Iluka – Woody Head – 17 July 2021

On the 17th the swell was forecast to be light again so I decided to try fishing at Woody Head. Low tide would be at about 7.30 am and we were about a week away from the full moon. I arrived at about 6.00 am, 30 mins before first light. I walked out onto the rock platform and the swell was disappointingly powerful again.

I started fishing at the north end, casting a 60g metal slug towards the gap in the rocks north of the area known as the barnacles. There are nearly always tailor or trevally here on dawn and sometimes jewfish. It was too rough to cast a soft plastic so I stuck with the slug. I hooked and dropped a couple of fish, just after first light, which I assume were tailor. Then I lost my slug to the rocks.

I dropped to the lighter rig and put on a GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastic on a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast out in front of the rock platform and let the plastic sink through the wash. You cannot leave the plastic long on the bottom as it will get snagged, but you need it down there for five or ten seconds, to be in with a chance of attracting a bite. After a few casts I caught a decent bream and then dropped another.

After sunrise things went quiet and I moved further south along the rock platform, casting in various spots. I moved back up to the heavier rig (40lb braid/ 30lb fluorocarbon leader), as I approached a few known jewfish spots. I was now fishing with a GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour. I was still using 30lb leader but I had changed to a 1/4 ounce, 2/0 jighead. The swell was little lighter now and the tide was running in.

I kept casting and retrieving the soft plastic and leaving it for as long as possible right at the base of the rock ledge, on the bottom. I felt a pretty faint bight and then lost my rig to the cunjevoi again. I retied with the same set up and kept going south along the rocks.

It was now about 8.30 am. As I pulled up the rod tip to recast, the jighead stopped. I pulled again and it moved a little more and then line started peeling. Unfortunately, I could immediately feel the line rubbing on something, so the fish was probably swimming in, under an overhang. I tightened the drag a fraction and it slowed. I got some line back and hoped it was coming out. However it got its breath back and ran the wrong way again. I decided to flick the bail arm open to see if it swam out, once I had released the pressure. I left the fish with slack line for about 15 seconds. In this time I got a little nearer to the edge, in between the wave sets. I then flicked the bail arm over, took up the slack line and heaved the fish out. It was just clear of the overhang and the line flicked free. I now had the drag very tight. The fish was pretty much beaten and it popped up, a big slab of silver. It rolled over on its side in the wash. The Daiwa Saltist 962 MH rod would not be able to lift it clear of the water so I would have to use the wave sets and the stepped rock ledges to land it. I managed this and got a soaking in the process. It was a solid jewfish / mulloway about 85cm cm long. I put it in a fresh rockpool to recover for a while. After a few photos I decided it looked well enough to release so I sent it on its way.

I released this one after a swim in the recovery pool

The leader was pretty shredded, as was a good section of braid, so I cut it all off and re-rigged. I decided to stick with the winning combination and dug out another GULP 5″ Jerkshad in the Satay Chicken colour. I cast out in the same spot let the lure flutter down and wash in to the base of the rocks. By the second hop I felt a bite and dropped the rod tip again and paused. After a few seconds pulled up hard and set the hook. It was another jewfish. This time I had started with a tighter drag and I kept the fish from getting its head down and swimming under the ledge. It made a solid run bit fortunately it was in the direction of the open sea. I turned its head and again used the waves to to lift it onto one ledge, then another and then up to my feet. It was another nice fish, closer to 90 cm this time. After five minutes this one did not perk up in the recovery pool, so I decided it would be dinner. I spiked it, then gutted and scaled it and later weighed it in at the shop – 5.7 kg. It was a beautiful fish.

I decided that two good fish was more than enough for one session and gave up for the day.

Iluka – Woody Head – Jewfish/ Mulloway – 9 March 2021

I took a few days off to nurse my bruised behind and besides, the southeasterly winds blew the rain in and brought back high seas. By Tuesday conditions had improved significantly but we had still had a lot of rain and the Clarence River had not cleared up much. So, it had to be one of the headlands or the rockwall at the mouth of the river. There had been quite a lot of tuna landed from the wall a few weeks earlier, when the water was fairly clear. I desperately want to catch a good one, but I still do not have the patience or the gaff skills. One day I will get there!

There are a lot less options on a high tide on the headlands, so I decided to fish the southern end of the Woody Head platform, through the low tide change. Low tide would be at about 1.00 pm and I arrived at Woody Head at about 10.00 am. The wind was light from the south-east and forecast to switch round to a north-easterly in the afternoon. The new moon was due on 4 days. It was bright, warm and sunny and the water around the headlands seemed clearer than it had been the week before.

