Iluka – Woody Head – March, 2019

I had a fair amount of time fishing the rocky headlands around Iluka in March. Many of them are situated just north of the town in the Bundjalung National Park. The typical wind pattern was a southerly in the morning turning to a northerly in the afternoon. It was very warm and the water temperature was consistently warm. There were a few storms early in the month and we had had the tropical storm pass through offshore, at the end of February, so the water quality was pretty average. I caught all the usual species; dart, bream, various types of trevally, tailor, flathead but I only caught and released 1 small 45cm Jewfish during the whole trip.

Tailor were the most prolific and I caught plenty when the swell was low enough to fish Woody Head, Iluka Bluff and the Shark Bay rock platforms. I got them on metal slugs from 40 to 60 gram. The colour or type did not seem to matter much.  They were either there and you got four or five good fish in a session or they just weren’t there. I also had success with big bibless sinking hard bodies (see pics). I tend to stick with a 30lb fluorocarbon leader when fishing for tailor. I lose the odd fish but I find anything heavier makes good casting hard. My favourite rod for throwing a big hard bodied lure is my Daiwa Demonblood, which is now looking very battered.

I had a few early morning savage bite offs, which I assumed were mackerel. There were a few Spanish mackerel and tuna around and I saw one good sized Spaniard landed minus its tail, at Woody Head.  The tuna appeared from time to time but pretty much always just out of casting range.

 

Broken Head – Dart and Tailor – June 2018

 

By June there were plenty of cold nights but the sea water temperature was not really dropping. We had a few crystal clear skies and beautiful sunrises but the swell was persistently too high to safely fish the rocks until the middle of the month. On the 15th I had a dawn session at Broken Head. I arrived at first light and walked down to the rocks. There was virtually no breeze and the tide was running in until about 10.00 am. The moon was in its waning crescent phase.

As soon as I arrived I could see a school of something feeding on the surface. It was only as it got lighter I realised it was a very big school of dart. I started casting a 40 gram Halco Twisty and winding it back quickly through the school. The fish followed it a few times but did not strike. I was hoping there would be a few tailor hanging around but if they were, they were not interested in a lure near the surface. After a few more casts I swapped to a 5 inch GULP Jerkshad in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I cast this out beyond the school and let it sink, paused for about 20 seconds then hopped it back along the bottom towards the rocks. On about the third attempt I felt a couple of quick bites. I dropped the rod tip and paused for a few seconds, then lifted it and hooked a fish. It was heavier than a dart and started shaking its head furiously. I played it for a minute or two. It was a decent sized tailor about 40 cm long. It settled down at the base of the rocks but as soon as I tried to lift it from the water the leader caught a tooth and snapped. I think I had a16lb fluorocarbon leader on so I upgraded to 25lb and carried on casting. I soon found the tailor again and this time the leader held as I pulled the fish up to my feet.

I fished on through the morning and dropped down to smaller soft plastic minnows and lighter leader. I end up catching plenty of dart on a 1/6th ounce jighead loaded with a 3 inch GULP Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. I also caught a couple of bream.

As the sun rose I could see that that the school of dart was about 30 metres long. Every now and then they would smash into small bait balls on the surface. The water was crystal clear and although the dart kept following my lures they seemed to loose interest in feeding by about 11.00 am, so I gave up for the day.

 

tailor

Bribie and Iluka – Bream – July 2017

July

I agree with the general sentiment that a clear sunny winter day in Queensland is hard to beat. Ok, so the mornings can be chilly but there is something great about needing a beany at sunrise and a cold shower at noon.

July provided some good weather and some great bream. I started the month fishing on the Bongaree side of the Pumicestone Passage at Bribie and I soon found good sized spawning bream. Gulp 3-inch minnow soft plastics in the Pearl Watermelon or Smelt colours worked best, fished on 1/8th ounce, size 1 and 2 hook jigheads and 10lb fluorocarbon leader. This set up also caught a few flathead for me.

Later in the month I had a few days fishing at Iluka, in Northern New South Wales. In fact, it was the good bream catches at Bribie that persuaded me I need to get down there. The rocky headlands of the Bundjalung National Park hold plenty of good bream all year round but in the run up to the big winter full moons they can be everywhere.

