Walpole / Nornalup Inlet Mixed Bag Fishing Story

Last weekend the young fella and I ventured to Walpole to participate in the Australian Anglers Association State Estuary Championship representing the MAAC.  This was one of these lovely opportunities to go to somewhere of immense natural beauty to fish waters that we had never been to before.  Throw in that this is a team’s event (MAAC participation was high) and a quality weekend of: great spot; great people; and pristine fishing was certainly on offer.

Needless to say there was a lot of FishWrecked “searching” to see what had been posted about Walpole and the Frankland River turning up a good bit of useful advice (and some Member photos of very small fish?).  Careful studying of the Google Earth images and the chart on the GPS plotter gave us quite a good idea about what it was going to be like, but you just don’t know until you get there.

Needless to say we headed off fairly early on Friday so we arrived with enough time to take out the Hornet (she was built for these types of waters) and have a good look.  What a fantastic drive through the forests of the SW, and after what seemed like was an eternity we finally arrived at Rest Point.  The accommodation was “fair” but realistically we didn’t need much and were happy with what we got as it had all the essentials.  The facility has a ramp so it didn’t take long to start unpacking all the stuff and getting the Hornet ready.

I’ll digress for a minute but will only write one paragraph about this matter although I reckon I could write a book if I had too.  There is a lesson for everyone here: do not open your gob going on about what an awesome fisherman you are (my rods, my burley, my spots, my techniques) to a whole bunch of people that you don’t know who are attending a place for a fishing competition (note to self – it is probably likely that most people here know what end of a rod is which so endless rattling on about my own self-importance and knowledge before the comp even starts is a bad plan).  This individual must have come out with at least 20 comments of truly memorable material before we could even get the boat in the water, and they were very valuable keeping us amused over the whole weekend with discussions about how you could even say that.  Anyway, let’s just say that this individual left the weigh in early and didn’t stay for the presentation, so back to the matter at hand.

A nice Friday afternoon with a moderate southerly greeted us to the water.  We decided to have a look at Coalmine Beach, Frankland River, the ocean entrance of Nornalup Inlet and some deeper holes in the Inlet that showed up on the sounder.  We decided not to fish but to spend the time looking around and formulating a plan.  Given also that the Inlet is very shallow in parts it was good to have a look and set up boat tracks in bright sunlight where the colour of the water gave you some idea of depth.  In short, there were no end of fishing possibilities with different bottom types and depths, different currents and flows, different structure and grades in the sub-surface and different environments such as rivers, “lakes” and entrances.  No doubt you would need to spend years to properly understand the subtle nuances of a system like this.  For someone that had never been there before, the only option was to come up with a plan and stick to it otherwise you may spend all day “chasing your tail”.

Come Saturday morning, the competition didn’t start until 12.30pm, with a compulsory briefing at 11.30am so there wasn’t a real lot to do other than to tie rigs.  There was a bit in this as all our gear had to be downsized quite considerably given the “nursery” nature of the ;ocation.  I still took my Storm PE3 with the CI4+ 4000 and PE3 8 ply as it is very small and light, but cut off the 50lb wind on and replaced it with 16lb mono.  I then ran a 4lb fluorocarbon leader and tied all rigs out of this.  Our rigs were simple: very small running sinker to swivel to leader; and one hook paternoster with our King George circle hook arrangement – we had a variety of hook sizes ranging from small to nearly “impossible to see with the human eye”.  We also had an selection of “proven” plastics and lures that could be used if required.  The preparation of our bait was also a priority.  With really no idea how to fish the waters it is fair to say we had huge bait variety: bonito, squid, pilchard, prawns, white bait, octopus, cockles and various others that I can’t remember.  Of course, fresh cut bait is always a winner so legal fish that we could sacrifice from the weigh in were to be keenly sought.  I don’t need to mention that kilos of the home made burley came along as well.

After the 11.30am briefing (obey the rules and don’t keep anything undersized or be disqualified) we decided to set off and establish a troll track off Coalmine Beach and another one in the Frankland River before lines down at 12.30pm.  For those of you that don’t know about this feature of the Minn Kota i-Pilot, it is where you can set up a track of up to 2 miles by putting the Minn in the water, hitting record and then motoring with the outboard at <4kn over the ground of interest.  Once the track is recorded, you can then go to the start or end of it, along the line, at any of the Minn’s 20 engine rev settings.  This is a feature that I haven’t used much as I am a spot lock addict (no anchor in the water, not tied to the bottom and no noise) but it really is a quality feature.  We then planned to head to a “hole” in the River we had found (well every sounder has it) and see how it went.  Once done there, it was to troll the previously made tracks, fish the entrance and then finish with the channel between the Nornalup Inlet and Walpole Inlet.  That was our plan anyway.

