Sandon River estuary and Clarence River flats – 4/6 November 2020

I arrived for a few days of fishing in Iluka. With everybody locked in to Australia, it is getting hard to find accomodation in some of my favorite fishing spots – especially at the weekends. So I had booked ahead for this week. Unfortunately the weather did not play ball. A big southerly storm blew in on the night I arrived and the wind was forecast to be blowing around 25 knots for a few days.

Westin Shadteez Slim – great paddletail soft plastic

So on the Wednesday afternoon I decided to get out of the wind on the Sandon River, just to the south of Brooms Head. This is a very shallow estuary that is only worth fishing from about high tide. I set out in my waders about an hour after the tide had started running out. The water was crystal clear and running out quickly. I was fishing with my light spin set up -10lb fluorocarbon leader down to a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I started with the paddle tail soft plastic I am really enjoying using that was recommended to me by Mark Berg. It is from the Scandinavian brand Westin and it is called a Shadteez. I was using the 10 cm/4 inch. It has a great paddletail action but I particularly like the orange belly on the ‘Dirty Harbour’ colour. I hopped it along the bottom and soon found some flathead, but they were all pretty tiny. I swapped to a soft plastic minnow and cast it along the edge of a big weed bank. I caught a couple of small bream but I could not find dinner.

The next day I decided to have a look around in the Clarence River. There are are some good sand flats towards the southern end of Goodwood Island. On the Wednesday morning I drove down to the Goodwood Island Wharf (just downstream of Browns Rocks) and waded out to look for some flathead. I am always amazed at how dramatically the underwater terrain changes in a big river estuary. The tides, current, rain, sun and wind all conspire to make it unrecognisable from one year to the next. Several years ago this area was carpeted in sea grass and muddy yabby banks. Now the seagrass has disappeared completely and the yabby banks are sandier and (thankfully) a little firmer under foot.

The tide had just started to run in strongly and despite the howling south-easterly the water was very clear. I started with a GULP 3″ Minnow soft plastic in the Lime Tiger colour. I loaded this onto a 1/8th ounce, size 1 jighead. I waded in the direction of the river mouth putting in long casts up into the incoming tide and then slowly hopping the lure back towards me along the bottom. I was staying about waist deep in the water. I caught a couple of very small (25cm) flathead that were moving up with the tide.

I was moving slowly and quietly and suddenly heard a ‘boof’ and a splash between me and the river bank. I paused and it happened again, about 10 metres from me in about 25cm of water. Something was chasing the tiny jelly prawns that are currently plentiful in the shallows. I cast in that direction, counted to ten and slowly lifted then jigged up my rod tip. I paused for another ten, then the same drill. On the third lift I hooked the fish. It was a flathead just over 40 cm.

The flathead were clearly here. But as I slowly found out they were mostly very small. I moved between shallower and deeper water. I changed from a slow to fast retrieve and even contemplated pumping some yabbies. But despite frequent soft plastic and hard bodied lure changes, I could not catch another legal sized flathead. I caught plenty of small ones – about 12 in two hours, but most were between 20 and 30 cm long. I had found the nursery. Next session I would be looking for the grown ups.

1770 – Tom’s Creek Barramundi – 6 December 2014

Saturday

After a great capture on Thursday, I had to go back to Tom’s Creek on Saturday. It was pouring with rain in the morning and pretty miserable, so I had a lie in and decided to fish the afternoon run out tide. It would be a big tide with plenty of run, as it was full moon.

Low tide at 1770 would be at 2.12 pm, so I assumed it would be half an hour to an hour later, up in Toms Creek. On previous days there had been plenty of bait in the creek, even on the last of the run out tide. I arrived to fish at about 1.00 pm.

I started with the soft plastic that had been fishing well on previous days – the GULP Jerkshad, this time in the Camo colour. Because it was the middle of the day and the water was fairly clear, I had dropped down to 12 lb fluorocarbon leader. The rain started to fall again and the skies were grey. The midges and mosquitoes were biting. It seems that being very uncomfortable is a prerequisite for a good fishing session.

I started off fishing through the gaps in the mangroves, as the tide was too high to walk along the edge. I caught a few small Moses perch, but my first decent fish was a dusky flathead who was obviously sitting on the bottom, just behind a rock. I let the flathead go and as the tide had now receded I walked up the creek a little.

It is very shallow and by this stage boats could not come up. This means the few hours around the bottom of the tide are very quiet. There are some deeper channels and holes and this is where I focused my efforts. I dropped down to a smaller 2” GULP Shrimp soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I soon found a few more flathead but these were the bar-tailed variety. They were all too small to keep but it was encouraging to see that the fish were here.

I moved further up the creek, casting into the deeper pools where the water had carved out a vertical bank at the foot of the mangrove roots. On the next corner I found a small cod – about 30 cm long. I was now running out of water to fish so I went back to the car for a drink and a break from the insects.

Refreshed, I decided to give the fishing another try. This time walking south towards the mouth of the creek. I beefed up my leader to 16lb fluorocarbon and put on a 1/6th ounce, 1/0 jighead and a GULP Mantis Shrimp, in the Peppered Prawn colour. There were big yabby holes all along the bank so I felt the mantis shrimp shape was my best match for a yabby.

I slowly moved along the muddy bank casting at the far side. It was about 3.30 pm. I could see a fair bit of bait around and every now and then, something was taking a swipe at it from below. I was moving as slowly and quietly as I could, in the thick mud.

At about 4.00 pm, I was standing in about 30 cm of water and casting into no more than a metre when something engulfed the soft plastic,as it landed, on the surface of the water. The fish took off and launched itself out the water at the end of its initial run. It was a medium sized barramundi. I had a chance with 16 lb leader but I was fishing with my light NS Blackhole Trout rod. There was no possibility of muscling this fish in. It was a long fight but fortunately we were in an area of sandy bottom and the water level was below the mangrove roots. It surfaced a few more times, shaking its head but the hook was firmly set.

After what felt like a lifetime but was actually about 5 minutes. It came to the surface on its side. It was a beautiful looking fish, around 60 cm long. But it was closed season on Barramundi so after a few pictures , it swam back to wonder what had happened and grow bigger.

By now, it was raining again, I was hot, knackered and the bugs were humming. I packed up with a smile on my face and headed home for a cold shower and an even colder beer.