Iluka – Woody Head – 15 June 2021

We had some heavy rain in mid-June. I decided to spend a week at Iluka. When I arrived the water in the Clarence River was surprisingly clear but the water around the headlands was very cloudy. The swell was reasonably light so on my first morning I fished at Woody Head. I started by casting a metal slug all through the pre-dawn period. I hooked and then dropped one decent fish before sun up which I presume was a tailor.

As the sun rose in the sky. I swapped to my lighter rock fishing rod and reel and cast 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 jighead around, loaded with various GULP soft plastics. As is often the case, as soon as I dropped down the light tackle a tailor struck. I held on to it long enough for it to jump and then it was gone. I kept fishing and found a solid bream and a small striped trevally but at the end of four hours I had nothing to take home.

Its never easy!

Iluka – Middle Bluff/ Woody Head – Late February 2021

I managed to get down to Iluka again in late February. The rain was forecast to clear up for a week or so. The river would still be a brown mess but if the swell played ball I could probably catch some decent fish from the various headlands of the Bundjalung National Park.

On Saturday and Sunday 27/28th of February I fished at Middle Bluff just to the north of Frazers Reef, in the mornings and then at Woody Head, for the mid afternoon low tides, in the afternoons. The wind was fairly light in the mornings but built up through the day and turned northerly or north easterly. There was a southerly swell still coming through with some big sets every 10 minutes, so as usual I had to watch where I stood. The moon was full on the Saturday so there was plenty of tidal run.

I caught some great sunrises. But the net result was a lot of casting of hard bodies, metal slugs and big and small soft plastics for not many fish: A few small bream, one dawn chopper tailor and one small striped trevally at Middle Bluff. One decent tailor, a big run and bust off and a very small trevally at Woody Head.

Fishing the full moon can be hard and the recent big rains had really stirred things up – this can also be good or bad. It was time for a day off to reflect on my strategy.

Iluka – Middle Bluff/Frasers Reef – 27 November 2020

The swell dropped off again for a few days and rock fishing looked possible at Iluka. High tide would be around 7.30 am, so I decided to fish through the dawn and the beginning of the run out at Middle Bluff. The moon was in its waxing gibbous phase, a few days off full. The swell was forecast to be about 1.1 metres and the wind would be a very light north-westerly through dawn. I have mentioned many times before that I have caught a lot of my better fish in the 30 to 40 minutes between first light and dawn. So early nights are a central part of my fishing ritual. It is also best to set up your rods and reels the night before, if you can.

Dawn at Frasers Reef – Iluka

I walked out on to the beach at Frasers Reef in the dark at about 4.30 am with one of the planets (not sure which) shining brightly, just above the horizon. The moon had set behind me about an hour earlier. I headed walked north to the far end of the rock platform at Middle Bluff. The night sky is amazing in the Bundjalung National Park as there is virtually no artificial light coming from urban settlements or street lighting.

I started casting with the heavier of my two fishing set ups, the  Daiwa Demonblood 962H rod, Daiwa TD SOL III LT6000 DH reel, 40lb braid, 40lb fluorocarbon leader and a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I put on a GULP Jerkshad soft plastic in the Satay Chicken colour ( yellow belly with a pumpkinseed coloured back). I dropped the soft plastic down close to the ledge and paused, once I felt it was on the bottom. I twitched it along and on about my third or fourth cast I hooked a fish. It was a small school jewfish/ mulloway about 60 cm long. I walked it along the shore to some stepped ledges where I could pull it up by the leader. I photographed it and then sent it on its way. I walked back to the original spot straightened the soft plastic on the jighead and dropped it down in front of the ledge, again. One hop off the bottom and I had another bite. The fish tried to take off out to sea but after one significant charge I turned its head back to the shore and a few moments later, I landed it. It was a little bigger than the first mulloway.

I had managed two fish before sunrise. The last one had destroyed the soft plastic jerkshad so I put on a slightly smaller GULP 4″ Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. I fished all along the rock platform for the next hour and had a few touches and bites from smaller fish and changed the soft plastic several times. I caught the jighead in the rocks and had to snap the leader and re-rig several times. This is why my fish works out at about $200/ kilo.

Things had gone a little quiet so I dropped down to the lighter rod – Daiwa Crossfire 1062 matched with my Shimano Stella 4000, now spooled with 30lb braid and a 25lb fluorocarbon leader. I stuck with the Lime Tiger coloured minnow soft plastic and 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead.

Just after six, a fish grabbed the soft plastic, close to the ledge and took off under the rocky overhang. Typical trevally behaviour – and that is what it was – and an angry looking one. I felt the line rubbing on the rocks and flicked the bail arm open and hoped it might swim out. I waited for about 30 seconds and then flicked it back over, tightened the drag and wound hard. The fish came clear and was now worn out. I towed it along to a lower ledge and pulled it out by the leader. I love to eat fresh trevally, and this size makes a good meal (it was about 45 cm). I despatched the fish, bled and cleaned it in a rock pool.

The leader was not damaged so I cast out again to see what else might be around. The trawlers had been struggling to find good prawns. There were plenty of small ‘schoolies’ around the river mouth but no big ones. The trevally had a stomach full of these small prawns. I kept casting and about 30 minutes later the line pulled tight and a fish had eaten the minnow soft plastic, again. I only had the light rod and so the fish felt pretty solid. It was another mulloway and landing it was a bit of a process. It put in two good runs and then got tired and surrendered. However with the 25lb leader I could not really risk a big lift our of the water. Fortunately teh swell was now fairly light and predictable so I kept the line tight and jumped down to a lower ledge, between wave sets, and let it wash up to my feet.

I measured it against the rod handle and was pretty sure it was a keeper. I then grabbed it and put it in a rock pool, out of reach of the swell. I measured up at about 73cm – perfect eating size, so it too was sent to meet its maker and joined the trevally in the rock pool.

At about 7.30 am the wind was already blowing hard from the north and making fishing difficult, soI packed up. There would be fish for supper for a few days.

