Iluka – Shark Bay – Tailor / Bream – 17 March 2016

Thursday

On Thursday the weather was much the same and low tide was not until 11.20 am. Most of my favourite fishing points around Iluka are low or falling tide spots, so I decided to have a lie in. Of course a fisherman’s lie in just means getting up at dawn, rather than 90 minutes before dawn, but it was nice to get a full 8 hours sleep.

At about 8.30 am I drove round to Woody Head to have a look at conditions. Although the tide was far enough out to make fishing possible, the swell was still bashing up against the rocks. The swell had been a steady 1.5/ 1.8m all week. It was caused by the slow moving tropical storm that had missed the Queensland coast the week before, but stirred everything up. Discretion is the better part of valour and I was not going to risk my life for a fish, so I walked back to the car.

I drove round to Shark Bay again. I walked out onto the rock and tied on 55g HALCO Twisty in the brass/ gold colour. I catch far more fish on the brass/ gold colour of this lure than the silver colour – no idea why. I started with big long casts on the heavy rod and after five or six casts, I had a 30 cm tailor. A few casts later I had another…. and another. I swapped up to an 80mm HALCO Roosta Popper in the Fluoro Pink colour. I blooped this back towards me, making plenty of splashes and stopped for a few seconds every now and then. After a few bloops, a bigger tailor grabbed it and I soon had a 50cm tailor at my feet.

It was now about 11.00 am and I swapped to the lighter rod, 14lb fluorocarbon leader, a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 hook jighead and a GULP 4 inch Minnowp soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour. The first cast was smashed by a tailor which then spat it out. The second, attracted a few snaps from a long tom, which followed the soft plastic right back to me. After about ten more minutes of casting I caught another 30cm bream.

I decided to try the other side of the rock platform but neither soft plastics nor slugs could raise anything there so at about 12.00 noon, I gave up.

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Hat Head – Tailor, Tailor, Tailor – 26 September 2015

Saturday

The September school holiday is a great time to go south from Brisbane. The weather can be unpredictable but the water is usually still cool and the winter species; kingfish, tailor, bream, jewfish, snapper – are all possible from the shore.

The coast of northern New South Wales has great fishing spots. They are liberally spaced all the way down to Newcastle and beyond. Fingal Head, Woody Head, Brooms Head, Crescent Head and our destination – Hat Head are all fantastic rock fishing locations.

The tricky thing with September is often the weather. The winter wind pattern of southerly blows is gradually giving way to the more consistent summer northerlies, which warm up the seas. These two patterns clash and this can bring storms, big seas and rain.

We were fortunate. We drove down from Brisbane in the rain and wind. By the time we reached the house we had rented, the rain had stopped. It soon started again, through Friday night but by Saturday, the sun was out. There had been a big southerly blow raging all week with lots of rain.

By dusk, I could wait no longer. I pulled on my fishing boots and set off to for the Spinning Ledge at the far eastern point of the Hat Head promontory. It takes me about 30 to 40 mins to walk from the township out to the ledge. The path is quite challenging and slippery in parts, so shoes with good grip are essential. Waterfalls lined the route as the recent heavy rain drained off the hill. There were plenty of frogs singing at each small water crossing. A large echidna wobbled along the path in front of me at one point before rolling into a ball in a not particularly cunning attempt to disguise itself.

I arrived at the end of the end of the headland at about 5.00 pm. There were a couple of fisherman already on the ledge. The birds were circling just offshore, to the north east and one of the fisherman was pulling in a 40cm tailor on a metal slug.

I only had about 30 minutes until sunset so I had to get on with it. The swell was up and there was still a strong southerly wind blowing. I was trying a new longer, slightly lighter rock fishing rod. It is the Daiwa Air Edge Surf. 96L (supplied on the recommendation of Steve at Jones Tackle). Which I matched with my Shimano Sustain 4000 reel, 15 lb breaking strain Aldi braid and 30lb fluorocarbon  leader.

This is what Daiwa have to say about it:

96L

Finesse and shore based spinning don’t generally mix but with the 96L is the perfect mixture of weight, action and taper to make the perfect light game spin and estuary baitfishing rod. Ideally suited for fishing small metals, bibbed minnows, poppers, sliders and plastics. Best suited to a 2500 – 3000 sized spinning reel.

