Salmonoids in Southern Tasmania
by Joe Thureau
In the early days of European settlement in Tasmania, the settlers were disappointed that the only freshwater fish available to them were the Australian grayling, river blackfish and some small galaxias. Their dream, in those early days, was to introduce the magnificent Atlantic salmon into some of our streams, many of which were considered to be perfectly suitable for those great sporting fish.
A good deal of money, much effort, personal sacrifices and dogged perseverance went into attempts over many years to introduce the salmon. Eventually, success was achieved and on the 4 May 1864, a few brown trout emerged from ova which has been imported from England and, on 5 May of the same year, the first Atlantic salmon hatched, much to the delight of the Salmon Commissioners, into whose care the ova had been placed. Many supporters of the project had worked long and hard to achieve these ends, some of the more energetic and determined being Sir James Arndell Youl, K.C.M.G., whose decedents still live at Symmons Plains, Mr. Morton Allport, F.L.S., a Hobart Lawyer and foundation member of the Salmon Commission and Mr. William Ramsbottom of Lancashire, first Superintendent of the Salmon Ponds, the man responsible for the first successful hatching and rearing of salmon and brown trout in the Southern Hemisphere. In the context of these exertions, it is noteworthy that the intention was to bring to our streams the mighty Atlantic Salmon, the brown trout which we know so well, were introduced only as an "after-thought", the ova being sent as a gift from Mr. Francis of Middlesex, a noted naturalist and angling author of his day.
We, present day anglers, have much for which to be grateful, for those determined sportsman have provided us with magnificent sporting fish which we can enjoy and which we must protect for coming generations. Unfortunately, however, the Atlantic Salmon which hatched at Plenty Salmon Ponds, and which were later released into the Derwent, one of the streams considered suitable for salmon, survived for a few years only. There are stories of some of these fish being caught in the Granton/Bridgewater area but/ shortly, the fish numbers decreased and the salmon were seen no more. Several other releases of Atlantic Salmon have been made over many years but the fish, like their original forerunners, did not settle and there is no known area where self supporting colonies have survived. The brown trout- and the more recently introduced rainbow trout- have both become acclimatised, both species now breeding well in the wild, but the Atlantic Salmon has not done so, released fish seemingly moving out to sea and becoming "lost" in the wild expanse of the ocean. But all is not "lost".
With the introduction of marine farming some twenty years ago, the recreational angler in Southern Tasmania has been fortunate that the commercial operations have provided him with an unexpected opportunity to catch one of the world's best sporting fish, one which is a delight on many restaurant and home tables and one which attracts the attention of many people. There are now some twenty two marine farms producing top quality salmon and a further five farms which produce the best of rainbow trout. Add to this the existence of annual migrations, in most estuaries- small or large- of the sturdy and powerful brown trout which take an annual trip to sea, returning in the springtime to spawn in the freshwater, and Tasmanian angler has a fishery of some note.
The introduction of Atlantic Salmon farming, with farms located in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, in the Huon estuary, on Bruny Island and in several places along the southern coast in the Southport/Recherche area, has seen the escape or release of salmon and some rainbow trout, from the farms. In the early days, sharks and seals frequently breached the holding nets, in an effort to eat the salmon. This resulted in many fish escaping, most of them seemingly moving upstream into the fresh water to escape the predators. Later, stronger nets thwarted the sharks and seals but, still, the salmon escape and head for the freshwater, thus offering us the opportunity to take a few. In fact, there is a slowly increasing number of recreational anglers who seek the Atlantic Salmon, especially in the early part of the trout season, in preference to other species.
For many years, anglers throughout the state have been aware of the annual runs of brown trout from the sea and have fished for them with a small baitfish such as "sandys" and "prettyfish". Now, the keen estuary fishers can add the rainbow trout and Atlantic Salmon to their catches, a most desirable addition from the point of view of sport and of table quality. Net fishermen, too, may take these fine fish in the areas which have been defined by fishery authorities.
Some of the better streams in Southern Tasmania, streams which hold all three species of salmonoids, are found south of the Derwent Estuary, in spots close to the marine farms.
Catamaran River. This heavily wooded stream flows into Recherche Bay and is noted for good runs of sea trout and for the salmon which now shelter there. Drift spinning and fly fishing from a boat is recommended although shore fishing is practised in a few spots.
D'Entrecasteaux River, also flows into Recherche Bay and is similar to the Catamaran River in the heavy bank side scrub limits shore based fishing. Boats, again, are best, but the trout are smaller. A few salmon are taken in the lower reaches, mainly by anglers using lures.
Esperance River is a large stream which flows into Port Esperance. Salmon and sea-run trout are caught in the stretch from the mouth, upstream to a small weir above the Huon Highway. The banks are steep and wooded but good spots are to be found. Spinning with small lures is effective and some fly fishing is practised.
Lune River is another heavily wooded stream with difficult access, boat fishing being the most popular. This river flows into Hastings Bay and thence to Southport. Sea-run browns are numerous, some large specimens being taken annually. Salmon are also present and are sought by keen anglers.
Huon River is probably the most popular fishery in the Huon area and beyond. Access is good and there is ample opportunity for both shore and boat fishing. All three species are present in the river, favourite spots being found near the Huonville Bridge, at California Bat and near Franklin.
There are many additional areas, in nearby bays and the entrances to some smaller streams, where salmon and rainbow trout are prone to be found, and there are other spots where rainbows tend to congregate. Around the Derwent Estuary salmon are caught in Ralphs Bay, Carlton River mouth, and in the estuary itself at spots upstream from the mouth at Howrah on the eastern shore and off Droughty Point. While these latter spots yield salmon and trout, their frequency is low and any salmonoid caught in these areas may be regarded as a bonus for the angler. But, nearer to the fish farms, the fishing can, at times be exciting and, when the salmon have been released, or have escaped, keen anglers seek them with some diligence.
All the streams referred to have limiting factors for the angler, not only in regard to fishing technique but because Inland Fishery Licences are required by law, and there are defined limits for fishing which anglers must know. But, there are good points, those fishing with rod and line below the defined Seaward Limits of Rivers are exempt from the obligation to purchase an Inland Fisheries Licence, nor are they required to observe other restrictions such as bag limits, size limits and fishing seasons. It must be noted that, above the seaward limits of Rivers, freshwater regulations are applied, with bag and size limits, seasons and licences, these regulations being carefully monitored.