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Evans River – Evans Head – Mid October 2020

There were more big winds and swell in October. Having slowed slightly for the European summer, COVID 19 was continuing its spread around the world and picking up pace, so international travel and any paid work looked a very long way off for me. At least I was not ‘confined to barracks’ like the entire population of Melbourne.

I gave up on the rocks and looked for alternatives. I decided to explore the land based fishing options along the Evans River at Evans Head on the Far North Coast of New South Wales. This is a beautiful estuary. It is wide and shallow very near its mouth, but there are some deep channels, holes and rockbars up river. It can be very busy at holiday times and when the seas are up, so mid-week is the best time to fish it.

I put in three sessions which were mainly aimed at getting to know the terrain. On the first, I fished a couple of coffee rock overhangs on the southern riverbank, about 1 km upstream of the rockwall and river mouth. I used my light spinning combo with 10lb fluorocarbon leader, 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and loaded a GULP 3″ Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I let this flutter down in the fairly strong current. The idea was to hop it down the shallow side of the river bed (in this case the opposite bank) and leave it wobbling on the bottom just under the overhang. This resulted in a snagging a couple of jigheads/ plastics but also in getting a couple of good bites. There was plenty of bait hanging around in the eddies. My first take was a very small bream, followed by a very small flathead. I moved further down towards the mouth and cast into any of the darker/ deeper pools. I felt a few quick bites and eventually hooked a small trevally before giving up at dead low tide, in the early afternoon.

For the second session a few days later, I fished the morning run out tide a little further up the northern bank of the river. Initially, with water waist deep I focused on bouncing a high contrast soft plastic – the GULP 2″ Shrimp in the Nuclear Chicken colour along the edge of the weed banks and in close to a few oyster covered rock clumps. This produced the best fish of the day which was a 42 cm flathead. I released it and kept wading up river. Over the next couple of hours I caught eight more flathead, all between 25 and 35 cm long. They were mainly sitting on the edge of sandbars. As I found a rockier stretch of river bank I also found quite a few small bream.

In my final exploration I walked through some bush to reach a stretch of bank even further up the river. I was fishing the top of the tide and the start of the run out. I battled through the scrub until I found an opening to cast from. The water looked about two to three metres deep close in to the bank and a turtle popped up to have a look at me, as I rigged up. It was going to be a struggle to land anything decent here as the trees and shrubs were hanging all over the bank which itself was about 1.5 metres above the water. There were plenty of small schools of mullet swimming by and lots of smaller bait. I started with a GULP 2″ Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I caught a couple of 25 cm bream and then something pulled the plastic off the hook. I reloaded, this time with my all time favorite – the GULP 4″ Minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I cast out and just as it reached the bank something powerful grabbed it and headed straight under the overhanging bank. With the light rod I could not muscle it out and I loosened the drag to see if it would swim out. After a couple of minutes the line started to drift out in to the channel, so I tightened up again but it was too powerful and went straight back in. I felt the line rubbing on something then it snapped. Probably a cod – maybe a jack? I re-rigged with another of the same soft plastic and after a few casts pulled up a remora – a very strange fish that basically sticks on to turtles, sharks and rays. I photographed and released it.

I moved to another spot a little further along the bank and cast into the eddies. There was plenty of small bait around and this stretch of coffee rock bank had a big school of tiny butter bream sitting next to it. I saw a flash of silver swipe at my plastic and thought it might be a trevally. I slowed things right down and let the plastic sit on the bottom for a while. When I lifted it I hooked a small school jewfish. I pulled it up to my feet. It must have been about 40cm long. I took a photograph and threw it back. I could not find anymore and gave up.

It was a great introduction to the Evans River and I am looking forward to some dawn and dusk sessions.

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Mobs Bay and the South Ballina Wall – June 2020

June saw some big changes in the fishing on the Byron/Ballina coast. The most important one was the arrival of lots of small whitebait. The whales started to swim past and the tailor arrived in large numbers. The flathead were plentiful in the estuaries. The mullet schooled up along the beaches and around the headlands to feed on the thick schools of bait.  The jewfish also came in to feed on the mullet and tailor. Meanwhile the bream started to gather at the river mouths to spawn.

The only thing that was not conducive to fishing was the swell. There were really only a few days in the whole month when the swell dropped below 1.5 m and so fishing the rocks was tricky. We did not have much rain and as the water temperature cooled the water became very clear.

Match the hatch

I started the month still focusing on the flathead at the Richmond River mouth. I fished the flats and weed beds with small GULP soft plastics rigged on a 1/8th or 1/6th of an ounce jighead. The minnow shapes that most resembled the whitebait caught plenty of good flathead. If I kept to the two- and three-inch sizes, I also caught bream and small tailor.

There were a couple of flatter days and I took advantage of them to fish the rock platform at Flat Rock, south of Skennars Head. This is really only fishable around the low tide and it is very snaggy. I fished off the south side of the platform and caught some good bream and tarwhine on GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastics in various colours.

Flat Rock delivered

On some of the slightly calmer days I fished the end of the South Ballina rockwall. The dolphins and birds were a constant – chasing the bait schools around the end of the rock wall and out into the river mouth. As we came up to the new moon the more committed fishermen were out from well before dawn casting big hard bodied lures for jewfish. Judging by the scale piles, they caught a few.

I focused on casting slugs off the end of the wall which caught plenty of tailor and a few small trevally. When the tailor slowed down, I put on soft plastics and caught some good sized bream. A couple of times I hooked school jewfish at the base of the rocks but with the lighter Daiwa 1062 Crossfire rod running a 16lb leader (for the bream) I could not bring them round the rocks to a landing spot.

Each time I fished the early morning I saw the local osprey waiting for the mullet schools to swim up the beach into the shallows. I saw him catch a few but by now some of them were too fat for him to lift. I dragged a vibe lure through a thick school one morning and caught one. I decided to keep it as I have always wanted to try the roe (eggs). This is considered a delicacy in Japan and many parts of Europe. When I ate it the next day, the fresh fillets were very good, but I could not stomach the roe (the Japanese are welcome to it!).

