Iluka – Woody Head and the Floods – February 2022

We had plenty of rain through early February and there was not much fishing to be done in the muddy brown waters of the Brunswick, Richmond, Wilsons or Clarence River.

In the middle of the month the Clarence River started to clear up a bit and I fished the flats at Browns Rocks, near Iluka. I saw quite a few big flathead lies so they were definitely back in the river after the deluge. I fished my light rig with minnow and paddle tail soft plastics and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I was mainly using 1/8th and 1/6th ounce jigheads. I caught a few flathead and a lot of small jewfish. The tailor were also a constant and I had a few snip offs.

On the 20th the swell eased off and I had a fish on the rock platform at Woody Head in the Bundjalung National Park. I started with soft plastics on my heavy set up and caught a few bream. I moved around, casting until the tide started to run in and swapped to a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I was using a 3/8th ounce jighead and 40lb fluorocarbon leader. After a couple of drops I felt the weight of a good fish. I pulled its head out from under the ledge but it was too heavy and kept thrusting its nose back down into the cunjevoi. The swell wasn’t big enough to help me and soon my leader was tightly tangled. The fish swam away leaving my jighead firmly lodged in the rocks. It had felt like a jewfish but trevally are also good at using this technique to free themselves.

I tied on the same set up and threw it out again. Three casts later I was onto a fish again. It was not as powerful as the first but it still tried to get under the ledge. I let it run a little way but when I put some pressure on it swam out rather than in and I was abled to subdue it. It was a decent school jewfish about 65cm to 70 cm long. I took a picture and speared it back into the water pretty quickly.

There are so many sharks in this zone that I am not sure whether these released fish have much chance of survival. Hopefully they swim straight back under the ledge.

After a few more river fishing sessions the rain set in again. This time it just did not stop and the soaked river catchments could not absorb it. A low off the east coast dropped solid rain for three days and nights and the whole Northern Rivers area of New South Wales suffered the worst floods in living memory. Lismore was completed wiped out and Broadwater/ Wardel/ Mullumbimby/ Ocean Shores/ South Golden Beach/ Brunswick Heads, Fingal Head and many more areas were completely flooded and rendered in accessible for days.

Telstra and the NBN, it transpired, had chosen to route their entire regional telecommunications backbone through a basement telephone exchange at Wardell which was 5m under water. This made local communications next to impossible, severely hampering rescue and recovery efforts. The devastation was complete. People dragged their flooded belongings out onto the streets and the clean up began.

On the Clarence River the flood waters cause massive fish kills. Dead mullet, mulloway, flathead, bream washed ashore along the banks, unable to survive the sudden deluge of fresh and filthy water.

Miraculously, the flood levee held at Maclean

Iluka – Clarence River – Browns Rocks – January 2022

I had a quick fish at Iluka in the beginning of the New Year before the weather turned wild and stormy in early January. The flathead and small jewfish were still in the river. I did best fishing the run out tides before we had some really heavy rain that turned the river brown in the middle of the month.

For the rest of the month I escaped Australia for a visit to my relatives in England. The UK seemed to have already moved on to living with Covid and although restaurant and pub staff were still masked up, everybody else was over it. It was bloody cold and I caught a stinking cold but regular RAT and PCR tests refused to say it was Covid. The plane was already packed with travellers keen to reunite and the additional Covid checks and paperwork made the tedious process of long haul travel more miserable than ever. I was glad to get back to Australia for some fishing in February.

Iluka – The Clarence River at Browns Rocks – December 2021

As November rolled into December, Queensland and Western Australia remained cut off from the rest of the country as they realised that it might not be a bad idea to get vaccinated. I continued to go bankrupt and found solace in fishing.

The wind and swell were relentless out on the Iluka headlands but the lower reaches of the Clarence River remained calm and clear. There were a few shrimp in the river and almost as soon as they arrived in numbers the river trawlers set about catching them. They ploughed up and down, day after day trying their best to catch their quotas. This is almost exclusively a bait fishery; the prawns are frozen and sold for bait. The trawler owners say it is a traditional and sustainable fishery but it seems like a lot of activity for a very meagre return. I understand that they frequently receive less than A$1000 a tonne for the prawns. Since 2018 the average catch per licensed boat has been around 5 tonnes per year. If you deduct labour, fuel, boat maintenance and depreciation then no one is making any money. Maybe we could just buy back the boats and licenses, give them a tinny each and all start fishing with lures!

