New Caledonia – Nepoui and Temrock – May 2018

New Caledonia – May 2018

In early May I had to visit New Caledonia for work reasons. I had never been before but had heard the fishing was amazing so I took along a rod, a few hard bodies and a few packets of GULP soft plastics. When travelling you are fairly limited in what you can bring so I chose my 6’6” 2- 4 kg Berkley Dropshot, two-piece rod with my trusty Shimano Stella 2500. This is not a very heavy-duty setup but it is a good all-rounder.

New Caledonia is a French territory in the Pacific. It is made up of one large and a number of smaller islands surrounded by fringing reefs. Between the outer reef and the shoreline, calm tidal lagoons hold plenty of fish amongst mini reefs, sandy bottom and sea grass beds. These lagoons can be huge but many are protected so you need to check where you can fish.

I was working near the town of Nepoui, half way up the main island on the west coast, for the first few days. On the instructions of the locals I took my rod down to the jetty after work, at about 4.00 pm. Their instructions were simple – cast anywhere off that jetty and you will hook up. It sounded too good to be true, but they were right. I put a GULP Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken (Black & Purple colour) on a ¼ ounce jighead and cast it out on 30lb main line and 20lb leader. I let it sink down to what I thought was the bottom and then bounced it along for a couple of hops.  On about the fifth hop, the rod bent over and line started peeling. I immediately realised I had brought the wrong rod with me. The fish headed away from the jetty and I tightened the drag but it hardly slowed. It soon became apparent I needed to tighten the drag more or get spooled. I wound the drag down and the leader snapped. I upped my leader to 30 lb and tried again. This time I started with much more drag pressure. I cast about four or five more times in roughly the same area and then I hooked up again. The fish swam out to sea but this time after a long initial run I got some line back and settled in to about 10 minutes of back and forth until I saw a small (50 to 60 cm) giant trevally coming towards the surface. It was well hooked but I was never going to be able to pull it up the side of the jetty and as soon as I tried, the jighead hook bent and it swam away.

I decided to change position and fish at the edge of the jetty, on the mainland, from the rockwall. This way I would have a better chance of landing the fish when I hooked up. There were thick schools of bait around the jetty pylons and I cast at these and let my soft plastic flutter down in the current. After about ten minutes I was onto a fish again. It felt very fast as it too headed straight for the open sea. It took about 15 metres of line on the first run then leapt clear of the water – it was a small queenfish. With the light rod I could not really put any pressure on but I manage to exhaust it eventually and grab it at the base of the rocks. I took a couple of pics and speared it back in to the water.

For the next few days I was staying at the Sheraton Domaine De Deva Resort at Bourail. The lagoon and reef in front of the resort is a Unesco World Heritage site and fishing is not allowed but I followed a four-wheel drive track about 10 kms north of the resort to the Plage a Temrock, where fishing is allowed. At Temrock a deeper channel comes in close to the shore and the locals told me this was where the really big ‘carangue geante’ (giant trevally) hang out.

I arrived in the late afternoon as the tide was running out. I met a couple of local lads who were casting big poppers out into the channel. My French is poor but through broken English they explained they fished a lot here but rarely stopped the big ‘carangue’. They explained they fight too hard and there is too much coral for them to rub through a leader.  They were hoping to catch a mackerel which they like to eat and have more chance of stopping.

I moved back from the point and fished in slightly shallower water on the edge of the channel. I was casting in between big brain corals that were almost exposed by the falling tide. As the sun dropped I caught a small tea leaf trevally on a soft plastic shrimp and then another, this time it was a ‘big eye’. It was now dusk. I was retrieving the soft plastic fairly quickly and fishing with a lighter, 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and a Lime Tiger coloured Jerkshad soft plastic. On about my third cast with the new plastic, I watched as a huge bow wave came up behind it and a silver shape turned on top of it, swallowed and ran. The reel screamed briefly and then the leader snapped, either on the fish’s teeth or the coral. I gave up for the day.