Sharpes Beach, Ballina and North Head, New Brighton – July 2019

It took a long time for winter to arrive in 2019. In fact, the water stayed warm pretty much all through June and July. I persisted with exploring the beach fishing to the north of the Brunswick River mouth, whenever possible.

I also had a few sessions on the headlands between Lennox and Ballina. I did quite well fishing soft plastic minnows at the north end of Sharpes Beach. Over a few mornings I caught some 35cm + bream, trevally and even a few jewfish, one of which was just over 70 cm long and therefore big enough to keep.

As most of my followers will know I love to fish with soft plastics and light rigs. I was catching the odd flathead and bream in the surf on a traditional jig head rigged soft plastic minnows and shrimps, but I was putting in a lot of casts for very few fish. So in July I experimented with rigging my GULP 4″ minnows, unweighted on a regular baitholder or trueturn hook at the end of about 30 cm of 20lb fluorocarbon leader, running up to a small swivel and sinker. This seemed to be more successful and I had a few quite good bream sessions on the beach.

Bream on a soft plastic without a jighead

As we moved towards the full moon in the middle of the month, I noticed a few keen local anglers fishing for tailor on dusk, on the beach near North Head. On the evening of the full moon I decided to join them and with a GULP 4″ minnow rigged on a size 4 Trueturn hook with a size 1 sinker further up the leader. I was using my 3.6m / 12 foot Daiwa Crossfire Surf 1202L, 20lb braid and a 20lb flurocarbon leader. I was casting out as far as I could and letting the plastic waft around. I started about 40 minutes before sunset. Just after sunset I felt the rod tip start to bend and as I took up the slack I realised there was a fish on. This rod does not have much power so I had to be patient but after about 15 minutes of back and forth in the swell I pulled up a chunky tailor about 55cm long.

North Head Beach tailor

So on reflection there was plenty of variety on June and July, especially in the run up to the full moon

Iluka – Middle Bluff, Iluka Bluff & Fraser’s Reef – February 2017

In early February, I had a few days fishing at Iluka. The weather was not ideal with strong northerly winds, but generally clear skies. These made casting difficult but I fished all the rocky headlands of the Bundjalung National Park – Shark Bay, Woody Head, Middle Bluff, Frasers Reef & the Iluka Bluff.

I fished with soft plastics, metal slugs and some hard-bodied lures. For the soft plastics, I generally used 1/4 ounce and 1/6th ounce jigheads and the most successful slug was a brass colored 70g Halco Twisty. I swapped up and down between 12lb and 30lb fluorocarbon leaders. I caught Trevally, Bream, Pike, Dart and the highlight was a keeper size jewfish on a GULP Cajun Chicken Jerkshad soft plastic at Iluka Bluff. I did not catch a tailor all week but did see a few pulled from the water at Iluka Bluff.

1770 – Wreck Rock – Trevally – 19 May 2016

Thursday

My sincere apologies for still writing about fishing trips back in May. There has been lots more recent fishing, but I have not had much time to write about it. I will now do my best to catch up and get current.

I finished my May trip to 1770 with a couple of great fishing sessions down at Wreck Rock in Deepwater National Park. I timed my arrival for a few hours before low tide and fished the north end of the rocks that are only accessible around low. Conditions were good with fairly light winds and swell. However, once a couple of waves splashed over me the wind was pretty cool. This area often produces trevally and some good dart.

Today was no exception. I started fishing with a GULP Jerkshad soft plastic in the Lime Tiger colour. The Daiwa Air Edge no longer had a tip so I swapped back to the NS Black Hole Cabin II – S-862 L Spin Rod matched with a Shimano Sustain 4000. This rod is a little stiffer and has a little more grunt than the Daiwa. I was fishing with 16lb fluorocarbon leader and 1/6th ounce, 2/0 hook jighead.

As the tide receded I moved out along the rocks. There was a fishy looking corridor between two sets of barnacle covered rocks. The water was no more than a metre deep and far shallower in places. I pulled the plastic along parallel with the shoreline and a silver fish came up and grabbed it. It took off and I knew it was a trevally. This was a reasonable sized fish about 45cm long and it kept turning sideways and using the swell to try and get away. After a while I had it subdued at my feet. I released it and went looking for its friends.

It did not take very long. About ten minutes later I had another trevally come racing up behind the soft plastic and grab it. This one swam straight towards me but I manage to keep the line tight and after a short fight I landed it.

About 15 minutes later another group of trevally came through and this time I saw several follow the lure in before one grabbed it. It took off out to sea and managed to get the line wedged down between the barnacles. I loosened the drag, bug the line was wrapped around the rocks and it soon snapped. It was now about 4.00 pm, and the tide was slackening so I gave up for the day.

I drove back along the four-wheel drive track towards 1770. The local country fire service were doing a ‘controlled’ fuel reduction burn. As I drove through the smoke and flames I wondered what and ‘uncontrolled’ burn would be like. Instead of smelling of fish my car was going to smell of barbequed fish for the next few weeks.

1770 – Middle Rock, Wreck Rock -14 May 2016

Saturday

I had some work to do in Gladstone in mid-May and this year I have decided to add fishing to work, at every opportunity.  I was driving up and decided a few days of land based fishing at 1770 would be a good move. I rented a unit from Gavin and Kim at the Loka Santi appartments (nestled in the sand dunes behind the beach) which are my favorite place to stay.  You can book through http://www.1770beachaccommodation.com.au/. I packed the car full of rods and lures (and reluctantly my work boots).

I arrived late on Friday, looked at the weather for the next few days and planned where I would fish. Failing to plan means you are planning to fail, so they say. There is certainly some truth in this. Optimum fishing times (in my opinion) are dawn and dusk. If the change of tide coincides with dawn and dusk, even better. If it’s the lead up to the full or new moons, even better again. The week looked prett,y good with light south-easterly winds in the morning rising in strength through the days. The moon was about half full.