Despite the prawn trawlers the fishing was pretty good on the flats around Browns Rocks (so they may not being doing much harm). I concentrated on fishing the falling tides on the flats. I swapped between hard bodied minnow lures (the DUO Realis Rozante 63/ DUO Realis Shad 52 MR SP, the DUO Realis Jerkbait 100 SP and a variety of no name cheap ones) I also used my favourite GULP soft plastic minnows and paddleshads.

Some mornings were beautifully calm but the northerly winds usually picked up in the afternoons. We had a couple of big storms in the middle of the month. But the river stayed mostly clear.

I caught the usual range of species – bream, flathead, small jewfish, whiting and even the odd luderick. There were plenty of tiny tailor marauding around at dawn and dusk but not many keeper sized fish. On several days I managed a bag of 5 keeper size flathead. It was a month of flat river dawns and beautiful but very early sunrises.

Iluka – Woody Head and the Clarence River – Late November 2021

Most of us were now getting vaccinated against the Wuflu with the exception of a few very boring people who insisted on sharing (at length) the reasons why they weren’t. I carried on fishing (and slowly going bankrupt).

We finally had a break in the swell in late November. It was still grey, windy and rainy but I was able to get back out on the rock platform at Woody Head and fish through a middle of the day low tide. The moon was 25 days old and waning. It was about 20% visible.

It looked like perfect jewfish weather but after a few casts a good tailor grabbed my soft plastic. I landed it and changed tactics. I rigged up a metal slug. I was using a 40 gram multi-coloured metal slug from Gillies. It soon found its mark and after a couple of casts I connected with another tailor. It was a decent fish, about 65cm long. I decided to keep that one for supper. I connected and then dropped another two tailor and then swapped back to a soft plastic set up to try for a jewfish.

I selected one of my rapidly declining store of GULP Crazylegs Jerkshads in the Lime Tiger colour and put it on a 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 jighead and lobbed it out just in front of me. I was using my battered Daiwa Demonblood 962 H rod and Daiwa TD SOL III LT 6000D-H spinning reel. I was using 40lb braid and 40lb fluorocarbon leader. I made a few casts with no results. I moved a bit further along the rock platform. I kept dropping the soft plastic in close to the rocks. After a while I felt some resistance, paused and set my hook. The fish tried to swim under an overhang but I managed to pull it out and land it. It was a school jewfish. It was about 60cm long and so after a few pictures I sent it back into the ocean. I could not find anymore fish that day.

The swell came back up but the Clarence River still fished pretty well for flathead and smaller tailor all through the month.

Browns Rocks flathead

Brunswick River at Brunswick Heads – Late October 2021

I was out of action for most of October as I had to have a hernia repaired (curse of any elite sportsman – fisherman and beer drinkers included). But at the end of the month the doctor approved a return to light exercise.

I chose to cast some soft plastic lures around in the mouth of the Brunswick River. The water was clear and there were plenty of bait schools in the shallows. I was using my light spinning set up and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I fished for a couple of hours in the middle of the falling tide. I caught three flathead, the largest of which was 44cm long.

Its great to be back fishing!

Goodwood Island – Browns Rocks – early October 2021

In early October we had a few big late afternoon storms and the swell came back up on the rocky headlands of the Bundjalung National Park. I decided to do my fishing wading around in the shallows around Browns Rocks, on the Clarence River.

I love this type of fishing, I was using light gear – a 6ft spinning rod with a fast action matched with a 2500 size reel. For line I use 12lb breaking strain braid and about 1.5 metres of 10lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader, tied together using a uni to uni knot. I use soft plastics most of the time and fish with the GULP range. I think the infused scent encourages fish to both bite and hang on, once they have. I sometimes also use small diving minnow hard bodies or surface lures if the bite is hot. I favour the run out tide and the most common catch is flathead.

The tailor are also often patrolling this area and it is quite common to lose your whole rig to them. They were getting especially hungry around dawn and dusk in October and I lost a few rigs to clean bite offs.

Iluka – Woody Head – 10th to 14th September 2021

We had some great weather in the middle of September. Bright, clear days but the big swell was pretty persistent. On the few days that it was calm enough, I fished the rocky headlands at Iluka Bluff and Woody Head. The 20th of September is known as the first day of spring in the southern hemisphere and everything in nature is hungry, including the fish. The new moon had arrived on the 7th of September.