Come 12.30pm we could put our lines in the water – we were a little late as we troll tracked for longer than anticipated.  2 rods each is the limit so out go the lightly weighed rig and the paternoster.  Bonito and peeled prawn were the baits of first choice so it was time to see how they went (the burley was up first of course).  Who would have believed it as within a few minutes the Storm/Stradic with the bonito was screaming more than when it is hit by a big pink devouring, and running with, a whole sand whiting.  WTF is going on here?  Isn’t this the place with little fish?  I don’t like my chances with a 4lb leader!  Do big pinkies come up the river?  This has to be a ray!  After its first run I started to get some back which was suggesting that it might not be a ray.  Run after run after run was indicating that this was a fish of some size and it clearly didn’t like the boat as it would strip 30m of line every time it came near.  After 15 odd minutes we got the wind on back and had our first look at it – a metre long gummy.  Needless to say, getting it on the boat was a challenge and in the end the deckie just had to pick the thing up in his bare hands and haul it out of the water.  At the weigh in it was 4.8kg so I was pretty stoked to get it on such light gear and pleased it chose that rod to hit as my other one had a Sienna and I don’t think it would have been up to the job.  Nice start really.

From there the burley started to work and the sounder showed our hole had become an aquarium.  At one stage I thought the sounder was malfunctioning as it had these really huge shapes that we somewhat reminiscent of seeing a whale going under the boat off the 3 Mile, but I will get back to that later.  We were constantly landing juvenile pinkies and bream to the point that it was getting out of control.  They just kept coming but the one thing we did note, and this is a lesson to be learned, is that we had to change up our baits quite a lot.  The fish would constantly hit one type of bait but then “switch off” and you didn’t get them again until you used something else.  We just kept catching fish but nothing that could be weighed in.  After time, the burley was clearly starting to work its “magic” across the whole system and we had enticed a lot of herring to the boat (it reminded me of a trout stream when that hatch was on by the amount of times the surface was getting smashed).  A rig and technique change up and we started to catch a few fish that could be actually weighed in with a number of herring, including my “horse herring” if such a thing exists.  A few size herring that were just on 200mm but too risky to weigh in were sacrificed to produce some fresh strip bait and a lone 330mm salmon, that must have been lost, hit my line and the decks.  And the endless undersized pinkies and bream just kept hitting the decks, and getting chucked back, as well.

Now, having a lot of fun landing a lot of fish on light gear is good but it doesn’t score you any points.  The spot was quality and the fish were firing so we just needed a tactic to get the bigger models.  We changed our location ever so slightly (just turn spot lock off, head the Minn towards the bank 10m and hit spot lock to anchor up again – love it) to see if fishing the snags on the drop off would help.  The fish were still “on fire” but were starting to get a little bigger (even though one of the sayings of the trip were “they are getting bigger” it was really pushing the truth).  A bit of gear was lost but it did work with the landing of a nice 400mm+ flathead, a 280mm bream and a 285mm King George.  After a number of hours the spot had gone well and it was time to stick to the plan and move on.  I will make one comment about this location and that is the disappointment in the number of people that didn’t stick to the 5kn speed limit.  Such a beautiful and tranquil place and you have these tools treating it like a race track, and the same applies to other speed limited locations in the system – rant over.

As the light was starting to fade we decided to troll track the river dragging some plastics and lures.  No action there so it was to the open country of the Frankland River mouth to troll for some tailor on the way out.  There were a few hits but we put them down to herring and moved on – bad plan in hindsight as there were a number of “legal” choppers caught at about that time.  We tried to troll track along Coalmine Beach but were really in the face of the moderate wind and it was just too much for poor Minn.  We headed to the sheltered stretch between the inlets and spot locked just outside the channel within casting distance to the shore.  This produced another entertaining session with the rampant little pinkies and schools of undersized tailor – you lived in hope that they might get bigger as surely the bigger ones existed, but to no avail.  The highlight here was that the young fella got a cracking flathead casting to the shore.  As it was getting really dark the mossies came on thick as and the incessant whinging and complaining about this from the young one really gave no option but to come in.  In hindsight, we should have kept going and targeted more sharks, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.  Spending time with the club mates for far longer than you should have, bulls*&ting about your day and consuming far too much was also a wonderful thing.