For my first session, I drove along the four wheel drive track just south of Agnes Waters into Deepwater National Park. I set off before dawn in order to fish through first light and sunrise at 6.21 a.m. I rigged up my Daiwa Air Edge rod, Shimano Sustain 4000 reel. I was using the 8lb Aldi braid and I started with a 20lb fluorocarbon leader to give myself a chance against a bigger fish if one was around. Low tide would be at 9.43 am and there was not much swell.

There are lots of submerged rocks in this spot and I have caught stripey perch, trevally, bream, flathead, whiting and morwong/slatey bream here. I started by casting a DUO Realis Vib 62 (a sinking vibe lure) all around the rocks using the 9′ the Daiwa Air Edge rod. This did not get a bite. After 15 minutes, I swapped to 12lb leader, a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and a GULP 4-inch Minnow soft plastic lure in the Lime Tiger colour. As soon as it hit the water this was attacked by the ugly local long toms.

About 7.30 am I jumped back in the car and drove down the track to Wreck Rock. I walked out on the rocks at the north side of the small bay and started casting again with the same set up. The long toms were here as well.  I swapped through a couple of small and big GULP soft plastics, gradually moving further out along the rocks as the tide receded. At about 8.30 am the wind started to pick up from the south east. By now I was fishing with the GULP Cajun Chicken Jerkshad (black and pink colour). I was hopping it along the sandy bottom between the rocks, when I saw a fast shape swim up and grab it, at the foot of the rocks. Line started peeling and in the blink of an eye it was a silver flash in the waves 25 metres away. I tightened the drag a little which did little to slow it. But the fast action, fairly whippy Daiwa Air Edge rod soaked up the lunges. After a few minutes I had a 50 cm trevally at my feet. It had completely swallowed the soft plastic.

I bled the fish and re-rigged but could not find anymore. I swapped to a MARIA MJ Twitch suspending hard bodied minnow. This seemed to drive the long toms crazy but did not entice any other fish. By 10.15 am the wind had picked up to about 15 knots from the south east and the tide had turned, so I gave up.

Iluka – Middle Bluff – Shark Bay – Iluka Bluff – Tailor – 16 June 2015

Tuesday

Tuesday morning was dry but the big swell was still hanging around. I decided to try fishing for some more Tailor at Middle Bluff and set off before dawn. The walk from the Frasers Reef carpark along the beach to Middle Bluff in the pre-dawn light is always great. The sky is usually beginning to glow and I am conjuring visions of huge jewfish, tailor and tuna in my mind.

The wind was light from the east and not particularly cold. It was the day of the new moon so it would be a big tide. High tide would be at 7.45 am so I had to watch the rising water levels and surges carefully.

I started fishing at about 6.20 am with the River to Sea 110mm Dumbbell Popper. I cast this around until my shoulders were sore and did not get any hits. I swapped over to the 50g DUO Pressbait Saira jig/ slug and started to put in some long casts, off the north end of the headland. This soon paid off and at about 7.00 am, just before the sun came over the horizon, I hooked up and then dropped two tailor before finally holding on to a chunky 50 cm model.

I carried on spinning the Pressbait until the inevitable happened and I lost it to the rocks. I decided to try a soft plastic and rigged up a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the New Penny colour on a ¼ ounce, size 3.0 hook jighead. I was using my heavier Daiwa Demonblood rod with a 30lb fluorocarbon leader. You really need to tie on at least a ¼ ounce jighead to make this combination work. Anything lighter and you cannot feel the jighead or cast it past the rocks close that line the shore. By way of proof, even with the ¼ ounce weight, I lost the first rig to the rocks on the first cast. I re-rigged and cast out again.

The sun was up but it was still cloudy and it was just after 7.30 am. After a few casts I felt a solid thump and then another and another. I let the plastic go for a few seconds then pulled the rod up hard and I had a fish on. It managed to keep it on and pull it, wriggling hard, over the rocks with the help of the swell and landed it safely. It was another bigger Tailor about 55 cm long.

I noticed the tailor had a good sized bite mark on its back (probably from another fish in the same school). I photographed and released it and re-rigged with a fresh Crazylegs Jerkshad. I fished around for another hour, but the rising tide made things very difficult so at about 8.30 am I gave up.

I went for breakfast and then thought I would try the Shark Bay jewfish spot again. The sky had clouded over again but with a new moon and big swell I thought I had a pretty good chance of catching another jewfish/ mulloway. I arrived just after 1.00 pm and fished around with the heavy rod and leader and some big jerkshads, without much luck. I swapped down to the light rod and 12lb leader. This did the trick and I caught another stonker 38 cm bream on a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad. The rain arrived again and forced another break.

At about 4.00 pm it had eased off so I decided to try fishing at Iluka Bluff. A keen Korean fisherman from the Gold Coast had been there all afternoon and had caught a few good sized silver trevally and some small giant trevally and also been bitten off a couple of times. The swell was tricky and the tide was running, I was tired and had only brought my light surf rig with me form the car. I rigged up a GULP Jerkshad in the Orange Tiger colour. As I pulled it close to the rocks on the retrieve it was slammed and the fish took off. I had no chance and after a few seconds I was bitten off.

I re-rigged with 20lb leader and cast out the same colour soft plastic. After a few casts I was hit again and this time I held on to the fish. It was a 45cm silver trevally. The other fisherman was regularly broadcasting berley and had been doing so all afternoon which may well have brought the fish in.

I decided to try a small 18g MARIA Duplex hard bodied sinking minnow. This lure is only about 60mm long and has a tight action. It casts like a bullet. I threw it around for about ten minute. On about the sixth cast something absolutely slammed it and took off.  I immediately regretted having only brought the light rod. It bent over and the line continued to peel. The fish was moving straight and fast out to sea and I was very quickly into the backing line. I held the spool and tried to slow it and then turned the drag slightly tighter. None of this made any difference and the fish was still running. I tightened the drag and pop, the line went slack. It was faster than a jewfish but I have no idea what it actually was. It was certainly the biggest fish I had interacted with all week but I did not have the right gear to face it. The leader was still attached when I wound in but there was no sign of the lure.

