Tweed River – South Rockwall – Tailor, Trevally – 6 Aug 2011

Saturday

I have not been doing so well at Bribie Island lately so I decided to fish the Tweed River mouth on Saturday morning. I chose to fish the southern rock wall which you reach by driving through Fingal Head.

The forecast was for a light northerly wind and low tide would be just before dawn. You have to be in this spot before dawn, as the light change often brings the fish on to the bite – often just for half an hour or so. I left Brisbane around 3.45 am and arrived just after 5.00 am. I walked out the end of the rock wall and rigged up with my headlamp. I try to keep the light off the water when I am doing this.
I rigged up a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken colour – this is a black soft plastic with a purple/ pink underbody. I put it on a ½ oz 3/0 hook jighead. I had the Daiwa Demon Blood 9 foot rod loaded with 40lb braid and about 2 metres of 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I had a couple of casts in the dark, but with no bites, I decided to wait for some light.

A choppy morning on the South Rockwall at the Tweed River mouth

About 10 minutes later, I could see what I was doing and I cast my soft plastic straight out into the river mouth. It landed about 15 metres off shore and slowly sank, as it ran out with the tide. Before it reached the bottom I felt a couple of solid strikes. I jerked the lure up and then paused and let it sink again. As I started to repeat the process there was a solid pull on the end of the line and the rod tip started wiggling. The fish took some line and then raced out towards the middle of the river. It was moving fast and then broke the surface with a vertical, head shaking leap. It was a good size Tailor – probably around 60 cm long. I tightened the drag a little and played it to the base of the rocks. I tightened the drag some more and gradually heaved it up the rocks towards me – just as I grabbed the leader the hook pulled from its mouth and it was gone. Bugger!

I checked the plastic – it was pretty mauled but serviceable, so I cast it back out. This time the action was instant – bitten off, as soon as it hit the water. I re-rigged – same colour plastic, same weight jighead. First cast – nothing, but I hooked up again on the second. This time it was a small Tailor – about 40cm and I pulled him safely over the rocks. I presumed they had just moved up the river and would be back again shortly but they did not return. It was just before 7.00 am and it had all gone quiet.

A Tweed Tailor grabs the GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad

I finished the session with this Trevally

I moved around the front of the rockwall casting in a broad semicircle. I changed to different colored plastics, I tried lighter jigheads. I tried various minnows and grub shapes. By 8.00 am the sun was up and the choppy swell had started to settle down a bit. The tide was now running in again. I had dropped right down to a 3/8th oz 2/0 jighead and I was using a 4” Gulp Minnow in the Pearl Watermelon colour. Just as I was about to flick it up, out of the water, at the base of the rocks, a Trevally grabbed it. It was around 40cm long and I landed it safely. I hoped there would be more but after another 30 minutes without a bite I decided to pack up and head home.

Tweed Rockwall – Tailor – 4 August 2011

Thursday

On Thursday morning conditions looked perfect – light north-westerly breeze, low tide just before dawn, not much swell and not much moon. I went to bed early but sleep was elusive, the big Snapper encounter of Tuesday morning was playing on my mind. By 3.00 am I gave up on sleeping any longer and decided to go back down to the Tweed River north rockwall. By 4.30 am I was walking along the rockwall under a fantastic night sky. There were a few clouds but no moon so the stars formed and impressive canopy.

I stopped at couple of points along the wall, on the ocean side and put in a few casts. I find fishing these locations on a moonless night pretty difficult. You cannot see where you cast lands or keep track of how fast / slow you are retrieving line. You have to estimate when to ‘jump’ the plastic over the rocks at the end of the retrieve. I caught the line in the rocks a few times, snapped it off and re-rigged. It was now about 5.30 am and I had not had a touch from a fish.

I was fishing with a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour rigged on a 3/8th oz 2/0 jighead. I had about 2 metres of 30lb fluorocarbon leader tied onto 40lb braided main line. This set up will work well with both a heavily weighted soft plastic lure and a metal slug or popper, so it is great for fishing the rock walls.

