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

1770 – Flat Rock – Slatey Bream, Dart & Stripy Perch – 6 April 2015

Monday

I managed to persuade the family that my beloved 1770 would be a good place to spend some of the Easter school holidays. Fishing was strictly rationed, but I did get a few sessions in.

We drove up from Brisbane and passed through some monster storms on Sunday. We visited Cooks Monument and walked out to the tip of the headland on arrival. You could see there had been plenty of rain. The dirty water was clearly visible, running out into the sea from the creek.

Dirty Water at the bottom of the tide 1770

On Monday morning the skies had cleared and the wind had dropped so we drove down to deserted Flat Rock beach in Deepwater National Park. Despite the recent heavy rain and lots of Easter holiday visitors the sandy four wheel drive track down through the park was in good order.

I like to fish this spot on a falling tide and anything can happen. Locals have told me they have caught saltwater barramundi, mackerel, tuna and jewfish here. I have caught the bread and butter species – stripey perch, estuary cod, dart, tailor, bream, whiting, flathead, all along the flat rock that runs parallel with the shore. I have also been bitten off by plenty of powerful predators, but I have never landed any trophy fish here.

I find the best time to start fishing is about an hour after high tide, through to about an hour before low tide. I wade out to the Flat Rock and walk along it fishing over the edge into the surf which breaks on its front edge. There are a couple of places where the rock breaks and the water runs out. These are great spots, the fish accumulate to feed on what is being washed out from the beach gutter.

The tide reveals Flat Rock

I was fishing with my lighter rock fishing rod and reel setup – the NS Blackhole Cabin 2 S862L, rated 8-14lb, 2.59 m long matched with a Shimano Sustain – 4000 reel. I use 12 lb braid and a 12 lb fluorocarbon leader.

I started by choosing my current favourite fish finding soft plastic lure – the GULP 3” Minnow in the lime tiger colour. I rigged it on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead and cast out. Within a few minutes I caught a small dart and then a small moses perch. I had started fishing at the side of one of the breaks in the rock and the water was gushing through the gap. I kept casting the soft plastic just on to the edge of the Flat Rock and let the water push it out through the gap.

After about half an hour a fish grabbed the soft plastic and shot under the rock. I had the drag fairly loose and by the time I tightened it, the fish had tucked himself right in. I tried to put a bit of pressure on it but the light leader quickly snapped.

I tied on another Lime Tiger Minnow but it did not tempt another fish. After another 20 minutes, I swapped to a GULP Mantis Shrimp in the Peppered Prawn colour and a slightly heavier, 1/6th ounce, size 1 hook, jighead. It was now just before 1.00 pm and the resident sea eagle who had been watching me form the tree line, was getting restless. I cast out the Mantis Shrimp and let it sink and be carried off by the fast running tide. I paused for about 15 seconds, to make absolutely sure it was on the bottom, then slowly lifted the rod tip and started hopping the soft plastic back towards me. On about the 3rd hop, a fish snaffled it and turned to run out to sea. It was not very fast but it was powerful. It took plenty of line but eventually I slowed it down and it just sat in the current, about a metre from the rocks. I used the light swell to heave it over the rocks and on to the beach. It was a slatey bream (painted sweetlip) with magnificent red flashes behind its lips and around its gills. It was about 40 cm long. As long as they are quickly bled and carefully filleted, these fish taste great. They have flaky white fillets and are great fried in a little olive oil. This one was coming home for supper.

It was now lunch time and the fainthearted tourists (my family) had had enough of watching me fishing, so we packed up.

Bribie – the bridge, the Seaside Museum creek, the old oyster jetty – 22 May 2014

Thursday

The wind was up again, making it hard to know where to fish. It can be unpredictable, as we move firmly into winter, but as the direction becomes more consistently from the south east, I find the fishing usually improves.

For some reason I could not sleep, so I got up at about 3.30 am and arrived at Bribie at about 4.30 am. The weather was not good. The wind seemed to be building and it was swapping between drizzle and real rain. There had been plenty of activity on the island side, under the bridge, early on Monday morning, so I started there.

The wind had blown the floating sea grass over to this side of the Passage and now it floated by in huge clumps. I loaded up a GULP 3” Minnow soft plastic in the Banana Prawn colour and threw this around for a while. I fished here for about an hour and the contrast with my pre-dawn session on Monday was stark. Despite changing through a few soft plastics, I did not feel a single bite. There was no surface activity and the water seemed completely devoid of fish. At about 5-15 am, I swapped to the DUO Realis Shad 59 MR – my current favourite suspending, hard bodied lure. After a few casts, I caught a small (35cm) flathead. I released it, tried a few more casts and then decided to move on.