It was getting dark and I did not have another lure so I gave up for the day.

Iluka – Woody Head and the Clarence River – 15 June 2015

After a few good sessions Monday was tough day. I went out to Woody Head at dawn and fished through until about 10.00 am. The skies had cleared and the sun had come but the swell was still up. I fished a big River to Sea Dumbbell Popper to try to entice a tailor for about 30 mins through dawn. This produced nothing so I swapped the light rod and a big soft plastic jerkshad. This also produced nothing.

At about 9.00 am a big pod of dolphins came swimming by. The swell was making it very difficult to fish so I decided to give up for the morning.

In the afternoon I walked along the edge of the Clarence River just to the south of the Anchorage Caravan Park and with my light rod. I fished with a GULP Banana Prawn 2” Shrimp and various other soft plastics. There were plenty of small fish around and I caught 2 small flathead (under 30cm) and a tiny trevally. The sunset was a spectacular consolation for a poor days fishing.

1770 – Wreck Rock – 2 December 2014

Tuesday

Once again I apologize for not writing up my fishing reports sooner but Christmas got in the way.  This one and the few that I will publish over the next few days, are from early December 2014 – better late than never.

I managed to get a few days off in Gladstone in early December. That enabled me to shoot back down to Agnes Water and 1770. Once again Gavin and Kim found me a great deal at Loka Santi – through http://www.1770beachaccommodation.com.au/. These apartments could easily become my home away from home.

I started at Wreck Rock on Tuesday morning. Low tide would be mid-morning and there was a light north-easterly wind blowing. It was a bright sunny day and the water was fairly clear. I was using my NS Blackhole light surf/ rock fishing rig and started with 12lb fluorocarbon leader and 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I was fishing on the northern set of rocks.

I started at about 9.20 am but did not get a bite until around 10.00 am. I was using a GULP 3” Minnow in the Sardine colour. I was right at the north end of the line of rocks that are exposed as the tide runs out. Over my last few trips there have always been fish at the end of this set of rocks. Last time, it was mostly dart and stripey perch but in the cooler months it is often tailor, trevally and bream. You regularly see the tuna further out but they very rarely come close enough to cast at.

Today the first fish was a small trevally. It was followed by two more, in quick succession. None of them were more than about 35 cm long. Then things went quiet so I walked over to the rocks at the south end of the bay. I fished all round these and even dropped right down to 10lb fluorocarbon leader, but I did not get a bite.

By noon the easterly wind was making things tough so I gave up for the day.

Yeppoon – Fishing Creek – 14 October 2013

Monday

Last morning in Yeppoon for a while and yes, of course I was heading for Fishing Creek. I had wanted to fish some of the headlands on this trip but the wind was up to 15 knots everyday by 10.00 am, so it had been out of the question. In hindsight, I was glad I had been forced to explore. I was enjoying fishing in this estuary system.

It was the same basic plan as Monday – walk down the creek from the top end, following the receding tide, casting into the pools and channels. I started at the shallow end with the GULP 3” Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour. I was using my light spin rig, 2.8kg Fireline, 12lb fluorocarbon leader and 1/8th ounce, size 2 hook, jighead. This is the perfect size jighead for this size soft plastic. The weather was overcast but there had been no rain. There was a light north-easterly wind blowing but it was gradually picking up. I started just before the sun came over the horizon.

It took a while to find some fish, first some small flathead, then one that was big enough to keep, then a couple of small cod. Then I caught a magnificent spotted ray. I was tempted to let him keep my soft plastic but managed to safely remove it.

I swapped up to a GULP 5 inch Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour. After a few casts, this got slammed and I thought I might have another barramundi. Then I realised this fish was too frantic to be a barramundi. After some spirited runs I saw a flash of silver and realised it was a small Trevally – these fish always pull surprisingly hard. I released it and moved on.

I reached the spot where I had caught the barramundi, the day before and decided to try one of my DUO hard bodies. I pulled out a Spearhead Ryuki 70S in a pink silver and black colour. This is really a trout lure but I have found it works well in a shallow estuary situation. The bream like it and so do the flathead. It weighs 9 grams and is effectively a sinking minnow. It is designed to maintain its action in fast flowing water and that is why it was ideal in this situation. I put in a few casts and immediately felt a few bumps. After fifteen minutes of casting, up and down current, I connected with a fish, but it spat the lure out. I cast back in the same spot and this time there was no hesitation – as soon as I took up the slack, the fish was attached.

It pulled pretty hard and the current helped it. After a minute or two it settled down and I pulled it ashore. It was a chunky grunter bream. I released it and continued casting the DUO Spearhead Ryuki 70S. I had a few more touch ups from interested fish before the inevitable happened – I lost the lure to the mangrove roots. Yet another lure to add to the very long shopping list I am collating.

It was now about 11.00 am and the wind had started howling, so I made the long walk/ wade back to the car – keeps you fit this fishing lark!

Yeppoon – Fishing Creek – 12 October 2013

Saturday

On Saturday I drove back out to Fishing Creek so that I could be fishing as the sun came up. There would be a few hours more water in the creek than the day before and I was sure that would mean some better fish.

I used the same tactics as the day before – light spin rod and reel, light leader, light jigheads and small, natural coloured soft plastic lures. The earlier start paid off and on my first two casts, I caught two small flathead.

As I moved down the creek there were plenty of bait schools moving up and down. I paused at a point where the main channel ran over a sandy drop off. I was now fishing with a GULP 2” Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour, on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 jighead. I crossed the channel as quietly as I could and cast back up into the tide, which was running out. I caught two small flathead (about 30cm long) and then another one that was just over 40 cm. They were all sitting along this bank. I was convinced there were some bigger ones somewhere here, so I carried on casting.