I agree with most of that – but I will need to give it a good workout before I am prepared to agree that it’s “perfect”.

I could see the slugs where working but I decided to start with a soft plastic lure. I tied on ¼ ounce #1/0 hook jighead and loaded a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the curry chicken colour. I tried to use the rocks behind me as a bit of shelter from the very strong southerly but from my first cast, I could see that getting the jighead to sink would be difficult.

I cast out at low level and manage to land the soft plastic about 12 metres from the shore. I let it sink and started to hop it back towards me. As soon as it moved off the bottom, the fish were all over it. I could feel it being pulled in all directions before a solid fish finally took possession. I played the fish for a while keeping the line tight and safely pulled it over the oyster covered section at the base of the rocks. Then I grabbed the leader and slowly pulled it to my feet. It was a solid 43 cm tailor.

The soft plastic was destroyed so I swapped to a GULP 4” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. Two or three casts later I managed to get it back into about the same spot and the same thing happened. This was a slightly bigger one, just short of 50 cm. I decided to dispatch it and keep it for dinner. The fish kept coming and I caught three more over the next 20 minutes. However they were all between about 30 and 40 cm.

By now the sun had dropped below the horizon and to avoid walking back along the track in complete darkness, I decided to pack up. I am sure the bite would have continued but fishing lures in the dark is pretty hard. By the time I reached the path higher up the hill, the southerly wind must have been blowing well above 30 knots.

It was a great first session.

Iluka – Middle Bluff – Shark Bay – Iluka Bluff – Tailor – 16 June 2015

Tuesday

Tuesday morning was dry but the big swell was still hanging around. I decided to try fishing for some more Tailor at Middle Bluff and set off before dawn. The walk from the Frasers Reef carpark along the beach to Middle Bluff in the pre-dawn light is always great. The sky is usually beginning to glow and I am conjuring visions of huge jewfish, tailor and tuna in my mind.

The wind was light from the east and not particularly cold. It was the day of the new moon so it would be a big tide. High tide would be at 7.45 am so I had to watch the rising water levels and surges carefully.

I started fishing at about 6.20 am with the River to Sea 110mm Dumbbell Popper. I cast this around until my shoulders were sore and did not get any hits. I swapped over to the 50g DUO Pressbait Saira jig/ slug and started to put in some long casts, off the north end of the headland. This soon paid off and at about 7.00 am, just before the sun came over the horizon, I hooked up and then dropped two tailor before finally holding on to a chunky 50 cm model.

I carried on spinning the Pressbait until the inevitable happened and I lost it to the rocks. I decided to try a soft plastic and rigged up a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad in the New Penny colour on a ¼ ounce, size 3.0 hook jighead. I was using my heavier Daiwa Demonblood rod with a 30lb fluorocarbon leader. You really need to tie on at least a ¼ ounce jighead to make this combination work. Anything lighter and you cannot feel the jighead or cast it past the rocks close that line the shore. By way of proof, even with the ¼ ounce weight, I lost the first rig to the rocks on the first cast. I re-rigged and cast out again.

The sun was up but it was still cloudy and it was just after 7.30 am. After a few casts I felt a solid thump and then another and another. I let the plastic go for a few seconds then pulled the rod up hard and I had a fish on. It managed to keep it on and pull it, wriggling hard, over the rocks with the help of the swell and landed it safely. It was another bigger Tailor about 55 cm long.

I noticed the tailor had a good sized bite mark on its back (probably from another fish in the same school). I photographed and released it and re-rigged with a fresh Crazylegs Jerkshad. I fished around for another hour, but the rising tide made things very difficult so at about 8.30 am I gave up.

I went for breakfast and then thought I would try the Shark Bay jewfish spot again. The sky had clouded over again but with a new moon and big swell I thought I had a pretty good chance of catching another jewfish/ mulloway. I arrived just after 1.00 pm and fished around with the heavy rod and leader and some big jerkshads, without much luck. I swapped down to the light rod and 12lb leader. This did the trick and I caught another stonker 38 cm bream on a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad. The rain arrived again and forced another break.

