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 – 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!