I am just back from a trip down to Broome’s Head, just south of Yamba, in northern New South Wales. It is typical of the rocky headlands on that stretch of coast. You can fish on either side of the headland depending on the prevailing winds. However last week the weather really made things difficult. On Monday it rained all day while an enormous swell smashed over the rock ledges. I am pretty keen on my fishing but I could not find anywhere I could cast from.
Tuesday was better – well at least the rain had stopped. The seas were still enormous, with a three metre swell. Fortunately the northern side of Broomes Head has a sheltered lagoon. Just on dawn, I waded out into the lagoon and got as close as I could to its mouth. I cast out a 3” GULP Pearl Watermelon minnow soft plastic on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead. I wanted to keep my rig as light as possible to avoid getting snagged on the rocky bottom. I got a couple of touches and saw a few Long Toms following the lure in. After a few more casts, I hooked up with a small Bream – around 25cm. Then a couple of casts later I hooked up to a better fish. When I got him to me, he was a small golden Trevally. I hooked a couple more under-size Bream and a Moses Perch from this position before deciding to try to get closer to the lagoon’s entrance.
At its eastern edge the lagoon is filled through a gap in a long ridge of rocks. Here at the mouth of the lagoon there is some deeper water on either side. The outside of the lagoon entrance was far too rough to fish. But by walking out along the rocky ridge I found a spot from where I could cast into the deeper water just inside the lagoon. I started with the 4” GULP Swimming Mullet soft plastic on a 1/6th 1/0 jighead. I could not really let it settle for more than a few seconds on the retrieve, for fear of losing it to the rocks or kelp beds. I gradually got a feel for where I could stop and start the retrieve and what the sink rate was. After about 30 minutes of peppering the area with casts I caught a very good Bream – just on 35cm. On the next cast I caught another Bream, a bit smaller but also a good fish. Then things went quiet on the fish front and the wind was really howling. I switched to a 3”GULP Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour and cast it out into the wash at the foot of the rocks. Just as I was about to lift the lure from the water it was grabbed by a big dark shape. The fish took the lure down deep into the kelp at the foot of the rocks and then just sat there. I was only running a 10lb leader so I decided to ease off the pressure and let him swim out of his hiding place. I dropped the rod tip and counted to ten then pulled hard. It worked and I slid a very decent fish up on to the rock ledge at my feet. After giving it the once over, I decided it was a Morwong or Mother-in-law fish of some kind and kept it for the table. I later found out it was a Spotted Hind. It did not taste much good and apparently is quite common down here. I now had plenty of fish for a family supper so I headed off for a hot shower.
On Thursday morning conditions were as near perfect as you can get on the rocky headlands around Iluka. There was a light (but cold) westerly wind which had flattened the swell and despite the rain earlier in the week, the water was fairly clean. I decided to fish the rock ledges around Frazer’s Reef, a rocky outcrop, located just to the south of Woody Head at Iluka. This is another spot you can only get to 3 hrs or so, either side of low tide. As the tide rises, it swamps the rocky causeway of boulders that you cross to get to the fishing spots.
At dawn on Thursday, the only other sign of life on the walk along the beach were the tracks in the sand made by the kangaroos. It was seriously cold. I was hoping for something more than a Tailor or Trevally. So again I rigged up a plastic on a 3/8 3/0 jighead but this time I went for a 5” GULP Lime Tiger Crazy Legs Jerkshad. This is a Jerkshad shaped plastic with twin curly tails and has a fantastic action both on the drop and when sitting in the current on the bottom. I not convinced about the colour, but I love the action.
I started fishing in the red glow before the sun came up and had a few bumps and nudges and lost the tails on the first plastic. As the great orange ball broke the horizon just on 6.00 am, I hooked a fish. It put in a solid run but it was difficult to follow as the Stradic’s (my expensive reel !!) drag ratchet chose this moment to give up on me. The drag was still working but I could not hear the clicking as the fish took line. It is a very strange sensation fighting a fish without the ‘zzzzzzzzzzzzz’ every now and then. I had subdued the fish but now had to get him up the rocks. I moved him to a corner where there are a few stepped ledges and used the swell to lift him on to the lower one. Then I jumped down one step, wrapped the leader round the glove and lifted the fish clear. It was a beautiful school Jewfish. It was in great condition and measured just on 80cm.