At about 4.00 pm it had eased off so I decided to try fishing at Iluka Bluff. A keen Korean fisherman from the Gold Coast had been there all afternoon and had caught a few good sized silver trevally and some small giant trevally and also been bitten off a couple of times. The swell was tricky and the tide was running, I was tired and had only brought my light surf rig with me form the car. I rigged up a GULP Jerkshad in the Orange Tiger colour. As I pulled it close to the rocks on the retrieve it was slammed and the fish took off. I had no chance and after a few seconds I was bitten off.

I re-rigged with 20lb leader and cast out the same colour soft plastic. After a few casts I was hit again and this time I held on to the fish. It was a 45cm silver trevally. The other fisherman was regularly broadcasting berley and had been doing so all afternoon which may well have brought the fish in.

I decided to try a small 18g MARIA Duplex hard bodied sinking minnow. This lure is only about 60mm long and has a tight action. It casts like a bullet. I threw it around for about ten minute. On about the sixth cast something absolutely slammed it and took off.  I immediately regretted having only brought the light rod. It bent over and the line continued to peel. The fish was moving straight and fast out to sea and I was very quickly into the backing line. I held the spool and tried to slow it and then turned the drag slightly tighter. None of this made any difference and the fish was still running. I tightened the drag and pop, the line went slack. It was faster than a jewfish but I have no idea what it actually was. It was certainly the biggest fish I had interacted with all week but I did not have the right gear to face it. The leader was still attached when I wound in but there was no sign of the lure.

It was getting dark and I did not have another lure so I gave up for the day.

Iluka – Woody Head – 9 June 2015

Tuesday

Having confirmed the winter species are well and truly biting at Bribie Island, I decided to head south to Iluka to fish the headlands of the Bundjalung National Park.  I rented a unit for a week and set off on Tuesday morning. I arrived about 1.30 pm, quickly covered all available surfaces with my fishing gear and considered my options. Low tide would be at about 7.30 pm but with not much swell Woody Head looked like a good bet.

I took two set ups with me. The first – my heavy rig – is a Daiwa Demonblood 962H rod matched with a Shimano Stradic FJ 8000 reel. I rigged this with 25lb Super PE braid and a 35lb fluorocarbon leader. This is great for casting metal slugs, bigger poppers and hard bodied lures but it will also work reasonably well with big soft plastic lures on ¼ ounce (and above) jigheads. If you hook a big fish, this rod has the power to drag it up the rocks. The second – my light rig is an N.S Black Hole Cabin II – S-862 L Spin Rod. It is 2.59m long (8’6”) and rated 8-14 lb. I match this rod with a Shimano Sustain 3000 reel. I rigged this with 12lb braid and 12lb fluorocarbon leader.

I walked out on to the Woody Head rock platform and headed for the prominent rock opposite the wooden stairs. The wind was light but the swell was still quite powerful and I watched it for a while before moving forward to fish. I have left plenty of skin on these barnacles over the years so I am now very cautious when I fish here. At any moment a big set of waves can come through with the potential to knock you off your feet. I now wear a lightweight PFD, just in case I end up in the drink.

I started with my heavy rig fishing a 120 mm DUO Realis Jerkbait – this is a shallow diving hard body that has caught plenty of tailor for me. I would use it more, but there are not may spots where you can fish it without fear of losing it to the rocks. After about 20 casts in semi-circle, I had had no hits so I decided to put it away and switch to soft plastics.

 

I switched to the light rod and put on a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 jighead loaded with a GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour.  I cast in to the wash about 10 metres from the edge of the rock ledge and counted to 10 while I let the soft plastic waft down in the foamy water. As I lifted it a fish slammed it. It was fairly powerful and took a bit of line, helped by the receding wash. I soon had it under control and pulled it over the barnacle covered terrain with the aid of the next wave. It was a very solid bream – about 35cm long. I cleaned it for supper and carried on fishing.

I swapped through a few soft plastics and had a couple of good bites on various jerkshads. I swapped to the GULP Mantis Shrimp in the Lime Tiger colour and caught another smaller bream.

At about 4.45 am the wind had picked up and  the sun had dropped behind the hill so I decided to give up for the day.

Iluka – Woody Head – 26 November 2014

Wednesday

Morning

It rained overnight on Tuesday and it was warm and cloudy on Wednesday morning. I chose to fish at Woody Head again. The wind had settled down and had turned north-easterly again. I was in position early. With first light at just after 5.00 am local time (which is 4.00 am Queensland time) bedtime is about 8.00 pm.

