Iluka – Woody Head – 31 August 2021

At the end of the month the swell eased for a few days and I set off to fish the rocks at Woody Head. The swell was forecast to be 0.9 m but was a bit higher than that when I arrived at first light. I was using my one of my heavier rock fishing rigs – Daiwa Saltist X 962 MH rod matched with a Daiwa Saltist 3000 reel. I had it loaded with 30lb braid and about 1.5 metres of 30lb fluorocarbon leader.

I put on a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Curried Chicken colour, on a 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead, cast out it out and let it sink. The target was a jewfish. So I kept the soft plastic on the bottom for as long as I dared. I repeated the process for about twenty minutes. I moved further to the south along the main rock platform and cast around in another promising jewfish spot. This time a fish hit the lure as it sank, but from the manic run and the head shakes I knew it was a tailor. It was about a 35 cm tailor and it had destroyed the soft plastic lure. I released it and moved again.

This time I put on a 1/4 ounce, size 2/0 hook jighead and a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in their Lime Tiger colour. I cast out, let the soft plastic sink and hopped it back to me, along the bottom.

The fish must have been sitting very close to the foot of the rock ledge. They were probably sheltering under a rocky overhang. I kept my retrieve going as close as I could to the ledge.

The tactic worked and after about 30 minutes of casting and retrieving, a fish grabbed the soft plastic, off the bottom. It was now about 8.00 am, almost exactly dead low tide. It tried to swim deeper in to its underwater cave and took a bit of line, but it quite quickly changed directions and swam out. Jewfish of this size only seem to have a couple of really good runs in them and if they go in a safe direction, you can soon stop them. The swell helped with a big surge and I soon had this one at my feet. It measured in at just over 75cm. After a couple of pictures and a swim in the reviver pool, it went back.

Iluka – Woody Head – 4 August 2021

Another lull in the swell meant I could get out on to the rocks to fish in early August. I stuck with Woody Head as I had caught some good fish there in July, last time I was down here. I started early, about 30 mins before first light and conditions were forecast to be pretty good. We were 4 days before the new moon. Low tide would be at about 10.20 am and the swell was forecast to be no more than 1.0 metre high.

I was fishing with my heavier rock fishing set up. This is a Daiwa Saltist X MH 962 rod now matched with a Daiwa Saltist 3000 reel. I have it rigged with 40lb braid and today I was using a 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I started with a GULP Jerkshad soft plastic lure in the satay chicken colour, loaded into a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead.

As soon as I could see what I was doing I had a couple of casts and retrieves with the plastic. At about 6.30 am something hit the plastic hard at the base of the rocks. It pulled hard for a while but swam away from the rocks. I tightened my drag a a little and recovered some line whilst looking for a landing spot. I love this Daiwa Saltist XMH62 as it is sensitive enough to stay in contact with the soft plastic even with quite a light jighead. However the flip side is that it is sometimes too light to muscle a fish past the rocks. The fish took a bit more line and I pulled hard, trying to turn its head. Suddenly the hook pulled and it was gone. I never got a look at it – so it could have been anything. But given what happened later I think it was a jewfish.

I re-rigged and put on a GULP 5 inch Paddleshad soft plastic in the nuclear chicken colour. This time I chose a tougher jighead – a Berkley Nitro Saltwater Pro, 1/4 ounce with a size 1/0 hook. These are pretty difficult to straighten. Two or three casts with this and I felt a very solid bite at the base of the rocks. I paused as long as I dared and then struck. I thought I had the fish but I was just snagged on the rocks. I yanked the jighead free and when I examined the soft plastic I realised from the bite marks, I had missed another fish.

I cast around for the next couple of hours with hardly a touch. At about 10.00 am, just as we were approaching low tide, I felt a bite in close to the base of the rocks again. I paused this time and dropped the rod tip. When I lifted the rod I had a fish on, but it went straight under the rock ledge and soon I could feel the leader rubbing. I moved along the ledge and changed my angle slightly. I flicked the bail arm over and let the pressure off. I waited about 10 seconds and then flicked it back over and pulled hard. The fish came out and ran again but buy now it was beaten. With the aid of a few decent waves I got it up to my feet. It was an 83 cm jewfish

I cleaned it up and kept it for supper. Bottom of the tide seems to be a good time for them.

Iluka – Middle Bluff – 22 November 2020

The swell came up and then subsided, a little. The wind swapped to south easterly, then northerly, then south easterly and then back to a morning south westerly, all in the space of about 48 hours. The moon had reached its first quarter. The dawn tide would be too high to fish at Woody Head so I decided to give Middle Bluff a try.

The challenge at Middle Bluff is the distance between you and the water, if you hook a fish. In some places on this rock platform you are fishing three or four metres above the water. In calm conditions you can gently coax a fish along the front of the rock ledges to a lower one and grab the leader to pull the fish up. But if there is any swell this is next to impossible. I have never mastered using a gaff as I am convinced I will most likely end up gaffing myself (I also like to release fish, if I am not planning to eat them). So like so many other rock fishing ledges it is only really safe when the swell is around 1 metre. Even then all the usual rules apply; wear boots or shoes with excellent grip, wear a life jacket, check the swell for 20 minutes or so before fishing and try to stay permanently on dry rocks – if in doubt, don’t.