I moved on to the end of the wall as the horizon began to glow. The first few casts produced nothing. There was no surface action – things did not look good. The hour around dawn is always the most productive for me, in this location – if nothing happens in the first few casts, it is often the same for the rest of the session. I cast all around the end of the rock wall, I changed the plastic from a bright colour to a dark silhouette, from a Jerkshad to a Paddletail, and tried heavier and lighter jigheads – still nothing.

Finally at around 6.00 am, just before the sun came over the horizon, I felt a couple of touches. I was now fishing with the trusted GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour. I was casting into the river mouth and letting the last of the run out tide sweep the soft plastic around the end of the rock wall. I got another solid hit, then another and I struck. It was a Tailor – just over 35cm – nothing spectacular but at least I had a fish. I confidently let it go – hoping for something bigger. A fish also hit the next cast but there was no hook up – just a solid bite mark through the plastic.

A 35cm Tweed rockwall Tailor


Despite numerous further casts, that was it. I fished on for another hour or so, but there was no further action and needless to say, the Snapper did not reappear. Finally around 8.00 am I gave up. If fishing was easy it would be no fun – but right now, I am struggling with just how hard it can be!

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!

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Jewfish/ Tailor Round 2 – 29 Dec 2010

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Wednesday

With rain flooding into all our river systems, the estuaries are full of fresh water, mud and other rubbish. Therefore, the only real fishing option for a land based angler is to look for a river mouth rockwall or rocky headland, where you can still find some cleaner water. This is why I have been so focused on the Tweed River rockwall lately.

I arrived there on Wednesday morning, just before dawn and unfortunately there was a fairly fresh south easterly breeze blowing. As the sun came up I could see the extent of the milky tea coloured cloud that was pouring out from the mouth of the river. I started with a soft plastic but as the sun moved a bit higher in the sky a sizeable flock of birds started feeding on the surface about 125m north east of the wall. There was a school of something busting up out there and the birds started to move nearer with it. I tied on an 95g SPANYID Sniper and started casting as far as I could. It was the usual story – they stayed just out of casting distance.

I decided to put in a few casts off the end of the wall, into the milky tea. Half way through the retrieve I realised I had a small fish on. When I got it to the rocks I was pretty surprised to see a 30cm soapie Jewfish had grabbed the slug. Back he went and I continued to cast at the birds. Eventually after about 30 mins of arm stretching casts the birds came within casting range and after two or three more casts, into the middle of the boil, I was on to a fish. I had switched to an 85g SPANYID Raider by this stage.  The fish did not give me much trouble and I got him safely up the rocks – a Tailor around 40cm. He went back and after another ten minutes I had one more similar sized fish at my feet.

All along the wall land based anglers were picking up similar size Tailor on bait, slugs and even hard bodies. Just one or two every half an hour or so, as the school moved in close. It was great to see that when the fish are there and they are hungry, you can catch them with almost any technique.

At about 8.00 am I walked back to the car. Just as I was leaving a NSW fisheries officer arrived and walked off to the rockwall. The weather obviously meant he could not be out checking boats – there weren’t any, so he had decided to come and spread his good cheer amongst the land based anglers! I hope everyone had their fishing licenses with them!

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Jewfish Weather – 27 Dec 2010

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Monday

Rain – will it ever end? You have to look on the bright side – Jewfish/Mulloway must be hanging around all the mouths of our rivers and creeks in that murky, turbulent water that they love. They also love big soft plastic lures. With this in mind, I decided to brave the rain on Monday and drive back down to the mouth of the Tweed River to fish the north rockwall.

It was the usual drill, up at around 3.00am and on the rocks (in the rain) by about 4.15 am. As the faint glow on the horizon began to illuminate the river I could see it was a caramel coloured soup, with plenty of debris floating out on the last of the run out tide. I set up my rod and reel – 11’Ft Rovex Bario (which I think is now called the Aureus) matched with a Shimano Stradic 6000 reel. I had filled the spool with 20lb breaking strain, hi-vis yellow Fireline, with 2 metres of 30lb fluorocarbon leader. Jewfish love a plastic right on the bottom so I put on a ¾ oz jighead, to make sure that is where my lure would end up. I think Jewfish are not too fussy when it comes to colour. If you can find them and they are feeding – pretty much anything will do. But in low light, a dark silhouette seems to work well for me, so I started with a GULP 5” Crazylegs Jerkshad in the watermelon colour.

