Tasmania's Top Ten Fishing Spots
by Mike Stevens (The Complete List)
Tasmania is surrounded by water and has some spectacular marine fishing from bays, river and estuary systems to game fishing for yellowfin tuna, albacore, striped marlin and southern bluefin tuna.
Southern bluefin tuna are one of the most keenly sought game fish and several world records for these are held in Tasmania.
In fresh water Tasmania has a world class trout fishery. The Central Highlands boasts over 3000 lakes and tarns, most of which hold trout. Many of these are only accessible by foot, but the journey can be a reward in itself as the walk can be spectacular. Rivers are also highly regarded and many have reasonable flows all year.
1 Tyenna River
The Tyenna, a tributary of the Derwent, starts at the back of Mount Field flowing in an easterly direction for some 40 kilometres before its confluence with the Derwent River above Bushy Park.
It has perhaps the highest fish population in Tasmania with an estimate of 150 fish per 100 metre stretch and 40 of takeable size. Both rainbows and browns can be easily caught using a variety of methods, although it is well loved by fly fishers. There are several monsters over five kilograms caught from this water each year.
The best time is when the water is moderate to low and summer is best.
Virtually the whole system is fishable, but above Maydena it is more overgrown and the going is harder. Try the tributaries as well, but the fish will be smaller.
An Anglers Access project has just been completed on this water and it is well sign posted.
2 Derwent River
Piersons Point - Iron Pot mark the lower limit of the Derwent Estuary and the transition to Storm Bay and the Tasman Sea. A good boat ramp at Tinderbox services this area and you should be aware of a Marine Reserve here that runs between Tinderbox and Bruny Island. Please refer here for relevant information, access and restrictions. Outside this there is excellent fishing for sand and tiger flathead, Australian salmon, couta (barracouta), plus longfin pike and occasionally good runs of squid. Warehou usually appear in the summer - autumn period and are known locally as snotties, or snotty trevally.
Ralphs Bay is a large enclosed bay on the eastern side of the estuary noted for large flathead. Whiting, flounder, mullet and Australian salmon are also caught. Atlantic salmon are sometimes caught near the mouth.
Tranmere - Tasman Bridge. Punchs Reef - just off Tranmere is a popular spot for cod, morwong, trevally, garfish and Australian Salmon. Large trevally are targeted from the shore and boat in this area. Try Kangaroo Bluff at Bellerive and also the Howrah area.
Sandy Bay is easily fished from both shore and boat and can be very productive. The target is generally flathead but catches of garfish, morwong, mullet and Australian salmon are common.
Tasman Bridge - Bowen Bridge not a lot of action, but it is a good bream area. Try Lindisfarne Bay, Prince of Wales Bay and Bedlam Walls area.
Just north of the Tasman Bridge cod, flathead, Australian salmon and trevally are also caught as are sea run trout from August through to October. Barracouta are often targeted beneath both sides of the bridge - as are Australian salmon and sea trout.
Bowen Bridge - Bridgewater. Otago Bay is upstream of the Bowen Bridge on the eastern shore. Many species are caught in this vicinity including a few 'stud" bream every year to 2 kg+. Smaller specimens are quite common. Small bib lures are popular as is bait and fly. Anglers chase both sea-run and resident trout in this area all year round - often with great results and trout to 5 kg are sometimes caught. All methods can be used to take these trout from trolling to bait, lure or fly fishing - both from boat or shore. Many other species are also taken in this area including flathead, pike, cod, mackerel, Australian salmon and the occasional escaped Atlantic salmon.
Above Bridgewater is mostly a trout and bream fishery. After Christmas the bream fishing heats up in this section. Anywhere that there is access to the water, bream can be caught. The shore based angler enjoys the best fishing and there are plenty of access points. Prawns, pretty fish and sand worms are the best bait.
3 Pirates Bay, Tasman Peninsula and Pedra Branca
The continental shelf is quite close to shore here, and with a vast topographic underwater terrain the game fishing can be nothing short of sensational. Very deep water is common close to shore and a lot of game fishers troll virtually along the bottom of the many spectacular cliffs in search of game fish. Water depths of over 100 metres are common close inshore.
