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.
As Covid 19 continued to wreak havoc all around, I carried on fishing. Those of us in New South Wales were locked out of Queensland. Everyone was locked out of Western Australia. Victoria was open, then closed, then open again. I have no idea what was going on in Tasmania.
The swell was big and we had a bit of rain. I focused on fishing with my light gear and soft plastics lures over the sand flats, on the edge of the Clarence River at Browns Rocks. I found a few different species. I caught flathead, bream, tailor and quite a few small jewfish. The flathead seemed comfortable eating just about any type of lure, once you found them.
I was using a mix of different soft plastics but, as usual, the GULP Minnows where the star performers. I also caught fish on the new Berkley Shimma prawn and a packet of DUO Realis knot tailed soft plastics in a green colour, that somebody sent me to try. I was usually fishing these with 10lb fluorocarbon leader on 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jigheads.
At one point I noticed the water close to shore was teaming with some kind of tiny jelly fish larvae. They were all along the shoreline for a few days. There was plenty of bait around and the pelicans and gulls chased the schools relentlessly. They only got out of the way when the dolphins turned up.
On Friday 24th September, a slightly calmer morning was forecast. I was up early and set out for Middle Bluff, the headland just to the north of Frazer’s Reef at Iluka. I arrived just before dawn and started casting off the rock ledge with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I was using 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead. My reel was rigged with 30lb braid and a 40lb fluorocarbon leader. I kept the soft plastic in close to the rocks and left it on the bottom as long as I could between hops. Low water had passed at around 4.00 am and the tide was running in. The fishing was fairly slow around dawn. I felt a few hits, which I thought might be bream, but I did not hook up and I was thinking of moving on.
At about 8.00 am I cast out next to the large rock bommy that dominates the headland. As soon as I lifted the lure off the bottom, a fish grabbed it. It was another nice Mulloway/ Jewfish – which I pulled up the rock ledges. It measured 76cm long. They are great eating at this size so I kept it for a family supper. If I am careful, I will get about 1.5 to 1.75 kg of fillets from a fish this size and that will give us a couple of dinners.
The swell came back up, so over the next few days I fished in the shallows of the Clarence River around Browns Rocks. The water was very clear and at dawn and dusk I caught plenty of keeper sized flathead on various soft plastics. There were also tailor, bream and the odd whiting around.
On the 29th the swell eased off again and I fished the rocks at Woody Head. I arrived just after low tide and was fishing using my Daiwa Demonblood rod. There is not much sensitivity in this unit but plenty of power.
I had run out of my beloved GULP Crazylegs Jerkshads in my favourite Lime Tiger colour. This was probably a good thing because it forced me to persist with some other colours and shapes. The reasonably new GULP paddle shad shape worked well. I caught the biggest jewfish of the day on a 5 inch paddle shad in the nuclear chicken colour. It was approximately 85cm long. I let it go as I now had a fridge full of flathead.
The end of September had been great fishing around Iluka. The school jewfish were the biggest of the year so far and there was plenty of bait around.
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.