I cast out, due north from the end of the rock wall. Before my lure hit the bottom I had a fish. The frenetic activity suggested a Tailor and a couple of leaps confirmed it for me. I tightened the drag and safely hauled it up to where I could grab the leader. It was around 45cm long. We have been spoiled with plenty of fish in my house lately and there is enough ham and turkey around to feed a football team, so I put it back. It would be catch and release today.

A few more casts and then I decided to change soft plastics to the GULP 5” Jerkshad in the peppered prawn colour. The dirty, fresh water was running out round the end of the rockwall, where it met the clear saltwater water, to the left. There was a clear line marking the boundary between the two and this is where I was casting. There was a surface bust up every now and then and it looked like a school of mullet was breakfast for something. I decided to cast straight out the front into the dirty water for a while. The ¾ oz jighead enabled me to cast a good twenty metres or so. I let it sink and counted to 20 before starting the retrieve. On about the fifth cast I lifted the rod to start the retrieve and it was very heavy. It took a while for the fish to realise it was hooked and then it took off in a long solid run. I had the drag pretty tight but this was no real deterrent. Fortunately, initially it was heading out to sea. I let it go then started to get some line back. It began to come back to me but of course that meant it was also heading for the rocks. I had some success pulling it round to the left but it was too powerful and every time I got its head up, it just turned and, with couple of powerful tail pumps got back down into the rocks. After a minute or two the swell lodged the leader in the rocks and snap – it was gone. I only saw a flash of silver, but from the long slow runs and the rhythmic tail pumps I am pretty sure it was a decent Jewfish/ Mulloway. I checked the leader that had been rubbed through down near the jighead. It had also been thoroughly stretched, so I tied on another. I decided to stick with the same colour soft plastic lure but this time I switched to the 3” Shrimp shape. After three or four casts I was on again and we had a re-run of the first fight only this time, it was over even more quickly. It was a much bigger fish and the initial run was longer. But once I turned it round it paused in the current for ten seconds or so then dived straight down to the foot of the rock and ping – the leader was snapped.

I decided to go back to the clearer water. I put on a GULP 5” Crazylegs Jerkshad plastic in the pinkshine colour and was hit by a small Trevally right at the base of the wall. He managed to wriggle off. I carried on for a while and then decided to switch to a slug as there where now surface bust ups happening all around. I put on a 95g Spanyid Sniper metal lure and cast it out along the line between the dirty and the clear water. After about five retrieves I was on – another Tailor, about the same size as the first. I put in another twenty casts but could not find anymore. Back to plastics – it was time to try out the new GULP 4” Jigging Grub in the peppered prawn colour. I decided to go a bit lighter and rigged it on a 1/2oz 2/0 jighead. After a few casts – knock, knock and bang – I had a fish. It was another small Tailor. I released it and as the rain started to pour down again, I decided to give up. It was great session, I will land a jewfish in this spot eventually – I just need to find a smaller one!

NB – The end of the Stradic drag catch has snapped off again. The drag still works but now it is silent. Fortunately the chaps at Jones Tackle will fix it for me – but come on Shimano – they need to be made of tougher stuff – This is my third one in less than a year!

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Tailor & Queenfish – 23 Dec 2010

On Wednesday morning – the rain looked like it would stop for a bit and as the wind was forecast to come from the south for a while, I decided to go for one more Tweed rockwall session before Christmas. The couple of hours either side of dawn has always been the most productive for me in this spot, so I was up at 3.00 am again. I drove down from Brisbane and was at the end of the rockwall, watching the red glow on the horizon at about 4.15 am.
There was a light south westerly blowing and it was quite cool. There was a little more swell as a result. I started with a River 2 Sea 110mm Dumbell Popper in the Pilchard colour. I was blooping it back slowly across the front of the rockwall. Suddenly there was a boil on the surface so I cast out, in that direction. The popper was knocked out of the water by a marauding fish but there was no hook up. After several more casts and hits – but no connections. I quickly tied on a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the lime tiger colour. I used a ½ oz 4/0 jighead. As soon as it hit the water is was snaffled by a solid fish. I had the drag fairly tight and got the fish round to the left (north) side of the rockwall, fairly quickly. Its head was shaking and then there were a few leaps and I could see it was a Tailor. I got it up the rocks and it measured up at just over 60cm.
Then everything went quiet. I switched from popper to metal slug, to plastic, several times but I could not raise a bite. I could not find any Kingfish but after another hour or so, I had another hook up on a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the pearl watermelon colour. This time it was a tiny Queenfish. The range of species in this spot is amazing. After a quick snap I returned it to the water. I carried on for another ½ hour without success and finally headed home around 7.30 am.
Happy Christmas to all and I wish you the best of luck for your holiday trips. Get out there (in your rain gear) and find some good fish. Even if it is raining, the fish still have to eat!