During my trip to Iluka I fished at Shark Bay, Iluka Bluff, Frazers Reef and Woody Head. Frazers Reef and the Middle Bluff – just to the north, produced solid catches of bream, as did Shark Bay. I tried for some tailor most mornings using 50/ 60 g slugs. I caught a few small choppers but they were very patchy. When I swapped down to big and small DUO hard bodied lures, I just caught more bream.

The swell made things hard at Woody Head and I could not really fish safely off the front. There must have been Jewfish around and I had a couple of bust offs that may well have been jewfish. Beautiful sunrises and loads of birds  and other wildlife to watch made for a great few days.

Bribie – Bongaree and the oyster jetty flats – June 2017

As the water cooled in June I enjoyed a few beautiful clear-skied sessions fishing the flats at Bribie. The back end of the run out tide proved the most productive time to fish and I caught five good sized flathead on several occasions.

I was usually using GULP Jerkshad soft plastics rigged on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead.  I use 10-12 lb fluorocarbon leader and 6’6 light spin rod with a ‘fast’ tip. The mainline is usually a 10 to 12lb breaking strain yellow coloured braid. I used the coloured stuff as it is far easier to see in low light.

The GULP Cajun Chicken and Pearl Watermelon colours were both effective. These two could not be further apart in appearance, which confirms my suspicion that when the flathead are around and feeding, they are not fussy about colour. You just have to cover the ground and find them.

When I swapped down to the smaller 3-inch GULP Minnow and Shrimp shapes I started to catch a few bream. I caught quite a few 30cm + sized fish along the drop off from the coffee rock ledge that runs along the shore in front of the Seaside Museum, at Bongaree.

If I am going to keep fish to eat. I kill them on capture and then remove the guts in the saltwater as soon as I finish fishing. I then put the gutted fish in an esky full of ice for the drive home. I then transfer to the fridge overnight and fillet them the next day. I then use a vacuum sealer, to bag the fish into family meal size portions and refrigerate. I find that flathead prepared in this way still tastes very fresh up to 12 days post capture. Not cleaning the fish in fresh water makes a big difference to both the flavour and texture, so avoid it if possible.

June was a good month to be out there.

Bribie & Mooball Creek – fishing the shallows – May 2017

May saw me out on the flats in front of the Sandstone Point hotel at Bribie Island wading in the shallows. Winter took a long time to arrive and the water styed stubbornly warm all through the month.

The flounder arrived to supplement the flathead and the odd bream. I fished with my light spinning rod and reel, 10lb fluorocarbon leader and generally GULP Jerkshad soft plastics in various colours on 1/8th 1/0 jigheads. I filled a bag with five keeper size flathead in the run up to the new moon on the run out tide.

I also continued my search for fish around Pottsville and found a few tiny flathead and Bream in Mooball Creek. These grabbed the smaller soft plastic minnows.

Coffin Bay – Kellidie Bay & Point Avoid – 1/2 September 2016

Thursday

Work brought me to the Eyre Peninsula again in early September. I was keen to get back down to Coffin Bay as I have heard there is a run of big kingfish at this time of year.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon and took a cabin at the caravan park for the weekend. Spring had just about arrived and the weather and more importantly the water temperatures were beginning to warm up. Thursday was new moon so the tides were quite big.

In the afternoon I drove round to Kellidie Bay to fish at Seal Corner – and fished with my Gary Howard Estuary 9’ of the west side of the peninsula. I was using 4lb leader and 1/12th ounce, size 1 hook jig head with various Gulp Worms. I caught a few small King George Whiting, a few juvenile Salmon and one very small Tommy Rough. The Dolphins came through but a cold south westerly wind at about 15 knots made things tough.

On Friday morning I was up at 5.30 and drove in to the National Park and round to Point Avoid. Tide would be low at about 7.00 am and a five knot south easterly wind was forecast. Skies were overcast and there was virtually no moon. First light was at 6.20 am.

Last time I was here I was outgunned with a very light rod so this time I brought my slightly bigger NS Blackhole Light Surf Rod. I have a new Shimano Stradic 4000 reel and I had loaded it with the 17lb Aldi braid and tied on a length of 25lb leader.

