Caloundra again – an early morning high tide at about 5.00 am. The wind was forecast to be from the north – but starting off light and then building up to 15 knots, by about 10.00 am. It looks like a south-easterly wind change will bring some heavy rain and big seas on Thursday or Friday.
My level of excitement before a fishing day is just like the excitement before Christmas day, when I was a small boy. You get all you gear ready and load the car and then try to force yourself to sleep at 8.00 pm – you can’t sleep because instead of “visions of sugar plums”, etc – you are imagining huge fish or thinking about where to throw that first cast. By the time 2.45 am comes I am usually awake before the alarm goes off. I know, I know – it sounds ridiculous but it’s a powerful addiction.
I arrived just before 4.00am while it was still dark at Bulcock Beach and decided to target the areas under the lights, by the boardwalk. The tide was almost high and the water was close to the sea walls. Sure enough, the bait had come to the lights and the bigger fish had followed. It is fairly snaggy along here, so you have to keep the lure moving. I rigged a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken colour – black on top and pink underneath. I was using a 1/8th/1/0 jighead and 10lb fluorocarbon leader tied on to a reel of 8lb braid. I caught a few small Flathead and then eventually one that was big enough to keep.
The GULP Cajun Chicken coloured soft plastic lure works well in the dark
The rocks near the mouth of the Passage were almost covered and there was a bit too much swell washing around them, so just after first light, I decided to move down to the flats at Diamond Head. I waded along to the edge of the channel. I decided to start with a hard bodied bibless lure – the Cultiva MIRAVIBE which looks very like the small leatherjacket and herring that are floating around at the moment. As I waded along the channel, I skipped the hard body along the edge of the weed banks and soon caught a few small Flathead – between 25 and 35cm long. Then right at the point where the sand flats drop into the Diamond Head channel, a better fish grabbed it, just as it came over the bank. This one was around 44cm so I kept it.
A Flathead takes the lure from the sea grass beds at Diamond Head
By about 6.30 am the tide had properly turned and I waded to the shallow drains and weed banks that lie just north of Diamond Head. These were now covered by less than a metre of water in most places. I swapped over to a soft plastic lure as there was too much sea grass floating around to continue with the hard body. I put on the GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/8th oz, 1/0 jighead. After a couple of casts I found a fish – another small Flathead. I carried on wading north as the tide started to run out. Just short of another weed bed, a Flathead grabbed the plastic and took off. It was only about 30 cm long. I wound it in and released it. I cast back in the same spot and this time caught a bigger one – big enough to keep at about 42cm.
The water was now too shallow to fish so I moved up to the flats and channels at Golden Beach. I swapped back to the hard bodied MIRAVIBE. This lure is effective but suffers from the same problem as many of its competitors in this category – a poor action when retrieved at a low speed. It is ok in very shallow water but becomes a problem in anything more than about 50cm. To get the right action, you need to pull it quite quickly and inevitably; it then rises too high in the water column. It is perfect in about 40cm of water over a sandy bottom and that is where my next Flathead nailed it. This was another fish for the bag at about 45cm.
This one went for the GULP Pearl Watermelon Minnow soft plastic
The Flathead are often in the shallowest water
A few casts later the lure was slammed at the edge of a weed bed by a heftier fish. There was a flash of silver – and then a strange looking fish came into view. I towed it to shore photographed it and carefully released it. The helpful folk on http://www.ausfish.com.au identified it as a Striped or Silver Scat – which has a nasty set of spikes but tastes pretty good, so it was a lucky escape for both of us.
A Silver / Striped Scat
I carried on for a little while longer and caught another couple of undersized Flathead. I ended the day with four keeper fish – two on the hard bodied lure and two on the soft plastic lures. I could not find five legal fish for a full bag – but there were plenty of smaller ones around. The Whiting are everywhere and so are the Garfish. When I filleted the Flathead later, only one had food in its stomach – the remains of Whiting and a recently swallowed Leatherjacket. This was the first fish I have opened in the last few weeks, that has had anything in it.
Contents of a Flathead's stomach - Whiting and Leatherjacket
We will see what a burst of south-easterly breeze brings, later in the week.