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Three Kings for Xmas – 20 Dec 2010

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Monday

Now I had the bit between my teeth. Land based fishermen don’t often get the chance to get amongst the Kingfish. So after a great morning on Saturday, I decided to put in another early start on the Tweed rockwall on Monday.
I arrived just before first light, around 3.45 am and was treated to a beautiful early morning sky and very calm conditions. A slight westerly wind was blowing and it was distinctly cooler than the hot and humid conditions on Saturday.
I walked to the end of the rock wall and started casting a 110mm River 2 Sea Dumbell Popper in the Pilchard colour. After twenty casts there was no interest, so I switched to an 85 gram SPANYID Raider metal slug. I put in another twenty casts without a touch. Things were not looking promising. It was now about 4.30 am and the westerly wind was getting up.
I switched to soft plastics lures. Specifically, I put on a GULP 3” Shrimp in the Peppered Prawn colour. Again I rigged it on a ½ oz 4/0 jighead. I cast out and let it sink down and counted to ten, to let the scent circulate a bit. As I lifted it off the bottom, it was struck hard by a fish. The fish came up to the surface fairly easily but then made a blistering run round to the front end of the rock wall. I gradually worked it back round to the left hand side, tightened the drag and lifted it up the rocks. It was a 50 cm Yellowtail Kingfish. It had a very recent looking wound behind its tail, where it had obviously had a run in with a bigger predator. After a quick picture, I returned it.
I continued fishing with the soft plastics and felt a few nudges and bites but no hook ups. I got snagged and lost my last GULP Shrimp plastic. I switched to a 5” Crazylegs jerkshad in the Watermelon colour. At about 5.30am the line came up tight again. I was now fishing with the drag very tight, to slow the initial dive down into the rocks. It was another Kingfish around the 50cm mark. Again, I brought it round to the left of the wall and pulled it up the rocks. Then I measured and photographed it and threw it back.
Another half an hour passed and I tried the metal slug and popper again, with no luck. I went back to plastics and put on a 5” jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. It was now around 6.30 am. After a few casts, I was on again. After a brief fight I pulled up another Yellowtail Kingfish, about the same size as the previous one.
Three Kings but nothing for dinner – I will have to come back again soon.

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Kingfish and Amberjack – 19 Dec 2010