I arrived and parked at Frasers Reef just after 4.00 am and walked north to Middle Bluff. By the time I reached the ledges I wanted to fish there was a long line of orange on the horizon. I started on the north end of the platform.

I cast out a 3/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead with a GULP 5″ Paddleshad soft plastic in the Pink colour on my heavy rig. I tried to get it as close to the edge of the ledge as possible as I believe the mulloway and other fish school up in the sea caves and overhangs which extend under the ledges. The idea is to drop it down next to the rocks and then hop it slowly along the bottom, parallel with the shoreline. The period between first light and sunrise is definitely my most successful period for catching mulloway/ jewfish from the rocks. I cast around close to the edge and just before dawn the line pulled tight and I felt the weight of a fish. It set off under the ledge but I turned it around. I was fishing with my heavier rod and reel with 40lb fluorocarbon leader and a fairly tight drag. I pulled hard to keep it away from the rocks but I was going too hard and fast and the hook pulled out. I was a little too eager. I carried on casting through dawn and swapped through a few different soft plastics. I had another bite that felt like a tailor but it also spat the hook. I had eaten all my mulloway/ jewfish so I needed something for dinner.

At about 6.00 am I moved south along the ledge, nearer to Frasers Reef. The swell was a little more relaxed here. I swapped to my lighter fishing rig which was rigged 16 lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/4 ounce, size 1 hook jighead and GULP 3″ Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. I cast this out and again focused on the area close to the base of the ledge. Leaving the plastic on the bottom for as long as I could without getting snagged. This tactic worked and I caught a decent bream just over 36 cm long. It hit the lure inches from surface and inches from the rocky shore. I put it in a rock pool and tried again in the same spot. A few casts later I caught another one about the same size.

Twins

A disappointing morning but I would have fish for supper.

Iluka – Woody Head – 27 November 2014

Thursday

It was another grey and humid start on Thursday morning in Iluka. There had been several showers overnight and the rain seem to have stifled the wind and swell. I had been doing well at Woody Head so I drove back out there, before dawn.  It would be an early morning low tide – which is pretty much perfect for fishing the rock ledges.

The recent bite offs suggested there was something big and toothy around so I tried again with a big shallow running hard bodied lure – the DUO Jerkbait 120 SP. I cast it around all through dawn but could not stir anything up.

I moved south along the rocks and swapped to a GULP 3 “ Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour on a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 jighead. I was now on my lighter rock fishing NS Blackhole rod. I was using 14 lb fluorocarbon leader. I caught a small bream at about 5 am, from the spot which I believe the locals call the ‘Jew Hole’. It is a large inlet with a deeper channel in the middle, to the south of the area known as the ‘Barnacles’, where I usually start my fishing.

The sun came over the horizon and there was a brief glow of red before it got lost again, in the thick cloud. At about 5.30 am I hooked a fish and it took off. It was moving fast and I caught a flash of silver and realized it was a solid dart. I soon subdued it.  I caught another on the next cast and about 4 more, smaller ones over the next 20 minutes.  Then, I swapped to a GULP 3“ Minnow in the Green Camo colour and caught another, bigger dart. I bled the two bigger dart and left them in a rock pool that had a ledge overhanging it. Hopefully the various freeloaders – kites, pelicans, crows, crabs and wobbegongs, etc, would not find them.

Things slowed down a little so I moved further south to an area known as ‘Mossies’. This is a large, flat set of rocks covered in ankle deep green weed, at the southern end of the Woody Head platform. It is really only safe to fish here in gentle conditions, around low tide.  It was now about 6.00 am and low tide had been at 5.51 am. The first fish to grab the plastic was another solid 30 cm + bream. Another bream followed, on the next cast.

I was now almost as far south as I could go on the Woody Head rocks. I cast out the Green Camo minnow and let it waft down beside the ledge. Before it hit the bottom something smashed it. It took off to the south with a blistering run then turned back and torpedoed into the base of the rocks and snap went the leader.

I looked for tougher leader but I had used it all, so it was 14lb or 10lb. I tied a strong knot with the 14lb and put the same soft plastic minnow on a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast back in the same spot and after a couple of tries, I was on to a fish again. I had the drag set tighter this time and I pulled pretty hard from the minute I hooked up. It was a tough fish but this time I kept it out of the rocks. After a few minutes it was tired and I landed it with the aid of the swell. It was a small king fish (or possibly an Amberjack – not sure) about 55cm long. I took some pictures and threw it back. A few casts later I was on to another one. This one was slightly smaller but put up just as tough a fight.

Next taker was a golden trevally which was longer than the king fish but not quite as mad. It was still a tough fight on the lighter rod and great fun. It was not even 6.30 am and I had caught four species. That is the beauty of Iluka.

I fished for another hour until the sun was really out and the cloud had burned away. Things slowed down a little but the bream and dart kept coming. I ended up keeping a few of the bigger dart, the trevally and a couple of bream, to make a mixed fish fried rice. I find using different flavoured and textured fish is great for this kind of dish. I fillet the fish and fry it, then add it to the cooked rice with some fried spring onions, crushed garlic, fresh coriander, Thai fish sauce and fresh lime juice.

By 8.00 am I was back at the car after a great mornings fishing.