Dead Whale – Shark Bay – Iluka – 6 November 2020

While I was fishing the Clarence River at Goodwood Island a dead whale had washed up on the beach at Shark Bay in Iluka. I drove past the beach entrance and found it closed with a large cohort of National Parks trucks in attendance and a 30 tonne excavator just being delivered. I parked up and walked out onto the beach to have a look.

It was amazing to see this huge creature washed up. It had obviously only recently died as there was no smell or predator damage. Two chaps from the Coffs Harbour Dolphin Marine Research Centre were on hand to cut it open and see what it had died of. It was covered in more than normal numbers of sea lice, which they said meant it had probably been sick for some time. The plan was to move it up the beach with the excavator so that the high tide would not carry it away before they could conduct their a post mortem, the next day.

There is no easy way of getting rid of a dead whale. So it was decided it would be sent to landfill after the postmortem. Not a very dignified end. I think it would be more noble to tow it out to sea and let the other predators ‘recycle’ it. However there was a risk it would keep washing back in and the sharks would be around for months following it, so it was cut up and sent to landfill.

I had hoped the blood and guts might bring the fish in but the excavator crew did a pretty good job of tidying up and the next day there was little trace on the beach. Just a few barnacles and dead sea lice.

Dead Whale – not easy to shift

That evening in another howling south easterly wind I tried to fish the north side of the Shark Bay rock platform. I cast metal slugs and hard bodies and eventually dropped down to small minnow and other soft plastics. I found a few fish but not what you would expect –  a big pike, butter bream and a few small bream. Finally something crunched through my jighead in the shallows – I suspect a wobbegong.

I am hoping that the wind will stop blowing soon.

Iluka – Shark Bay – 11 June 2015

Thursday

As is so often the case in Iluka – the weather was not easy to deal with. The week before it had looked good with light winds and no rain forecast. I woke up early on Thursday to a howling south-easterly wind and intermittent rain, so I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. That did not really work so I got up, had breakfast and then thought about where to fish in a powerful south-easterly. The northern edge of the rock platform at Shark Bay, at low tide was the only option, so I set off.

The mullet fisherman were waiting at the corner of Shark Bay looking out for some late season schools. Apparently it has been a terrible season. With the big rain events last month flushing out all the fish. One keen fisherman was on his way back from the rocks with a 40 cm tailor in his bag. He had spun it up on an 85 g Raider metal slug, just after dawn.

I spun an 85 g Raider for about 25 casts but could not raise another tailor so I swapped to the light rod and tied on a 1/6th ounce, size 1 hook jighead and GULP Mantis Shrimp soft plastic in the Lime Tiger colour. I was using 16lb fluorocarbon leader. In this area there is a kelp covered drop off about 10 metres out from the edge of the rock platform at low tide. This is where the bream sit. I felt a couple of solid bites as I pulled the soft plastic over the ledge, but did not hook up.

I swapped to 3“Minnow soft plastic in the Smelt colour and kept casting. In exactly the same spot a small bream grabbed it and I had my first fish of the day. It was now about 9.45 am and I was soaked and cold.

The wind had dropped a little so I moved south across the rock platform to fish on the southern edge. This area is full of kelp covered rocks but there are some deep, sandy bottomed holes and I have caught good bream here in the past.

I swapped plastics to a GULP Swimmow in the dark green Emerald Shine colour. This was getting hit on the first cast but it took a while to actually connect with a fish. At about 11.00 am after slowing everything down I connected with another bream. This was a good one – well over 35 cm long. I continued with the Swimmow soft plastic for another 20 mins and was rewarded with another, about the same size.

I swapped back down to a 3“Minnow soft plastic in the Smelt colour and  this produced another big bream, at about 11.30 am.  The rain started again and I decided to give up. It had been a tough session but there had been constant action and I had caught three excellent fish –  the largest of which later measured 38 cm.

Iluka – Shark Bay – 8 Feb 2011

Tuesday

I arrived at Iluka around lunch time and it was raining heavily. I checked into the cabin – too wet for camping – and drifted off to sleep thinking of where to fish that evening. A few hours later I wandered out on to the rocky promontory at the southern corner of Shark Bay. This is a good spot to spin for Tailor in the cooler months, using metal slugs. But at this time of year they can be hard to find. The rain had flattened out the sea and I decided to fish with my light spin rod again – using lighter jig heads and soft plastics lures.

Iluka - Shark Bay - rock promontory

The rain just kept coming and I fished for an hour or so, with little success and plenty of gear lost to the rocks. About 7.00 pm, as it started to get dark, I switched from a 1/4 oz to a 1/6th oz jighead and rigged a GULP 4″ Pearl Watermelon minnow soft plastic. I cast out into the whitewash and bang, a fish grabbed it. There was not much weight to the fish but it used the swell to try to bury its head in the rocks.

Iluka - Shark Bay Bream - 28cm

I pulled it out and wound it in. It was a 28cm Bream but had felt much bigger. I let it go and on the next cast scored another. I caught 3 more over the next half hour, all around the same size and all on the same soft plastic. It was now dark and wet and I was actually feeling cold for the first time in a few months, so I headed home for a hot shower.