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Saturday

As you may have read, my latest early morning foray on the Tweed River rockwall ended with no fish but a close encounter with something powerful. Predictably, I kept replaying the final moments of losing that fish in my mind and it grew and grew.
On Friday night I went to bed primed for an early start. I wanted to get back down to the Tweed River rockwall before dawn. Rain or shine, I was on a mission. The wind and tides looked good. I was on the road at 3.00 am and wandered out along the north rockwall at about 4.15 am, just after first light. Conditions were perfect. There was virtually no breeze or swell, the water was very clear and it was very humid and overcast.
This time of day is definitely the best time for a surface popper lure. I rigged up my favourite – the RIVER 2 SEA 110mm Dumbell Popper, in the pilchard colour. This time I had 40lb PLATYPUS Bionic Braid on the spool with a 40lb fluorocarbon leader. In my experience, the most likely time you will catch fish on poppers is during the first few casts in the pre-dawn light. If the water you arrive at has not been disturbed all night and the fish’s predatory instincts have just been triggered by first light, you have a winning combination. My theory was spot on. I cast the popper out about 35 metres and slowly blooped it back towards the base of the rockwall, pausing for a second or too, every few metres. About 8 metres from the wall there was a great surge of water from the left and the popper just disappeared, the line went slack as the fish swam towards me. I wound like mad, yanked the rod tip up to strike and then all hell broke loose. Line was peeling off the spool and I immediately started to try and pull the fish round to the north side of the wall, where I might have a chance of landing it. I soon realised that was probably not going to happen. It turned and headed in the opposite direction – round towards the Tweed River mouth. I still had not really seen it. I thought I was making headway but as soon as I got line back, it would just make another blistering run. I scrambled over the rocks at the front of the wall, in the vain hope that I could keep it clear and maybe land it round the other side. Now I could see it and it was a big Yellowtail Kingfish – perhaps around the 80 cm mark. Directly out front, it finally decided to dive down to the base of the rocks and successfully left the popper locked in the barnacles somewhere down below.
My next popper was the HALCO 105mm Roosta Popper in the pink fluoro colour. I had to wait for a moment to stop my hands shaking, so I could tie it on. I cast straight out in the same direction and there were plenty of swirls and lunges, but no hook up on this retrieve. Two or three casts later, I could see the fish following the lure in and again. There were several hits but no hook up. On the next cast, I slowed it right down and less than 2 metres from the wall the popper was completely snaffled. This time I had no chance. The reel screamed, the fish went straight down. I never even saw it and that was the end of my second popper.
I was out of poppers and now it was really getting light so I switched to a metal slug – a SPANYID 85g Raider. I cast round in a semicircle, off the end of the rock wall and most times I got a group of Kingfish following the lure in but they would not strike.
At around 5.30am I decided to switch to a soft plastic lure. I put on a ½ oz, 4/0 jighead and loaded a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the banana prawn colour and cast out as far as I could. I let the plastic sink down and then started jigging it along the bottom. It was hit almost straight away. I set the hook and moved down to a flat rock, as close as I could get to the water. I decided I was not going to mess about this time. After a couple of runs, I tightened the drag and started winding in as fast as I could. The fish tried to dive into the rocks several times but I eventually dragged him clear and up onto the ledge where I locked it down under my foot. It was a Yellowtail Kingfish, just over 65cm and therefore legal in NSW. About 500 metres north, in Queensland, the size limit is 60cm. I wonder if the fish know how long they are and where they are safe? I cleaned it and then put it in the bag.
I put on a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the pearl watermelon colour and cast this out. At about the same spot, it was grabbed and the fish charged off. Once more, before I could get any leverage, the fish was down in the rocks at the base of the wall and gradually it pulled and pulled, until it rubbed through the 40lb leader. I tied on another soft plastic in the same colour and after another three or four retrieves, I had a fish on again. This was a slightly smaller fish and with a fairly tight drag I managed to land it. It was another Kingfish – but at only about 55cm – it went back.
Things had now quietened down a bit and it was around 6.30 am. I was still casting the same weight jighead but now I had switched to the GULP 4” Minnow in the peppered prawn colour. Just before 7.00 am a fish whacked the lure close into the rocks. Again it tried for the base of the wall but, after a short fight, I heaved it out and got it safely up the rocks. It was a 48cm Amberjack and there is no size limit on these in NSW, so he went in the bag with the Kingfish. In Queensland, they have to be over 50cm.
After a about another ½ hour I gave up and headed home. It had been a fantastic morning of land-based fishing with plenty of action in calm, safe conditions.
I did conclude that the size and bag limits don’t seem very logical in this area. I think most fisherman want to do the right thing, but such small differences between the states only serve to confuse us. Surely it would be better to standardise the size limits for as many species as possible. I can’t believe that the science can support no limit for Amberjack in NSW and a 50cm limit further north in Queensland. If the intention is to protect breeding size fish, are the scientists saying that Kingfish breed at fewer than 60cm in Queensland, but they need to get bigger (65cm) to breed in NSW? If anyone understands the science behind it please add a comment.

