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Early season - Bob McKinley

Presented from Issue 105, August 2013
Bob is a professional fishing guide and guides for trout and estuary species. Check him out at www.fishwildtasmania.com

There are several things we look for in our early season trout waters. It is still winter and cold, so some of the things to consider are: Altitude as this dictates the water temperature and therefore feeding activity. Food for the fish. Availability of trout food is generally dictated by the quantity and quality of weed beds.

Quantity of fish.

Three waters which I believe fit all three requirements are:

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111 arthurs troutPresented from Issue 111, August 2014
The beginning of the new trout season is finally here in Tassie! While temperatures are still very cold around the state, many anglers may choose to wait until the weather improves. For those keen anglers, such as myself, who remain undeterred by such weather conditions, the search for that first trout of the season begins.

The Central Highland lakes are always productive early in the season and one of my favourites is Arthurs Lake. This season, I plan to explore more places on this lake using my Hobie fishing kayak. It really is the perfect craft to get into areas where boats can’t. I have also learnt that such ‘hard to reach’ places often hold the best fish.

It should be noted that accessing areas like Arthurs Lake in a kayak can sometimes be a little confronting. It is a huge body of water and a bit of strategic planning will go a long way in making your trip a more enjoyable one. Selecting an area to fish is the first priority, with weather conditions significantly influencing your selection. With safety being paramount, it is important to always have a back up plan. If your first choice doesn’t look great, it is always wise to change plans.

Safety plays a big role in all kayak fishing trips and should not be overlooked. I wouldn’t advise anyone in making a long trip across vast areas of water in a kayak – regardless of your ability. You can consider it of course, but only if there is an alternate ‘escape route’ in case the weather does turn bad. Think about the freezing cold water at this time of the year and you will understand why this is an important consideration!

With my little spiel on kayak safety done, I have prepared a summary of the best early season kayak fishing hot spots on Arthurs Lake. Read on and I will explain which lures to use and where to go.

111 arthurs map 
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Jonah Bay

Jonah Bay is a very productive area, regardless of whether you are fishing from shore, boat or kayak. The boat ramp here provides an excellent launching area for your kayak. Once you are on the water, head north along the western shoreline of the lake. This area has plenty of submerged timber close to shore and you don’t have to go far from the boat ramp to find it.

Look for open pockets of water amongst the submerged trees. Get right in amongst the timber if you can, or try casting from a distance to get your lure in the right spot. My favourite tactic is to target these areas with medium weighted soft plastics. Jigheads in the 1/12 weight range are perfect for the job. Try black n gold T-tail style plastics; Strike Tiger makes a good one, as does YEP, with their black n gold flapper.

Also worth a try are larger soft plastic creature baits such as hawgs and worms. I have found that more natural darker colours work best during early season. If you are a hard body lure fan and not scared of losing a few in the logs, then try medium diving lures in the mentioned colours. A splash of orange or red on a hard body lure can also be a real killer this time of the year

Seven Pound Bay

Seven Pound Bay lies north of Jonah Bay on the eastern side of the lake and there is a kayak fishing hot-spot at the very top of this bay. Although a fair distance by kayak from Jonah Bay, it has consistently produced good fish for me in past seasons.

To find this hot spot, look for the submerged kerosene bushes and grasses on the northern shore of the bay. The area is very weedy, but can be accessed easily with any kayak. Hobie owners may want to take their pedals out to avoid gathering weed.

If you can get a good drift through this area or even anchor right in the middle of it, chances are you will get on to some trout. All of my success in this area last season was with small micro-sized soft plastics, like Strike Tiger 1” nymphs. Rig them on a light jighead and cast them into the open weed or grass pockets. Retrieve them ever so slowly, using a slight twitch, and wait for the trout to engulf them! Pay attention to any slack in the line as you retrieve, as it is a major cause of missed hook-ups using this method.

Cowpaddock Bay

Cowpaddock Bay is perhaps the most productive area, but it is a long slog by kayak from Jonah Bay; so make sure that you are fully prepared. Drift fishing the eastern shore from a kayak is one method that is often deadly on trout, with both plastics and hard- bodies working a treat.

Regardless of the lure,be sure to vary your retrieve speed. Slow retrieves usually work best at this time of the year, but if you have no takers, don’t be afraid to ‘rip’ your lure back at high speed. Adding in an occasional pause and you will have the recipe for success. Brown trout are a very territorial fish and tend to respond particularly well to this method.

