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

Coffin Bay – Point Avoid and the Ledge – 5 September 2016

Monday

On Monday the wind dropped back a bit and the weather warmed up considerably. Everything was blooming and the flies had started buzzing. I drove out to Point Avoid and after catching a few small salmon around dawn, I moved north around the point to fish in the shallow pools, close to shore. The tide was low at about 8.30 am. The wind was now fairly light from the south east but the swell was still big. The rocks further out took the power out of the waves but every 10 minutes or so a huge surge would race up and over everything and then slowly drain out.

I picked a safe spot and cast around with a soft plastic. I was using 12lb leader and a 1/6th ounce, size 1/0 jighead. I was using a GULP 3 inch Minnow soft plastic in the Watermelon Pearl colour. There were sandy bottomed pools scattered everywhere and almost everyone had a resident wrasse. I just dropped the plastic and let it sink. Then, as soon as I lifted it off the bottom they would strike. I lost a few of the bigger ones to the rocks, but I must have caught about 10 before the incoming tide pushed me back. In between the wrasse the odd Australian herring also attacked the soft plastic. At about 9.30 am the surges had pushed me too far away from the fishy spots, so I drove back into town.

I had breakfast and then drove round to the other side of the bay to fish the ledge. The tide was coming in and I started off fishing with some GULP worm soft plastics hoping to find a few King George whiting. Try as I might the juvenile salmon were all I could find.

As I looked around in the shallows I saw a clump of razor fish and quickly harvested a few. I also noticed good sized mussels clumping on the rocks so I collected enough for lunch. I went back to my cabin and cleaned up. I ate the razor fish and the mussels for lunch. Razor fish are delicious – like scallops only sweeter. They are a lot of work for a tiny morsel of edible seafood but it’s worth it. The mussels were also amazing. I just steamed them. The problem with eating really fresh seafood is that it means the shop/ restaurant bought variety will rarely pass muster. I cannot remember the last time I ate fish in a restaurant.

I had a sleep and then drove round to Seal Rock to fish at sunset. The target was the King George Whiting again. I fished through the flies for a couple of hours and eventually, just after dark I caught a couple.

Coffin Bay – Kellidie Bay & Point Avoid – 1/2 September 2016

Thursday

Work brought me to the Eyre Peninsula again in early September. I was keen to get back down to Coffin Bay as I have heard there is a run of big kingfish at this time of year.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon and took a cabin at the caravan park for the weekend. Spring had just about arrived and the weather and more importantly the water temperatures were beginning to warm up. Thursday was new moon so the tides were quite big.

In the afternoon I drove round to Kellidie Bay to fish at Seal Corner – and fished with my Gary Howard Estuary 9’ of the west side of the peninsula. I was using 4lb leader and 1/12th ounce, size 1 hook jig head with various Gulp Worms. I caught a few small King George Whiting, a few juvenile Salmon and one very small Tommy Rough. The Dolphins came through but a cold south westerly wind at about 15 knots made things tough.

On Friday morning I was up at 5.30 and drove in to the National Park and round to Point Avoid. Tide would be low at about 7.00 am and a five knot south easterly wind was forecast. Skies were overcast and there was virtually no moon. First light was at 6.20 am.

Last time I was here I was outgunned with a very light rod so this time I brought my slightly bigger NS Blackhole Light Surf Rod. I have a new Shimano Stradic 4000 reel and I had loaded it with the 17lb Aldi braid and tied on a length of 25lb leader.

I started with a River2sea Bubble Pop 88 in a gold colour. I cast this a long way out behind the waves and started yanking it. Conditions were pretty choppy so there was no point in trying to make it look pretty. No luck on the first cast but right at the end of the retrieve on the second, a decent salmon (about 2.5kg) caming rushing up behind it. It hit the lure hard and then turned around and headed back out to sea. It was solidly hooked and with the bigger rod I had little trouble subduing it.

As the sky brightened a full length rainbow appeared. I could see the rain heading towards me. I carried on with the popper for a few more casts but I was casting into the wind and I could net get it as far out as I wanted. I took it off and swapped to a 40 gram Surecatch Knight metal slug.  This caught a salmon on the first cast and then continued to catch more, about one every other cast. However the size gradually declined as we moved further from dawn.

At about 8.30 am, it started to rain. I tied on a DUO Realis Jerkbait 100 – a hard bodied suspending minnow. I cast this out and although it would not carry as far as the slug it did go a fair distance. The action or the rattle had an immediate effect and a fish hit it as soon as it got going. After a short fight I pulled out a grumpy looking brown spotted wrasse. I caught a few more of these who seemed to like this lure. The rain gradually got heavier and it was pretty cold so at about 9.30 am gave up.