Tweed River – The Rockwall – 14 Dec 2010


Tuesday

I had seen a few recent reports of anglers catching good fish off the Tweed River mouth rockwall. I have always loved fishing this spot, so on Tuesday I decided to give it a try. The problem with the Queensland summer is that early starts need to be really early. To be at the Tweed for the best fishing, you really need to arrive just before dawn. That means a 3.00 am departure from Brisbane at this time of the year.
The Tweed River (like just about all the rivers in Queensland and New South Wales at the moment) is in flood. It’s brown and murky, like the colour of strongly brewed tea. Theoretically, the most likely time to get fish around the mouth is the end of the run in tide, when the water will be at its clearest and saltiest. However, fish hang around the mouth all the time in these conditions, as the surge of fresh water washes down all sorts of potential food for them. There is often a clear line on the surface were the brown river water mixes with the clearer blue/ green ocean. This is usually my target area.
The rockwall on the north side of the Tweed is easily accessible and has a number of rock ledges that make for great casting platforms. I walked out to the end of the wall at around 4.30 am. Unfortunately I had missed dawn, but I rigged up as quickly as I could and got started. I have caught fish here on soft plastics, metal and hard-bodied lures, but at this time of the year I prefer to use slugs and surface poppers. The surface poppers seem to work best for me, just before dawn, in the half light. I believe it is the combination of slightly lower light and hungry, feeding fish that makes them successful. I have caught plenty of Tailor and Trevally at this time, in this spot.
As I had missed dawn I decided to fish lower in the water column and use a metal slug. I like to use the HALCO Twisties in the 85gm weight or the SPANYID Raiders/ Snipers in the 85/95gm weight, but just about any metal lure will catch fish here. I use my trusty 11Ft ROVEX Bario rod with a SHIMANO Stradic 6000 reel. For line I use 40lb PLATYPUS Bionic braid in the hi-vis pink colour and tie on a two metre, 25lb fluorocarbon leader. The knots need to be good and the reel needs to be carefully spooled. The long rod and relatively heavily weighted lures means you are putting a lot of pressure on the terminal tackle with every cast so, it needs to run smoothly.
I started with an 85gm HALCO Twisty in the chrome colour. I generally cast the slug about 30 to 40 metres, let it sink (count to ten) then wind it in very fast, keeping the rod tip down as close to the water surface as I can. The idea is to keep the lure sub-surface for as long as possible. If I believe the fish are in close, I may stop the retrieve twenty metres from the wall, allow it to sink back down and crank it up again.
I cast all around the end of the wall with no result. The tide was running out and it was around 8.30 am. I started putting in big casts, along the line were the dark water from the river meets the sea, directly off the end of the rockwall. About 25 metres out, half way through the retrieve – whack! The rod tip bends and line starts peeling. Initially the fish is running out to sea – ok, at least it is not heading for the base of the rocks. I look around for where to try to land it and conclude that I have to get it round to the side of the wall. The front is too rocky and there is still too much swell. I opt for the ocean side as this is a little more accessible. The fish has made a couple of solid runs but a couple of minutes into the fight it decides to head towards the wall. All the work I had done trying to get it round the corner is instantly undone, as it dives down towards the base of the rocks. The first surge of water lodges the leader firmly in the barnacles and on the next one – ping, the fish is gone.
I don’t know what it was. I doubt it was a Tailor as there was no mad shaking – my guess would have been a Trevally or possibly a Kingfish. I will never know. I carried on until my shoulders burned from the casting but I could not find another. At about 10.00 am I was drenched by an incoming shower and so I gave up. The fish definitely won today – perhaps I will try a forty pound leader next time!