At 5-30 am, I moved down to the ledge and the creek drain, in front of the Seaside Museum. The rain had stopped but it was so cloudy that it looked like there would be no real sunrise. Low tide would be at 10.03 am. I waded down to the point where I caught the decent bream on Monday and started casting, with a GULP 2” Shrimp soft plastic. The wind was up and making things tricky. I could see the ledge and I cast at the area both on top of it and beyond it, but did not have any luck. I waded south, following the tide out. I swapped through small and large soft plastics but nothing produced a result.

Then the excavator started up and dug a trench to release the tidal pool that had gathered overnight. I did not think this would do much for the fishing, so I switched locations again. I crossed back over the bridge to my old stomping ground – beside the old oyster jetty.

I swapped to a Powerbait Jerkshad soft plastic lure, in a grey/ silver/ neutral colour. I had also dropped my leader down to 10lb fluorocarbon. The tide was still running out, hard. The water was clear and the sun was trying to come out. It did not take long to find the fish here. I caught the first flathead sitting just behind a submerged weedy sand hill, about 30 metres south of the jetty. It was about 45cm long. I caught three more, about the same size, in quick succession. Then things went quiet.

I was pretty sure there were more fish in the area, so I swapped to a Mad Scientist 4” Optishad soft plastic in the Motor Oil colour. This is a great plastic with a whopping great shad tail that pounds along the sandy bottom. I could not find any more fish in the same spot, so I moved about 10 metres further south. The Optishad worked its magic and caught two more flathead in successive casts. They were almost exactly the same size as the others.

 

 

Over the next hour, I caught about 10 more flathead. Most were about the 40 cm size. Only two looked like they were over 50 cm. I swapped through a few more lures, to see if this would affect the size of the fish, but it did not seem to. I put on the new DUO Realis Shad 62DR – a slightly longer, deeper running version of the Shad 59MR. This also proved a hit and accounted for a few more fish.

Eventually I tied on a large timber Detonator 100 from Lethal Lures  – http://www.lethallures.com.au/ , that I bought at Barra Jacks (in Rockhampton) and gave that a go. It was awkward to fish on my light rod and picked up plenty of weed but, after about 10 casts, it caught another 45cm flathead.

At about 11.30am, with the tide running in, I gave up for the day. There were plenty of fish around on one side of the Passage, today, and none on the other. That’s why you have to keep moving.

Bribie – the bridge and the Seaside Museum creek mouth – 19 May 2014

Monday

It would be low tide at Bribie just after dawn. I could not resist a quick fish before work. With the water getting noticeably colder, I was sure the tailor would be around somewhere.

Small ‘chopper’ tailor often hang around under the bridge, just before dawn. The bait fish and prawns are drawn to the bridge lights and the tailor, pike, bream and flathead can’t resist trying to ambush them. To the north of the bridge there are some established weed beds which are good fish habitat. The bait is also drawn to the light of the big street lamp, near the boat hire spot, a little further up.

Low tide would be at 7.06 am. Unfortunately, this side of the Pumicestone Passage gets a bit more breeze when the wind is coming from the south, south-west, or south-east. Today it was a cool south-westerly, initially and then turned into to a much stronger south-easterly, later in the morning. There had been rain over night, but not much.

I arrived at about 5.00 am and the moon was completely blocked by some ominous looking clouds. It was growing smaller in its waning gibbous phase – a bit less than half way between full and new. The water was very clear but the wind had lifted a lot of weed.

The tide was running out, so I went round to the south side, and waded into the shallows, in the dark. I cast up, towards the circle of sandy bottom, lit up by the bridge light, nearest to the shore. I started with a DUO hard body that is perfect for clear, shallow water. The DUO Realis Minnow 80 SP is a suspending minnow. Because it is fairly long at 80mm and light at 4.7 grams, you need to rig it on a light leader (10lb breaking strain or less). This enables you to cast it over longer distances. You need to do this, as it is a fairly shallow diver and it takes a few metres to get down to its running depth, about 10 cm below the surface. I think this will be a great bream lure.

As always at Bribie, the floating sea grass was a pain in the neck. After a couple of casts, I saw the lure get knocked out of the water by a small fish. A few moments later, something grabbed it and started shaking its head. It was a tiny pike.

 

I carried on casting in the same spot and had obviously found a patch of them. I caught 3 more small pike before they decided to leave the Realis Minnow alone. I swapped to the DUO Realis Shad 59 MR  – another suspending minnow,  but this one dives a little deeper. I moved closer to the bridge and cast into the shadows underneath it. Once more, it did not take long for the Pike to find this lure. There were a couple of casts when nothing hit the lure, then a tiny flathead grabbed it and came to the surface angrily shaking its head.