The next morning, I was back with 30lb leader and my toughest jigheads. The tide was running out and from the first cast I caught fish. In fact, the fish were destroying the soft plastics if I let them settle for too long. I caught a raft of multicoloured reef fish; a Robinsons sea bream, a yellow tailed emperor, several brightly coloured species I could not name and then a few very thick and toothy barracuda.

New Caledonia fishing

As the tide receded I perched ankle deep in water on a coral bommy and started casting into a slightly deeper channel. The trevally soon turned up. It was now around midday but the bite did not slow. I was almost out of soft plastics so I swapped to a small hard bodied vibe lure. Almost as soon as this one hit the water it was slammed. I kept the drag tight and wound like mad, straight from the start. I lost the first one to the coral but I managed to turn the head of the second one and eventually, pull it to my feet. As I fiddled around in my fishing bag for some pliers to release it, a big eel poked its head up through a crack in the coral and grabbed its tail. I held the leader and pulled hard but the eel won the fight and I lost another lure.

I tied on another small vibe lure and started casting again. Things seemed to go a little quiet. Then I noticed a light grey shape swim slowly past the base of the bommy in front of me. It was a shark of some kind and was followed by two more. I assume the eel was eating the trevally in its lair below me and this had brought the sharks in. They were between two and three meters long and I was a little unsettled. The water beside the coral outcrop I was standing on was about waist deep and it was now about twenty metres to the shoreline. The sharks circled and then one smashed into something on the surface about 20 metres away. Then it all went quiet again.

Despite the excitement, I had suddenly lost my desire to catch any more fish. I waited on the top of the coral for another 15 minutes, and then decided I would slip quietly into the water and wade calmly, quickly and quietly to the shore. I waited another ten minutes until I was certain they had moved on. I then jumped off the bommy and ran as fast as I ever have, splashing loudly, until I had two feet in dry sand.

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Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 11 October 2016

Tuesday

Monday had been pretty good so I decided to go back up to Bribie on Tuesday morning. Low tide would be about an hour later, at 10.30 am. There was not much tidal flow as the moon was not really doing much. This time I chose the oyster jetty flats on the mainland sided of the Pumicestone Passage.

It was another hot, clear morning but with a little more northerly wind, when I arrived at about 8.00am. I was still fishing with my short, fast action G.Loomis trout rod and 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I tied on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and put on a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour.

I was just south of the bridge and once more the first taker was a long tom. These fish are tricky to hook. They have plenty of teeth and usually the bigger ones thrash around until they slice through your line or shake the hook loose. This on managed to wrap the light line thoroughly around its snout. I untangled it and released it.

I moved south and swapped soft plastics to a GULP Cajun Chicken Jerkshad. This black and pink lure seems to stir things up sometimes probably because it is such high contrast. I was now well to the south of the old oyster jetty. I felt a slid thump, dropped the rod tip and paused. When I lifted it the fish was on and the hook pushed home. It took off and felt like a pretty good flathead. It later measured 58cm. I took a few underwater shots with my new camera. This is a fairly hit and miss operation when you are not swimming with them!

I carried on moving south and caught another 30 cm flathead about 3 casts later. After another 30 minutes I swapped to a GULP Satay Chicken Jerkshad and not long afterwards I caught another 50cm plus flathead. As the tide stopped running the action slowed. I caught three more smaller flathead before giving up at about 11.00 am.

Brooms Head – 3 October 2015

Saturday

On Saturday we were heading back to Brisbane. The looming thought of returning to work forced a right turn at Brooms Head. This coastal area in the Yuraygir National Park is a land-based fisherman’s paradise. There are plenty of estuaries, rocky headlands and beaches to choose from. You can catch all the common species; tailor, kingfish, mulloway, trevally, dart, bream, whiting and flathead.