Landangler’s Tailor on Soft Plastics

I am sure you have all heard it said a million times – if you want to catch some Tailor you can’t go past a lightly weighted, West Australian Pilchard floating down off the back of the boat or a well place chrome slug cast from the rocks. Don’t get me wrong – it’s sound advice and it definitely will get you some fish, but I thought I would offer my experience of catching Tailor on soft plastic lures.
As you may have worked out, I love to fish with soft plastics and I almost only fish from the shore. So my experience of catching Tailor is based on those parameters. Firstly, most of the time when I get a good (keeper size – 35cm + QLD or 30cm + NSW) ‘chopper’, it is an accident. I am usually not targeting them; they just wallop whatever I am fishing with. I am usually prospecting on some sand flats, beside a bridge or rock wall and suddenly the line starts peeling and the rod starts shaking and I realise that I either have a Flathead on steroids or it’s a Tailor. This usually results in a bite off as I fish pretty light (10 to 12lb leader), but occasionally, if the fish is nicely hooked, I will get it safely to the bank. The plastic is usually pretty smashed up but if I cast it straight back out, I often get another. Then they are gone.
So this year, as the weather cooled, I decided I would actually try to catch some tailor with plastics. The first thing I did was switch to heavier tackle. I decided on a 6000 size spinning reel, loaded with 12lb Fireline down to a 20lb fluorocarbon leader. I also made sure I had the toughest jigheads that I could find, from 1/6th to ½ ounce. Then I thought about my rod. The problem, when choosing a rod for plastics in these circumstances, is the immediate compromise between strength and sensitivity. A ‘medium’ weight estuary spinning rod (something like a 7’6 3-6kg Berkeley Dropshot) gives you a good, sensitive connection to the soft plastic and so you can fish fairly light weight jigheads (1/8 to ¼ ounce) and still cast them out effectively. However if you hook up to a decent fish (in my book that is anything over 2kg) you are really going to struggle, especially if you need to pull it up a rock wall or onto a ledge. The alternative is to go heavier but then, inevitably, you lose a bit of the sensitivity. My ‘heavy’ plastics rod is the 11 Ft 6-15kg Rovex BARIO. This rod still has some feel in the tip but it is strong enough to heave some decent fish up the rocks. The downside is that it is very difficult to fish with much less than a 3/8 ounce jighead, as the rod is really too stiff to feel anything lighter. I have landed plenty of 2 to 5 kg fish with this rod – if you hook up with anything much heavier then you really need a mate with long handled gaff.
Once I had decided on the set up I looked for likely locations. This was tricky as I have caught Tailor from Yamba in Northern NSW right up to 1770 in Queensland, but I have usually caught the bigger ones when chasing jewfish from the rocks.
So my first experimental Tailor plastics session was fishing the end of the rock wall at the mouth of the Tweed River, about a month ago (in mid June). I find that the north side of the north rock wall is a good fishing spot, so I arrived an hour before dawn and found a large flat boulder near the end of the wall. I rigged up the ‘heavy’ rod. So which plastic to choose? Working on the principle that Tailor love Pilchards – I chose the GULP 4” Minnow in Pearl Watermelon – as it looks quite like one. It is basically a dark green on top with silver coloured under body and v shaped tail. It is an excellent all rounder that I often start with it. I rigged it on a 3/8 2/0 jighead. The first few casts – in the dark – produced nothing. Fishing from the rocks in the dark is pretty hit and miss, not to mention dangerous, so I usually wait for the pre-dawn light to see what I am doing. Yes – I have a headlamp but it is pretty easy to spook the fish by shining a few high powered LEDs down at them. Sure enough just as the horizon started to glow I got a couple of solid hits and then a good fish took the plastic right at the foot of the wall, on a fairly quick retrieve. A bit too big for a Bream and a bit too frenetic for a trevally, sure enough it was a good ‘chopper’, probably around 40cm. Once I turned it around, it broke the surface, in the foam, by the rocks, but as soon as I lifted it clear of the water, it started wriggling and wriggled off the jighead. In the space of half an hour, I had four more fish of a similair size. I landed two and lost two in a similair manner to the first. They have very soft mouths and once they are out of the water it is very difficult to stop yourself pulling the hook out. Then all went quiet for about forty minutes and they were back again. They were obviously chasing the bait schools up and down the rock wall. This time round (using the same plastic) I dropped the first fish and was bitten off by the second. By the time I had re-rigged they were gone. I stayed the rest of the morning and caught a few bream but the Tailor did not come back. The plastics had certainly taken a beating – I had to put a new one on after every successful hook up – but it seemed like a reasonable trade off.
The next trip was down to Iluka Bluff in Northern New South Wales. I had a couple of days there but due to the weather I could only manage two fishing sessions – the morning and evening of the first day. Conditions on that morning were perfect with only a light swell and virtually no wind. The Bluff is a large flat ledge at the end of a headland and there are tailor here all year round although they improve in size and numbers in the cooler months. Again I arrived in position pre-dawn on the southern side of the Bluff. I started with the same rig except I ran a 40lb leader and switched to the same shaped plastic in the Pumpkinseed colour. About 30 mins after dawn I was bitten off, then after re-rigging, I landed a nice 50cm Tailor and dropped two more in quick succession. Things slowed for an hour or so and then I down sized to a twenty pound leader. Third cast with the lighter leader and I was onto a decent fish which rubbed me off, but after a quick re-rig I got another 45cm fish which I landed. Downsizing the leader as the sun gets higher in the sky often works for me in this way, as does matching the size of the plastic, as closely as possible, to the bait that’s already in the water.
That evening the wind was up and so was the swell. Again the fish appeared to come on and off every 20 to 30 minutes. It certainly seemed like they were cruising up and down in front of the headland, chasing the bait. Each time they came by I would get a couple of knocks and nudges and sometimes a hook up. I like to use a pretty standard retrieve – it is always a tricky balance between getting the fairly heavy jigheads (3/8 ounce) down low in the water column and not getting snagged on the bottom. I usually cast out and count slowly to ten. On ten, I jerk the rod tip up, and pause while the plastic sinks again. Then I wind in some line and repeat the process. Finally, just on dusk I got the best fish of the trip – a 65cm Tailor and fortunately the rising swell more or less landed it for me, by washing it up over a ledge right at my feet. This time I had switched to the 5” Jerkshad plastic also in the pumpkinseed colour.
Although two trips hardly make a definitive study, I have had many rock fishing sessions which have produced Tailor on soft plastic lures and I think I can draw the following key conclusions.
There are a few disadvantages to using plastics. Firstly, they are expensive – the Tailor destroy them and you will rarely get two fish out of one plastic, often they will get munched before you even get a fish to the shore. Secondly, you certainly cannot cast them as far as a heavily weighted bait or slug. Thirdly, jigheads often do not hook up as solidly as a treble right in the mouth – so slugs can make it easy to lift the fish to safety without pulling the hook.
However, the single biggest advantage of using soft plastics for Tailor is the ability to fish a moving lure through the lower part of the water column, more consistently, than you could a bait or a slug. You simply cannot move bait along the bottom with the action of a plastic and a slug is almost always on an upward trajectory once it gets up to speed. So if the fish are travelling along, or close to the bottom, I think you will get more hooks ups with a soft plastic, than with a slug or bait. Of course, if they are feeding on the surface they will still take the plastic on the drop, but maybe they will be more interested in a surface popper, fast moving slug or lightly weighted pilchard.
Of course, none of the above applies in the weeks that lead up to spawning off Fraser Island. If you can locate the fish at that time – they are usually so thick and so competitive that you can catch them with almost any type of bait, lure or even an old sock!
I hope you found this useful and, as always I would welcome any comments – questions or experiences that you may wish to share.

