Iluka – Woody Head – 20/21 November 2020

We had great conditions on the Friday and Saturday with an early morning low tide and light wind from the northwest. There was about a metre swell forecast and we were about 5 days past the new moon.

Another early start
Woody Head – the Barnacles

I went straight back to fish “the Barnacles” at Woody Head, through dawn, on Friday. I walked out onto the rock platform at about 4.30 am. The sun was starting to glow below the horizon and the swell was pleasantly light, as forecast.

I started with soft plastics. I find it very difficult to fish a big hard bodied lure in the dark/ twilight. I tend to lose it to the rocks pretty quickly. I was fishing with the heavy rig – Daiwa Demonblood 962H rod, Daiwa TD SOL III LT6000 DH reel, 40lb braid, 40lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a Nitro Saltwater Pro 3/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and loaded it with a GULP 4″ minnow soft plastic in the lime tiger colour.

There are plenty of brands of jigheads out there. It is important to carry a range of weights and hook sizes, so that you can vary your selection according to the swell/wind/terrain and what is biting. Be aware that whilst they all have standard weights (1/4, 3/8, 1/2 ounce, 7,10, 14 grams) marked on them, if you weigh them they are all actually a little different in weight. This is because some include the hook in the weight and some don’t and they vary considerably in their design. There is also the complication of metric vs imperial weights and what they choose to put on the packaging. Strength is an important factor, especially when fishing from the rocks. The Nitro Saltwater Pro jigheads on Owner hooks rarely give at all and are very unlikely to straighten, but if you need a stealthy presentation, for shy fish, they are not the right choice. The kingfish had not been shy around dawn in my last few sessions.

I cast the soft plastic out towards the glowing horizon and saw the bait spook as it landed. I was in the right spot. On the first few casts I tend to rush my retrieves a little as I work out where the submerged ledges start and finish and how far I am likely to be able to cast. After ten minutes I had not had a touch and thought of changing lures. I put in one more cast; about 45 degrees out to the north east of the rock the locals sometimes refer to as “Barnacle Bob”. I left it to sink and counted slowly to ten, then started my retrieve. I felt it rub along the bottom as I lifted it, but on the second hop – the line pulled tight and there was a fish there. It swam fairly slowly towards me and as I wound in, I assumed it was a decent bream. Then it saw the ledge coming or realised it was hooked and took off in a long hard run. The rod tip was pulsing, but not frantically – so it was not a tailor. It made several small arcs and then I landed it with the aid of a wave surge. It was 60cm kingfish.

That started a great morning of fishing with 10 kingfish hook ups over the next few hours, interspersed with a couple of dart and bream. I landed 6 of them. A few times I tried to tempt them with a hard bodied lure and a popper but whilst they would follow the bigger lures, they just would not bite. I swapped back to the soft plastics and I hooked up immediately. The most prolific soft plastics where the GULP 4″ Pink Paddleshad and the GULP 4″ Lime Tiger Minnow. Unfortunately none of the Kingfish were over 65cm, so I released them all.

At about 6.30 am the tide was running in and pushing me back from my favorite spot, so I moved further south along the Woody Head platform to the spot known as “Snapper Rock”. I got snagged and lost my jighead after a few casts and so I picked up my lighter Daiwa Crossfire 1062 rod with a lighter 25lb fluorocarbon leader and 1/4 oz, size 1/0 hook jighead. I put on another Lime Tiger Minnow. I cast out and as the plastic sank a fish ate it and headed straight down into the rocks. I tightened the drag and manage to pull it out. It was a small snapper, about 35 cm long. I threw it back and cast out again. The sea was fairly flat but the wind was now picking up from the north. I kept casting and hooked another kingfish. the fight was longer and harder because of the light rod – these fish just never give up. Eventually I landed it with the help of the swell, and got a fair soaking in the process. At about 7.30 am I gave up battling the wind.

Small Snapper

The next morning the wind was light again from the northwest and there was almost no swell. I started fishing at “the Barnacles” with the GULP 4″ Paddle shad in pink colour. I caught a decent 35cm + bream. It was a very dark colour but pretty fat. I cast all around but the Kingfish were either not there or not eating. A couple of other anglers joined me and we threw every kind of popper, hard body, bait and soft plastic, without success. Then, just before 7.00 am, we saw them feeding on the surface on a school of bait. I hurled a single hooked 40g brass coloured Halco Twisty (metal slug) at them, retrieved it fast and hooked one. It pulled hard but I eventually got it right up to my feet. Then, almost in slow motion the single hook came loose, and it swam away with the next wave.

A great couple of sessions, but the weather was closing in again for a big south-easterly blow, so it was time for a rest.

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Iluka – Woody Head – 14/15 November 2020

Very strong south easterlies had been blowing all week. I had tried a few sheltered spots around Iluka, but had only managed a few bream and small trevally. Everything was just too stirred up and finding anywhere safe to stand was too hard.

The winds dropped off on the Friday and the south easterlies were replaced by a strong northerly wind. This flattened out the seas a little and by lunchtime on Saturday I decided to try fishing at Woody Head. It was an early afternoon low tide at about 2.30 pm. The northerly wind was forecast to fall through the afternoon. The moon would be new on Sunday. The wind was still gusty from the north but the swell had flattened considerably.

I started fishing with my heavier set up – 40lb leader, 40lb braid, casting a DUO Drag Metalcast around. This produced nothing. Then a Gulp Jerkshad (various colours). This produced a 45cm trevally and then a 35cm bream. Initially I was fishing with a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and then on a heavier 3/8th ounce, 2/0 hook jighead, to counteract the fairly strong northerly wind.