We drove up to the Brooms Head lookout. It was a beautiful day and just as we arrived a whale and its calf swam by, stopping for a brief tail slapping session.

Brooms HeadBrooms Head fishingMagnificent view from the lookout

It was just about lunch time but I could not resist getting the fishing rod out and clambering down the rocks for a quick cast. I put on a small soft plastic and felt a few small bream bites, close to the foot of the rocks. After about twenty minutes, I pulled up a tiny wriggling tusk fish of some kind.

The sun was out, the water was crystal clear and I could have stayed here another week – but unfortunately there are bills to pay.

Hat Head – Connors Beach – 1 October 2015

Thursday

Thursday was another clear warm morning. It had rained overnight but the wind had disappeared and there was only a light northerly blowing when I woke up.

I walked round to the corner of Connors Beach again. I started at about 5.30 am with a large River2Sea Dumbbell Popper. This produced nothing so I swapped down to a 65g Raider metal slug. This also could not find any fish.

I swapped down to my Daiwa Air Edge Surf 96 L rod and put on a 1/6th ounce, #1/0 hook jighead and dropped down to 12lb fluorocarbon leader. I loaded the jighead with a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the pearl watermelon colour. After a few slow retrieves I felt some good bites. The tide was running out and there was a strong current pushing water along a pronounced gutter, at the base of the rocks. I let the soft plastic sink in the fast moving current and the when I lifted the rod tip I had a fish on it. It was a 25 cm bream. The next cast yielded another one – slightly bigger.

Things went quiet for a few casts. Then, at about 6.15 am something grabbed the soft plastic at the base of the rocks and tried to bury itself. It was not particularly quick but it was much more powerful than the bream. It wedged itself down between some rocks so I loosened the drag and gave it some slack. A few moments later, it swam out and I landed it. It was a fairly solid Spotted Hind – a pretty fish that does not taste much good – so I let it go. By about 7.30 am I was not getting any bites so I gave up for the morning.

At about 3.30 pm I came back for an afternoon session. After a few casts the first taker, on the same light rig and soft plastic, was another bream. It was followed by two more – neither was much more than 25cm long and the third one looked like it had been in the wars.

As the sun dropped and we moved closer to 5.00 pm, I tied on a small 45g cheap, cream painted metal slug. I cast out to the north east, in the direction of a patch of semi-submerged rocks. I wound it in fairly quickly and saw a couple of swirls come up behind it, about 15 metres from the shore. I carried on casting for about 20 minutes, varying the speed of the retrieve. I could now see the tailor following the slug in, but they would not bite.

Just as the sun was setting at about 5.30 pm I felt a solid bite and then the rod tip bent over. I dropped the first tailor a few metres from the shore. A few casts later I had another on and this time it was solidly hooked. I landed it and released it. I connected with a couple more but did not land them and at about 6.00 pm, I gave up.

It had been a great week of fishing at Hat Head. The scenery is truly fantastic and I will certainly be back.

Bribie – The old oyster jetty flats – 31 October 2014

Friday

On Friday I was back on home turf and had a few hours clear in the morning. I set the alarm for 4.00 am and drove up to Bribie to see what I could find. I passed through a few showers on the way up from Brisbane, but by the time I waded out under the bridge, at about 5.00 am, the rain had stopped.  The tide would be running out and would be low at 8.20 am. There was not much of a sunrise but the sky was getting lighter, as I waded south towards the old oyster jetty. I was fishing with my light spin rig – Loomis TSR rod, Shimano Stella 2500 reel, 10lb braid and 10lb fluorocarbon leader.

I started by fishing with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. This is always what I start with when I am not sure what to start with. It’s a consistent performer and looks just like a small pilchard or mullet.  I was using a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0  hook jighead. At about 6.15 am, I was 30 metres to the south of the jetty, I felt the tug of a flathead, dropped the rod tip and paused. I lifted and hooked it. It was a decent fish just over 50cm, I photographed and released it.