It was now about 7.20 am and I think it was still a couple of hours off low tide, at this point in the creek. I had now switched to the GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour. There was good current flow but a 1/8th ounce jighead gave me just the right sink rate. I kept casting as close as I could to the mangrove roots and the deeper water along the edge of the channel. I let the lure get washed along the bottom for about ten seconds on each cast. On one of these casts, I lifted the lure and felt some resistance. I set the hook with a jerk of the rod tip and there was a long, powerful run back up the creek against the current. I had found a decent fish.

Fortunately this one did not seem to want to go back into the roots but it did start to cause problems when it turned and started swimming with the current flow. I just let it run – with a 10lb fluorocarbon leader, I did not have much choice.

It kept its head down but I gradually tired it out. As I brought it into the shallows it created some big swirls and I saw it was a nice flathead. I grabbed the leader and gently pulled it up the sand. It measured about 77cm on my tape and after a few pictures, I let it swim off.

I moved onto the next likely patch of darker water and loaded a new soft plastic in the same pattern. After a couple of casts something ate it. I could feel the fish trying to wedge itself against the terrain on the bottom and knew it was an estuary cod. Eventually a 40cm cod popped up on the surface.

I was now about 3km from the mouth of Fishing Creek and it was just after 9.45 am. I was still using the 4” Minnow soft plastic and something grabbed it and took off. After a tough fight I pulled up a 30cm Trevally which had completely swallowed the lure.

I turned around and headed back to the car. I looked at my legs and realised I had been monstered by sandflies – I would be itching like hell in a few days’ time. On the way back I caught a few more cod and tiny flathead. The fishing had definitely been better than the day before, but I had probably just timed my session better. I’ll be back!

1770 – Eurimbula Creek – 6 May 2013

Monday

Where did the weather come from? I had checked the forecast before I left Brisbane and apart from a bit of south-easterly wind there was virtually no rain forecast for the week. I woke up on Sunday night to a massive rain storm at 1770. By dawn on Monday the rain was pouring down and the wind was blowing 20 knots from the south-east.

At about 10.00 am I went for a drive down towards 1770 to try and fish the north, sheltered side of the headland. I parked by the Captain Cook monument and walked down the water’s edge. The water was already brown and muddy after all the rain and the tide was about half way through the run out. I fished for 30 minutes and then another heavy shower came over and soaked me so I gave up.

I dried off and drove back out of Agnes Water and down the track to the mouth Eurimbula Creek. This area is pretty flat and there was plenty of water over the road at various spots along the route. A few hours of solid rain and the drains and creeks soon fill up. I got through alright and parked at the edge of the camp ground. Unsurprisingly there were no campers around.

The sky looked ominous but it had briefly stopped raining. Eurimbula Creek mouth is also a bit sheltered from a south-easterly. The water was just as dirty as Round Hill Creek and the tide was still running out. As the tide drops it reveals a steep mangrove lined bank on the south side of the creek mouth. This is great fish holding structure but it is a little difficult to get to and fish from. The tide runs out fast creating some good eddies around the fallen trees and mangrove roots.

I fished with a few different soft plastics – bright colours, natural colours, paddle tails, shrimps and minnows. I had a few bites and whenever I pulled a lure in, it was surrounded by bait but I did not catch anything.

I swapped to a DUO Tetraworks Bivi, a small sinking vibe lure and hoped the vibrations might stir the fish up. There had been a few surface bust ups, so there were some fish around. The DUO Bivi weighs 3.8 grams and 40mm long. It casts like a bullet and has a great action. I cast it out, up-stream towards the far bank and let it sink. I then hopped it along the bottom with the current and tried to swim it as close to the snags as I could. I repeated this a few times and felt a few bumps. After about 20 minutes of fishing this lure, it was smashed close to the snags. Fortunately the fish took off towards the middle of the stream. I was fishing with the light spin rod so I did not have much power. The fish used the current and felt decent. After a little bit of back and forth, I pulled a trevally up the sandy bank. It was hooked through the tail.

That was it for the day – the rain came pouring down again and I headed home.

The Catwalk & Tom’s Creek 1770 – 10 October 2011

Monday

I decided it was time to look for some serious fish. This area is a ‘Mecca’ for land based fisherman looking to catch big pelagic species. The one place that everyone heads for when they are up here is the ‘Catwalk’.

1770 - Looking north towards the Catwalk


The ‘Catwalk’ on the eastern side of 1770 headland is strictly a heavy gear fishing location. It is one of the best land based fishing spots on the east coast of Australia. This is because it is one of the few places where the East Australian Current comes within casting distance of the shore. On a clear, calm day you can see the current line snaking straight past the foot of the rocks. When the pods of Tuna break the surface they are almost always swimming near or along the current line, chasing the bait schools that move with it. This doesn’t mean catching fish here is easy. For one thing most of the fish on offer are big – 10kg and above. This means you need patience, heavy gear and a good gaff, to stand a chance of landing something. The food chain is also highly developed, there are plenty of lazy sharks around who will happily rob you of your fish, as you bring it in and if they don’t get it, the two or three enormous resident Groper will regularly snaffle big fish at the foot of the rocks.

The Catwalk 1770 - on a busy day


My thanks to the various locals who fish these rocks – particularly Dennis and George who are always willing to give me an update on what has been happening and which lures, baits, tides are working best. When I arrived on the Catwalk this week, there had been plenty of big fish hook ups but not many successful captures. The Tuna had arrived in the second week of September and some big Spanish Mackerel had also been wreaking havoc. On the Sunday of my visit George had landed a monster 25kg Giant Trevally which he had snared with a 130mm fluorescent yellow, bibless minnow, cranked along just below the surface. The Spanish Mackerel had been grabbing poppers, slugs and bait and the best bite time seemed to be sunrise through to about 9.00 am.

On the morning I fished the Catwalk there was an experienced crew of land based fisherman from Byron Bay down there and a few others. Just after first light, one guy hooked up with what appeared to be a good sized Spanish Mackerel. He had been casting and retrieving a silvery blue, 140mm surface popper. He played it for a few minutes and began to make some headway. Then suddenly the line went slack as a shark swallowed the fish whole and bit clean through the wire trace.

