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Sea run trout tactics – Craig Vertigan

Sea run trout tactics – Craig Vertigan

During the trout off-season I tend to spend a bit of time chasing bream, to continue getting a fishing fix, and spend time tying flies and dreaming about the trout season to come. It’s a time to spend doing tackle maintenance, stocking up on lures and dreaming up new challenges and goals for the trout season ahead. When the new season comes around I usually spend the first few months targeting sea runners. Sea run trout are simply brown trout that spend much of there lives out to sea and come in to the estuaries for spawning and to feed on whitebait and the other small endemic fishes that spawn in late winter through spring. Mixed in with the silvery sea runners you can also expect to catch resident fish that have the typical dark colours of a normal brown trout as well as atlantic salmon in some of our estuaries that are located near salmon farm pens. Living in Hobart it is quick and easy to do a trip on the Huon or Derwent and is a more comfortable proposition compared to a trip up to the highlands with snow and freezing winds to contend with.

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Snapper-Effort Equals Rewards

   Snapper are definitely Tasmania's premier estuary inshore sports fish.  They are caught from as far west as Smithton, all along the Northern Tasmanian coast to the far south-east where the occasional fish is reported.  To me, Snapper have the lot - good looks, hard fighting and delicious eating qualities. (My father does not eat seafood of any type, but loves a meal of Snapper.)

The estuary in which 1 regularly fish for Snapper is extremely challenging.  There are many disadvantages against the angler, some of which are - strong tides, reefy bottom, gumboots (cod) and B52's (eagle rays) and most of all, lack of fish.

Most of you would know which estuary 1 am talking about - my home ground, the Tamar River. 1 have fished other areas for Snapper, for example, Smithton and Bridport where 1 have had great success. 1 found catching Snapper in both these places a lot easier than 1 do in the Tamar.  The lack of current, sandy bottoms and stocks of fish amazed me.  Last season, 1 had four trips to Bridport for four Snapper.  They ranged from 6 lbs to 22 lbs. 1 had two trips to Smithton.

On the first trip in December 1 missed out on a Snapper but had a large by-catch of eagle ray, smooth ray, gummy sharks, seven gill sharks, Port Jackson sharks and massive flathead. 1 was very impressed with the area so 1 planned a second trip in March with my friend, "The Mullet King", Steve Robinson.  Due to bad weather, we only managed to fish for around one hour, but that was enough time to nail two nice fish of around 1 1 lbs each.  Although 1 am drawn to these truly hot spots, financially for me, it is not viable to travel so far so 1 normally end up back in my home ground, The Tamar River, on the banks of which I live.


   Although there are fewer fish in the Tamar, fishing can be very rewarding for the

   educated, dedicated angler.  Catching big Snapper consistently in the Tamar is a

   lifestyle.  You have to make many sacrifices but if you keep at it, it will pay off.

   Snapper fishing is like life, it has its ups and downs.  My friend and mentor,

   Geoff Wilson, has helped me this season through the worst rough patch 1 have

   encountered in seven years. 1 have lost three big fish in a row and had several

   missed strikes which caused me to largely lose my confidence which Geoff and 1

   think is a major part in the success of catching big Snapper.  Geoff told me he

   had experienced similar seasons in his home ground, "The Grammar School

   Lagoon" in Geelong.  Geoff explained that there is definitely something that

   ".clicks" when you feel confident and advised me not to worry, it was nothing 1

   was doing wrong and the pendulum would swing back my way.  After Geoff said

   this to me, it seemed to make all the difference. 1 kept fishing the same way and

   one fresh autumn morning in March, one of my rods buckled over and started

   growling. 1 knew straight away what is was!  After a short hard fight, 1 landed my

   first Tamar Snapper for this season, which weighed in at 9 lbs.  Over the next

   four weeks, 1 landed two more big fish, weighing 17 and 18 lbs.  The last fish 1

   caught really amazed me. 1 arrived at my fishing destination at 3.35 am, my first

   bait went into the water at around 3.40 am and my only rod in the water buckled

   over and started screaming at 3.45 am.  After a hard fight, a 17 lb Snapper, to

   my joy, appeared under my torchlight.  Not a bad sight in under 5 minutes of

   fishing!  The temperature was around zero that morning but my freezing hands

   were the last thing on my mind as a rushed to bait up my other rods.  Geoff was

   right - the pendulum did swing my way.


   Setting a goal - 1 think this is a very important factor of success.  It makes you

   determined and keeps you coming back.  My friends and family know my

   ultimate quest is to catch a 30 lb Snapper out of the Tamar River. 1 will not stop

   until 1 achieve this goal.  If you set yourself goals, they will happen provided you

   are confident and keen.


