West Coast stripey trumpeter
I love fishing adventures and coupled with the promise of huge fish and a new location, I was keen to test this new spot. The stripey trumpeter (latris linaeta) commonly run from 1 to 8kg, but in offshore fishing grounds they can grow from 10 to 15kg with the odd monster to 25kg. These fish are primarily a forager and hunter, feeding on crustacea, shellfish, squid and octapi, although large fish will take small fish.
My good friend Geoff Cook and Mark Breadon had invited me to fish with them off the west coast, just south of the Arthur River.
The shelf off the northern end of the west coast is well out, but as you travel south it becomes more accessible. This said, it is still a long way out. Our launching site still had us traveling 21 nautical miles to sea. We were lucky enough to have a little inside information coming from a respected local angler who had fished this area extensively. Armed with the waypoint he had given us, we basically headed due west .
The day out
We arrived at our mate's shack and saw the mighty ice age already attached to the small red tractor, and with our gear quickly stowed on board we headed onto the beach, the launching was pretty painless but if done with a four wheel drive would see you sinking your vehicle a long way in the water. There is only a small entrance to this beach so great care should be taken with any launching in a new spot, lucky for us Geoff is pretty familiar with the area so we encounted no problems. We had organized to meet out near the shelf, with our man who had left from his own launching site. We travelled to our mark, then slowly travelled out a little further, searching for good bottom and echos on the sounder. I find that striped trumpeter like low and rubbley bottom as apposed to really rough bottom. We started fishing in 114 metres of water and with our first fish coming quickly. Mark was the lucky angler and he landed a nice stripey weighing in at about 5 kg. Now because of short notice we had found a shortage of sinkers, with my bottom bashing bag suffering a barrage of attacks from our mates, the barracouta. I spent a fair amount of time making rigs after being bitten off time after time by the razor gang. My first fish was my personal best stripey at around 10 kg and was a magnificent fish. With a few photgraphs taken, I was back in action. The next fish however had me guessing with its powerful runs and massive head shakes, put a fair bit of preassure on for about 5 minutes, then a beautiful school shark appeared out of the murky depths. This was my first schoolie and I was rapt. We landed six stripeys and two school sharks and lost two other schoolies after long drawn out fights. We also caught morwong, couta, octopus and gurnad.
With this style of fishing you must be patient and study your sounder and plotter, moving your drifts and marking the areas where you are hooking your target species. I always keep letting line out so you are always in contact with the bottom, it doesn't take much wind or tide to lift your baits out of the strike zone, when fishing in 100 plus metres of water.
Gear and Rigs
I prefer to use a egg beater or threadline reel (conventional spinning reel) as apposed to an overhead reel. They are much easier to use and with the braid lines of today, the capacity of line is not a problem. I use between 30 to 50 lb braid, since using these these new lines you can fish a lot lighter sinkers and you have a superior feel in deep water. Most people have a favourite rod for bottom fishing, mine is a Silstar Crystal Tip jigging rod, it is fairly short but has a ton of power to keep these tough fish out of the snags. My rig is nice an simple, It is a standard paternoster bottom rig. I make mine fairly long, this has my top hook well off the bottom. My hook of choice is a Mustad Big Gun in sizes 6/0 to 10/0. Sinker is a snapper lead, size depends on the depth, tide and wind. Only use as much weight as you need to get your baits to the bottom. On this last trip, it was on short notice so I didnt get many rigs pre made. Normally I would have many rigs made up and ready to go in kids sandwich bags, so then in the event of a bust or bite off you can re-rig and get back into the game. Some people go overboard with their leader material. I rig the same with all my fishing, go as light as possible to present your bait as natuaral as possible. This said, I use between 80 and 100 lb Jinkai or similar to make my bottom rigs up. No ugly crimps or anything like that, just a top quality ball bearing swivel two hooks and a snapper lead sinker and some green lumo beads to hang above the hooks. With baits, I like big baits such as barracouta, squid or mackerel. My favourite bait is a long fillet of couta. Couta hangs on well and when fillited, has a long line down the middle of the fillet, cut down this line and you will have long thin strips that make big beautifull baits. Remember big baits equal big fish.
Now I cannot stress enough about saftey when it comes to fishing off the wild West Coast, weather can be un-predictable and the sea can be very un-forgiving. We had had someone who had fished down there for most of his life, giving us the heads up on the weather and helped us out with a waypoint. You must carry plenty of fuel, have all saftey gear and make sure to let some one know where you are going and your estimated time of arival back at the ramp will be. Stick to the time that you have given. There are only a handful of days each year that allow you to head offshore on the West Coast so choose them carefully. Remember, no fish is worth risking your life for.
Preparing for the table
Now that you have caught one or two of Tassy's best table fish, you must bleed them straight away, and remove the gills and guts, wash them in saltwater and get them on ice. This makes them better eating. You go through a lot of trouble to get them so a bit of care after landing them is well worth the extra effort. Just remember that these are very slow growing fish and your average legal stripey is around about 20 years old. Only take what you need for a feed, let's all enjoy these great sportsfish and make sure generations to come can enjoy the same thing