South Ballina – Richmond River – Flathead – December 2018

In December I did not get a lot of time to fish. The weather was windy and so when I did get time for a session it was not on the headlands or beach. I drove down to the Richmond River at Ballina and decided to fish the shallows on the south side, near the river mouth. There are good tidal sand flats – lined by oyster covered rocky shore and mangroves.

I waded around with a light spin rod, 10lb fluorocarbon leader and a few of my favorite soft plastic lures. I generally used a 1/8th ounce, size 2 hook jighead loaded with a small 3 inch GULP Minnow or Shrimp shaped soft plastic. I was fishing the run out tide through the middle of the day. I did not have very high expectations but its is always good to explore for the early morning and dusk sessions, which are when I am most likely to catch supper.

My session started with a couple small bream in close to the shoreline. As I waded around and the tide headed for low, I started to catch small flathead. I caught about 8 in a few hours but only one would have been just about legal size. So they were all released today.

In summary this looks like it will be a productive spot in the cooler months and I will definitely be back to fish it.

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Iluka – Middle Bluff – 29 September 2104

Sunday – Morning

It was another mild morning in Iluka. A light northerly wind was doing its best to flatten the sea. I decided to fish Middle Bluff again and see if I could find a legal sized mulloway (jewfish).

At this point I will say my piece about the raising of the jewfish size limit in NSW. I have read a bit about the surveys that were done to determine whether or not the existing limit of 45 cm, was adequate to protect the species. They were very small surveys that relied on a lot of subjective judgments by local fisherman and fisheries officers, but it would have been financially impossible for them to be developed any other way. After putting together these surveys, NSW fisheries concluded that fish at 45cm were not having a chance to reproduce before being caught, so they have raised the legal size to 70 cm and set a bag limit of two. Commercial fishermen also have to obey by the new rules, although they are allowed to keep some smaller fish, under by catch rules. If I have got any of this factually wrong, please comment and correct me.

If we want sustainable fish stocks we need to carry out credible scientific research. Our duplicated state fisheries departments do not need any more boats, trailers, life jackets, uniforms or rulebooks. They need scientists and scientific rigour in their research processes. The science used to support this decision may be proved right but I would have liked to see much more comprehensive studies. We now have the ridiculous situation where on one side of the Tweed River the Mulloway size limit is 70cm and on the other, it is 75cm.

It was another spectacular sunrise at Middle Bluff. I decided to fish with the light rig from the beginning and stick to the soft plastics. I was using 16lb fluorocarbon leader and a ¼ ounce, size 1/0 hook Nitro jighead. I loaded up with a GULP 4” Minnow in the new Green Camo colour.

The sun came over the horizon at about 5.30am and by 5.45am, I had my first fish. It was another mulloway/ jewfish, but it would not be dinner because it was only about 45cm long. I unhooked it in a rock pool and took a few pictures, then speared it back down in to the wash. It had grabbed the plastic very close to the rocks again.

I put in plenty of casts but could not get another. I swapped down to a lighter 10lb fluorocarbon leader and put on a GULP 2” Shrimp, also in the Green Camo colour. I moved a little further north along the rocks and cast down into the wash. I let the soft plastic waft around, but I left it too long and got snagged. I re-rigged and put it back in the same spot. After a couple of casts I felt a solid hit and the rod bent over. Fortunately, the swell was light and I was able to get down quite close to the water. I let the fish take some line then tightened the drag a little and lifted it up, onto the rocks with the help of a wave. It was a very solid 37cm bream. So I would have something for dinner.

 

 

I fished on for another hour but the wind picked up and the tide started in, making fishing a bit hard. At about 9.00 am, I cleaned up the bream and walked back along the beach to the car.

Sunday Afternoon

On Sunday afternoon I decided to wade out on the stretch of the Clarence River – just in front of the Anchorage Holiday Park. There are sand banks and weed beds and it looks like an ideal flathead spot. I started just before 5.00 pm. The tide was running out and I waded across the sandy and muddy bottom until I came to the weed banks that fringe the deeper main river channel. As I was exploring, I started by fishing with a soft plastic that I am very confident using – the GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I was fishing with my estuary light spin rod, 10lb fluorocarbon leader and 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead.