After chatting to the guys, a “hazy” plan for the next day was hatched.  As weigh in was at 11am there was not a lot of time so it was decided to head out at first light (sounded good at the time), troll the channel between the inlets, head over and troll the mouth of and the Frankland River, head to the entrance and seek out some whiting and then fish the rubble to the north of Snake Island.  First option nothing, second option nothing then we headed up the river.  Not far from our hole of the previous day the sounder showed a structure rising up from about 8m to 1m covered with fish and as our lures went across it a size tailor smashed my line – nice one out of the blue.  A number of passes over the yielded no more so we decided to “park on it” and see how we go.  It was then that we saw the mysterious sounder shape from the day before.  As we were in quite shallow water with the burley out you could see the bottom and all of the fish and the most massive stingray that I have ever seen appeared.  No kidding, this thing was easily 6ft+ across and its tail at the base was thicker than my leg.  It just kept circling and circling our burley for a quality show.  Picked up a few more herring but “stick to the plan” and it was time to move on.

We headed to the entrance keen to catch some species that we hadn’t got yet.  Following the “tip” of a member “extracted” the night before we set up at the “nominated location” in shallow water that was like glass (never really a big fan of these types of conditions).  Out came the burley again and next thing we had clouds of bait fish around us.  Unfortunately, the massive rays found our burley again as well and if I was a whiting I wouldn’t have really wanted to be around that spot.  A move to deeper water of the entrance and no hits of any description in 15 minutes meant it was time to keep moving.  Off to Snake Island for our last “fling”.

We pulled up on a likely location with a rubbly bottom in about 2m of water and out came the burley again.  This time we attracted massive schools of bream, skippy, trumpeter and stripies and it was quite amazing to watch the burley being devoured by hordes of hungry fish.  We were sure that some of the bream and skippy were size but the amount I landed and measured between 24cm and 25cm was beyond a joke.  The young one had turned his attention to trying to sight fish the larger specimens out of the schools which was really quite entertaining.  He did have success though as a size flounder came along and took his unweighted peeled prawn.  My hook-up rate was not how I really wanted it so I downsized the hook and started fishing away from the boat.  With just over an hour to go I hooked a 270mm bream and a 290mm King George so all that perseverance had paid off with a couple of point scores at the end.  We headed off with plenty of time to pull the boat out of the water and get our bags to the weigh in.  We had a mixture of things and a good experience.

      

The young fella and I watched the weigh in with interest and we have never been to an AAA event before.  It was all done very well with clear records being taken and an appropriate level of scrutineering.  It was obvious that some guys had fished the night as there were quite a few gummies weighed in.  The bags varied quite considerably and it was a good spectacle to watch.  After that was done there was the call for the individual fish for the species prizes.  To our surprise the young fella’s flathead and my “horse” herring topped the size categories and this was certainly unexpected.

The AAA people quickly tallied the results and it was time for the presentation.  The MAAC had representation in all categories so it was great to see the 3 mini-juniors get up to receive their prize (with a front page photo for the newsletter no doubt).  Next up was the juniors and it was not surprising that the MAAC picked that up as well (my young guy had a reasonable comp and the other MAAC junior is a proven quality fisherman).  It was MAAC for the ladies as well (that lifetime of devotion to their obsessive husbands has allowed the natural fishing ability to shine through).  The men’s was deservedly won by Ocean Reef with my team coming in runners up (or first losers) by a fair margin.  Freemantle picked up the veterans with a quality score.  

The young one won the runners up trophy for the juniors and the “first loser” comments didn’t cut it as he sledged all the way home about his “gold” medal and trophy compared to my “silver” one.  Unfortunately, this is becoming all too common of a situation.     

What a great place.  The fishing was excellent with a guarantee of a lot of action.  Yes, the fish are generally small but for a family holiday with the boat, the young kids would have a ball.  It is not hard to find the fish but perseverance is required to catch “keepers”.  Fish light, change your baits regularly and burley up.  Flathead, gummy sharks and herring were the most prolific fish of keeping size (at least when we were there) and these were caught trolling the shallow edges, fishing the deep holes at night and surface fishing in the burley trail.  As noted above, it would likely take a lifetime to really know what to do but that shouldn’t stop you having a crack.  A bit of attention to “basics” and you will be rewarded with fish in a place that would rival anywhere in the world for its natural beauty. 

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Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it - LH.

