by Peter Fullarton •
Make the most of opportunities when they come your way. At certain times, stretches of beach might open up a nice hole or gutter that works in a perfect way to attract the beach going predator species of tailor and mulloway. Some form up around the same time most years, while others might just pop up for a short while after a big swell or wind direction. It pays to look for a nice deep nearshore hole or gutter with an outer bank or reef with waves breaking over the area covering the deep stretch with foamy white water. Predators just love it!
I recently found a nice little purple patch of fishing from such a hole. It started with an early morning exploratory trip after a spot of rough weather. Looking for a feed for dinner, I set off to see what the blow had done to the fishing and the beach features.
Just by chance
This particular morning, there were some lots of weed piled high on the beach from the rough weather where the tide had left them high and dry. Even so, there was still enough weed left in the water to make fishing difficult.
The first hole I fished was one of my favourite spots. It has an outside reef that often forms a deep side on the lee. I had timed it so I was there at first light so I could see the weed situation. It had plenty of loose weed floating about and large brown masses of weed passing through intermittently from an oscillating current. This isn’t much good for bait fishing with the current, as the weed quickly collects on the line and with a reefy bottom the weed will drag the rig until it snags. I decided to tie on a Rapala X-Rap stickbait in blue sardine colour. After 30 minutes of casting without a touch, I decided to push on to try find some fish while the best bite time was still on.
A little further up the beach there was another gutter. This was a little shallower, with an outside sand bank breaking the waves. Again with plenty of weed in the water, I stuck with the stickbait plan to prospect the hole to see if it was holding any fish. I use the big 14cm cm stickbait with single hooks, as it helps separate out the small choppers from the greenbacks I was looking for. Even so, several of my casts had little rat tailor not much bigger than the lure chasing it down all the way to the beach. With no sign of big fish I pushed on.
The next stretch had some great deep gutters, but it was full of weed to the point the water was brown. As the beach narrowed and steepened, it was getting risky with the 4WD. I was not game to drive further along the soft sand, but could see an upcoming blue hole! I had fished this hole when it had formed in previous years with great success. So I alighted from the 4WD and walked the next few hundred meters to the spot. It just ‘looked fishy’, the beach was narrow and steep falling into a deep hole at the waters edge, two small reefs were just offshore with a narrow deep gap between them to open sea and waves were breaking over them spilling over the deep hole. A long cast could be made across the reef drop offs with surface lures or a short cast bait would sit in deep water below the foam of the breaking waves.
I timed the first cast to hit the water just behind a breaking wave on the outside reef, pulsing the lure once with a move of the rod tip winding the slack back and on the second pulse I was on! A respectable 51cm tailor hit the lure hard and was easily subdued on the 12kg line. Next cast was almost a carbon copy, except the fish failed to connect as I tried to set the hooks, quickly dropping the rod tip for one more pulse before the lure was smashed again by a 56cm tailor!
Having what I wanted for dinner, plan B was to snatch one on a popper. By the time I walked back to the 4WD and put the fish on ice and rigged up the popper, the sun was rising. A further 15 minutes of casting drew no more hits.
Two days later I had a visit from my parents, and as they love a good feed of tailor, the plan was set to take dad to the ‘spot’. Bee lining straight for the ‘hole’ at dawn, we were greeted with a beautiful weed free stretch of beach. With tyre pressure at 15psi, I attempted to drive all the way to save dad the long walk in soft sand. I idled down to the spot in first gear low range, keeping to the hardest sand right at the top of the soft steep beach. Low gear and no revs is a great way to move a vehicle over a soft steep section of beach, avoiding slipping towards the sea. Novice four-wheel drivers often go for the throttle when on the soft sand when a deft touch will more often get better results. Having made a track for the wheels, I was set to reverse back until the beach was wide enough to safely turnaround.
I set a berley pot in the wash and rigged both rods to fish pilchards, using break away sinkers to anchor the baits in the strong surge. It was not long before the fish started to flow, and with most near 50cm dad quickly had some fillets to take home. I switched to my trusty X-Rap stickbait, knowing it usually pulls the better size fish. A steady stream of tailor from the mid to high 50s range quickly fell for the lure. I snapped a quick pic of the bigger ones before releasing them. Dad was too busy catching his own fish to help with the photos. I had my phone set so on selfie mode with a timer enabling a quick pic and fast release of each fish.
The next cast got absolutely smashed and a tailor came flailing out of the water. It looked a big fish even from a distance, and once it hit the water was taking a good amount of string, so I knew I had gone up a class in size. It was doing a lot of aerobatics, so I kept the rod tip low to try keep the fish in the water and side on to keep a bend in the rod to try keep everything tight during the head shaking jumps. I played it to the surf break, timing the surge of a wave to wash it into the beach, for a quick picture and release. It is always great to see the fish power off through the waves when you drop it back in the water. Dad kept a good feed of eight of the smaller fish and we left them bitting.