It did not take long to find the fish. I caught a couple of small flathead first and then a legal one (40cm), that was sitting in a sandy hollow. I waded up river and decided to switch to a DUO Realis Shad 59 MR hard bodied lure. This is a medium diving lure and the flathead and bream love it. As the sun set, I caught a couple more small flathead on this lure.

I had fished at dawn and dusk and caught fish at both sessions – and had a nice bream for dinner – living the dream!

Bribie – Oyster jetty flats – 24 April 2013

Wednesday

The tide was all wrong but the fish were around, so I decided on Bribie again. We would have a 2.2m high tide at 8.05 am. This would mean the tide would be just over half way in, at first light.

I arrived just before sunrise and wandered south along the shoreline, on the mainland side of the bridge. I passed the oyster jetty, casting soft plastics on the flats on either side. I felt a few tugs in the area just south of the oyster jetty, but I could not hook up with anything. I was fishing with a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour, on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead. I was using 10lb fluorocarbon leader.

I find the last of the run-in tide the hardest to fish, land-based, at Bribie. You can no longer reach the various drop offs on either side of the Pumicestone Passage. The fish move up quickly but suddenly there is no obvious structure for them to hide in; they spread out over the open expanse of flats and it is difficult to know where to concentrate your efforts.

As I thought about where to fish a huge flock of cormorants came into land. I have never seen a group as big as this before. They settled on the water for a few minutes then took off again.

In this area the only obvious structure is the slight drain that runs round the corner from Sandstone Point. Even this seems to be gradually silting up at the moment. This is where I decided to focus my efforts. The water was flowing round the corner from the south. I stood beside the mangroves and cast to the south, in the direction of the long, now submerged, sandbar.

It was now about 7.00 am. After a couple of casts, a fish grabbed the plastic, made a short run then it let it go. This also happened on the next cast and I saw the familiar snout of a long tom, following my lure in. I cast a little more towards the south east and when I took up the slack I had a fish on the line. I set the hook and it took off with the current. I soon had it under control and waded back to a gap in the mangroves. It was a good flathead, about 50cm long. I let it go.

I waded back to the same spot and cast out again. I continued fishing this area as the tide came up. I swapped to GULP Jerkshad in the Curry Chicken colour. After a few casts the line pulled tight again and I had another flathead, about the same size. It was about 7.30 am. In the next twenty minutes I dropped two more fish and caught one smaller one.

Things went quiet around the tide change so I decided to wait out the slack water over breakfast and coffee. I waded back to the car and went off for breakfast. The wind was picking up from the south-east, but it was a beautiful morning.

By 10.00 am I had waded back to almost the same spot that I had been fishing earlier. The water level was much lower but I put in a few casts anyway. After about 10 casts, I caught another 45+ cm flathead, on a GULP Jerkshad, in the Satay Chicken colour.

The tide was now running out strongly and the big sand bar, down by the green channel marker, was clearly in view. With the wind behind me, I could reach the edge of the main channel and the sea grass beds, with some long casts. I started to make my way towards the green channel marker, casting as I went. I hooked a stingray which towed me around for a while and then broke me off. I also connected with an spiky puffer fish which grunted, spat jets of water at me and fluttered round in circles for a while before cut the line and got rid of it.

I re-rigged with a GULP Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken colour. The water was now really running and lifting more and more sediment as the tide got lower. This did not seem to bother the fish. I averaged one every 15 minutes or so, for about the next three hours. The colour of plastic did not seem to matter. Most were around the 40 to 45 cm size, but there were several more 50+ cm models amongst them.

At about 1.30 pm, I had to tear myself away – always hard to do when you are catching fish. I had caught more than 15 flathead through the morning and it does not get much better than that!

Iluka – Shark Bay – 14 February 2013

Thursday

On Wednesday afternoon the south-easterly wind had not really dropped off, as forecast. I had a quick fish around Woody Bay but it only yielded one very small flathead, on a GULP 3” Minnow soft plastic.

Thursday was my last day and once again it started with rain and a strong south-easterly wind. Low tide was due at 5.40 am, just after first light. I decided to sit out the rain. Once it stopped, at about 6.30 am, I drove round to Frasers Reef and walked along the beach to Middle Bluff. The swell was just too big here and after an hour of losing gear to the rocks and getting soaked, I gave up.

By afternoon the weather had improved and the sun was out. The wind was still blowing from the south-east, so I decided to try fishing on the Shark Bay rock platform, as the tide ran out. I had intended to fish the north side of the rock platform, but when I arrived the wind was light enough and the tide was at just the right level to make it possible to fish on the south side.