I arrived on the rock platform just before first light and rigged up my heavy rod. Low tide would be about 5.00 am.  I was using 30lb fluorocarbon leader and I put a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour on a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead. The swell had settled considerably and I could safely get fairly close to the edge of the rock ledges.  I knew where to cast – as close as I could to the edge of the rocks. Sure enough, on my third attempt I felt the gentle pull of a jewfish mouthing the plastic. I paused, then struck. With the big rod and light swell, this fish was fairly easy to subdue. It was 5.30 am and I had my first jewfish of the day. It was probably just over 70 cm, but I had left over fish from the day before, so I speared it back into the foamy wash.

I stayed with the heavy rod for about another thirty minutes  and caught a great bream but I was having trouble keeping in touch with the soft plastic, so I swapped to the lighter rod with a 14lb fluorocarbon leader. I moved to the south along the rocks, casting at any likely looking water. I soon found a few more good bream. I caught about 6 over the next hour – most were over 35cm. I used both big and small soft plastics in various patterns and colours.

At one point something bit hard on a 3 “ minnow soft plastic and took off, after a few seconds the line went slack and I retrieved just half a jighead. You need good teeth to bite clean through the jighead – mackerel? Shark?

At about 8.30 am the rain started falling and gradually got heavier until I decided to stop for the morning.

Afternoon

At about 3.00 pm the rain stopped and I went back to Woody Head to fish the afternoon low tide. The wind had picked up a bit from the north. I caught a few more bream on soft plastics all along the front of the rock platform. I caught one 35 cm on a GULP Jerkshad, but in general the fish where smaller than they had been in the morning.

As the sunset behind the headland the wild weather turned the sky a great colour. I fished through dusk and kept catching small bream and a couple of dart. At about 6.30 pm I decided I had had enough and walked back to the carpark.

Iluka – Woody Head – 1 October 2014

Wednesday

Many claim it was Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But there is no evidence that he ever said it, thought it or wrote it.  However as with all good clichés, there is an element of truth in it, especially for fishermen.

For this reason I decided not to return to Middle Bluff on Wednesday morning and to go instead to Woody Head – the next headland to the north. When the swell is light and the tide is low or falling, there are few better fishing spots.

I parked up and walked out on to the rock platform at about 5.00 am. The wind had stayed a northerly and the swell was fairly gentle, but there was still the odd large set of waves coming through. Boots with felt soles or studs, or both are essential, if you intend to venture out here, as is a PFD. The tides ensure almost every surface is a suitable home for green and black slimy weed and the barnacles here are responsible for plenty of long term scar tissue. So it is only relatively safe when the swell is under 1 metre and the tide is about half way out and falling.

It was another magnificent sunrise. I wandered out to the front of the rock platform to a spot called the Barnacles. I rigged up the light rod (NS Blackhole) with 14 lb fluorocarbon leader and ¼ ounce, 1/0 size hook jighead and a GULP Crazylegs Jerkshad, in the Curry Chicken colour. I lost the first rig to the rocks – fishing is expensive in this kind of terrain. I rigged up again with the same set up. I cast out and let the jig head sink. I left it as long as I dared and then hopped it in a little closer to the rocks. As I lifted it again I felt it stop and then line started peeling. The fish ploughed off to the south, parallel with the rocks. This was tricky as I could not stay lined up with it for long. I Let it run and then fairly quickly took back some line and tightened the drag a little. It turned but tried to bury itself at the foot of the rocks. It was now weakening but the leader was caught on some rocks and I could feel it rubbing. I loosed the drag right off and waited. Fortunately it swam out and freed the leader. Now I tightened again and pulled it up on the next surge of water. After a couple more waves I had it at my feet. A solid mulloway –  it was 76 cm and legal size in both Queensland and NSW. At last we would have a taste of the fish I had been catching all week and releasing.

I dispatched it, gutted and cleaned it. Then I headed back to the rocks for another try. It had destroyed my last GULP Crazy Legs Jerkshad so I put on a 4” Minnow in the Green Camo colour. Back to the same spot – bang, first cast and I have a fish on again. The drag was still set too tight from the final stages of the fight with the last one and after a big initial run, before I realised, it found a rock and snapped me off.  I assume it was another mulloway. I re-rigged and continued fishing for another 30 minutes with no result. The swell was building and the tide rising. So at about 7.45am, I gave up and took my prize back to the cabin.