   People sometimes tell me 1 am too fussy with my baiting and rigging up. 1 think

   rigging and baiting is one of the most important aspects.  Poor rigging and knot

   tying or burying your hook in your bait so it chokes the gape of the hook, are all

   extremely bad angling practices.  Losing a big fish because of these mistakes is

   extremely frustrating and totally unnecessary if you take proper care with

   preparation.  Also, make sure your hooks are as sharp as possible and your

   leaders and main line are not damaged in any way.  The Tamar is very hard on

   terminal tackle, and particular inspection should be made before every session -

   make it a habit. 1 rarely use the same hooks and leader twice.  If you think your

   rig is alright after the first trip, give it a good, hard yank in your hands just to

   make sure, especially if you are using gelspun lines because line damage is

   very hard to detect.


   Snapper will eat a large variety of baits, pilchards, squid, octopus, crabs and fish

   flesh are all good baits and will all catch Snapper.  When baiting up, make sure

   your hook size matches your bait size.  For example, you would not use one

   single 210 hook in half a cod or a 710 hook in a small garfish tail.  Early mornings

   are definitely my favourite time.  Nine of my ten biggest Snapper (weighing

   between 16-24 lb) were caught in the early morning period.  The moon also

   affects the fish's feeding patterns so 1 try to plan my trips around the first quarter,

   new moon and last quarter.  These seem to be the most productive periods.


   My secret - 1 think every fisherman has at least one secret and 1 am no

   exception.  Certain people seem to think that my boat has some magical power,

   or that the areas that 1 fish are the only parts of the Tamar which Snapper haunt

   - WRONG!  There is no magical spot and there are many areas in the Tamar

   where Snapper can be caught; but a word of warning, big Snapper do go!  So

   don't take the risk of losing a fish because of someone else's anchor rope.  Give

   the other person at least 200 metres of fighting room.


   If you are fishing snaggy ground, a good trick is to use big splash water balloon

   or an ear plug to suspend your bait off the bottom.  This does help to an extent.

   The crabs are one of the best indicators as to whether Snapper are about.  If they

 

   continuously attack your bait, this is a good sign Snapper are probably not
   in the area but if no crabs bother you, more likely a gang of Reds are about.
   The crabs seem to know...

   Timing is also extremely important - try to time your trips at the peak time.  You
   can waste a lot of time fishing for fish that are not in the mood or are just not
   there.  Keep your trips short, but frequent, rather than massive marathon efforts
   which just burn you out. 1 would rather fish one hour during an early morning
   tide change than fish seven hours during the middle of the day.

   Tides are important too.  Try to fish two hours either side of a tide change and
   don't move from the area.  Four hours is a decent amount of time to fish a spot
   properly.  Rods should be around two metres in length but soft in the trip and
   strong in the butt section.  Ugly Sticks, Penn Power Stick Plus, Shimano Steve
   Starling Series are my preferred rods. Reels are also important - a smooth
   drag is the only way to have it when it comes to 20 pounders.  For overhead
   reels, 1 suggest and use Shimano Calcutta 400's and 700's, Corsair 400's,
   Charter Special LD2000's.  The threadline reels 1 suggest are Shimano
   Baitrunners 4500 and 6500, Thunnus 1300 and 1600 and Symetre 6000.  All
   these reels have silky smooth drags and are built to last.

   Gelspun line is a controversial talking point when it comes to Snapper fishing.
   You either love it, or you hate it - 1 love it, mainly because 1 get so much more
   out of my fishing.  You can feel every bump of that rattling Red.  You also
   achieve more positive hook-ups because of the near-zero stretch.  Everything
   comes tight a lot quicker.  Gelspun allows you to use lighter sinkers because of
   its fine diameter and it casts very well.  Try to keep away from braided gelspun
   as it tangles very easily and once you have it backlashed, you may as well get
   out the scissors.  The fused type of gelspun is far more user-friendly.  It ties well
   and handles like mono-filament.  If you get a backlash, you have a good chance
   of untangling the bird's nest.

   When looking for a spot to fish, don't be fussed about depth or bottom structure.
   1 look firstly for water flow - Snapper don't like current and would rather swim in
   back eddies or out of the main tidal flow.  Try to stick to your spot until you have
   made contact.  Give it at least five trips before you change your spot.  You have
   to give it a chance to happen.  Remember, don't expect a fish on your first trip. 1
   have personally caught 23 Snapper and have been associated with several
   other catches but you must remember, this is over seven years of dedicated
   Snapper fishing.  In some parts of Australia, this would be considered poor.  If
   you would like some more advice or just want to tell me a tale, come in and see
   me at CH Smith Marine Launceston.  Good luck with the Reds.

   Damon Sherriff.

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