I was fishing with the heavier of my two rock spinning/ plastics outfits – based on the DAIWA Saltist X MH 962 rod. Today I tied on a 30lb fluorocarbon leader. I had my reel loaded with 40lb braid. I selected a 1/4 ounce jighead and loaded a GULP 4″ Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I cast out, about 10 metres beyond the wash and let it sink for about 5 seconds. I hopped the jighead back up, just before I felt it would be on the bottom and paused. When I lifted the rod again a fish whacked the plastic and then dropped it. Almost immediately another fish (or the same one) came in for another bite. I set the hook and knew it was a tailor by its initial madness. I muscled it up to my feet. It was about 35 cm long and I threw it back.

Now I was confident. The soft plastic was ruined so I had to pick out another. I have had a jar of the GULP Lizard shaped soft plastics sitting on my tackle shelf for ages. I think I bought them by mistake a couple of years ago, thinking they were Crazylegs Jerkshads. Perhaps limited re-supply shipments of GULP are arriving due to COVID or the tackle shops have all had to find space for the new DAIWA Bait Junkie soft plastic range – either way – one of my favourite GULP colours: Lime Tiger (green and orange with a black fleck) is getting hard to find, in any profile. There also aren’t many 4″ Minnow profiles left on sale in any colours. The jar of lizards is in the Lime Tiger colour, so I have been taking a few out with me on each session. So @purefishing and https://berkley-fishing.com.au/, get the Lime Tiger Minnows, Shrimps & Jerkshads back on the shelves, please.

The GULP Lizard soft plastic in Lime Tiger colour

I put the GULP Lizard soft plastic on a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and cast it out. It was now about 10.45 am. The swell was slapping up against the rocks as the tide got lower but it was fairly light. I cast around a few times and did not get a bite. I slowed things right down and tried to get the soft plastic fluttering around on the bottom, as close to the base of the rocks as possible. I felt a gentle bite but I thought it could be the cunjevoi that covers the rocks round here and snatched the lure back to the surface. On the next cast the same thing happened. On the third try I lingered longer and when I started to retrieve, I hooked something. It slowly wriggled for a bit and then pulled hard. It was swimming under a ledge/ overhang and almost immediately, I could feel the line rubbing. As I tried to fight back the leader rubbed through.

I re-rigged and chose a slightly heavier 3/8th ounce, size 1/0 jighead. I put a GULP Lizard soft plastic on again. I followed the same process as before and after a few more casts I was on again in the same spot. It was a smaller fish, and it swam out, not in – making things much easier. After a brief fight I lifted it up on a wave. The was a small school mulloway/jewfish, about 45cm long. I threw it back, straightened the Lizard on the jighead and cast out again. After about 10 minutes if fishing I was on again. This time it was a bigger one, but I have fished here a few times and figured out where I can use the stepped ledges and surf to get the fish up. I pulled it up on a big surge and the leader held. It was about 55 cm long. I snapped it and let it go.

I carried on fishing for about another 15 minutes with the GULP Lizard. I hooked and dropped another jewfish that might have reached the legal 70 cm size. Then I lost the jighead and lizard soft plastic by snagging them on the bottom.

I did not have any more GULP Lizards with me, so I swapped to a 5″ GULP Paddleshad soft plastic, in the pink colour. I went with another 3/8th ounce, size 1/0 jighead. I had obviously found a school of jewfish that were sitting under an overhang or in an underwater cave. If I could let my soft plastic waft in close to them, they would bite. The Paddleshad worked just as well as the Lizard and I soon had another decent fish on. This time I had luck on my side again – its solid initial run was out towards open water. I tightened my drag a little and it turned around. I kept the rod tip up and looked for a landing zone. I found a good spot and I wound in fast as a big surge lifted the fish over the ledges and into a safe, shallow rock pool that I could jump down to. This one was a keeper – just over 80cm long.

I caught three more jewfish all around 60 cm long. Then the tide started to run in again and they either stopped eating or wised up to my tactics. At about 2.00 pm I cleaned up my fish and walked back to the car.

It was a very active jewfish/ mulloway bite, in the middle of the day with a not particularly big tide or moon influence. There was plenty of bait in the water but no other obvious reason why they were so hungry. I love winter fishing – bring on the cooler weather.

Iluka – Woody Head – 5 March 2021

When I arrived to fish at Woody Head on Friday, the swell was around the 1.2 m level and rising. There was a fairly brisk south easterly breeze and it was picking up. At least it had finally stopped raining. Conditions were fairly hairy – the water was still very murky and stirred up and the surf was crashing pretty hard into the rock platform. It was now about a week after the full moon.

I started just after first light by casting 60g metal lures around but this did not stir up any fish. The tide and swell was too high to fish to the north east, off the rock known as ‘Barnacle Bob’. It is usually too hard to get to apart from at absolute low tide on a very calm day. I settled on fishing about 30 metres to the south.