Iluka – Woody Bay – 13 February 2013

Wednesday

On Wednesday I woke to more showers which were blowing through on a building south-easterly wind. I made some breakfast and waited for them to pass.

By the time the rain stopped it was about 6.30 am. The south-easterly was already blowing at about 15 knots and was forecast to get stronger through the day. There was not much point in trying to fish the headlands. The tide had been low at 5.00 am and had now turned in. I decided to fish around the rocks beside the boat launching area, on the edge of Woody Bay. This area, directly in front of the camp site, is sheltered by Woody Head. Even in a big south-easterly blow, it stays pretty calm.

A grey morning on Woody bay

A grey morning on Woody bay

I decided to switch to my really light spinning outfit – Shimano Stella 2500 reel, Loomis GL2 rod, 1.8kg Fireline and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader. The bait that had been jumping around close to the rocks, had been some kind of small whitebait, so I chose a GULP 3” minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour, which would represent a similar profile. I rigged up the plastic on a 1/8th oz., 1/0 jighead. As I stood in the shallows, the water was warm and I started casting along the edge of the semi – submerged rock bars. At about 6.45 am the rain started again and just as it did, I felt the familiar double tap bream attack. I did not hook up but on the next cast, I did. I wound in another very respectable bream.

GULP Minnow gets the first bream

GULP Minnow gets the first bream

I let it go and moved on, casting out and trying to rest my soft plastic lure, for as long as possible, right where the rocks met the sand. Just before 7.00 am I felt the faintest of grabs, as I hopped the lure along the bottom beside the rocks. Two more casts in the same spot produced nothing. On the third, the rod bent over as the jighead stopped dead.

It felt like the lure had stuck fast in the rocks but then very slowly the ‘rocks’ started to move. In a long slow run the fish moved about 6 metres to the south. Then paused and did the same thing again. I pulled up on the rod and tried to recover some line. It was only at this point that the fish realised that it was hooked and started really fighting. It was still so slow and heavy that I thought it was a ray or shovel nose shark. After a few more lunges it turned towards me and rose to the surface shaking its head. I could now see it was a big flathead.

With a ten pound leader I could not risk any abrasion from the barnacle-covered rocks so I let the fish play itself out. It had been lurking in less than 30cm of water so it was hard to keep its head down but I took my time and used the swell. I found a nice sloping rock bar and gradually eased the fish up in a breaking wave. It was a nice flathead who measured up at about 74cm. After a few snaps I put her back and she swam away.

The Clarence River is still very de-oxygenated and full of fresh water from the floods. It is likely that all sorts of species (including flathead) have settled around these headlands to wait for it to clear. The birds were very active, constantly swooping in to pick up baitfish. So it looks like a fair amount of bait has also been washed out.

I decided to wade around the shallows in the bay and look for some more fish. I was soaked from the rain and being in the water was warmer than being out of it. I tried all around the rocks with the same soft plastic and a few others, to see if I could find anymore flathead – but I couldn’t. I watched a few long toms follow my lures in and have a snap at them, but did not hook any.

I swapped over to one of my favourite DUO hard bodied lures. With the river out of bounds there was not much water where I could use their range of finesse lures, but this bay was flat enough and clear of weed, so it was perfect. I tied on the DUO Ryuki Spearhead 45s in a gold/ green colour. This is a small trout lure that seems to work well on bream. It weighs 4 grams and is 45mm long with a small bib. As with most of the DUO range it casts a long way and slips into its action almost as soon as it hits the water. Although it is technically a sinking lure, its lightweight means that it effectively suspends, when you pause the retrieve.

I cast it over the flats and around the rock bars as the tide rose. First it attracted a few undersize moses perch. Then, as I moved into slightly deeper water I found a patch of small bream. I caught a couple before they decided they had had enough.

At about 10.00 am I found myself almost back where I had caught the big flathead earlier. I had waded round the bay in a big circle. I continued to cast along the edge of the rocks and suddenly felt a solid hit and run. The fish was hooked and after a few good runs it calmed down and I pulled it up to the sandy beach. It was another good bream – just over 35cm long. I released it and carried on fishing for about another hour with no luck, so I decided to give up for the morning.