week earlier. I changed up to 12lb leader and carried on moving to the south.

I put on a Lucky Craft Mad Scientist Paddle tail soft plastic lure. I cast all around the sandy patches where the water drains round the corner from Sandstone Point and suddenly got thumped. The fish set off for deepwater, initially moving fairly slowly. Then it turned its head, realized it was hooked and started shaking its head. It was a powerful big lady flathead and it took about 10 minutes to subdue. By lining it up next to the rod I could see it was over 70 cm so I let it go.

I carried on moving to the south and caught three more flathead on the GULP Satay Chicken Jerkshad. The biggest was 54cm long and the smallest was 42cm. By about 1.00pm I was hot and thirsty so I headed back to the car.

Coffin Bay – The Ledge – 6 September 2016

Tuesday

Tuesday was my last day at Coffin Bay. I drove round to the ledge and set up in a likely looking spot –  looking back towards the boat ramp in town. I was using my Gary Howard Estuary 9’rod, 6lb fluorocarbon leader, 1/12th ounce, size 2 hook jighead and a variety of soft plastics.

I watched as the oyster boats headed out to sea, one after another and marveled at the clear water and blue skies. The weather was now perfect but I had to leave.

Fishing for whiting requires patience and I eventually found that casting out in to the channel and then leaving the rod alone for about 3 minutes seemed to work best. The problem was the fast moving run in tide. It would bury the jighead in the snags. However, after a few lost jigheads this technique paid off and I took up the slack to find a King George Whiting on the line. I repeated the process a few times and each time it caught another  whiting. None of them were big enough to keep but I felt like I had learned something. The GULP worms in the Green Camo colour caught a few but so did the GULP Crabbie in the Peppered Prawn colour. The usual small salmon turned up form time to time.

As the tide ran out I stepped into the shallows and collected another mussel supper. I had not found the kingfish but it had been a beautiful few days on the Eyre Peninsula.