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!).

Hat Head – More Tailor – 27 September 2015

Sunday

The rain came back for a little while on Sunday morning, so I stayed in bed. The rest of the day was clear but the strong southerly winds were pretty consistent. As I walked along the beach, I had seen birds working on schools of bait a long way out. The commercial netters were also parked on the beach, so the fish were still around.

I headed for the same location as the day before – the spinning ledge. I arrived about 4.00pm. The moon was full, huge and clearly visible. The skies were clear but the strong southerly wind was still blowing and there was a very big swell. I ran in to Hat Head local, Tim. He and a couple of relatives had been there most of the afternoon, catching 30 to 45 cm tailor on 40 to 60g metal slugs. He gave me quick update on what was being caught. No one had been boat fishing due to the bad weather but it had certainly stirred up the tailor, who were cruising around all the local rock platforms feeding on tiny whitebait.

When I know the fish are around I like to experiment to see what works and what does not. My first choice was a large River to Sea Popper in the Qantas (red & white) colour. I had swapped up to my heavier Daiwa Demonblood rod and Shimano Stradic 6000 combo to throw this lure around. The others were still pulling in tailor on the metal slugs but the fish would not hit the popper. Next, I tried the big GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad that had worked the day before. This enticed a few hits and eventually lost its tail, but I could not get a hook up with it. I then swapped to a large 65g HALCO Twisty in the bronze/ gold colour. I slung this out and started pulling it back towards me at a fairly quick pace. I felt it getting knocked around and then there was a brief tightening of the line and it went slack. I had a look at the leader and it was a clean bite off.

I re-rigged with 40lb fluorocarbon leader and my last 65g HALCO Twisty lure. About three casts later a fish walloped the lure, a fair way out. It stayed connected and turned out to be a 35 cm tailor. The birds were circling now but they were finding it hard to hold their positions in the strong southerly wind. We could see big bait balls almost breaking the surface very close to the shore. The sun was just dropping below the horizon and the tailor kept smashing in to the bait. Unfortunately, I chose this moment to snag the Twisty on the rocks and had to re-rig.

I tied on one of my favourites. The DUO Realis Jerkbait 120 SP hard bodied minnow. This is a beautifully designed bibbed minnow lure with a loud rattle. I tend to swap the trebles for a set of single hook on these. I am not sure that it makes a hook up more / less likely but it means I lose less to the rocks. The great advantage with the DUO range is their casting distances. With smooth knots you can cast these aerodynamically designed minnow shapes almost as far as a metal slug.

On my first cast I was attached to a fish in seconds and they kept coming. I caught about 4 in the next 20 minutes. Now we were all catching fish again, as the latest school of tailor passed the headland. All the fish were between about 30 and 45 cm long with the exception of one very fat looking fish (60 cm +)  that wriggled off Matt uncles’ bent treble hook, at the base of the rocks.

It was great fun and we carried on until things seemed to slow down a little after dusk. The full moon was so bright that it lit the walk back but by the end, I needed my headlamp to make sure I did not blunder off the path. Another great session of rock fishing at Hat Head.

1770 – Flat Rock & Red Rock – Blubber Lip – Deep Water National Park – 16 May 2011

Monday

I woke up at around 5.00 am with the wind rustling in the trees. Out on the beach at Wreck Rock, it was a howling south-easterly, so I drove up the track to 1770. I was hoping to have a fish on the sheltered side of the headland but when I arrived, I realised that even that was too blowy. I watched the sunrise and then had a coffee and some breakfast from the bakery at Agnes Waters. I found a sunny spot and pondered where to fish next.
I decided to head for the northern end of Flat Rock beach. At the end of the beach there is rocky headland known as Red Rock. It’s a long walk – about 2.5 km, but the sun was shining and on the way there, at least, the wind was behind me.

I stopped to cast in a few spots along the way. I had to use a ¼ oz size 1 hook jighead to make an impact on the wind. I was fishing it with the GULP 3” Pearl Watermelon Minnow which resembles the small whitebait that the Tuna have been feeding on. I caught a few Dart and Whiting towards the northern end of the rock, where the water was running out of the long gutter and into the ocean.

Eventually I reached the end of the beach and clambered over the rocks known as Red Rock. There is a small corner in this spot that is sheltered from the south-easterly winds and a couple of hours either side of high water, it is a good fishing spot. I cast the Minnow soft plastic close into the foot of the rocks and immediately got a few bites. Next cast I caught a small Dart and then a Stripy Perch – about 30 cm long. The fish were in close to the rocks in just over a metre of water. After half an hour I was running out of water and I had not caught anything worth keeping.

I headed back over the rocks to Flat Rock and waded out onto the northern tip of the rock. I then walked back south along the top of the rock, casting all along the edge. About 600 metres from the northern end of the beach there is a gig drain through a gap in the rock. I cast out in front of it and a fish grabbed the lure and made a short run. I struck but the fish dropped the lure. I paused and struck again – zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz I was on. The fish swam straight under the rock and soon I could feel my line rubbing every time I tried to put some tension on it. I let it go slack and after 10 seconds or so pulled it tight again. I made a bit of head way but then zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz straight back under the rock. I employed the same procedure 3 or 4 times and eventually the fish swam out. It was a big Blubber Lip Bream around 50 cm long and over 2 kg. I bled and gutted it straight away and decided to keep it for supper. I made the long trek back along the beach – into the wind and decided it was time to head back to Brisbane. I have read a lot of criticism of the taste of the Blubber Lip Bream but my mob scoffed the lot at dinner – the fillets tasted pretty good pan-fried with lime and fish sauce.

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It had been a great week but the fishing had been hard work. I was constantly struggling to find the better fish and the Tailor and better sized Bream, really had not shown up. By the next full moon I would think the Tailor will be more prolific around 1770 – particularly if the Whitebait thicken up their numbers. The water needs to cool a bit more for the winter species, but I think the fishing will get better and better this year, so I hope I am back up here before too long.