I started with a River2sea Bubble Pop 88 in a gold colour. I cast this a long way out behind the waves and started yanking it. Conditions were pretty choppy so there was no point in trying to make it look pretty. No luck on the first cast but right at the end of the retrieve on the second, a decent salmon (about 2.5kg) caming rushing up behind it. It hit the lure hard and then turned around and headed back out to sea. It was solidly hooked and with the bigger rod I had little trouble subduing it.

As the sky brightened a full length rainbow appeared. I could see the rain heading towards me. I carried on with the popper for a few more casts but I was casting into the wind and I could net get it as far out as I wanted. I took it off and swapped to a 40 gram Surecatch Knight metal slug.  This caught a salmon on the first cast and then continued to catch more, about one every other cast. However the size gradually declined as we moved further from dawn.

At about 8.30 am, it started to rain. I tied on a DUO Realis Jerkbait 100 – a hard bodied suspending minnow. I cast this out and although it would not carry as far as the slug it did go a fair distance. The action or the rattle had an immediate effect and a fish hit it as soon as it got going. After a short fight I pulled out a grumpy looking brown spotted wrasse. I caught a few more of these who seemed to like this lure. The rain gradually got heavier and it was pretty cold so at about 9.30 am gave up.

As I drove back along the national park road into Coffin Bay the emus were out in force, one even had a set of what looked like fairly recent chicks. Drive slowly on this stretch if you are coming down this way.

Iluka – Iluka Bluff – Snapper – 13 March 2016

Sunday

I had managed to bunk off for a few days to fish the rocky headlands of the Bundjalung National Park at Iluka in Northern New South Wales. I drove down through several big rain showers on Sunday morning.

As usual in this spot, the weather would not be ideal. There would be a pretty steady 1.6m swell all week. This would make fishing the exposed headlands difficult. It really needs to be lower than that to be comfortable and safe. The forecast showers would also make sure it was a wet week. The only advantage of the rain was that it might dampen down the wind.

I arrived at Iluka at about lunch time. I unpacked and drove out to Iluka Bluff at about 3.00 pm. The skies were full of grey clouds and the rain was falling intermittently. I had a look at the conditions and assessed that I could safely fish off the front of the bluff. We were about mid-way through the moon phase so it would not have much influence. Low tide would be at 7.34 pm, so the tide was half way out.

I started fishing with my heavy rig –  Shimano Stradic FJ 8000 reel, 9’6” Daiwa Demonblood rod, 20lb braid, 30lb fluorocarbon leader, 3/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the red and yellow, Curry Chicken colour. I cast this around for about 30 minutes but the wind was onshore and I could not get the soft plastic comfortably beyond the rock ledge. I lost a few rigs to the rocks and decided to change strategy.

I tied on a River2Sea 110mm Dumbell Popper in DP-06 pink and silver colour. This one weighs 26.6 grams but the dumbbell shape means it casts much further than a typical popper of this size. On about my third cast there was a big swirl behind the popper and a flash of silver. A few casts later a fish slammed the popper on the edge of the rock ledge. It took off to the south. I went with it for a minute or two but then the line caught in the cunjevoi covered rocks and leader and lure separated.

Back to the tackle bag – this time I pulled out an 80mm Halco Roosta Popper in the white redhead colour, I cast for about another twenty minutes when suddenly I suddenly saw another swirl, just behind the lure. On the next cast I slowed things down and increased the pauses. This did the trick and a fish grabbed the popper just as it came over the ledge. Once more it put its head down and set off to the south. I had the drag quite a bit tighter this time but I could not slow it. It followed the trajectory of its predecessor and I lost another popper.

I did not have any more poppers so I swapped to my lighter surf rig – the Daiwa Air Edge Surf 96L with a Shimano Sustain 4000 reel. I was using 8lb braid and 20lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a ¼ ounce, 1/0 hook jighead and loaded a GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. The lighter rod, line and leader meant that I could cast the soft plastic much further and let it waft around past the submerged rock ledge, in the strike zone.

At about 5.00 pm something grabbed the soft plastic. After a short fight I lifted a 33cm Snapper clear of the water. Fortunately the size limit for Snapper in NSW is 30 cm so I had something for supper. The heavens opened, so I quickly cleaned the fish and headed home. An exciting start to the week.