As I drove back along the national park road into Coffin Bay the emus were out in force, one even had a set of what looked like fairly recent chicks. Drive slowly on this stretch if you are coming down this way.

Coffin Bay – Point Avoid – 11 June 2016

Saturday

Having caught plenty of salmon trout inside Coffin Bay it was time to get out on to the surf beaches and find some bigger models. On Saturday morning I was up at 5.45 am and drove into the Coffin Bay National Park. I drove long the winding track out to the west side. It was cold – about 5 degrees, but the wind had dropped a little. It was still a south-easterly and low tide would be at about 8.45am.

I was heading out to fish the beach at the depressingly named Point Avoid. Point Avoid/ Coffin Bay – they obviously did not think much of the place when they drew up the maps. Point Avoid was named by Matthew Flinders and as it is usually lashed by strong winds and has strong currents racing through rocky channels, its probably a fair name.

It was overcast as I walked down onto the beach. Rain looked likely. I loaded up the Lox Yoshi with a length of 20lb fluorocarbon leader and tied on a 20g Raider metal slug. I put a long cast out into the surf and wound fast. On the second cast – bash , bump, bump and then zzzzzzzzzzzzz. I let it have some line and gradually played it out it was a small Australian Salmon. I dragged it slowly to the sand. It was about 35cm long. I let it go and cast out again. I caught three or four at this size and then a bigger one grabbed the lure. I could not stop it and after a short fight, it buried itself in the rocks and snapped me off.

I put on a small popper (about 50cm). I could not cast this as far but it did not matter. On about the fourth cast I saw a shape come up and snaffle it. This was a bigger fish. Fortunately it headed for open water and did some leaping around. I let it run and wear itself out and slowly I steered it back up the beach. This one was about 40 cm long and I decided to keep it. I bled it and left it under a rock. I cast the popper around again. It did not take long to find another decent salmon. This one really pulled hard and put in some good stunts but I managed to hang on to it. It was about 45cm long and had completely mashed the hooks on the popper’s front treble.

I put on a DUO Realis Jerkbait 120 in a purple colour. This lure suspends about 10 to 15 cm below the surface and has a very loud rattle and great action. The smaller salmon knocked this around for a while. Then something different whacked it. It was a brown spotted wrasse, about 30 cm long.

I moved around the corner and walked out on to a rocky promontory that had been revealed by the falling tide. I swapped to a 1/8th ounce jighead and GULP Jerkshad in the Lime Tiger colour. I cast around the deep holes in between the rocks. The salmon where here as well but the lure was a bit big for them.  I caught a couple more small wrasse.

I hooked what I thought was another salmon but on close inspection I realized it was an Australian Herring known locally as a Tommy Rough. I carried on fishing until the tide turned in, then gave up for the morning

 

 

 

 

 

i

Iluka – Woody Head – 25 November 2014

Tuesday

Morning

Monday had been a tough day. The weather had really made it too hard to fish. Any normal person would have had a day relaxing at the pub or fixing up their gear – but by now regular readers will realize that I am far from normal.

Tuesday morning was a different story weather wise. The north-easterly had dropped off considerably to about 10 knots.  I decided to try fishing the rock platform at Woody Head. I arrived about 4.00 am and rigged up my heavy rig. Having seen the popper working the day before. I tied on a DUO Realis Popper 64 in a red colour. I tied it on with 30lb leader and lobbed it out. With a fair breeze it was hard to cast it very far on the heavy rig. However I eventually succeeded in getting more or less parallel with the edge of the rock ledges and worked the popper through the foamy wash. On about my tenth cast there was an explosive strike, short run and then my leader was flapping in the wind. Whatever it was, 30lb leader was clearly not going to stop it. It was only just light enough to see. I tied on another bigger RIVER TO SEA Dumbbell Popper but this did not interest the fish.

As the sun came up I decided to switch to soft plastic lures. GULP have a fairly new pattern – the 3” Mantis Shrimp. This is basically a prong tailed shrimp shape. I had it in the Molting Shrimp colour. I tied it on with 30lb fluorocarbon leader on a ¼ ounce, 1/0 jighead. I cast it out and let it sink for as long as  I felt it would take to get to the bottom. The problem with fishing these ledges is that the fish are always very close in. This means getting you soft plastic to the bottom and keeping it there long enough for something to grab it – without getting snagged. The Jewfish like to sit under the overhangs and in the caves that are under the ledges. You have to use your lures in a way that will persuade them to come out and eat.