I was using my fairly new DAIWA Saltist X 962 MH rod matched with a TD SOL SOL III LT 6000D-H spinning reel. I was using 40lb braid and a 30lb fluorocarbon leader.I put a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour on a 3/8th ounce 1/0 hook size jighead and cast it out.

In my experience in this spot, if the jewfish or good bream are around, they are generally schooled up very close to the base of the rocks. That is a very difficult place to leave your soft plastic for any length of time and I can only imagine that the sea floor coral bommies are covered in jigheads! I put in a few casts, pausing for as long as I dared while the lure was in the strike zone. Eventually my strategy paid off and my rod tip bent over. It was a solid fish but my drag was pretty tight and I soon turned its head. Timing is everything in this spot and if you are lucky, the swell will wash the fish up the stepped ledges to your feet. That is exactly what happened and I looked down at an 80cm jewfish. It was 5.22 am and the sun would not be fully over the horizon for another 20 minutes.

I continued fishing through dawn and caught a decent bluefin trevally on the same soft plastic and couple of ambitious bream. Then I got greedy. At about 8.00 am it was low tide and I convinced myself that I could stand a little further to the north and cast a big stickbait out to the northeast, to a spot where I was sure there would be fish. I watched the swell and walked out between the bigger wave sets and cast out. I did this about four times safely and then my lure got caught in the cunjevoi and as I pulled it free, my line tangled around the rod tip. I was looking up at the tip when a wave came from nowhere and took my feet from under me. It washed me down over the barnacles and I end up floating in the pond of water that pools up behind ‘Barnacle Bob’. I had my lifejacket on but the water was only about a meter deep and the residual swell was gently pushing me ashore. Unfortunately I had washed up right in front another angler who had been fishing for bream in the wash. I had completely buggered up his bite but I think he was quite relieved when I emerged in one piece from the water.

I stood up clutching my rod. I patted myself down and I was still in one piece with all limbs operational and no blood streaming from anywhere. I had had a very lucky escape. I later realised the barnacles had left their mark on my right buttock and elbow but otherwise I was just bruised. I am confessing to my stupidity in the hope that it will be an example of what not to do for others. But I am also a slow learner as I did almost exactly the same thing about 11 years ago and still have the scars on my left thigh to prove it. Always remember rock fishing is one of the most dangerous sports out there. If you really have to stop and think about whether or not a spot it is safe enough to fish – it isn’t .

I limped off with my jewfish.

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 – Woody Head – 14/15 November 2020

Very strong south easterlies had been blowing all week. I had tried a few sheltered spots around Iluka, but had only managed a few bream and small trevally. Everything was just too stirred up and finding anywhere safe to stand was too hard.

The winds dropped off on the Friday and the south easterlies were replaced by a strong northerly wind. This flattened out the seas a little and by lunchtime on Saturday I decided to try fishing at Woody Head. It was an early afternoon low tide at about 2.30 pm. The northerly wind was forecast to fall through the afternoon. The moon would be new on Sunday. The wind was still gusty from the north but the swell had flattened considerably.

I started fishing with my heavier set up – 40lb leader, 40lb braid, casting a DUO Drag Metalcast around. This produced nothing. Then a Gulp Jerkshad (various colours). This produced a 45cm trevally and then a 35cm bream. Initially I was fishing with a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead and then on a heavier 3/8th ounce, 2/0 hook jighead, to counteract the fairly strong northerly wind.

I had been casting a GULP Lime Tiger coloured jerkshad around and I was thinking of swapping to a more natural coloured soft plastic when something grabbed the plastic very close. It initially turned to swim away but soon rethought its strategy and headed under the ledge. The drag was pretty tight but the fish didn’t even pause. My braid was soon rubbing on the rocks and then – snap! I re-rigged and tightened the drag, but things seemed to go quiet for a while. The tide was now pushing in quite quickly. I kept casting and the next fish on the scene was a trevally, about 45cm long.

At about 3.30 pm I had moved a little south along the ledge. I dropped down to the light rock fishing rig with 16lb leader and 20lb braid. I cast out a GULP Lime Tiger coloured Crazylegs Jerkshad. This was smacked on the drop and taken straight under the rock ledge – the braid snapped almost instantly. I cursed my impatience and swapped back to the heavy rod with 40lb leader and a 3/8th ounce size 2/0 jighead. I put another GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad on. This paid off and after a few casts something whacked the soft plastic on the drop and took off. Fortunately it decided to swim away from the ledge and this gave me some time. It was powerful but after an initial run I seemed to have it under control. I pulled it up with a wave surge and was delighted to see it was a snapper (later weighed in – gutted and scaled – at 3.8kg)

The next day would be an even lower low tide and I started fishing in the same spot at about 3.00 pm. The swell had continued to drop off and the wind was a light south-easterly. The first taker was a bream. I released it and carried on. About 10 minutes later I felt a fish grab then lure then drop it, a few metres out from the ledge. I cast out again and slowed down my retrieve. Something fast grabbed it and took off with a long run. I got some line back but then it ran again. I tightened the drag and wound like mad as it suddenly turned and decided to swim straight for the ledge. Fortunately, by the time it tried to change its mind, I had virtually locked up the drag and pulled it in on a wave. It was a surprising small (50cm) kingfish. I have only ever caught a few of these and their power and speed always surprises me. I released it, hoping for more, but did not get any.