Don’t forget that the Cowpaddock is a large open area of water. It is susceptible to plenty of wind and, as a result, you may find that your kayak drifts too fast. The solution is to invest in a ‘drogue’ or a ‘drift chute’. If you are a handyman, you can easily make a cheap one out of a shopping bag. Basic instructions can be found on the internet. It is also a great safety device that will prevent rolling over should you become powerless (i.e. you can’t paddle or pedal).

Pumphouse Bay

There is a large open area Pumphouse Bay to launch your kayak from shore. You can drive right down to the water’s edge, which makes launching a breeze. Once on the water, travel south along the western shore. The area between Pumphouse Bay and the point just before Creely Bay is excellent for trolling from your kayak. Personally, I like to troll hard body lures at a slow walking pace – around 3 or 4 km/h. If the action is slow, I mix it up by pedalling the Hobie hard, then pausing. Just like the ‘rip’ retrieve I have described previously, a lot of the strikes will be on the pause.

Rapala lures, Daiwa double clutch minnows and YEP hard body lures all work well. Best performing colours in these lures are: Rapala – Spotted Dog, Daiwa – Black n Gold, YEP – Red Nut. If you can get these in a ‘suspending’ version, then a pause in trolling will see the lure sit in the water column rather than sink or float. If you find some weed beds on your sounder, then aim to troll your lure just above the weeds for best results. The popular Tassie Devils will also work well here, but be sure to check your running depth as these lures are heavy and will sink. Catching up and getting the line tight after casting a winged lure can take some mastering in a kayak – you have to be quick off the mark.

 111 arthurs shoreline
 Arthurs has a huge shoreline that kayakers can explore safely.

Creely Bay

Creely Bay is just around the corner from Pumphouse Bay and contains some very nice rocky outcrops to cast lures at. To get there, just keep following the western shoreline in a southerly direction, keeping a lookout for the rocks jutting out from the shoreline.

Cast a heavier weighted plastic at the water directly in front of them. Deeper areas have been productive for me here in the past. A lot of the fish I have caught in this spot have been full of earth worms, so it is a good idea to use something that may resemble this natural food source. Strike Tiger curl tail grubs and curl tail worms usually work well in the black n gold or homebrew colour. If you are using such a plastic, give it time to sink. Because of the tail action in these lures, trout will often strike as the plastic sinks.

Another good tactic, regardless of what type of soft plastic you are using, is to let your offering sink all the way to the bottom. Then it’s just a matter of giving you lure one big upward flick of the rod tip. You can then just keep a close eye on any slack line and wait for the strike. If you prefer hard body lures to soft plastics, choose a deep diving model. With natural food concentrated deeper at this time of the year, the trick is to get your lure down to where the trout are.

Morass Bay

To access Morass Bay, you can launch your kayak at the Arthurs Lake dam wall or you can continue driving around the corner where there is a road that goes right down to the water’s edge. Both areas provide easy kayak launching and retrieval. Morass Bay is a heavily wooded area, which is very deep in a lot of places.

There are some great opportunities here for both kayak and boat trolling; however, I have also found that casting lures in to some of the timber closer to the shore can provide good results. These ‘snags’ hold good fish and are well suited to casting lures of all descriptions. Personally though, I prefer to use soft plastics here, simply because the area claims a lot of lures. With the price of high-end hard body lures on the market today, this can end up being a very expensive exercise for some people!

Casting soft plastic lures from your kayak in and amongst these snags works very well. In the deeper sections of Morass Bay, try jigging a soft plastic. This method is very similar to bottom bashing for flathead – something most of you will probably be familiar with. Be sure to use a heavier weight jighead and let it sink to the bottom. Then, all that is required is a subtle ‘jigging’ up and down motion with your rod tip. If you can get a slow drift through the timber located in the deeper sections – even better!

Drift jigging is a great way to prospect an entire area for trout. If you want to be a cut above your fishing buddy, try adding a small fly dropper 40 cm or so above your plastic. You can even use a dry fly or micro-sized creature bait as your dropper. I am sure that you will be pleasantly surprised when you try this little trick!

111 arthurs troutConclusion

Hopefully the information that I have provided in this article will be useful to those of you that choose the excellent trout fishery at Arthurs Lake this season.

  • A kayak will certainly help you get into the tight places that I have described. Who knows…you may even get onto some good fish!
  • And if you don’t own a kayak, don’t forget that many of these ‘hot-spots’ can also be accessed by foot.
  • A four wheel drive and a pair of waders might be all that you need.

So please have a look at the attached map that I have included, pick a spot, check the weather, and go for it!

Mic Rybka.

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