Iluka – Middle Bluff – Tailor – 11 April 2011

Monday – am

I have just got back from a week fishing the rocks at Iluka in Northern New South Wales. The weather was fantastic with only a couple of showers and very little swell, the whole week. For the beginning of the week we had early morning low tides, which also made it possible to fish some usually inaccessible spots. The week produced some great fish, as you will see.

I started on Monday morning at Middle Bluff in the Bundjalong National Park, just north of Iluka Bluff and Frasers Reef. I arrived around 5.00 am and faced a mild swell and a very light northerly wind. Low tide would be at about 7.00 am. I watched a few big waves slap over the rocks and decided to wait for better light to start fishing. At about 5.30 am I could see my feet and had got a feel for the wave pattern, so I started casting.

Dawn at Middle Bluff - Iluka

I bought a new rod for this trip – the Daiwa Demon Blood 9ft 6. The Rovex Bario 12ft and Aureus 9ft have served me well, off the rocks, but I needed a rod with a faster action and more sensitivity when casting lighter weighted jigheads. I also broke the 9ft Aureus while landing a decent Jewfish a few months back and although Rovex backed the rod with a replacement straight away, I have lost a bit of confidence in it. The Daiwa is a much pricier rod but it is really light and should also be able to lift big fish – we will see.

I started with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour rigged on a 3/8/ 3/0 jighead. I was using my Shimano Stradic 8000, loaded with 20lb Fireline and about 2m of fluorocarbon leader. I join the mainline to the leader with a uni to uni knot. The first half an hour produced nothing. I used a few other large plastics in fairly bright colours but nothing got a bite. It had been raining on and off, for about three weeks before we arrived and the Clarence River was pumping out a solid stream of sediment. As a result the water was very murky and got dirtier as we approached low tide.

At about 6.00 am I decided to put on a GULP 4” Minnow in the Vader colour – this has a black back and crème coloured underside. On my second cast it was grabbed close to the rocks. There were plenty of head shakes and then a decent Tailor leapt clean out of the water as it tried to shake the jighead from its jaw. The swell helped wash him up the ledges and after a short fight, I had him safe at my feet. It was a great way to christen the new rod – a 55 cm Tailor.

55cm Middle Bluff Tailor

I bled the Tailor, dropped it in a rock pool and cast out the rather mashed Vader Minnow again. Before I had lifted the rod tip – bang – a fish grabbed the lure and took off. It was a good size and peeled line for 10 seconds or so before – ping – it snapped the leader on a rock. I was out of Vader Minnows so I switched to a 4” Minnow in the Rainbow colour. This soft plastic is very similar to the Vader pattern but with a slight silvery sparkle on its underside. Second cast and I was on again this fish gave me plenty to think about by lodging itself down low in the rocks. I loosened the drag and as the line wafted free of the rocks I thought I had lost the fish. I started to wind in and bang – it was off again. This time it did not have much strength and with the next big wave I had it up on the rocks – another good Tailor at about 60cm.

60cm Middle Bluff Tailor

I fished on for another hour or so through the tide change without another touch. I gave up around 8.00 am and headed home. A great start to the week.

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.

Fingal Head – The Lighthouse Rocks – 1 Feb 2011

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Tuesday

With the cyclone bearing down and the prospect of another wet and windy period, I thought I had better get out for a fishing session. So early Tuesday morning I headed down to the Tweed river mouth before dawn. I fished around the end of the rockwall for a couple of hours, either side of dawn but failed get a bite so, at around 6.30 am, I decided to head further south to Fingal Head, to fish the rocks there. There is no shortage of great rock fishing spots in Northern New South Wales. Fingal is another beautiful spot with some unique octagonal rock formations. There are good fishing locations in front of the lighthouse, all along the headland but my favourite area is just to the south of the main rock platform.

I started fishing here at about 7.15am. I was using my ROVEX Aureus 9ft rod with the SHIMANO Stradic 6000. It is spooled with 20lb Fireline and I had tied on a 25lb fluorocarbon leader. I attached ½ oz 4/0 jighead and decided on my favourite soft plastic lure for Jewfish – the GULP 5” Crazylegs Jerkshad in the lime tiger colour. On my first cast – I let the plastic sink to the bottom then jerked it back towards the rocks. As I lifted it clear of the water something took a swipe at it – but I could not see what. Next cast I slowed it down even further and let it drift in very close to the base of the rocks. As I lifted it I felt the bite, I dropped the rod tip, paused, then struck hard. I had a fish on and due to the proximity of the rocks I tightened the drag and just winched it up. It was a good size Tarwhine at just over 35cm.

The soft plastic was pretty mauled so I changed it for a new one in the same colour and pattern. I still had about half an hour of run in water before high tide. I got a good soaking from a passing rain squall but that was no hardship as it was so hot and humid. I was standing on the mainland to the south of the narrow causeway that leads out to the main rock platform. The water washes over the causeway at high tide and I was casting in to the area just south of it. The bottom is very rocky so inevitably I lost a few jigheads as my lures got snagged. After a couple of re-rigs I felt the line go taught and then the rod tip started wiggling and I could see silver. I waited for a wave to bring it up over the rocks onto the ledge below me. Then I tightened the drag and pulled the fish up successfully. It was a Jewfish, just on 50 cm long.

Four or five casts later I had the plastic down deep at the base of the rocks and again, I felt a solid bite and then lost a bit of line. Fortunately the swell pulled the fish out from under a ledge and on the next wave I brought it up, out of the water and onto the ledge below. Again, I winched it up to my feet and it was another Jewfish – perhaps a couple of cm smaller than the first.

I carried on for half an hour or so, but then the sky darkened and really heavy rain started, I decided to give up. I presume we will get some fairly big seas and rain as the cyclone passes through up north, but this might bring the Jewfish on in greater numbers. The challenge will be finding somewhere safe to target them.