 

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Belly88's picture

Posts: 380

Date Joined: 08/02/12

Nice

Tue, 2014-12-02 06:11

 Nice one Mick.. Great report! It was an awesome weekend down there and heaps of fish caught so that was definately a bonus.. Results should be up on the AAA website within the next week so you will be able to see how you did individually..

Hope to see you at future events..

Belly

Adam Gallash's picture

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Top report

Tue, 2014-12-02 06:48

Top effort, always miss fishing down there after reading these type of reports.

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Posts: 311

Date Joined: 13/12/12

Have to agree, a top spot -

Tue, 2014-12-02 07:25

Have to agree, a top spot - great report, glad you got onto some fish

Hutch's picture

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Date Joined: 21/04/13

 First class report, sounds

Tue, 2014-12-02 09:42

 First class report, sounds like it was a great couple of days 

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Geoff78's picture

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Date Joined: 05/03/13

 great report Mick.

Tue, 2014-12-02 10:57

 great report Mick.

Fisher Kid's picture

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Date Joined: 16/10/12

ripper report. love a quality

Tue, 2014-12-02 12:41

ripper report. love a quality fishing story.

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Belly Fish's picture

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Date Joined: 09/03/12

Fantastic Weekend

Tue, 2014-12-02 13:00

Great report Mick....thanks.

My two boys and I had a great time and its always good to catch up with the guys from the other Clubs that we mostly only catch up with at State events.  We also got into the Gummies and you can imagine what it was like pulling those into a 4.2m boat with 3 of us on board.

Had beer battered Gummy for dinner last night...pretty damn good!

...and thanks to the MAAC guys for the BBQ on Sunday night...great camarderie and much appreciated after a long fish

Mick C's picture

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Date Joined: 26/12/13

Fishing Clubs

Tue, 2014-12-02 20:26

Cheers for the comments guys.  Weekends like this, and the monthly fishing competitions, are why it is worthwhile joining your local club.  Good blokes, good spots, good times.

I put a bit of effort into writing this story in the hope it will be searched in the future (Walpole, Norralup Inlet, Frankland River) to help people that are going down for a holiday and need some help in targeting spots with their family to get a few fish.  A magic spot for sure, and well worth the trip.

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Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it - LH.

 

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Date Joined: 01/01/70

 Good report mate... I

Thu, 2014-12-04 11:37

 Good report mate... I haven't been to Walpole in 15 years... And after reading your post I've just booked 5 days down there over Australia day :D  coal mine beach caravan park brings back many child hood memories... Difference this time I'll have a boat 

Belly88's picture

Posts: 380

Date Joined: 08/02/12

Results

Thu, 2014-12-04 19:55

 Results are up on AAA websites for those that are interested.. You got 5th., very well done for a first timer mick.. I've been fishing comps my whole life and once again as per about the last 6 comps I came 2nd.. I just can't seem to grab that top spot.. I'm consistent just consistently not good enough haha

Belly

Mick C's picture

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AAA Results

Fri, 2014-12-05 07:51

Thanks mate. A few schoolboy errors though - not bagging out on the herring when they were around the boat by switching rigs; and not keeping going at night when we could have got a lot more.

Ha ha, the old first loser scenario. I seem to be subject to that a lot when I go fishing with the young one lately. Still, you are clearly doing a lot right to get those consistent results :-)

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Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it - LH.

 

Diesel80's picture

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Date Joined: 29/08/13

Not again Belly!

Fri, 2014-12-05 08:55

I have fished 4 comps now and you are always there or thereabouts. Your time will come.

Cheers,

D80

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Belly Fish's picture

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AAA

Thu, 2014-12-04 22:13
Geoff78's picture

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 I always take something away

Fri, 2014-12-05 08:22

 I always take something away from your reports Mick. Sometimes it's something new, sometimes it's a reminder of a fundamental I've got slack on. I particularly liked your comments about switching bait to keep the fish biting. With snapper fishing, we've had the most success on floated mulies. So much so, we've started to take mulies almost exclusively. Looking back, I wonder if we wouldn't have attracted more bites had we switched to an occie tentacle or whiting once the bite dropped away. Same applies to soft plastics. Anyway, thanks for your report. 

Diesel80's picture

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Well done Mick, heard the

Fri, 2014-12-05 08:52

MAAC did well down there!

Our club was not very well represented down there this year. Though some were about.

I heard that there was heaps of small fish down there, just undersize of all species. Looks good for a couple of years time. My family should be old enough for a trip by then!

Cheers for the report, actually quoted some of it at the club meeting on Wednesday as it was the only report from the event i had seen to that time!

Cheers,

D80

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