We all started casting again – slugs, poppers and bibless minnow lures. Then the guys at the top of the rocks shouted that a pod of Blue Fin Tuna were heading our way. As they went by we all timed our casts and let rip. Six of us cast into the pod – one guy hooked up. He had a solid connection with a fish and after a few big initial runs, he started to put some pressure on it. It had headed back towards the mouth of Round Hill Creek. It was clearly a big fish as his attempts to get back line where met with more blistering runs. Unfortunately, it was now heading in shore over the rocky and reefy area directly north of the Catwalk. Suddenly the line went slack – the fish was gone – Shark? Rocks? We will never know.

I rigged a small soft plastic and caught a tiny Trevally which one of the Byron crew put out under a balloon. After 20 minutes or so, no more than 4 metres from the shore there was a huge swirl in the water as a Mackerel hit the live bait and almost simultaneously, was swallowed by a sizeable Shark. Miraculously the livebait was intact, but with a neat triangular Mackerel bite on its side.

The shark ate the Mackerel that tried to eat this Trevally

After a couple more hours of casting, there had been no more hook ups so I decided to try some of the land based fishing opportunities in Round Hill Creek. I headed down a four wheel drive track to the edge of Toms Creek a small mangrove lined tributary on the south side of Round Hill Creek. There are a few openings in the mangroves where you can fish the creek. It is a shallow system with a strong tidal flow, so it is best to fish it around the high tide, when the water slows.

Mangrove fishing - Tom's Creek 1770


I arrived about noon and rigged a Gulp 3” Minnow soft plastic on a 1/8th 1 jighead. There were already plenty of midges around so I covered my head and gave myself a good coating of insect repellent. The submerged rocks and mangrove roots looked like good hiding places for Mangrove Jacks, but I suspect the water was not yet warm enough for them.

Grunter -Tom's Creek 1770

I fished across the sandy/ muddy bottom of the creek, occasionally getting snagged on submerged rocks and water logged branches. I caught Moses Perch, Bream, Whiting, a few grunter Bream and tiny Trevally, none where big enough to keep but I decided this was definitely a spot to return at dawn or dusk, when the tides were right.

Iluka – Woody Head -The Barnacles – 24 June 2011

Friday

A long weekend with my daughter, camping at Iluka, gave me the opportunity to put in a few fishing sessions on the rocks at Woody Head. I was limited to fishing when she got up, which meant no early starts, but fortunately, the low tides were mid-morning. The chilly morning weather and occasional showers also made staying in bed a little longer, an attractive option.

I wandered out by the boat ramp with my light rod at about 7.30am, thinking I might catch a Flathead or a few Bream on the receding tide. The wind was light from the south west. I rigged up with a 3” GULP Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour on a ¼ oz 1/0 jighead tied on to a metre of 12lb Fluorocarbon leader and 10lb braid.

I was fishing along the line of partially submerged rocks that juts out from the shore just to the north of the boat launching area. I felt a couple of knocks and bumps that did not feel like the rocks and so concentrated my fire by casting in the same area for a few minutes. After about ten retrieves, a fish grabbed the lure, just at the edge of the rocks. It took off, jumping clean out of the water. It was an Australian Salmon and it carried on leaping for the next few minutes as I wrestled it to the shore. These fish really fight hard and they just never give up. Every time I got it near the rocks, it took off again and on the light rod it took a while to wear it out. Eventually I dragged it out of the water and took a few pictures. Although they look magnificent and fight hard, they taste dreadful. So I took a few pictures and then released it.

After a quick breakfast, I headed out to the rocks at the front of Woody Head, to the area known as ‘the Barnacles’. The weather was gloomy and rain was threatening but there was virtually no swell and a light south westerly wind. Low tide would be around 10.00 am. I was now using the heavy rod – the Daiwa 9 Ft Demon Blood, with a Shimano Stradic 6000 reel – loaded with 20lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I loaded up with a GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshad in the Curried Chicken colour mounted on a 3/8 oz 3/0 jighead.

I cast out over the rock ledges and let the soft plastic sink for five seconds or so. As soon as I took up the slack, a fish hit the lure. A few more jerks and pauses and I was hooked up to something. After a quick tussle, I pulled the fish up, over the rocks on an incoming surge, grabbed the leader and landed it. It was a nice Trevally, around 50cm long.

10.5 kg Jewfish

Caught off "the Barnacles" at Woody Head

A solid fish

The next cast got snagged – so I broke the line and re-rigged with another GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad, this time in the New Penny colour, on a 3/8 oz 3/0 jighead. I cast out again and waited for the lure to sink, when I lifted the rod, I had a fish on the end. It made a long, steady initial run. The steadiness suggested it was a Jew. It swam up and down parallel with the shore a few times then tried to bury itself in the rocks. It seemed like it was stuck but I loosened off the drag and it swam out again. I gradually tightened the drag again and pulled it round to where I thought I could land it. After about 10 minutes it was pretty tired and with the aid of a big wave, I pulled it to my feet and grabbed the leader. It snapped, but I got my hand in behind the gills and pulled it across the rocks. It was a great Jewfish at 10.5 kg (gutted and gilled) and measured around 1.1 metres. It was my ‘personal best’ Jewfish and I was delighted.

At 10.30 am after just three casts I called it a day. I had a great fish and I was knackered but I had a very big smile on my face.

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Iluka – Woody Head – 11 April 2011

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Monday – pm

After a good start earlier in the day, I could not resist an afternoon fish. We were staying in a cabin at Woody Head – so I was ideally placed to fish off the rocks, on the afternoon low tide. I walked out on the rock ledges, directly in front of the camp site, at about 5.00 pm. Low tide would be at about 7.30 pm.