I bled the Jew and put him in a keeper rockpool (one without a wobbegong!). I then got straight back into it. This time I got snagged on a bommy. Next cast produced another, smaller (65cm) school jewfish which I again landed with the aid of the swell. Now I knew they were obviously right on the bottom just behind the bommy. This kind of fishing requires deep pockets – I must have lost 10 more jigheads to that bommy over the next hour. I had a couple of runs with decent fish which I judged from the headshakes were Tailor, but I failed to hook up with either of them. Finally, as the tide was going to force me off my spot I was on to a fish again. This time I had swapped to a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the Pumpkinseed colour. This fish felt big but when I got him up the rocks he was actually the smallest of the day at around 60cm – another school jewfish.
I now had to wade, waist deep, through the water to get back across the causeway to the beach, but I reckon getting my nuts chilled was a reasonable sacrifice for some great fishing.
Tuesday was a washout with 24 hours of almost solid rain. Fortunately the tent kept me dry throughout. By the lunchtime low tide on Wednesday, the sky was still overcast but things where brightening up. The ‘Barnacles’ at Woody Head, where I had been fishing the day before, were out of bounds due to the swell. I decided to try fishing the northern side of the Woody Head rock shelf which was a bit more sheltered. I started with the same terminal tackle as the day before – 3/8 3/0 jighead, 25lb fluorocarbon leader and a 4” Pearl Watermelon Minnow. Fishing these spots is always difficult. You need the plastic down in the water column, but leave it too long or weight it too heavily and you will just get snagged. On the first three casts I lost three jigheads to the rocks. This was the price of getting a feel for the swell and terrain. After a few more successful casts I felt a distinct hit but no hook up. Two more casts and just as I was about to jerk the jighead out of the water, at the end of the retrieve – bang! I had a solid fish. It tried to dip down and bury itself in the rocks but fortunately the swell was on my side. I tightened the drag and towed him straight up to my feet with the rising water. I had a nice trevally, about 45cm. I fished on for an hour or so and lost two similar fish to the barnacle covered rock ledges.
I then decided to clean the Trevally in a rock pool. I gutted the fish and started tidying it up when I noticed a splash a few feet away. A decent sized Wobbegong had turned up hoping for a free meal! I retreated, in case he mistook my foot for a fish and made a mental note to check the content of the next rock pool before I start gutting.
Thursday looked like a great fishing morning – cool, not much wind and a run out tide through dawn. I decided to start off on the sandbanks of Sandstone Point. I put the waders on in the dark and wandered along by the old oyster jetty, on the mainland beside the Bribie Bridge. The sky was beginning to glow red. I have noticed that I don’t seem to catch many flathead in the dark. I get them around the bridge lights at night, but rarely seem to catch them out on the flats until there is a bit of light on the water. This may just be because I spend more time fishing in the daylight!
High tide was around 4.00 am and I started fishing at about 5.30am. I walked as far as I could along the sand banks and then turned back northwards. I was wading in about a metre of water, parallel with the exposed sand bank. I was casting up into the outgoing tide, trying to land my soft plastic lure right on the edge of the weed banks. As usual, it was the Pike that struck first – a few small ones then a monster – I thought initially it was a flathead but soon realised it wasn’t when it started thrashing around. I got it to the shore and measured it at 46cm – the biggest Pike I have ever caught.
Usually in these conditions I would expect to be getting plenty of flathead but things were a bit slow. I hooked then dropped a small on, about 30 metres short of the jetty and then a couple of casts later; I caught a 42cm fish. I was using the 4” GULP Minnow Grub in the Pearl Watermelon colour on a 1/8th 1/0 jighead. I could not raise anymore so I walked back to the car and drove over the bridge to Buckley’s Hole to fish the drop off there.
I arrived there at about 8.00am – with low tide scheduled around 10.00 am. I walked to the south and started wading north and casting a 2” GULP Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour. I was looking for the Bream that are often to be found here. The tide was running fairly hard so I rigged the soft plastic on a 1/6th 1/0 jighead – this meant that I could get the plastic down deep fairly quickly. I waded up and down the beach casting out over the drop off and letting the plastic float down to the bottom with the current. After about 45 minutes of this, I found a patch of Bream and caught seven in quick succession, all on the soft plastic shrimp. Only three were big enough to keep and all three were about 28cm. The wind was now getting up and it was still cold and overcast so at about 10.00 am I decided to give up and grab a hot cup of coffee.
Next week I am off to Iluka in Northern New South Wales, to fish the rocks and beaches of the Bundjalong National Park. I am hoping to find some Tailor, monster Bream and no doubt, a few surprises. I will post the results as soon as I am back.