It started to rain so I moved north in to the shadows, under the bridge. I cast over the shallows, on the south side and soon foul hooked a tiny bream. It was now about 5.30 am but with the clouds and rain, there was no sign of first light. The surface activity increased as the fish sensed dawn was on its way. I felt a few very aggressive knocks and bumps and decided to increase the speed of my retrieve. This produced immediate results and on the next cast, I saw a small tailor grab the back end of the lure, a few feet away from me. It fell off but on the next cast, I landed one. It was only about 25cm but I was delighted that it had been hanging out just where I thought it would be. I then had a frantic twenty minutes with my lure getting bumped and smashed on almost every cast. I connected with about 8 fish, but only 4 stayed on until they reached the shore. They were all small choppers, the largest of which might just have made 30cm long.

At about 6.00 am a grey dawn started to break and I decided to move down to the drain in front of the old seaside museum, to see what has happened to the terrain there. The works to secure the sea wall are continuing but clearly, the finished, stepped, wall is some months off. I waded out on to the patch of coffee rock that sits in front of the seaside museum. With about an hour to go until low tide, the rocky bottom was completely exposed.

I cast the DUO Shad 59 MR around, but it kept picking up weed so I changed it for GULP 2” Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour and loaded this up on a 1/8th ounce, #1 hook jighead. I moved south, along the edge of the coffee rock, casting into the deeper what beyond. I got a couple of strong hits and then, at about 6.30 am I felt a solid bite and set the hook. The fish tried to run away under the ledge but I had the drag set quite tight and the rod absorbed its lunges. I soon saw a flash of silver. It was a chunky bream that I later measured at 34cm. I tried for more and had a few hits but could not land any.

At 7.30 am, the wind was up and another rain shower threatened. It was time to head back to work. But a day of work is always easier to bear, when you have caught a fish before it starts!

Bribie – the old oyster jetty to the channel marker – 21 April 2014

Monday

I am disappointed to report that once more the curse of paid employment has slowed down my posting and fishing. If the current government has its way, I shall be doing more work, for a lot longer than I had planned. I understand that when the pension was first introduced around 1910, the qualifying age was 65 and life expectancy was 58. So it was the ultimate healthy lifestyle bonus. Rarely did the government have to pay out for more than a few years. Now, most of us will get to our mid 80’s (especially if we eat plenty of fish). So we nearly all qualify for some portion of state funding for 15 years or more. Someone has to pay for it and the woeful performance of most people’s superannuation fund managers, means they will not be making much of a contribution. It’s a mess and it can only mean one thing – the current Australian age pension is probably as good as it will ever be.  So next time you see someone with more grey hair than you, whingeing about the cost of bait, remember you will be working long after they put their feet up, so ask them to shout you a beer. Of course, I can’t imagine who will employ me when I am 65 but that’s a whole another can of worms.

That’s enough social commentary. I was keen to see if the flathead glory days of early March would return. I drove up to Bribie on Monday, to fish the run out tide, which would be low at 8.00 am. It was still school holidays and during my last few visits, there has been plenty boat traffic. The wind has been changing between a light south-easterly and a northerly, with the occasionally cool westerly appearing, in the early morning. On Monday, it was light and cool from the south west. The overnight westerlies will start to bring the water temperature down quite quickly, if they persist. We were about half way between the full and the new moon.

I started in the dark and decided to head straight to the area to the south of the old oyster jetty, on the mainland side of the Pumicestone Passage. My last few sessions through the Easter Holidays had produced some quality fish, but the numbers were thinning out.  I decided to fish with neutral/ natural coloured soft plastics, just in case the fish were getting picky. I started with a GULP 2” Shrimp in the Peppered Prawn colour. I loaded it on to a 1/8th ounce, 1/0 jighead.  It was 5.30 am and the sky was just beginning to turn orange along the horizon. I cast the plastic a long  way out and after two hops, I felt a good bite. Then the line went slack. I wound up the slack and suddenly, I was in contact with a fish again. It was swimming towards me but now it turned away. As it pulled away, the hook struck home and it took off with a blistering first run. I gradually subdued it, but it was powerful and angry and this area has a big patch of rocky bottom, close to the shore, so I took it slowly. After a few minutes, I pulled the fish on to the sandy beach. It was a big female, just under 70 cm. After a few pictures, I let her go.

The sun came up and I waded further south, following the falling tide. It was pretty quiet and it was not until 6.25 am, that I got another bite. I had swapped to the GULP 2” Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour and hooked another slurping, grunting, spiny puffer fish. I pushed it off the hook and continued fishing. I then caught a couple of undersized flathead in quick succession. Then things went quiet again. I swapped to a longer GULP Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour and this soon attracted a few bites. About 10 minutes after the change, I caught a big (35cm) pike. I was now about half way to the green channel marker.