After a week of fairly tough fishing, I was not confident of finding big tailor or jewfish, so I started fishing with my ‘light’ rock fishing outfit. I was using a 10lb fluorocarbon leader and a GULP 3” Minnow in the Banana Prawn colour. The swell was light and the water fairly clear so I dropped right down to a 1/8th oz 1/0 jighead. There are a number of low rocky outcrops on this side of the platform that extend into the sea like fingers. There a kelp and barnacle covered bommies all round. The area is dotted with patches of open sand and I concentrated on casting around the edges of these patches. I moved the lure slowly, letting it waft around in the surf. At about 3.00 pm a fish grabbed the lure and took off. It bit hard and took some line. It soon settled and it was not long before I had it safely on shore. It was a cracker bream that measured just fewer than 40 cm long. It had almost swallowed the soft plastic and jighead, whole.

I felt a few other nips over the next couple of hours and I swapped through a range of soft plastics and small hard bodies, but I could not find another fish.

Although the weather had made life tough it had actually been a pretty good week of fishing. I had caught some good bream and a great flathead. I am sure the school jewfish were around but I had just failed to find a spot where I could successfully get at them.

I hope the bait sticks around for a while and then as we move into the cooler months the land-based fishing will only improve.

Iluka – Woody Bay – 13 February 2013

Wednesday

On Wednesday I woke to more showers which were blowing through on a building south-easterly wind. I made some breakfast and waited for them to pass.

By the time the rain stopped it was about 6.30 am. The south-easterly was already blowing at about 15 knots and was forecast to get stronger through the day. There was not much point in trying to fish the headlands. The tide had been low at 5.00 am and had now turned in. I decided to fish around the rocks beside the boat launching area, on the edge of Woody Bay. This area, directly in front of the camp site, is sheltered by Woody Head. Even in a big south-easterly blow, it stays pretty calm.

A grey morning on Woody bay

A grey morning on Woody bay

I decided to switch to my really light spinning outfit – Shimano Stella 2500 reel, Loomis GL2 rod, 1.8kg Fireline and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. The bait that had been jumping around close to the rocks, had been some kind of small whitebait, so I chose a GULP 3” minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour, which would represent a similar profile. I rigged up the plastic on a 1/8th oz., 1/0 jighead. As I stood in the shallows, the water was warm and I started casting along the edge of the semi – submerged rock bars. At about 6.45 am the rain started again and just as it did, I felt the familiar double tap bream attack. I did not hook up but on the next cast, I did. I wound in another very respectable bream.

GULP Minnow gets the first bream

GULP Minnow gets the first bream

I let it go and moved on, casting out and trying to rest my soft plastic lure, for as long as possible, right where the rocks met the sand. Just before 7.00 am I felt the faintest of grabs, as I hopped the lure along the bottom beside the rocks. Two more casts in the same spot produced nothing. On the third, the rod bent over as the jighead stopped dead.

It felt like the lure had stuck fast in the rocks but then very slowly the ‘rocks’ started to move. In a long slow run the fish moved about 6 metres to the south. Then paused and did the same thing again. I pulled up on the rod and tried to recover some line. It was only at this point that the fish realised that it was hooked and started really fighting. It was still so slow and heavy that I thought it was a ray or shovel nose shark. After a few more lunges it turned towards me and rose to the surface shaking its head. I could now see it was a big flathead.

With a ten pound leader I could not risk any abrasion from the barnacle-covered rocks so I let the fish play itself out. It had been lurking in less than 30cm of water so it was hard to keep its head down but I took my time and used the swell. I found a nice sloping rock bar and gradually eased the fish up in a breaking wave. It was a nice flathead who measured up at about 74cm. After a few snaps I put her back and she swam away.

The Clarence River is still very de-oxygenated and full of fresh water from the floods. It is likely that all sorts of species (including flathead) have settled around these headlands to wait for it to clear. The birds were very active, constantly swooping in to pick up baitfish. So it looks like a fair amount of bait has also been washed out.

I decided to wade around the shallows in the bay and look for some more fish. I was soaked from the rain and being in the water was warmer than being out of it. I tried all around the rocks with the same soft plastic and a few others, to see if I could find anymore flathead – but I couldn’t. I watched a few long toms follow my lures in and have a snap at them, but did not hook any.

