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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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113 sea run trout pairPresented from Issue 113, December 2014
Tasmania has some of the best wild trout fishing in the world; there is a time of the year where the dedicated trout fisherman can look forward to more than most kids do at Christmas. The run of the sea runners,

When?

Between the months of mid-September and December sea runners will make their way up any river systems that white bait congregate in! The bait sometimes moves up in big numbers making an easy feed for the silver predator! These fish put on a lot of weight in a short amount of time making them a very powerful fish! Even on a firmly set drag I’ve had screaming runs of up to 50 metres or more in seconds from powerful fish! You will struggle to find a trout that pulls harder!

Finding fish?

The best waterways in my opinion for these fish are the Pieman River, Arthur River, Henty River and last but not least the Gordon river. While the first three rivers are easy to access, the Gordon River is a different story.

 113 sea run trout
 A solid Arthur River sea runner
landed in the late afternoon.

Gordon River

Once arriving at Strahan, It is an hour boat trip, motoring at about 25knots up the Macquarie harbor before you get to the mouth of the river. (From this point there is a lot of water you can fish), But the harbor can be very treacherous. Picking your weather is vital, plus you will need a good gps with a map of the harbor in case of fog and shallow reefs! I would recommend a sea worthy boat and a lot of fuel if you are planning on doing this trip. Once you are there the fishing can be much like the weather. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good. At times it will be very frustrating, but can also be very rewarding at the same time. All it takes is one fish in waters like these and you will be sitting on cloud nine for the rest of the week. I’ve had some of my best ever days fishing here along with some of the quietest! Either way you will witness some of the best scenery you are ever likely to lay your eyes on.

The river will fish different every time you go there; it all depends on the water level, the flow of the river, the clarity of the water and so on.

Methods and lures

These fish are still trout so most of the same methods apply. My most common methods are trolling and spinning; hard body’s or soft plastics. Like any fish if the lure is presented well and the fish are hungry the chances of a strike are high! With hard body’s I like to use the brands McGrath and Rapalas, generally with a bigger bib. I’ve found that white bait seem to sit lower in the water column than the rivers further west. When it comes to colors no two days are the same, one day one lure will catch everything and the next it will be another. The colors I try to stick to are black, gold, red, yellow, white or a combination of any of them together. My favorite and most successful lures are the McGrath 6-Yellow DB, 8-Rainbow trout, 11-Frog. And Rapala F9 spotted dog, CD5 perch. When using plastics even though the water is a very dark brackish color I can’t find myself going past the Powerbait black and gold t-tail. One of my biggest fish from this water has been taken on this plastic.

There are also some big locals in the river along with a by catch of salmon and rainbows, these fish are escapees from the fish farms in Macquarie Harbor. These fish also pack a mean fight, especially on light gear! These fish are a fantastic by catch because they are great fish to eat. I am a massive believer in fishing for the future and releasing any big trout that may come aboard. Keeping the escapees for a feed is fine as they are a bonus, but the sea runners are just too hard to come by and take so long to grow to the size they do. So please try and release these fish at every chance, but not before a quick photo of course.

Gear

Personally I don’t see any fun in spending all that time fishing to finally hook a fish and just winch it in. When fishing I will usually try and get away with using the lightest gear possible. Trolling or spinning I run a 1-4lb rod matched with either a 2000 or 2500 size reel spooled with 4lb braid and a 8lb leader. This gear sounds light to some people but trust me you can put a lot of hurt on a fish if you have quality gear.

Accommodation

When it comes to accommodation, there aren’t many places to stay once you are up the river. There are only a couple banks where it is even possible to step foot off the boat! There is a shack up the river called “the boom camp” this shack is used by a lot of fisherman throughout the year. It is essential to have the shack booked if you are planning on staying here. This shack is a very hard place to get into and is usually booked out years in advance. It isn’t until a crew decides they no longer want their booking for that particular time of the year that there spot will become available. When we stay up the river and aren’t in the ‘boom camp’ we will try and tie up on the bank somewhere and just sleep in the boat, or if the river is lower there are some small banks that reveal themselves allowing you to set up a tent or two.

When it comes to leaving this beautiful wilderness we generally try to leave as early as possible of a morning to try and beat that nasty west coast afternoon sea breeze. As for the other rivers on the west and south west coast you can fish from the bank for these fish but only in very limited spots. In order to have the very best chance possible I recommend taking a boat when possible.

 

113 sea run trout pair
A couple Atlantic salmon
from the Gordon caught
a long way up river
weighing 10lb and 15lb.

Pieman River

Personally I haven’t fished here much but, The Pieman River is classed as trophy water, and has produced some very big fish. As to where and when is anybody’s guess! They are very hard to find but if you do manage to hook one you won’t be disappointed. The Pieman is a very majestic place with some stunning scenery that will keep you occupied for hours!

Arthur River

The Arthur River is much the same. This river is very deep in spots and also holds some very nice fish! But just like the others sometimes it can have you looking for hours on end with no success! I have never had a (blinder) of a day here but as long as I get one nice fish for the day I’m usually pretty happy. The key to catching any of these fish all boils down to one thing.

113 sea run trout bullet
A silver bullet that
took a CD7 Rapala.

TIME ON THE WATER!!

I can’t stress it enough, if you’re only going to fish for an hour or two after a sea runner and expect to catch one straight up your better off heading out to sea after a flat head! Yes some people will strike it lucky and pick up a good fish on their first trip, or catch one in the first few minutes, but trust me it doesn’t always happen! 99% of the time you will have to work hard for it!

Lures and style

The fish in the Arthur River that I have caught are generally closer to the surface! A shallow bib repala style lure trolled has worked well for me in the past. I will always try and mix my spread up though! It doesn’t hurt to run some deep just in case. Rapala in the original and Xrap work well for me along with rebel lures. In the past I have caught fish on lures from 50mm right up to 130mm long! I like natural colors in the big lures to keep the fish convinced they are actually eating another fish. So try and stick to the brown trout and silvery colors. Plastics are also worth a try here too giving you a very good chance of hooking a trout as well as another local that lives in the river, the estuary perch. I prefer the powerpro t-tail and grub tail pumpkinseed Gulps while spinning the banks for either of these fish. All the rivers I have mentioned are pristine waters and look nearly untouched in some areas, so please try and keep it this way. Take all your litter and unwanted gear home with you so generations to come can enjoy and appreciate these Tassie icons as we do.

Mathew Howard

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