Kingfish fight very hard

I moved further south to where I had caught the snapper the day before. I was temporarily out of the Crazylegs Jerkshads so I found a 6″ GULP Squid Vicious in the New Penny colour and cast that out. It was now almost 5.00pm and the tide was running in. On about the third cast I thought I had the bottom, then it started wriggling and took off. One long solid run and then a couple of head shakes but no real power (compared to the kingfish). It was decent school jewfish and I was able to successfully pull it up to my feet. It was just over 75 cm long and so it joined the snapper in the fridge.

A couple of great sessions once the weather allowed me to get to the fish, lets hope it stays calm for a while.

Follow landangler on instagram https://www.instagram.com/landangler/

Iluka – Woody Head – 22nd to 29th September 2020

I always keep an eye on the weather forecast, looking for a period of low swell that will allow me to safely fish the rocks – which is currently my favorite fishing style. In late September three or four days of low swell were forecast for Northern New South Wales. The school holidays were about to start and despite (or maybe because of) all the COVID 19 travel restrictions, all the accomodation in Northern New South Wales would soon be booked out for a fortnight.

So I grabbed my chance and on the 22 September I drove down to Iluka along the newly opened section of the Pacific Highway.  The highway now bypasses the small towns of  Wardell, Broadway and Woodburn and reduces the drive south from Byron to Iluka, to less than 90 minutes.

The reason the sea had flattened out was the arrival of northerly and north-westerly winds. The full moon was about a week away and the low tide would be early in the mornings. We were about to swap from winter to summer and the fishing often goes off a little as the weather becomes a bit more erratic. I dropped into Iluka Bait and Tackle when I arrived – https://www.facebook.com/Iluka-Bait-and-Tackle-608266152650241/. Apparently winter has been excellent for tailor, jew and bream fishing but things had slowed down a little in the couple of weeks prior to my arrival. I always drop in to see Ross at the store. He is a great source of up to date info and has an excellent range of lures/ bait terminal tackle, jigheads and soft plastics. Unlike many small local fishing shops, his prices are also very reasonable.

I was up early everyday and out fishing at Woody Head just before dawn.  It was calm enough to fish right off the front of the rock platform.  I fully expected a few tailor or jewfish, but they were nowhere to be found. There were a few bream and dart, but the dominant predator was the Australian Salmon. This was a surprise as these have been missing from these waters for a few years.

I started off in the mornings fishing at the northern end of the Woody Head rock platform, at the spot known locally as ‘the Barnacles’.  On the first day I fished through dawn with large hard bodies and then dropped down to a 6o gram brass coloured Halco Twisty metal slug. I was using 30lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leader.

This hook was not up to its task

I had a few bumps on a big hard body and could see the bait jumping around in front of my lure but I did not hook anything. Once I put the Halco Twisty on, things improved. I felt a grab and then another and  finally, on about the tenth fast retrieve, I hooked a solid fish. It fairly quickly lept out of the water revealing it was an Australian Salmon. I tightened my drag and got some line back. It was a heavy fish and they fight hard. They don’t have much in the way of teeth but they do jump a lot, so you have to keep the line tight. I got it up to just below the ledge and got soaked by a wave, trying to heave it up next to me. On the next surge I tried to muscle it over the edge but it gave a powerful slap of its tail and spat the hook out, just as it came to my feet. It then left with the next wave. I checked my lure and realised I had a fairly light, fine wire single hook on it – which had now bent open. I put on another slug but I could not find anymore.

What is this?

I swapped to my lighter rock fishing rig – 20lb braid and a 12lb fluorocarbon leader. On my way down, I had dropped in to BCF in Ballina to find lots of packets of the GULP Lime Tiger Jerkshads and GULP Nuclear Chicken shrimp soft plastics marked down to $5 a packet. I know these catch fish, so I grabbed as many as I could and added them to the tacklebox.  I loaded up a 1/4 ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead with a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour and started casting. I cast it all around and eventually caught some kind of small wrasse with bright red fins. I swapped to the GULP 2″ Shrimp in the Nuclear Chicken colour and threw that out and this snared a couple of small bream.