I was focusing on finding the mulloway/jewfish and so I needed fairly calm seas. Most of my jewfish catches have been at the base of the rocks. These schooling fish like to shelter close to the base of the rocks or under the overhangs of the rock ledges. This month was no exception and when the swell calmed down for a few days in the middle of the month, I caught a couple of fish over the 75cm mark and lost a couple more. I found the beginning of the run in tide was the best time to fish for them. The GULP Crazylegs soft plastic in the Lime Tiger colour worked best.

I had lost fish as I was trying to bring them up and over the rock ledges. My braid just kept snapping. On close inspection I found a nick in the rod tip but only after losing a couple of expensive stickbaits, with tailor attached. I had to swap down to the Daiwa Crossfire CFS1062 light rock fishing rod. It was quite a battle on the lighter rod but the swell helped me get a decent jewfish to a point where I could safely grab it.

In between hunting mulloway/jewfish I used my current favourite sinking stickbait to spin for some tailor. It is the ASWB FD40 Flutter Drop. It is 40g, casts like a bullet and has a great tight action. The tailor and trevally can’t resist, if they are nearby. I caught a couple of solid 45cm tailor on it. One of the tailor looked like something tried to eat it on the way in.

ASWB FD40 – Great for tailor and trevally

Meanwhile the smaller tailor were active in the river. Particularly just after dawn and at dusk. The birds would let you know where they were and I caught small tailor using small slugs, soft plastics and hard bodies. I was even surprised to pull a decent (55cm) flathead in from beneath a school – on a 40g metal slug. The flathead were also pretty plentiful up and down the banks of the Clarence River from Browns Rocks down to the river mouth.

Iluka – Woody Head – 1 September 2021

The next morning I was back at the rock ledge, fishing at Woody Head. I assumed that the jewfish/ mulloway should still be around. In fact, if they were in this spot, they were probably schooled up under ledges all up and down the east coast of Australia.

The only thing that had really changed was that low tide would be about an hour later. It was a bright clear morning. The swell was just over a metre and the wind had been light from south west at dawn but was gradually turning south-easterly. The new moon was a week away.

I started at about 7.30 am. I was using my Daiwa Saltist rod and reel combination , I was pretty confident that the mulloway/jewfish would be around so I chose 40 lb fluorocarbon leader and a heavy gauge 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead. The soft plastic of choice was once again the GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger Colour.

I dropped it into the foamy swell just about 3 metres out and let it sink and drift back in. I felt I had the lure in the perfect spot and I did, because as I lifted the rod tip it caught hard against the cunjevoi cover rocks and was snagged. I snapped my line and re-rigged. Like all good addictions fishing is an expensive business.

I carried on with the same patterned lure in the same spot. After about 1 hour and 30 minutes and two more lost jigheads, I felt a solid bite. The fish initially swam in, under the ledge so I let it run and tried to minimise my line rubbing against the rocks. I kept up the tension but when it seemed clear it was not going to come out I flicked the bail arm over completely for about 15 seconds and paused. I then tightened the drag a little and flicked the bail arm back. This did the trick and by the time I had taken up the slack line, the fish was still hooked and was a couple of metres out into the open water. It pulled fairly hard and it made another run but now it was pretty tired. The swell was just right to help me lift the fish up a couple of rock ledges to me feet. It was a nice jewfish, approximately 85cm long.

In the late afternoon I went for a quick session casting around in shallows of the Clarence River at Browns Rocks. I used a DUO Realis Pencil 6.5 cm surface lure to target the small tailor that are almost always marauding around on dusk. I had great fun catching a few on my light gear until something bigger swallowed the lot.

Iluka – Woody Head – 31 August 2021

At the end of the month the swell eased for a few days and I set off to fish the rocks at Woody Head. The swell was forecast to be 0.9 m but was a bit higher than that when I arrived at first light. I was using my one of my heavier rock fishing rigs – Daiwa Saltist X 962 MH rod matched with a Daiwa Saltist 3000 reel. I had it loaded with 30lb braid and about 1.5 metres of 30lb fluorocarbon leader.

I put on a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Curried Chicken colour, on a 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead, cast out it out and let it sink. The target was a jewfish. So I kept the soft plastic on the bottom for as long as I dared. I repeated the process for about twenty minutes. I moved further to the south along the main rock platform and cast around in another promising jewfish spot. This time a fish hit the lure as it sank, but from the manic run and the head shakes I knew it was a tailor. It was about a 35 cm tailor and it had destroyed the soft plastic lure. I released it and moved again.

This time I put on a 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead and a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I cast out, let the soft plastic sink and hopped it back to me, along the bottom.