I had been casting a GULP Lime Tiger coloured jerkshad around and I was thinking of swapping to a more natural coloured soft plastic when something grabbed the plastic very close. It initially turned to swim away but soon rethought its strategy and headed under the ledge. The drag was pretty tight but the fish didn’t even pause. My braid was soon rubbing on the rocks and then – snap! I re-rigged and tightened the drag, but things seemed to go quiet for a while. The tide was now pushing in quite quickly. I kept casting and the next fish on the scene was a trevally, about 45cm long.

At about 3.30 pm I had moved a little south along the ledge. I dropped down to the light rock fishing rig with 16lb leader and 20lb braid. I cast out a GULP Lime Tiger coloured Crazylegs Jerkshad. This was smacked on the drop and taken straight under the rock ledge – the braid snapped almost instantly. I cursed my impatience and swapped back to the heavy rod with 40lb leader and a 3/8th ounce size 2/0 jighead. I put another GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad on. This paid off and after a few casts something whacked the soft plastic on the drop and took off. Fortunately it decided to swim away from the ledge and this gave me some time. It was powerful but after an initial run I seemed to have it under control. I pulled it up with a wave surge and was delighted to see it was a snapper (later weighed in – gutted and scaled – at 3.8kg)

The next day would be an even lower low tide and I started fishing in the same spot at about 3.00 pm. The swell had continued to drop off and the wind was a light south-easterly. The first taker was a bream. I released it and carried on. About 10 minutes later I felt a fish grab then lure then drop it, a few metres out from the ledge. I cast out again and slowed down my retrieve. Something fast grabbed it and took off with a long run. I got some line back but then it ran again. I tightened the drag and wound like mad as it suddenly turned and decided to swim straight for the ledge. Fortunately, by the time it tried to change its mind, I had virtually locked up the drag and pulled it in on a wave. It was a surprising small (50cm) kingfish. I have only ever caught a few of these and their power and speed always surprises me. I released it, hoping for more, but did not get any.

Kingfish fight very hard

I moved further south to where I had caught the snapper the day before. I was temporarily out of the Crazylegs Jerkshads so I found a 6″ GULP Squid Vicious in the New Penny colour and cast that out. It was now almost 5.00pm and the tide was running in. On about the third cast I thought I had the bottom, then it started wriggling and took off. One long solid run and then a couple of head shakes but no real power (compared to the kingfish). It was decent school jewfish and I was able to successfully pull it up to my feet. It was just over 75 cm long and so it joined the snapper in the fridge.

A couple of great sessions once the weather allowed me to get to the fish, lets hope it stays calm for a while.

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Iluka – Woody Head – Finally a Snapper – 13 December 2011

Tuesday

The weather was so miserable the next day that I actually had a lie in. When I say lie in – I mean, I woke up at sunrise, rather than an hour before! The grey skies and rain meant that sunrise was a little hard to pin point. The rain was coming over in regular, but not very heavy showers. By now there had been enough to make the river very dirty. The wind was dropping off so the swell was easing. On Sunday I had walked round to Middle Bluff. It was a clear dawn and initially things looked promising. But as I rigged up a couple of big waves came crashing through and I realized that it was not going to work. Every 20 minutes or so a really massive set would come through and completely soak the rock platform!

By Tuesday I was ready to try again and the swell definitely seemed to have eased. I walked out on to the rocks in front of Woody Head at about 4.45 am, as the sky was beginning to lighten. The swell had dropped right back and there was a very light south easterly breeze. Low tide had been at about 4.30 am. So I had a couple of hours to fish left before the tide started to get too high. I started with 65g Raider metal slug and cast it out, all around the area known as ‘the Barnacles’, on the eastern side of the Woody Head platform. After 25 casts, I had not had a touch so I switched to a 5” Gulp Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I rigged it on a ½ oz, 3/0 hook jighead. I was fishing with my heavy rod – the 9’6” Daiwa Demon Blood with 30lb braid and a 30lb fluorocarbon leader on the Shimano Stradic 6000 reel. I could not find any fish here and the swell was still giving me a soaking every now and then, so I moved south, along the front of the rock platform. I cast wherever I could and, predictably lost plenty of jigheads to the rocks.

I stopped for a while at an area known as the ‘Jew hole’ and swapped down to a shorter GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I was trying to put something out that was more similar to the Whitebait that I knew were everywhere. This got results almost instantly with a couple of solid bites and then a good run but no hook up. About ten minutes later I had a fish on, it was another Salmon and after a couple of jumps and a brief fight it shook itself off the hook.

I moved further south and rigged up a GULP 5” Crazylegs Jerkshad soft plastic in the Curry Chicken colour. I was still using the ½ oz, 3/0 jighead. I started to cast out as far as I could, to give the lure plenty of time on the bottom before it got washed in to the rocks. I felt a couple of grabs at the base of the rocks and then a solid bite but still no hook up. It was almost time to go and the swell was picking up again after the calm around dawn. I put in a long cast and counted to twenty. When I lifted the rod I felt a bit of resistance and then all hell broke loose and the reel was screaming. There was a long initial run, out to sea – and then it turned back towards the rocks and I had to wind hard to keep up. It was too fast for a Jew but not mad enough to be a Salmon or a Tailor.

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It gradually slowed and after a few more runs, I tightened the drag and got it up on a ledge below with the help of the swell. Luckily it wedged itself into the rocks and did not wash back out with the receding wave. I looked to see what was coming and then slid down slowly, grabbed the leader and pulled it up. It was a good size Snapper – 3.8kg and somewhere between 60 and 70cm long. I was delighted. After almost a week of pretty mediocre weather and limited fishing opportunities I was holding the biggest Snapper I have ever caught. I am told they are often caught off this platform on fresh squid baits and early morning is always the most successful time.

That was enough for one day and with my heart still racing, knees wobbling and hands shaking. I gathered up my gear and walked back, noisily, through the camp site.