The next morning I decided to cast some GULP jerkshads around on dawn, to see if I could tempt a jewfish. Unfortunately all I found was another small red finned wrasse. When I swapped to a smaller soft plastic, I caught a small speckled rock fish and a few more bream.

I swapped to a 40g DUO DragMetal Cast Slow lure. This is a slow jig and although you cannot exactly ‘slow jig’ it off the rocks, it is a a bit more exciting than a plain metal slug. I hop it back to me fairly quickly, but give it time to reach the surface, then flutter down again. I saw a boatie, about 100 metres out, hook something and start a fairly serious fight. I cast in his direction and felt a hit on the retrieve. I cast again. This time I made sure to exaggerate the hops and it paid off. Line started peeling and I let the fish run. It was another Australian Salmon, but this time it was solidly hooked and I managed to land it. It was just on 60cm long. As I was de-hooking it it spat up another large baitfish.

I have tried but I can’t make Australian Salmon taste good. I hear they are usually netted and used for pet food by the professional fisherman. I decided to cut out the middleman and keep this one for the cat.

The next day I followed a similar drill. I caught nothing much around dawn but at about 7.30 am I managed to find the Salmon with a new soft plastic – the GULP 4″ Paddle Shad in the Silver Mullet colour. This one has just appeared in the GULP range and I like it. We plastics fisherman have always lacked a decent scented paddle tail lure and this one is great. Now we just need them to make it in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I lost another Salmon to the rocks a little later, using the same soft plastic.

On my final day the wind was strong and cold, from the west, but the swell was still light. I fished a little further along the Woody Head rock platform, to the south. Around dawn I caught a couple of decent bream and a good dart. I had broken the tip on my Daiwa Crossfire 1062 rod, so I had I matched my Daiwa TD SOL LT 6000 DH with my NS Black Hole Cabin II S862L rod, 30lb braid and 16lb fluorocarbon leader. At about 8.30am, I was fishing with a GULP 4′ Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colouring on 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. I cast it out towards the tip of rocky out crop and let it sink. As I lifted the rod I felt some weight and something started taking line. Almost straight away it leaped out of the water trying to spit out the soft plastic. It was well hooked and after a couple of big leaps and runs it calmed down and I used the swell to land it.

That was it for my trip. Summer is coming and it is time to change tactics.

Great fun

Iluka – Woody Head – July 2018

Ok, I once again apologise for an ancient report on last winters’ fishing at Iluka, but better late than never.

I managed to get down there for a few days with my kayaking friend, Andre. Conditions where prefect with a very light swell and not much wind so we managed to spend plenty of time out fishing in all my favorite spots. Andre fished in his Kayak while I focused on the rocks.

I caught a range of species from the usual dart, bream, tailor, trevally and flathead, to the less usual tuskfish and what looked like a small queenfish. The jewfish/mulloway were hard to find but I eventually caight a small one off the rocks at Frasers Reef.

I was mainly fishing with light leaders and soft plastics and then switched to a heavier leader and slug or lure, around dawn and dusk. As usual in this spot there were a few big runs, bent jigheads and straight bite offs.

Andre managed some good fish out front in his kayak, including a decent snapper that grabbed a big deep diving minnow hard bodied lure.  This spot never ceases to amaze me!

Woody Head – Fisherman’s paradise in calm weather

Iluka – Shark Bay – Tailor, Tailor, Tailor – 12 April 2013

Friday

Friday was my last morning in Iluka. The weather had been good for fishing – light winds and swell. But it had been miserable for camping, with endless rain showers and no time to dry out in between. Fortunately, I had been in a cabin.

A big south-easterly blow was forecast for the weekend and on Friday morning; it was already about 15 knots on the Woody Head platform. The seas had not really picked up yet but it would be too hard to cast from ‘ the Barnacles’ so I decided to give the Shark Bay rock platform a try. This is a great spot in a south-easterly wind, as you can cast off the north tip with the wind behind you.

I arrived just after 6.00 am. The sky was fairly clear, initially. Low tide had been at about 3.40 am. The wind was blowing hard so it would only be possible to fish on the north edge and cast to the north-west. These were perfect conditions to get some long casts out of some hard bodied lures.

I knew there might be some big fish around but I have really enjoyed fishing with the lighter 10 ft Shimano Catana Coastline Light, this week – so I stuck with it. It is rated 3-5kg, but as long as you have a tough leader and a good drag, it can land some pretty hefty fish. When I break it (which I inevitably will) I will look for a better quality alternative – but so far, so good.