The clouds thickened and I got a light soaking. I waded further south. The bites were few and far between. I swapped to a GULP Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken colour and this produced a bite on the first cast. I threw it back in the same direction and paused for a little longer. This time I hooked it. It was a small flounder. I have never really found one big enough to eat here, but I live in hope.

By about 7.00 am I had reached a point about half way to the green channel marker. I was hopping the jerkshad along the bottom towards me. Just as it reached me a flathead popped up and engulfed it. It turned as it tried to swallow and hooked itself. It was a very solid fish, so I let it take some line and started slowly wading back to the sand bank, behind me. It pulled hard but after a few determined runs it gave up and came with me. It was a great flathead probably just under 70 cm. I took a few pictures and released it.

I returned to about the same spot and swapped to a GULP Jerkshad in the Orange Tiger colour. After a few more cast, this lure caught another 45cm flathead and, a few casts later, a slightly smaller one. It was now about 7.30 am so I waded back towards the bridge. I caught two more very small flathead on the way.

By 8.00 am  with more rain threatening and a slowing tide, I gave up.

Bribie – the old oyster jetty flats – 8 March 2014

Saturday

After an extraordinary session on Friday, I had to get back up to Bribie again to fish the low tide. Fortunately, I could squeeze in a session on Saturday morning. The wind was forecast to be pretty lively again, with a couple of tropical cyclones hovering off the coast, up north. Low tide would be at 8.40 am. The moon was a week away from full.

I arrived just after first light at about 5.30 am. I ran into Matt, another keen fisho who had had the same idea. We walked out towards the old oyster jetty and swapped a few fishing stories. He headed south along the sandbank towards the channel marker and I settled on a spot just to the south of the jetty.

It took a while to find the fish. The sun came over the horizon and the wind started to pick up. The tide was running out quickly. I started by fishing with a GULP Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken on a 1/8th 2/0 jighead. I was using my G.Loomis TJR fast action, light spin rod and a 15lb Super PE braid and 10lb fluorocarbon leader. At about 6.20 am I dropped a small flathead, but on the next cast, I felt the bite and paused. When I lifted, the fish was attached.

Now I had found the fish and I caught a fish on almost every cast for the next 30 minutes.  A hot bite is a great time to experiment. A gent named Charles Talman from Mount Gambier in South Australia makes his own soft plastics and recently was kind enough to send me some to try out. There were plenty of prawns jumping so I decided to start by rigging up one of his 4” Shrimp soft plastics. These plastics do not quite have the finesse of the major brands, but as you will see from the pictures, they are cleverly designed and have good actions and texture – both essential characteristics. I rigged the first one on a 1/8th ounce, 2/0 jighead and cast it out. I knew the fish were here but I wasn’t sure they would go for it. There was no need to worry – half way into the retrieve a fish hit it. I dropped the rod tip and paused. About five seconds later, I struck and I pulled up a flathead, about 45cm long. A few casts later, I caught another. Over the next hour, they kept coming. I cycled through a couple more of Charles’ lures and then put in a GULP 4” Shrimp in the Natural colour. There was no difference in the catch rate between the two types of shrimp soft plastic.

I now decided to try the DUO Tetraworks Koikakko tiny hard bodied squid imitations. These are made with the usual DUO care and attention to detail. They can be used in deep water as a jig or hopped across the bottom like a traditional sinking hard body. They are only 34mm long and weigh 4.6g. They are ideal to cast across the flats in crystal clear water, on light leaders and will tempt almost any species.  I knew there had been a lot of small squid around this area so I thought they would be perfect. My only concern was that perhaps they would be too small for the flathead to notice. I checked my knots and decided to slow everything down and increase the pauses on the bottom.

Success was not immediate, but after about 15 minutes I saw a flathead come up behind the lure and then turn away at the last minute. I cast back in the same spot and left the lure on the bottom for about 20 seconds. On the second hop, I felt the violent thud of a flathead mouth crunch down on my lure. The fish took the lure and slowly swam away with it. It took a while for it to register that this was not an ordinary squid and when I lifted the rod tip to ensure the tiny treble was lodged, it took off.