I swapped over to one of my favourite DUO hard bodied lures. With the river out of bounds there was not much water where I could use their range of finesse lures, but this bay was flat enough and clear of weed, so it was perfect. I tied on the DUO Ryuki Spearhead 45s in a gold/ green colour. This is a small trout lure that seems to work well on bream. It weighs 4 grams and is 45mm long with a small bib. As with most of the DUO range it casts a long way and slips into its action almost as soon as it hits the water. Although it is technically a sinking lure, its lightweight means that it effectively suspends, when you pause the retrieve.

I cast it over the flats and around the rock bars as the tide rose. First it attracted a few undersize moses perch. Then, as I moved into slightly deeper water I found a patch of small bream. I caught a couple before they decided they had had enough.

At about 10.00 am I found myself almost back where I had caught the big flathead earlier. I had waded round the bay in a big circle. I continued to cast along the edge of the rocks and suddenly felt a solid hit and run. The fish was hooked and after a few good runs it calmed down and I pulled it up to the sandy beach. It was another good bream – just over 35cm long. I released it and carried on fishing for about another hour with no luck, so I decided to give up for the morning.

Tweed Rockwall – Tailor – 4 August 2011

Thursday

On Thursday morning conditions looked perfect – light north-westerly breeze, low tide just before dawn, not much swell and not much moon. I went to bed early but sleep was elusive, the big Snapper encounter of Tuesday morning was playing on my mind. By 3.00 am I gave up on sleeping any longer and decided to go back down to the Tweed River north rockwall. By 4.30 am I was walking along the rockwall under a fantastic night sky. There were a few clouds but no moon so the stars formed and impressive canopy.

I stopped at couple of points along the wall, on the ocean side and put in a few casts. I find fishing these locations on a moonless night pretty difficult. You cannot see where you cast lands or keep track of how fast / slow you are retrieving line. You have to estimate when to ‘jump’ the plastic over the rocks at the end of the retrieve. I caught the line in the rocks a few times, snapped it off and re-rigged. It was now about 5.30 am and I had not had a touch from a fish.

I was fishing with a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour rigged on a 3/8th oz 2/0 jighead. I had about 2 metres of 30lb fluorocarbon leader tied onto 40lb braided main line. This set up will work well with both a heavily weighted soft plastic lure and a metal slug or popper, so it is great for fishing the rock walls.

I moved on to the end of the wall as the horizon began to glow. The first few casts produced nothing. There was no surface action – things did not look good. The hour around dawn is always the most productive for me, in this location – if nothing happens in the first few casts, it is often the same for the rest of the session. I cast all around the end of the rock wall, I changed the plastic from a bright colour to a dark silhouette, from a Jerkshad to a Paddletail, and tried heavier and lighter jigheads – still nothing.

Finally at around 6.00 am, just before the sun came over the horizon, I felt a couple of touches. I was now fishing with the trusted GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I was casting into the river mouth and letting the last of the run out tide sweep the soft plastic around the end of the rock wall. I got another solid hit, then another and I struck. It was a Tailor – just over 35cm – nothing spectacular but at least I had a fish. I confidently let it go – hoping for something bigger. A fish also hit the next cast but there was no hook up – just a solid bite mark through the plastic.

A 35cm Tweed rockwall Tailor


Despite numerous further casts, that was it. I fished on for another hour or so, but there was no further action and needless to say, the Snapper did not reappear. Finally around 8.00 am I gave up. If fishing was easy it would be no fun – but right now, I am struggling with just how hard it can be!

Woody Head – Dusk – 11 Feb 2011

Friday – PM

On Friday afternoon the swell had eased significantly, so I decided to try fishing off the front at Woody Head, another of Iluka’s great rock fishing spots. I started at the rock known as Barnacle Bob. I was casting a ½ oz weight soft plastic but it kept getting snagged and I kept getting soaked so I moved south.

I stopped in every safe place I could and put in casts with various plastics. I lost plenty of jigheads but only one went to a fish. It just grabbed the lure (a 4” minnow) close into the rocks and took off. It ran for no more than 5 or 6 seconds before busting me off. As the sun set I had nothing from a couple of hours of fishing. The wind had turned to a very slight northerly. I decided to give up around 7.30pm and headed home.