There was a strong north easterly breeze and a few small rain squalls were coming over. I started around 5.00 pm with a 3/8oz 3/0 hook jighead and a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I was using a 30lb fluorocarbon leader again.
It is always difficult to avoid losing tackle in this location. The fish tend to bite just at the edge of the rock ledges and very close in. If you pull your lure to safety to fast, you will miss them. If you leave it too long, you get snagged. After a couple of casts I was stuck firm in the rocks, so I snapped off the jighead and plastic and re-rigged with the same set up.

I sent out five or six casts in a semi – circle, from my position on the edge of the rocks. Every now and then I would carefully retreat in the face of a big wave but only my feet were getting wet. The rocks are incredibly slippery so you need good rock fishing boots and you need to move slowly – running away from a wave is a recipe for disaster as you will almost certainly fall over. It is better to duck down and hang on if you see a big one coming – you may get wet, but hopefully you will not break your neck! Remember rock fishing is a dangerous activity, stay safe and if in doubt – don’t go out.

I moved along the rocks and just on 5.15 pm I hooked a fish. I let it run until I could see a good wave that would bring it up the rocks. I then tightened the drag and lifted the fish clear. The wave pushed it up and broke over the ledge. It was a school Jewfish/ Mulloway, just under 50cm. I unhooked it and cast out into the same spot. Before the lure had hit the bottom it was grabbed again. This time it was a much faster and more powerful fish. It headed out to see and then turned and ran along the edge of the rock ledge. I tightened the drag to slow it down as I could see it was going to try and bury itself in the rocks. The leader got stuck between the sea squirts that line the rocks, but a big wave lifted it clear and up came the fish. I was soaked but I had a good sized (45cm +) Trevally at my feet.

These two would be dinner and as another rain squall came over I decided to head back to the cabin for a warm shower. It had been another great land based session fishing with soft plastics from the rocks.

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Another Duck

My lure arsenal for the Tweed rockwall

Saturday

Oh dear , oh dear , oh dear – another morning with no fish. As I have said before, this is the worst time of the year for me. The main estuary species – Flathead & Bream – have long finished spawning and as the water temperature climbs and weather patterns get more unpredictable they get harder to find. Add to that – flooded river systems and constant changes in wind patterns and I get stuck focusing on the ocean rock walls and ledges.

In these locations the fish come and go with the bait and the wind. Tailor, Trevally, Kingfish, Queenfish and even good sized Mackerel and Tuna will all come in close to the rocks if the bait is around. The Tailor are particularly voracious in these situations and you can catch them on almost any type of lure or bait. The Trevally are sometimes harder to please, often limiting their feeding period to an hour or so either side of dawn and dusk. The other species require you to be in the right place at the right time and this means putting in the casting hours – and it can be a long time between fish!

This morning I arrived at the north rockwall, at the mouth of the Tweed River at around 4.00 am. The horizon started to glow just as I rigged up and I started by fishing soft plastic lures through the last of the run out tide. I switched to a surface popper for about 30 casts and put in 50 casts with an 85 gram metal slug. Nothing I used produced results. At one point a fellow fisherman caught a 30cm Tarwhine on a fresh beach worm, but that was the only fish I saw caught.

Apparently a few decent Trevally had been caught at dusk, on Friday and everyone was hopeful that this mornings session would produce fish – But it didn’t! I gave up around 7.30 am as another of this summer’s rain showers arrived.

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Tailor / Trevally – 14 Jan 2011

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Friday

Living on the north side of Brisbane – meant that I was thankfully completely unaffected by the floods. With the Gateway motorway now open and easy to access, I decided to make a trip down to the Tweed River mouth again.
I arrived to meet a fairly strong east south east wind and a good two metres of swell. I walked out to the end of the north rock wall at about 4.00 am. It was a beautiful dawn sky and as the tide was still running in – the water was not too discoloured.
I started with a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the lime tiger colour and rigged it on a ¾ oz 4/0 jighead. I am now using a ROVEX Aureus 9 Ft rod (the Aureus is just the new name for the old Bario) with the SHIMANO Stradic 6000 reel. I have loaded this with 20lb Fireline and a 40lb fluorocarbon leader.
The wind made it hard to cast but after a couple of attempts, I had the plastic just about where I wanted it – right at the base of the rockwall. As I was about to lift the plastic clear of the water it was slammed and I was onto my first fish of the day. I had no chance with this one. It put its head down and went straight for the rocks and a big wave washed the leader onto the sharp edges and ‘ping’, it was gone.
Another local rock fisherman had a couple of Taylor by now – on a slug – so I switched to a 90g slug for a few casts but then lost it to the rocks. Back to the soft plastic lures. This time I tried the same pattern in a more natural colour – sardine. This did not seem to tempt them, so I switched to the brighter lime tiger again. First cast I got a couple of hits and the tail was bitten off. I threw it out in to the surf again and as soon as it hit the water (minus the tail) it was grabbed. Landing the fish is always a challenge here and it is even worse when the swell is up. With a bit of luck and a fairly tight drag setting, I got the fish safely up the rocks. It was a Tailor just on 50cm.
I put a new soft plastic on and cast it straight back out in the same spot. There were plenty of bites and I thought I had a fish on at one point, but then it either let go or wriggled off. I pulled up the jighead with only ½ a inch of soft plastic left on it. I lost another two or three plastics in this way, over the next 20 minutes.
By now it was about 6.30 am. The tide was running out strongly and the brown slick of the Tweed River was gradually spreading out from the mouth. I put another plastic on, this time on a 1 oz jighead. I cast right out in front of the rock wall and again felt a series of knocks and nudges on the retrieve. I kept pausing but I could net connect with a fish. About fifteen minutes later the line finally came up taught and I had another fish on. I played it round to the ocean side of the rock wall and used a surge to get it safely up to my feet. It was a 40cm Big Eye Trevally. The swell gave me a couple of soakings and I lost a few more plastics, so at around 7.00 am I packed my bags and headed back to Brisbane.
With a cyclone passing out to sea, big swells are forecast for the next few days – the weather is not giving us many breaks this year!