It was obviously bigger than the small flathead that had swiped at the lure on the previous retrieve and it made couple of blistering runs out towards open water. You cannot muscle a fish with the fast and flexible G.Loomis TJR rod. It absorbs the lunges beautifully but you have to be patient and let the reel’s drag do the rest. I have traded up the single tiny treble hook on the DUO Tetraworks Koikakko for a slightly tougher Gamakatsu version. I waded back to the shoreline with the fish. It was tired now, but as we reached the shallows, it continued to try and turn and then shake its head. I pulled it across the weed in the shallows and on to the sandbank. It was the biggest fish of the day – a 68cm flathead. I released this one and carried on fishing.

The Koikakko lure caught plenty more flathead and its tiny size did not seem to have much bearing on the size of fish it attracted.  By low tide I had five good fish in the keeper bag – all between 50 cm. and 60cm.

By 9.00 am, the wind was howling and making it pretty hard to fish. I decided to finish the session with a couple more of Mr Talman’s soft plastics. I particularly like his small, three legged monster – not sure what it is but the flathead love it. I lost the green version to a fish that wrapped itself around an abandoned crab pot.  Fortunately, there was also a fluorescent gold/creamy coloured one, so I re-rigged with this. The flathead could not resist and I caught about 5 more, all good sized fish, on this soft plastic lure. I finished up with a 5” worm in a green colour. This also delivered and after a few casts it connected with a 50cm flathead.

 

I am not really sure why the fish have suddenly appeared but I hope they hang around for a while. I’ll be back.

1770 – Baffle Creek – Deepwater Creek – 4 September 2013

Wednesday

From Gayndah I drove north to Agnes Waters/ 1770 for the important part of the trip. Unfortunately the weather messed up my plans. No rain this time but a howling south-easterly blow.

I decided to do some exploring around Baffle Creek. I started on Wednesday morning at Flat Rock on Baffle Creek. There are a few submerged rock bars in this area. I walked out onto one in the pre-dawn light and cast a few soft plastics along the edge of the Mangroves.

Just after first light I caught a decent Bream – about 32 cm long, but as the sun came up everything went quiet. I moved down to the flats to the south of the boat ramp and cast around with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I had a few hits in the shallows but I could not hook up. I slowed the retrieve and caught a small flounder.

I carried on for an hour but I could not catch anything more, so I decided to switch locations. I drove into Deepwater National Park and decided to stop and fish along Deepwater Creek. This is a long meandering waterway that works its way out to the sea near Rules Beach. It is fresh at the top end but then flows over a small weir to meet the salty water. It is shallow and tannin stained but there are a few deep holes.

I swapped down to very light gear – 8lb leader and 1/8th, 1 hook jighead and a 3” GULP Crazylegs shad in the smelt colour. After all the rain earlier in the year, there was plenty of water in the system, but it was not running over the weir. I stopped at a few breaks in the vegetation on the bank and put in a few casts – no luck.

I followed a track off the road, down to the weir itself and decided to cast at the snags along the banks. There was plenty of bait close to the bank and something was lunging at it, periodically. I cast in close to the snags and lost a few jig heads.

After about an hour of peppering the area, I had not had a touch. I was about to give up. I cast in, under an overhanging branch, a few inches from the bank. The lure started to sink and there was a tail splash as something engulfed it. It took off hard for mid-stream. Then it leapt out of the water and I could see it was a small Barramundi.

It calmed down and I pulled it up onto the concrete. I was delighted to have my first barramundi. It was sitting on the salty side of the weir and was a golden bronze colour. I did not measure it but it was about 40 cm long. I took a few photos and sent it on its way. It was just before noon.

The wind had forced me to spend time exploring and it had paid off.