Bribie Island – Buckleys Hole – 15 July 2010

Thursday morning – I got up at 4.15 am and drove from Brisbane up to Bribie looking forward to a good fishing session. Low tide would be around 6.40 am and although the forecast was for moderate West to Southwest wind, it was pretty flat when I arrived.

I decided to start off under the Bridge lights on the island side. I find the bridge lights attract the bait and there is often something waiting to pounce on your lure/ bait from the dark water around the pylons. I loaded a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 jighead with Gulp 3” minnow soft plastic in the pearl watermelon colour and sure enough, first cast I pulled up a Pike and next cast 15cm Tailor. I moved up and down the weed banks, along the edge of the Passage, on either side of the bridge. After about half an hour I picked up a 45cm Flathead about 15 metres north of the bridge., right on the edge of the weed.

The first glow of dawn was showing so I decided to move down to the mouth of the tidal lagoon in front of Buckley’s Hole. This is an excellent Bream spot especially when they are schooling up to spawn. Using the same plastic and weight I cast up into the last of the run out tide and let it sink down along the coffee rock ledge – jigging every 5 seconds or so. After a few casts I caught an undersized Bream, followed by a few Pike and gradually I started to catch a few keeper Bream. Every third fish or so, was legal and after an hour I had 5 keepers between 25cm and 30cm.

At about 8.30am I called it quits and went to find a hot drink.

PASSAGE BREAM ARE BEGINNING TO FIRE
BREAM FROM BUCKLEY’S HOLE – BRIBIE ISLAND