Georges Bay silver trevally
When the words "Sportsfishing" and "Giant Trevally" are spoken most think of far north Queensland and long boat journey's to offshore reefs, but here on the East Coast of Tasmania we have our very own version. Georges Bay is home to Pseudocaranx dentex, or the silver trevally as it's more commonly known, which is one of the most prolific species in our estuarine waters. They are caught as juveniles by children on just about every jetty around our coastline and are the very fish that most of us would have cut our teeth on as a keen youngster. They can be caught with a wide variety of methods from simple bait fishing to saltwater flyfishing but no matter what the technique or size of the fish they are one of the best sportfish Tasmanian waters have to offer.
Silver trevally can grow to 76cm in length and over 6kg in weight and examples of up to 60cm fork length and 5-6lb in weight are being caught by switched on anglers right here in Georges Bay, St Helens every weekend. Well perhaps I am getting a little excited, but 50cm fish are common enough with the cover shot fish of this magazine at 49cm. The size of the fish being caught is considered massive on an average scale and fish of this size have only started showing up in recent years, evidence once again that the ban on netting our inshore waters is improving the fishery all the time. They start to show up during late spring /early summer and by Christmas catches of good sized fish are being reported nearly every day and this continues on all through summer.
Whilst the trevally can be caught using a variety of different methods one of the most popular, ever increasing and most successful techniques is the use of soft plastics on ultra light spin tackle. This form of fishing is not for the faint hearted and if you want to tangle with a bruiser of a trevally of 4lb or more than the old boat rod and 20lb line needs to be left at home. Lightweight, high modulus graphite rods of 6-7 feet coupled with good quality spinning reels with smooth drags are the weapons of choice.
Silver trevally are a schooling fish and where there is one there will be more. So one of the most important and key factors is to work an area where a fish has been caught. Being a high speed swimmer they also like a bit of current flow so areas with a good tidal influence, strong flow with access to sandflats and rocky reefy structure close by are where to start looking. I like to pick area's with a bit of broken weed, rock and big sandy patches and cast my plastics onto the sand areas as this is where the trevally will be feeding. Cast up and across current using an appropriate sized jighead weight for the conditions, enough to get the plastic to the bottom but still let it drift along the bottom, and let it bounce along naturally with the current back to the boat or section of shoreline your fishing from. Small lifts and drops and twitches imparted with the rod tip as the plastic drifts back toward you will draw strikes from any trevally nearby. They are not always on the bottom though and using a count-down approach works well. Of course this is hugely affected by the jighead weight, the speed of the tidal current and the depth. The basic are cast up and across current and count the first cast down for say three seconds before starting the retrieve; second cast five seconds; third cast eight seconds. Then when you find the strike zone stick at it.
The bite from a trevally can at times be very subtle and requires a bit more concentration from the angler to strike at the right time, small "tap, taps" are sometimes all you will feel then by just lifting the rod you should connect with a solid hookup. Sometimes the largest fish can give you the most timid bite so don't discount any takes as not worthy of intense concentration.
Prime spots are also pylons and channel markers and any large piece of structure such as jetty's and wharfs, one of my more favoured areas to look are any rocky points jutting out from the shoreline. Once hooked these fish will give one of the most spirited, dragged out fights of any fish of its size. They will generally give a blistering run right from the onset peeling off much line then lay sideways in the water and circle deep much like a tuna. They can be very difficult to pull up off the bottom but a bit of time and patience will see them boat side, if you are fishing from the shoreline you may need to give chase at times.
It's because of the way they fight that good quality gear is needed, high modulus, lightweight graphite rods of 6'6"-7'6"(2-5kg) are needed as they give a very sensitive feel in the tip to detect the subtle takes, have the ability to cast log distances with light weights but still retain the power in the butt section to wear the fish down. Rods such as Shimano Catana, Starlo Stix, Raider series, T-Curve and my personal favourite Ian Miller Bream Buster Brawler are all good choices and cover all price ranges. The Bream Buster Brawler is a 6'7" 2-5kg extra fast action rod with an immense amount of power in the butt section and capable of taking the torture the Trevally will give it. Match any of these rods up with a good quality spinning reel in the 1000-2500 size range making sure that the reel has an adequate drag system that will cope with a fish that takes long fast runs. Reels such as Shimano's Sienna, Symetre, Stradic, Twin Power and Stellas are some of the few that have features and a quality drags capable of dealing with a large trevally.
Reels should be spooled with 4-6lb Berkeley Fireline and leaders of 6-8lb in a quality fluorocarbon should also be used as the fluorocarbon with its superior abrasion resistance can be dragged across rocks and around pylons and still hold up.
Jigheads in the 1/16th to 1/12th size are perfect for this technique, I prefer the round Squidgy heads or the TT-Lures heads, and by far the best plastics I have found are the #2 and #3 Squidgy Wriggler in Gary Glitter, Silver Fox and Bloodworm. I cut a small piece off the very nose of the wriggler so it butts up against the TT jighead nice and snug and make sure it is rigged dead straight to give as natural an action in the water as possible. Other plastics worthy of a mention are the Berkeley Gulp Sandworm in natural colour and the 2" Power Grub in Pumpkinseed, both of these are used in the same manner as the Squidgies and on the same jigheads with the exception of the sandworm being fished somewhat like a bait with very little movement from the angler.
Silver trevally are a hard fighting fish never willing to give up for a second and tests light tackle and anglers patience and skill to the limit. They are easily targeted in Georges Bay with many areas holding good schools of fish and offer the angler a solid sportsfishing alternative to some of our more romantic species unavailable to the average fisho. They are also quite a reasonable table fish for anyone seeking to take home a feed for the family.
Despatched and bled quickly, placed on ice, filleted and eaten that night will certainly please the family and guests at a BBQ. I saw Steve Starling on a DVD mention silver trevally make great sashimi so give this a try as well.
Next time you are on the coast stop in and see me, Jamie, at St Helens Bait and Tackle and I will be happy to give you all the hints and tips and point you in the right direction of one of our regions premier sportfish.