The water slowed and I turned back towards the jetty. At about 7.20 am I caught an almost legal size flathead, which I released. It was getting frustrating. By low tide at 8.15 am, I found myself back beside the old oyster jetty. I had swapped back to the Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour. I put in a few last casts and then bang, a big fish grabbed the Shrimp soft plastic, just as it landed. The fish was lying in no more than 20 cm of water. It was big and powerful and as it was so near the surface, it immediately started shaking its head. It ran hard but after about four good runs, it was spent. I waded through the soft muddy weed and pulled it ashore. It was another 70 cm model, or perhaps it was the one I caught earlier. It looked a very different colour in full daylight, but you never know.

I had caught some good fish but I had released them all. It may be time to fish somewhere else for a while.

Rockhampton – Fitzroy River – 25 October 2013

Friday

I arrived in Rockhampton late in the afternoon and decided to go fishing on the banks of the Fitzroy River, right in town. I drove over to the Bowls Club and worked my way down to the shoreline just as the sun was dropping, at about 5.00pm. Low tide would be a few hours later. This area, below the ‘new’ bridge, across the river, has lots of rocky channels and drains with muddy/sandy bottom in between.

I could see the fish rising to slurp up bait or perhaps small prawns. The locals prefer to fish this area with large hard bodied minnows. I had no idea what the pattern of the rocks beneath the water, so I started with soft plastics. I decided to initially fish with a 3” Gulp Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour with a 1/8th ounce, 1/0 jighead.

I had a few touches and as the tide receded and the sun fell, I got a better view of the terrain. This far up the river is obvious fish territory. About 800 metres further upriver, the salt water is stopped when it meets the Fitzroy River Barrage. Presumably the fish follow their natural impulse to swim upriver to spawn and then get stuck in this area (unless they work out how to climb a fish ladder – which seems unlikely!). I concentrated on casting next to the rock bars and into the channels and lost a bit of tackle in the process.

Dusk on the Fitzroy River at Rockhampton

Dusk on the Fitzroy River at Rockhampton

Caught just after sunset on a run out tide

Caught just after sunset on a run out tide

A baby - but still a barra

A baby – but still a barra

At about 6.30 pm, when it was almost too dark to fish, I felt something grab the soft plastic and drop it. I had now swapped to a 2” GULP Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour on the same light , 1/8th ounce, 1/0 jighead. I carried on peppering the area with casts and a few minutes later I connected again. It was a very small saltwater barramundi, I photographed and released it.

It was now too dark to fish and so I retraced my steps back to the car. Only a baby – but I had found a Fitzroy River barramundi.

Yeppoon – Fishing Creek – 14 October 2013

Monday

Last morning in Yeppoon for a while and yes, of course I was heading for Fishing Creek. I had wanted to fish some of the headlands on this trip but the wind was up to 15 knots everyday by 10.00 am, so it had been out of the question. In hindsight, I was glad I had been forced to explore. I was enjoying fishing in this estuary system.

It was the same basic plan as Monday – walk down the creek from the top end, following the receding tide, casting into the pools and channels. I started at the shallow end with the GULP 3” Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour. I was using my light spin rig, 2.8kg Fireline, 12lb fluorocarbon leader and 1/8th ounce, size 2 hook, jighead. This is the perfect size jighead for this size soft plastic. The weather was overcast but there had been no rain. There was a light north-easterly wind blowing but it was gradually picking up. I started just before the sun came over the horizon.

It took a while to find some fish, first some small flathead, then one that was big enough to keep, then a couple of small cod. Then I caught a magnificent spotted ray. I was tempted to let him keep my soft plastic but managed to safely remove it.

I swapped up to a GULP 5 inch Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour. After a few casts, this got slammed and I thought I might have another barramundi. Then I realised this fish was too frantic to be a barramundi. After some spirited runs I saw a flash of silver and realised it was a small Trevally – these fish always pull surprisingly hard. I released it and moved on.

I reached the spot where I had caught the barramundi, the day before and decided to try one of my DUO hard bodies. I pulled out a Spearhead Ryuki 70S in a pink silver and black colour. This is really a trout lure but I have found it works well in a shallow estuary situation. The bream like it and so do the flathead. It weighs 9 grams and is effectively a sinking minnow. It is designed to maintain its action in fast flowing water and that is why it was ideal in this situation. I put in a few casts and immediately felt a few bumps. After fifteen minutes of casting, up and down current, I connected with a fish, but it spat the lure out. I cast back in the same spot and this time there was no hesitation – as soon as I took up the slack, the fish was attached.

It pulled pretty hard and the current helped it. After a minute or two it settled down and I pulled it ashore. It was a chunky grunter bream. I released it and continued casting the DUO Spearhead Ryuki 70S. I had a few more touch ups from interested fish before the inevitable happened – I lost the lure to the mangrove roots. Yet another lure to add to the very long shopping list I am collating.

It was now about 11.00 am and the wind had started howling, so I made the long walk/ wade back to the car – keeps you fit this fishing lark!