It was back to the southwall at Ballina for my first fishing session in February. I arrived a few minutes after first light and walked out to the wall. I arrived at the end of the wall just before sunrise and started off fishing on the ocean side. I started with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour on a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I caught a small bream, and then another. It’s amazing how often that first cast produces a fish. A few casts later I lost the end of the jerkshad to something fast – presumably a tailor.
There was a bit too much swell at the end of the wall and as the sun came up so did the north easterly wind. It it is quite disturbing how many of the huge concrete lumps have been broken down by the swell over the summer.
I decided to retreat a little and fish the river side of the wall. I caught more small bream and the foul hooked a small tailor. I cast the remains of the soft plastic back out and caught another small tailor. It was bleeding and hooked in its guts so I decided to offer it to the osprey. I broke its neck and left it in the middle of the path, while I re-rigged. Not more than a minute later I saw the shadow of the bird coming over me for a look. The gulls fussed over the fish but they could not lift it. The osprey made three circuits before swooping down and grabbing the fish. I watched it fly off down to a log on the beach to the south.
The wind was howling so at about 9.30 am I gave up and walked back to the car. I am looking forward to a calmer swell so I can fish the end of the wall soon.
In February I started the month with a couple of morning sessions fishing along the Ballina river bank, close to the centre of town. If you follow the riverside walkway that runs parallel with the main high street you often see big schools of bait fish hanging close to the rocky banks. I worked my way along, casting soft plastics. I caught a couple of small bream and then a few small flathead. The air was still, hot and humid and the water was very clear.
A few days later the rain started and didn’t really stop for a week. The weather turned wild and fresh water poured off the parched paddocks into the estuaries. It looked like the drought was breaking. I went down to the Brunswick River but it was a brown frothy soup.
During a few breaks in the weather I drove down to Ballina to look around. The Richmond was also running brown, full of sediment and other rubbish. There were quite a few dead juvenile flathead, bream and other species floating in the flotsam and jetsam.
When the rain finally stopped it was clear I would have to fish in the ocean as the estuaries would stay dirty and full of fresh water for some time. By the middle of the month the swell had dropped off sufficiently to try fishing at Snapper Rocks at Broken Head. I started by trying to cast soft plastics over the froth churned up by the storms. There was also a lot of weed to contend with, especially when I let the soft plastic reach the bottom. Despite the obstacles, I caught a few dart using a 3 inch GULP minnow soft plastic weighted on a 1/4 ounce jighead. I stuck with the lime tiger colour as this seems to be a favorite with the dart.
A few days later with a light swell I was back in the same spot. I was casting soft plastics again and the dart were there again. I caught a few but then got bitten off by something more aggressive. I changed my leader from 16lb to 25lb flurocarbon and after a few more casts I hooked a tailor, which wriggled off as I tried to pull it up to my feet. Finally, about 20 minutes later I landed one, it was about 45cm long. I caught one more, a little smaller, but then they were gone. I tried a metal slug for a bit but did not get any hits. I swapped back to the GULP Minnow and started casting over to the south and letting the soft plastic float down slowly beside the base of the rocks. I had a couple of hits (presumably from the dart or bream) and then something took off with the lure. It was pulling hard so I tightened the drag a little and just wound in as fast as I could. After a couple of runs a decent trevally came into view. With the aid of the swell I pulled it clear of the rocks and up to my feet.
The next day I was back, to fish the last few hours of the run out tide. I started with a 40 gram metal slug but soon swapped back the same set up that had produced fish the day before; the GULP Lime Tiger Minnow soft plastic on a 1/4 ounce size 1/0 hook jighead. This turned the fish on and I caught a dart and then a couple of tailor in quick succession. I fished on and had a few more bites but after a couple of hours I was about to pack up. Just a few more casts and bang zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz – another trevally. This one did its best to bury itself in the cunjevoi covered rocks. We had a fair fight and I thought I had lost it but fortunately it untangled itself and I landed it.
That was it for the day but this is definitely a great spot to fish when there is little swell.
Unfortunately it was a disappointing morning’s fishing at Bribie Island. The fish are there but the wind and weed are conspiring to make them very hard to catch. The wind was forecast at 10 to 15 knots from the south-east, but when I arrived at the island jetty around 5.15 am, it was blowing at least 20 knots from the south-west. A few brave souls had been fishing off the jetty since about 1.00 am, but all they had to show for their efforts was a thick carpet of ‘snot’ weed. The wind was building so I decided to go back to fish under the bridge – where conditions would be a little calmer.
Windy and weedy - Bribie Island
The tide had just turned and was beginning to run in. This added to the weed problem. Almost every cast, the jighead and plastic ended up covered in weed. After a couple of nudges and touches, I caught the first fish of the day, in close to the bridge pylons. It was a small Tailor around 20 cm long. I was fishing with a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour, on a 1/6th 1 jighead. I had a few more bites here and even found a couple of Pike.
Bribie Bridge - typical size Choppa
As the sky began to light up, I moved back down to the mouth of the tidal lagoon near Buckley’s Hole. By now, I could only just cast over the edge of the big drop off, as the tide was coming in, fast. It was pretty choppy and the swell was building. Every other cast was still covered in weed, but eventually I felt a decent hit and some good head shakes and I had another Tailor. This one was about 35cm long and it had grabbed a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Pumpkinseed colour. I released it and carried on wading south, along the shoreline. The wind was still blowing hard and the tide was pushing me further and further away from where I wanted to fish, so at about 7.30 am – I gave up. I have had enough of the wind and weed!
Unfortunately the requirement to feed my family (they want to eat something other than fish) has resulted in a pause in my fishing reports. This morning I had an opportunity to get back out there and even though the wind was up (south-westerly at about 15 knots) and it was only 5 Celsius , I drove up to Bribie Island in search of fish.
I had a couple of casts under the bridge, on the island side, just before dawn with a GULP 2” Shrimp soft plastic, but got no touches. As the sun started to light up the sky, I headed down to the mouth of the tidal lagoon in front of Buckley’s Hole. I waded out towards the drop off at about 6.30am. I carried on fishing with the GULP 2” Shrimp in the Pepper Prawn colour, mounted on a 1/6th 1 hook jighead. I was using 10lb Fluorocarbon leader tied on to 10lb breaking strain braid.
I could not find the Flathead but at about 7.00 am, just to the south of the mouth of the drain I caught a good Bream, around 30cm long. I few casts later I caught another, smaller Bream. The Pike seem to have disappeared from this area at the moment – not sure why.
I waded further south. The wind was very cold but was beginning to drop off. The tide was running out strongly – high tide had been at about 4.30 am. I waded, casting all around, all the way down to the corner with Red Beach. After about an hour, all I had caught were a couple of 20 cm Flathead, so I turned around and walked back to the north.
I soon found myself back at the mouth of the Buckley’s Hole drain. The tide had slowed down and I had switched to a 3” Minnow soft plastic in the Pepper Prawn colour, rigged on a lighter, 1/8th 1 hook jighead. I felt a couple of hard hits and then I hooked a fish. The rapid rod tip movement showed it was a Tailor. I unhooked it and took a quick picture before releasing it. It was just under the legal size at about 28cm. Over the next hour I caught three more that where all around the same size. They took both natural and brightly coloured plastics. It seemed like a small school was moving up and down along the coffee rock ledge, which runs parallel with the shore at this point.
By 9.30 am I was too cold to carry on, so I packed up and drove back to Brisbane. I released all the fish today.