The sun was now over the horizon. I dropped the soft plastic just over the edge into the foamy water. After a couple of hops my line was almost touching the face of the rocks. There was gentle tug and I dropped the rod tip – rock, swell or fish? I paused for a few seconds then struck hard – it was a fish. It had plenty of power and it took off to the south in a long and powerful initial run. But it was slow and powerful so I was pretty sure it was a jewfish/mulloway. I took a little line back, as it paused for a breather, but I could not turn its head. It put in another powerful run but then it slowed and I tightened the drag and put some pressure on. It was tired now but it still kept trying to dive down underneath the rocky ledge. I used the swell to get it to the foot of the rocks. I could now see it was a very decent fish – perhaps 80 or 90 cm. On a couple of wave surges I tried to get it up on the stepped ledges below me. I succeeded initially but as soon as the wave receded the dead weight of the fish was unmovable and it would wriggle back off with the receding water. It seemed solidly hooked and pretty tired so I waited for a decent wave set and heaved it up two steps. I waited for the next surge but as I pulled, the hook came free. It slid back down, and with the next wave and swam away.

When I examined the jighead I could see it had started to straighten. I suspect that the only way I would have landed that fish would have been with a long handled gaff and I do not intend to start carrying one of those around the rocks with me. I re-rigged with the same outfit but after 30 minutes I had not had another bite so I decided to change to another soft plastic. I chose the GULP 4” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. After two casts, something slammed this and briefly headed out to sea before biting through the leader. I tied on a repeat rig and fished around for another 20 minutes with no result.

I decided it was time to switch to the light rig and lighter leader. I started with 20lb fluorocarbon and tied on a smaller, GULP 3” minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. I stuck with the ¼ ounce, 1/0 hook jighead. It had been an interesting morning and it wasn’t even 6.00 am yet.

I cast the smaller lure out and it was hit, at the base of the rocks on the first cast. I soon landed a solid bream – well over 35cm. I released it – I was determined to get a jewfish that I could keep for supper. About 5 minutes later I had another fish on. I was sure it was another jewfish but I only had the light rod this time so patience was the key. I left the drag alone and gradually tired the fish out. The tide would be high at 11.00 am so the rising water was gradually improving my chances of using the waves to help wash the fish up on to the rocks. I pulled the fish up the ledges in a couple of stages and safely grabbed the leader. Finally I had a keeper size Jewfish – just on 72cm. I put it in a keeper pool and cast out again.  The fish were suddenly on the bite, I caught another decent bream and then was on to a similair sized jewfish but once more I was unable to get it up the rocks.

By about 6.30 am I had swapped to a GULP 5 inch Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken colour. After a few casts I connected with another jewfish. I managed to land this one but it was just under 70cm, so I sent it on its way.

 

By about 7.30 am the wind had picked up again and the tide was washing over the ledges so I had to give up. I cleaned up my jewfish and walked back to the car.

Afternoon

The wind was forecast to drop off and then turn south-easterly in the afternoon. After a great morning I decided I had to go back to Woody Head and fish through dusk. I arrived at about 3.30pm and walked out to ‘the Barnacles’ area. The tide was running out to an afternoon low at about 5.30 pm. The moon was a waxing crescent – 11% full.

I used my heavy rod with 30lb fluorocarbon leader. This area is tough to fish as you are casting over lots of shallow reef to reach a drop off. A surface lure is a therefore a good option. I tied on a River to Sea 110m Dumbbell Pop surface popper and hurled it out. I wore myself out for twenty minutes casting this in all directions but I could not stir anything up. I swapped over to a ¼ ounce, 1/0 jighead and GULP 5 “ Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken colour.  On the first cast I caught another good (35 cm+) bream and then I lost the jighead to the rocks.

I re-rigged and cast out again. There were a few fish knocking and bumping the plastic just as it reached the ledge, but I could not seem to hook them. Just before 4.00 pm something grabbed the plastic just as I finished my retrieve. It tried to dart under the rocks but it was not a big fish and the heavier rod and tightened drag soon pulled it clear. It was an amazing coloured wrasse of some sort – a really pretty fish. After a few pictures I released it.

I caught a couple more bream on smaller soft plastics but the south easterly started to blow hard at about 4.30 pm, so I gave up for the day.

Wrasse

Soft plastics will catch anything