The fish must have been sitting very close to the foot of the rock ledge. They were probably sheltering under a rocky overhang. I kept my retrieve going as close as I could to the ledge.

The tactic worked and after about 30 minutes of casting and retrieving, a fish grabbed the soft plastic, off the bottom. It was now about 8.00 am, almost exactly dead low tide. It tried to swim deeper in to its underwater cave and took a bit of line, but it quite quickly changed directions and swam out. Jewfish of this size only seem to have a couple of really good runs in them and if they go in a safe direction, you can soon stop them. The swell helped with a big surge and I soon had this one at my feet. It measured in at just over 75cm. After a couple of pictures and a swim in the reviver pool, it went back.

Brunswick Heads – Brunswick River – 17/18/23/27 August

Through late August the weather was bright and sunny but the swell was still pretty difficult to manage on the rocks. I focused on fishing in the Brunswick River. I also had a few dawn sessions, fishing on the beach at New Brighton.

Most of the time I was fishing with my Samaki Zing Gen III 562SXL ultralight rod. But when I cast a lure into the surf (looking for tailor) I moved up to my Daiwa Crossfire CFS1202L. There was not much rain in August and the Brunswick River was fairly clear, even on the low tides.

I had a few sessions around the mouth of the river and caught a few small flathead on minnow soft plastics. On a couple of sessions I trekked up river on the south bank and caught plenty more small flathead. The star performer was the GULP Pulseworm soft plastic in various beige/ camo colours.

I had hoped to find some tailor from the beach on a few morning sessions. I have some new Samaki 40g Flash Minnow hard bodies which I think will be great for tailor. They are solid, sink fast, cast well and have a great action. I think they will be great in rough seas but this time I only caught flathead with them during my dawn sessions.

Iluka – Goodwood Island – 6/7/8/9/10 August 2021

I have been alternating between the rocks and the Clarence River at Iluka, this year. This is why I love the area so much. When the swell is up on the headlands, I grab my waders and light rig and fish in the river. July and August are also my favourite fishing months. Bright sunshine, cooling water and with the shorter days, it is easier to fish at dawn and dusk.

The Clarence River around Goodwood Island was very clear and there was plenty of bait in the water. I fished with my favourite GULP soft plastic and also had some success targeting flathead with bigger hard bodied minnow lures. I caught plenty of flathead between 36cm and 45cm, but not many bigger than that. I also caught a few good (35 cm plus) bream.

The tailor were still coming and going, especially at dawn. The birds would chase them up and down the river and signal their location. I rarely caught one over 35cm but the biggest few always grabbed my lure just before or after sunrise/ sunset.

The highlight was a decent jewfish which I caught while wading in the shallows looking for flathead. It grabbed my GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour while I was casting over a coffee rock ledge at Browns Rocks. It was the bottom of the tide and the water was fairly dirty. I only had a 12lb fluorocarbon leader and my Samaki Zing SZG-562SXL 2-6lb ultralight rod so it was a long slow fight. Fortunately, the 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead was lodged tightly in the corner of the fish’s mouth. I initially thought it was a ray, then a big flathead and then I caught sight of silver and knew it was a jewfish. I had a beach to land it on so, after about 25 minutes of to and fro, I pulled it on to the muddy shore. It measured 73cm so I decided to keep it for a family feed – great fish.

Iluka – Woody Head – 4 August 2021

Another lull in the swell meant I could get out on to the rocks to fish in early August. I stuck with Woody Head as I had caught some good fish there in July, last time I was down here. I started early, about 30 mins before first light and conditions were forecast to be pretty good. We were 4 days before the new moon. Low tide would be at about 10.20 am and the swell was forecast to be no more than 1.0 metre high.

I was fishing with my heavier rock fishing set up. This is a Daiwa Saltist X MH 962 rod now matched with a Daiwa Saltist 3000 reel. I have it rigged with 40lb braid and today I was using a 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I started with a GULP Jerkshad soft plastic lure in the satay chicken colour, loaded into a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead.

As soon as I could see what I was doing I had a couple of casts and retrieves with the plastic. At about 6.30 am something hit the plastic hard at the base of the rocks. It pulled hard for a while but swam away from the rocks. I tightened my drag a a little and recovered some line whilst looking for a landing spot. I love this Daiwa Saltist XMH62 as it is sensitive enough to stay in contact with the soft plastic even with quite a light jighead. However the flip side is that it is sometimes too light to muscle a fish past the rocks. The fish took a bit more line and I pulled hard, trying to turn its head. Suddenly the hook pulled and it was gone. I never got a look at it – so it could have been anything. But given what happened later I think it was a jewfish.