Iluka – Shark Bay in the rain – 3 Dec 2010

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Friday
It wasn’t raining at 4.00am Friday – so I walked out on to the rocks in front of Woody Head. I was disappointed to still see a big sea. I tried casting from a few safer spots but after losing four jigheads to the rocks, I decided I needed another plan. I walked along the beach to Shark Bay. It is probably one or two km but at this time of the morning, it was a beautiful stroll. There were big black clouds everywhere but initially, at least, it stayed dry and there was not much wind.
I had swapped my heavy rod for a lighter set up and I was fishing with a 7’6” Nitro 2-4 kg Distance Spin Rod matched with a Shimano Stradic 3000 reel. I had loaded the reel with 3.8 kg Fireline in the yellow colour and tied on about 1.5 metres of 12lb breaking strain fluorocarbon leader. I had decided to fish lighter as I wanted to see if there were any good Bream around. This rig is also quite capable of land the odd small jewfish or Tailor should they show up.
I walked out onto the rock platform at the southern corner of Shark Bay and moved out to the north east corner. I had a few hours in this spot before the incoming tide would force me off. Just as I put in the first cast a shower came over and I was soaked in a few minutes. At least it wasn’t cold.
I started by fishing the GULP 4” Pearl Watermelon minnow soft plastic. This is a great imitation of a pilchard and has proved to be excellent bait in this location. But today I could not raise a bite. Maybe it was the murky water. I switched to one of my new favourites the GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshad in the New Penny colour. I also switched down in weight from a ¼ oz to a 1/6th oz jighead both with 1/0 hooks. This gives me a little less distance when casting but increases the sink time and gives the fish more time to strike. After a few casts with the new rig, a fish slammed the lure at the edge of the kelp covered ledge. I struck hard and then let it have some line. On the next surge I pulled it up through the kelp. It was a nice 36cm Bream. I cast out again and over the next few casts pulled in three smaller fish around the 30cm mark all on the same plastic.
With another rain squall on the horizon and the tide moving up rapidly I decided to head back to the campsite to try to dry out. I would think with all the rain, good Bream would be all around these rocky headlands. The only problem would be finding a safe place to fish for them.

Iluka – Shark Bay – 1 Dec 2010

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Wednesday

It rained all night on Tuesday and most of Wednesday morning. I got up early and surveyed a few rock fishing spots around Woody Head and Iluka Bluff, but the swell had got up during the night and there was really nowhere to fish on the morning high tide. The Clarence River was now a tea coloured soup with lots of debris floating around, so that was not really an option.
I grabbed a cuppa and watched the rain pour down from my tent. Thankfully, it was doing a good job of remaining waterproof. Around 11.00 am the rain eased off and so did the wind. I decided to have a fish in Shark Bay which is a little to the north of Woody Head. There is a low rock promontory in the corner of the bay, which you can walk out to at low tide. On the north east side of the promontory there is a pronounced rock ledge that is covered in kelp. About fifty metres further east there is a partially submerged patch of reef that rises just above sea level, at low tide. As the tide runs in and out, it funnels bait into a twenty to thirty metre channel which is a great area to target all kinds of species. There are often birds smashing into the baitfish in this area but there was no action when I arrived around 11.30 am.

I had my new felt-soled Cloudveil fishing boots on. I prefer these to the rubber booties with studded soles, which I have been using. The felt gives you an excellent grip but the tougher boot also gives good ankle support. To cast out over the kelpy rock ledge you really need to stand about knee deep in the water. You can only really get close enough to it for a couple of hours, either side of low tide. The water was certainly cooler than I expected and definitely much cooler than usual for this time of year – maybe it’s all the rain. I started with soft plastic lures on a 3/8 oz 3/0 hook jighead. I tried a number of shapes in the Pumpkinseed and also a few other colours and apart from a tiny Moses Perch, I did not catch anything.

After an hour or so, I decided to put a metal slug on and have a spin for some Tailor. I put on a 60g Mojiko (Anaconda) slug in a pink/purple colour and started casting. I like the colour of these slugs but I suspect the reason Anaconda can’t give them away, is that after about ten casts, all the colour chips off and you are left with a zinc coloured battered piece of metal. This can still catch fish but it doesn’t look too impressive. I was putting in very long casts, trying to land the slug as close as I could to the exposed reef. With all the kelp and rocks it was very difficult to tell whether I was getting hit or just catching on debris on the retrieve. However after about 50 casts I tried to yank the lure free of what I thought was some kelp and the rod tip started shaking and line started peeling. As the fish came towards the ledge it made a good leap and I could see it was a nice Tailor. It tried to get down under the ledge but I tightened the drag and pulled it over the top and up to my feet. My arms were burning from all the spinning so after a couple of follow up casts, I cleaned up the fish and headed back to camp. After a couple of hours on ice, I ate fresh fried Tailor fillets for dinner. Only one fish – but a good one at about 55cm.