It has a poor reputation for durability and most coastal tackle shops have put their fair share of new tips on. Despite this, it is a very nicely balanced rod and I particularly like the way you can feel the action of the lighter hard bodied lures through the tip. I really wanted to catch some fish using my latest favourite DUO lure – the Realis Jerkbait 120SP and the Catana is perfect for it. The Realis Jerkbait 120SP is a clever sub-surface suspending lure that you can get down to about a metre below the surface without too much trouble . It is long (120mm) thin and flat sided, which accentuates light reflection, as it moves through the water and it has both a good slow and fast action. I have had a few of these in some great colours and lost them all to fish.

Now I was down to my last one, in a yellow/ cream/ gold colour known as S70 – Dead Ayu. I have swapped the trebles for single hooks, in the hope of hanging on to the lure for a bit longer! I had lost one to a good fish a few days before so I was determined to land something with this one.

I cast to the northwest into the choppy, white water. There is a patch of reef that breaks the surface, about 125 metres to the north-west of the rock platform. I aimed at this and with the wind behind me, I was able to put in a very respectable long distance cast. I started the retrieve, jerking the lure along for a few metres, then pausing and allowing it to suspend. There was action behind the lure on the first cast with splashes and surges, but it took about six casts to hook up.

I am fairly new to single hooks and my view is that they do not connect with as many fish as trebles do, but once they do connect, the fish stays hooked. That was the case this time and I soon had a 40cm tailor at my feet. I cast straight back out and watched as another tailor knocked the Realis Jerkbait 120SP out of the water but then failed to get hooked. Almost every cast was getting hit. Sometimes I could see the snouts and tails of long toms but usually, it felt like tailor.

About 10 minutes after the first tailor, I was on to another better one. This one put on an acrobatic performance with several jumps, before I tamed it. It was just over 60cm and the best of the week. There then followed a good tailor session with the DUO Realis Jerkbait 120SP accounting for six tailor around the 40 to 45cm mark, over the next 20 minutes. It also pulled up a couple of over enthusiastic long toms.

At about 7.00 am things went quiet so I swapped to a 65g Raider metal slug. I tried this for about twenty casts with no result, so I swapped to a soft plastic lure. I started with the small GULP 3” Minnow in Lime Tiger, that had proved so appealing to the mac tuna. I put it on a ¼ oz, 1/0 jighead and cast it out. There were no more tuna but after a few retrieves another good bream took it. I landed it and then caught another.

There was another quiet spell so I swapped to a bigger GULP Jerkshad in the Sweet & Sour Chicken colour. The tailor must have been passing through again because after a number of bites, pulls and aborted runs, I hooked up again. It was another 40cm fish.

The tide was now almost up to my waist so it was time to retreat. It had been a great session and good way to end the week. Bream, dart, tailor, tuna, trevally and flathead – another great week of fishing in Iluka.

Iluka – Woody Head – Woody Bay – 8 April 2013

Monday – Morning

I have managed to sneak down to Woody Head for a few days and even though there are plenty of showers around, the wind and swell forecasts look pretty good for some rock fishing.

On Monday I awoke to a cool, light south westerly wind. It was a morning high tide at about 7.00 am. The new moon is due on Wednesday. I could not go far as the family are with me and they apparently think that fishing is not the only activity on offer here. I decided to have a fish around the rock bars on the edge of Woody Bay, in front of the Woody Head camp site.

I was fishing with my light spin rig – a 6’6” Loomis GL 2 rod and Shimano Stradic 2500, 6lb Fireline and 10lb fluorocarbon leader. I started with Gulp 2” Jigging Grub soft plastic in the Pumpkinseed colour, on a 1/8th oz, 1/0 jighead.

The tide was a fairly big one and by first light it had almost submerged all the rocks in the bay. I had not bothered with my waders, as the water was fairly warm. This was a mistake – as soon as my shorts got wet, the light south westerly had me chilled to the bone.

After a couple casts, a fish grabbed my plastic, next to one of the rock bars and took off. It made two good runs before I tightened the (loose) drag and subdued it. It was a handsome tarwhine, just over 30 cm long. I took a few pictures and threw it back.

A few casts later, I felt and saw a long tom try to grab it. I swapped to a GULP 3” Minnow in the Banana Prawn colour – gold and grey with a black fleck. I felt a good bite, then another, then I was on to a fish, a biggish Pike about 35cm long. I put that back and carried on.

An early morning Woody Head tarwhine

An early morning Woody Head tarwhine

The long toms kept grabbing, but I could not hook one. At about 8.00 am I connected with a small fish that turned out to be a very small trevally. At 8.30 am I gave up and went for a hot shower.

A good sized pike

A good sized pike

Monday – Afternoon

With a lunchtime low tide and clear skies I decided to go and have a look out the front of the Woody Head platform, with my Shimano Catana Coastline light combo. This is a good rod, heavy enough to land school jewfish, but still light enough to feel the bream bite.