I re-rigged and put on a GULP 5 inch Paddleshad soft plastic in the nuclear chicken colour. This time I chose a tougher jighead – a Berkley Nitro Saltwater Pro, 1/4 ounce with a size 1/0 hook. These are pretty difficult to straighten. Two or three casts with this and I felt a very solid bite at the base of the rocks. I paused as long as I dared and then struck. I thought I had the fish but I was just snagged on the rocks. I yanked the jighead free and when I examined the soft plastic I realised from the bite marks, I had missed another fish.

I cast around for the next couple of hours with hardly a touch. At about 10.00 am, just as we were approaching low tide, I felt a bite in close to the base of the rocks again. I paused this time and dropped the rod tip. When I lifted the rod I had a fish on, but it went straight under the rock ledge and soon I could feel the leader rubbing. I moved along the ledge and changed my angle slightly. I flicked the bail arm over and let the pressure off. I waited about 10 seconds and then flicked it back over and pulled hard. The fish came out and ran again but buy now it was beaten. With the aid of a few decent waves I got it up to my feet. It was an 83 cm jewfish

I cleaned it up and kept it for supper. Bottom of the tide seems to be a good time for them.

Brunswick Heads – North wall – 30 July 2021

At the end of July I was back in South Golden Beach. Possibly in lockdown (I can no longer remember) but fortunately the Brunswick River mouth was within easy reach for fishing ‘exercise’.

I set out to fish the north rock wall, which is reached down the unmade section of North Head Road. I walked out on to the wall at about 10.30 am. The tide was coming in and would be high at about 2.00 pm. I was fishing with my light set up and rigged up a GULP 4″ Minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I was using 12lb fluorocarbon leader. The water was crystal clear and the swell was less than a metre. There was a very light northerly wind blowing.

I put in a few casts on the north side of the wall into the wave break area, close to the beach. Sometimes there are flathead lurking around the base of the rocks, but not today. The first taker was a bream. I threw him back and kept casting. I soon caught another small one.

I moved out to the end of the rock wall and swapped soft plastics to a GULP Pulseworm in the Moebi (beige flecked) colour. After a few casts I found another small bream and then lost the tail of the soft plastic. I put on a GULP 3″ Minnow in my favourite Lime Tiger colour. I thought there might be some dart around and this colour seems to work well on them.

I worked my way around the far end of the rock wall and cast around in the mouth of the river. I had a few nibbles but could not hook anything so I moved back to the north side, I let the soft plastic sit as long as I dared, on the bottom beside the base of the rock wall. At about 11.45 am a fish grabbed my plastic close to the base of the rocks, as I lifted it to recast. It took off quite fast out to sea and then jumped clear of the water. I tightened the drag a little and soon subdued and landed it. It was a juvenile queenfish, about 45 cm long. I snapped it and threw it back. There were no more bites so after about 30 minutes more, I gave up for the day.

Iluka – Goodwood Island – 21 July 2021

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.

Image 1 - Gamakatsu 66205 Jig Head Round 211 3.5 grams Size 2 ,4 Per pack (9997)
These Gamaktsu round hook jigheads are great for bream

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;

https://www.instagram.com/landangler/

Iluka – Woody Head – 14 July 2021

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.

Port Macquarie – Rivermouth rockwall 1 July 2021

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.

Iluka – Woody Head – 17 June 2021

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.

Brunswick River – Brunswick Heads – 13 June 2021

There had been a few good gutters in front of South Golden Beach and I tried an early morning session to see if the tailor were still around. I had a couple of hits on dawn on a metal slug but did not hang on to anything. The big swell made things difficult and I did not find really them there again, through the rest of June.

On Sunday 13th June, it was a beautiful day so I drove down to the Brunswick River and spent a couple of hours fishing the run out tide. I tried a few casts near the river mouth with no luck. The river was busy so I waded round to fish the flats just downstream of the Marshalls Creek lower outlet. There were plenty of rays in the shallow water. It was now a hot afternoon and although the river was cool, it was definitely not cold.

I cast around with a soft plastic lure and caught three flathead right on the bottom of the tide. I caught them all where the creek drains in to the main river channel. My soft plastic of choice was the trusty GULP 4″ Minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. All the fish were in less than a metre of water.

Brunswick River – Brunswick Heads – 28 May/ 1 June 2021

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.

Good conditions – Brunswick River

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.

Brunswick River Brunswick Heads – 24/25 May 2021

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.