Next trip to the ‘hole’, I had a young group whose mum had booked a mornings fishing tour with me while they were at Lancelin on the school holidays. They had not previously done beach fishing. The day started slow, but as the berley started to kick in, the fish were coming on better and better. The tour group caught a number of tailor with several over 50cm, and the biggest Ashleigh caught at 58cm. Then Matt hooked a lovely mulloway at 84cm that generated a lot of excitement and numerous ‘OMGs’. They kept nine tailor and the mulloway for a good feed for the families and released many more tailor.
Another big storm and swell hit on the Friday, wiping out fishing for a few days. Sunday afternoon I went for a quick drive as the seas were settling again and the hole was still there but weeded up. Even so, I decided to defrost a bag I had of a dozen whiting overnight and go back for a mulloway session at dawn the next morning when the wind would be offshore. To my pleasant surprise, the previous evenings sea breeze had pushed the weed north and the hole was relatively clear by morning. It was looking good, with the swell breaking over the deeper nearshore hole.
I set up the berley and set a whole whiting out as bait only a few meters out from the beach downcurrent from the berley bag. As I expected, there were very few tailor, as they had moved offshore during the blow. A couple of small tailor and tarwhine took the first baits, but otherwise it was a slow morning compared to the previous days I had been there. After missing another tailor bite, I wound in the bait to find only the tail end of a whiting left. With only three more baits I chucked back the half, thinking to myself as I cast, ‘I should have replaced the bait’.
Barely had the bait reached the bottom and the reel was screaming. It ran fast parallel south along the beach with myself in hot pursuit. At first I thought it must have been a monster tailor, as I could just feel strong tail beats and lots of speed. The fish settled down to head shaking and the direction changed in the fight told me there was a mulloway on the other end of the line. So much for the fabled finicky mulloway needing perfect bait presentation and playing with the bait before running!
I was doing the best I could to keep a steady pressure on the fish to keep those hooks tight, thinking it was going to be a big fish well over a metre, especially after the first powerful run and the dogged fight it was now giving me. The battle moved to the surge zone at the edge of the steep beach I was fishing. What I would win with one wave, the fish would take back with the backwash, as it kept side on to me using the waves well to its advantage. Finally I turned its head, and just as a wave came I had it surfing the wave as I ran up the beach to be sure it would be left high and dry as the wave retreated. I scooped it up for a quick photo and measured (it went 95cm) before sending it back to fight another day. It was a very bulky fish for its length, explaining the great battle it gave.
Going for gold
I always set myself a few goals every year. One was a 60cm tailor on a popper, another was a mulloway on soft plastics off the beach. The hole was proving very productive and I had some good fish under my belt already, so next trip was a perfect opportunity to try tick off some of those goals. Setting up a berley pot at dawn to draw the fish in close, I rigged a ZMan GrubZ in shimmer pearl, as these have worked well for me in the past.
Peppering the hole methodically trying all the sandy edges to the deeper clear water I was only finding the odd tailor bite that would remove the rear end of the plastic. Then I saw a massive tailor that could have given the meter mark a nudge leave the water at the back edge of the hole in pursuit of some large baitfish or smaller tailor. I quickly switched to the popper ready rigged on the other rod and started to cast to the backside of the hole across the reef through the white water wash. I made several casts working the lure with short pulses to ‘bloop’ the popper along without scattering or tumbling it across the surface. Each cast was worked with trepidation, watching the lure for that exciting surface smash from below. It never disappoints or fails to surprize when it comes, and this time a fish slashed across the surface smashing the lure, connecting up tight. It was not a huge tailor, just scraping in over 60cm, but ticking one challenge off the list for this season!
Next trip the beach had widened and the hole was shallower. Even so, the two fishers with me Brett and Chris had a great session, managing to bag out on decent size tailor to 50cm very quickly. They landed four double headers between them on the one gang in the session.
The next few trips back to the hole saw the beach widening as the seasons changed into a summer like pattern, becoming less steep and making the ‘hole’ narrower and with less depth. It still produces fish, but doesn’t look anywhere near as fishy.
I will certainly be heading back to the ‘spot’ again and prospecting for new spots as the beaches change during the season. Hopefully, I can tick this years’ mulloway on a plastic challenge off the list.
If you come across that little ‘honey hole’ yourself, try make the most of it. Once you have a feed do some things you might not ordinarily do. Challenge yourself for some PBs with some light line or try some different types of lures.
I find the most rewarding fishing experiences come from achieving personal goals. After putting a lot of effort into hooking a fish in a certain way, or of a bench mark size, it certainly makes for a nervous fight and gets the adrenalin running until you finally see that fish hit the sand and achieve you’re goal.