I use it with a size 3000 Shimano Sustain reel and 16lb Super PE braid. I started with a 15lb leader. The water is fairly clear and the swell was very light. I decided to start big and colourful and put on a GULP Jerkshad soft plastic, in the Lime Tiger colour. I attached it to a ¼ oz, 2/0 jighead and started fishing.

The first cast produced nothing but on the second a fish grabbed the plastic and ran with it for a few seconds, before dropping it. As is often the case, it had struck very close to the rocks. On the next cast the same thing happened. I swapped down to a smaller soft plastic – the GULP 3” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. This did the trick and I pulled up a bream – just under 30 cm. In the next 5 casts a caught 2 more, about the same size. Then things went quiet. It was about 3.00 pm and the wind had turned south easterly and was blowing a huge rain cloud in my direction. I caught a small dart and then decided to give up for the day.

As I cleaned the bream for supper, the resident wobbegongs soon appeared. In the end there were five, swimming around trying to figure out where the fish blood was coming from. I had not caught any big fish but I had dinner – not a bad start to the week.

Iluka – Woody Head – The Barnacles – 12 February 2013

Tuesday

It rained hard over night and I actually woke up cold on Tuesday morning. I made a huge mug of tea and fished out a long sleeve t-shirt. It was just after 5.00 am. The wind had already moved round from the south-west to blow from the east, but it was still fairly light. Low tide had been at 4.13 am. The swell might have eased a little overnight so I decided to start on the rock platform, out front at Woody Head. I walked out to the ‘Barnacles’ in the pre-dawn and things looked promising. There was only the occasional wave coming over the top and I would have an hour or so to fish before the tide got too high. It looked like it would even be possible to put out a few casts in front of ‘Barnacle Bob’.

The day before I had noticed the 20lb Fireline had started to fray on the heavy rod and I had lost a fair amount of the 10lb Platil Millenium braid, on the light rod. The Platil braid was getting a bit water-logged and heavy and not casting well. I decided neither was working particularly well in these conditions, so I drove into Big River Bait and Tackle at Maclean and asked for some suggestions on re-spooling. They were all a bit fed up after the floods. The Clarence River was still black and smelly and logically the fish looked like they had all fled out to sea for a while. The Clarence is a huge system and it will be a couple of weeks before the river improves.

As usual, the team gave me some good advice and suggested I re-spool both with 20lb Super PE braid. This would be thin enough to cast well on the light rig, but robust enough to handle a decent fish on the heavy rig. Best of all, they stripped off the old line and re-spooled both reels while I went off for a Pot Belly Pie (a local speciality) and a coffee.

So back at Woody Head the next morning I was fishing with perfectly loaded reels. This makes a huge difference when casting in difficult conditions. Every line change takes a little getting used too but the Sunline Super PE was a massive improvement. I started with the heavy rod and a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour on a ¼ oz, 3/0 jighead. I moved out carefully over the rocks to a spot just in front of ‘Barnacle Bob’. This has been the scene of a couple of big fish captures for me and whenever it’s safe I try a few casts here. I put the lure exactly where I wanted it but after five or six casts I had not found anything. I swapped through a few more soft plastic colours, but these did not produce any interest.

I moved south along the front of rocks to a safer spot and swapped down to the lighter rod. I put on a 1/6th oz, 2/0 jighead and tied on a 12lb fluorocarbon leader. I decided to try a different soft plastic lure. I have never been a fan of the pure white lures, I have always assumed they are an offshore, deep water idea. But I had a packet of GULP jerkshads in white and I was not having much luck, so I decided to give them a try.

It was a wise choice; I cast out wide and let the lure waft in on the swell. I left it as long as I could and it got snagged. I re-rigged with the same set up. This time, right at the base of the rocks, I felt a bite, dropped the rod down and then struck. I had a fish. I let the swell wash it up. It was a nice Bream, well over 30 cm long.

I cast out again and felt another bite, but did not hook up. I carried on for a few more casts, using exactly the same technique. About five minutes later at 6.15 am I felt a gentle tug and then a solid bite. A wave came crashing over the top and I thought the fish was gone but as the water drained, the line was still tight. On the next swell I tightened the drag a little and pulled hard. A school Jewfish came into view. It had a bit of fight left in it and I only had a 12lb leader so I let it swim back out again. The next wave was a big one and it washed the fish over the rocks and back, past me into the drain behind me. I waited for the water to drain away again and when it did the fish was stranded and I grabbed it.

It was the first school jewfish of the week and it had been lurking right at the base of the rocks waiting for dinner. It was no monster at about 50cm long (NSW size limit is 45cm) but it would make a good meal. I despatched it and put it in a keeper rock pool. I looked for more and fished for another two hours but could not find any. I lost plenty of gear trying to get my lures into the strike zone but as the tide rose and the wind picked up, it became harder and harder. At about 8.45 am the water was sloshing over the rocks with every surge and I had to retreat.

Jewfish stomach contents

I went back to wash clean up the jewfish. I gutted it and had a look in the stomach. It was full of the tiny whitebait I had seen jumping by the rocks. As I was doing this I was standing in the shallow rock pool. After a few minutes of cleaning and scaling, I nearly jumped out of my skin as I heard a loud snap and splash, just behind my heal.

I found a big hungry wobbegong already in attendance. It had swum up a series of very shallow rapids to reach the pool, just below where I had lay the jewfish. The blood and guts had attracted him. I hopped out of the water and quickly found another (stranded) patch of water to finish the cleaning. By the time I finished cleaning the bream there were four of them swimming around, like toothy puppies waiting for lunch.

I had cut off the bream’s head as I intended to pan fry it on my camp stove. I left it on the edge of the rock pool and was amazed as two of the wobbegongs wriggled out of the water, in their attempts to reach it. Eventually the bigger of the two lunged forward and inhaled the head, with a loud snap.

In the afternoon I came back to the same spot as soon as the tide would allow, at about 2.30 pm. I fished all through the afternoon but the swell and wash made it difficult again. I caught one good Bream, about 33 cm and dropped a bigger one, both on a smaller GULP 3” Minnow in the Banana Prawn colour, on a 1/6th, 1/0 jighead, around 3.00pm. There was plenty of bait, jumping, in close to the rocks but I just could keep the lure where I wanted it.

By 5.00 pm I was soaked through and decided to give up and head for the wood fire, fried bream and a bottle of red.

Iluka – Middle Bluff and Shark Bay – 11 February 2013

Monday

The wind started a little cool from the south west but was forecast to move round to the east and north east. The tide would be too full to fish the dawn at Woody Head, so I decided to give Middle Bluff a try again. I arrived in the pre-dawn light, just before 6.00 am and immediately set to work with the heavy rig. I started with 3/8th oz, 3/0 jighead and a Gulp Jerkshad in the Pumpkinseed colour. The bommie, beside which the jewfish lurk, was covered in wash and the sweep took a few of my lures in quick succession. I had done too much of this the day before, so I changed tactics.

The sun was up and I moved right to the north end of Middle Bluff. I switched to the light rod with 16lb leader and put on a 1/6th oz, 3/0 jighead. I started with a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad, in the Lime Tiger colour. I could just about cast the lure out, over the edge of the fringing reef and leave it there for a few seconds. Then I would have to quickly retrieve it with a wave, that was breaking over the reef. After a couple of casts, I lost the tail of the soft plastic, so I put on another. Each time I retrieved, small baitfish leapt ahead of the lure, as it approached the reef edge. After about three casts, a fish grabbed the lure right at the edge of the reef. I let it have some line and looked for a wave to bring it over the reef.

I had not caught much in the few days previously and I was a bit too eager. As the next wave washed over the edge, I pulled a bit too hard and the hook came out. I did not get a good look at it, but I would say it was more likely to have been a tailor or trevally, than jewfish.

I threw a lot of lures at this spot over the next hour, with both the light and heavy rod. After about twenty minutes one of my GULP 2” Smelt Minnows was bitten off right next to the edge, but that was it, I did not hook anything else. By about 10 am the water was surging over the rocks too often and I had to move off. The fish were definitely there, but they had again proved hard to get at.

By late afternoon the north-easterly breeze had picked up. I decided to try fishing at Shark Bay, to the north of Woody Head. This is another spot that is only really accessible around low tide. The rock platform at the southern end of the bay is exposed for a few hours either side of low. There is a large patch of reef just north of the main platform and the channel between is often a good target area.

The sea was fairly flat here. I decided to start with the light rod. I tied on 12lb leader and a 1/6th oz, 2/0 jighead and loaded a GULP 2” Minnow in the Banana Prawn colour. I cast north and waited for the lure to sink. As it did so,…….bang, it was hit on the drop. The Shimano Catana Coastline bent over and took the lunges. After a few runs I reeled in another good size bream.

A few casts later I pulled in a tiny Moses Perch and then I started to lose tails to some rapid hit and run attacks. I decided to put a bigger lure on and loaded a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad. On the first retrieve it was slammed. I knew it was a tailor from the mad head shakes. I wound in steadily and soon had it by my feet. It was about 40 cm long. Over the next hour I had several more plastics mangled, but could not hook up. At one point I saw a couple of long toms following the lure in. At about 7.00 pm, exhausted, I gave up for the day.