For gamefishers, southern bluefin tuna are the most prized species, and it is no surprise when you consider there are around 8 world records from this area. Southern bluefin are usually caught between the months of April to late June.
You will need a decent sized boat to tackle southern bluefin tuna. Big seas with short swells and sharp chop can pound this area. When a calm day does come along, it might be pleasant, but it is not always productive as the rougher it is, the more the tuna seem to bite. The most productive areas are the Hippolyte Rocks to the east of Fortescue Bay, Tasman Island to the south and Pedra Branca 26 kilometres of the south east tip of Tasmania. Most trips to Pedra Branca and made from Southport, which is the closest launching ramp.
Bottle fish (over 100 lb) although not common are still taken, while fish to 25 kg are more common. A world record southern bluefin of 108 kg was taken on 15 kg line. The best way to target these fish is with one of the professional charter boat operators. They operate larger safe vessels and if the fish are around they offer the best chance of which suits smaller stretching your arms.
There is a good launching ramp at Pirates Bay, which gives access to the ocean side of the peninsula. It is the northern most ramp and is around 15 kilometres by sea from Hippolyte Rocks and 30 kilometres to Tasman Island. Closer to Hippolyte Rocks via an 11 kilometre gravel road is the Fortescue Bay ramp and although more difficult to access by bigger trailer boats it allows a shorter run of around 5 kilometres to Hippolyte Rocks boats.
4 St Helens
A great fishery all year round.
A few species that may be found include Australian salmon, flathead, garfish, albacore, yellowfin tuna, striped marlin and mako shark.
The township of St Helens is nestled on Georges Bay, a sheltered area of water situated a quarter of the way down Tasmania's East Coast. St Helens provides a large range of estuarine and offshore species. Relatively mild weather is experienced even over winter due to protection from the prevailing westerly winds. Five boat ramps service the area, three in Georges Bay, the other two giving direct ocean access via Binalong Bay and Burns Bay, eliminating the need to cross the St Helens barway.
Game Fishing is best from December until June.
Several factors combine to make St Helens a world-class game fishing area. These include; Good water depth (100 metres) only three miles from shore. Oxygen rich warm water from the north (eastern Australian current) combining with nutrient-rich cold water from the south creating upwellings and current lines. Inshore reef systems such as Merricks, Pulfers and Eddystone rise from 60 metres to within 6 metres of the surface and provide huge baitfish holding areas. Low fishing pressure and close proximity (only 13 miles) from St Helens Point to the Continental Shelf make St Helens a great gamefishing base.
Albacore are the first of the tunas to arrive around the end of December, but this really depends on the water temperature, which starts to rise around October from 14 degrees and peaks around 22 degrees usually in February - March. The 22 degree water can be running in a current line right next to cooler nutrient rich water and it is often here that the action excels.
School size southern bluefin tuna sometimes feature in catches around December - January, whilst bigger bluefin and yellowfin peak in size from March until the end of April.
Yellowfin appear when temperatures rise above 17 degrees and striped marlin activity peaks when temperatures hit 19 degrees, which is often in February - March.
Without doubt the best way to do catch tuna is with one of the several charter operators that are based in St Helens.
Mako sharks are available all year.
St Helens estuary and bay fishing
Salmon and bream are best from November to June and big garfish from March until September.
Rivers and lagoons to the north and south of St Helens provide good bream fishing, however Georges Bay at the heart of St Helens is large and offers a diverse range of species. A combination of the deep channel water running quickly at half tide, exposed sand flats at low tide split by deep gutters and extensive sea-grass beds make it an ideal area for fish such as garfish, bream and flathead.
Schools of small salmon are probably the most common species targeted, but silver trevally are becoming more of a target and can be caught off most jetties around the bay.
The main wharf in the middle of town is one of the best places to catch a fish and it is rare to find it void of anglers.
Georges Bay lends itself ideally to those wishing to use a fly-rod on salmon, garfish and bream. A boat is preferred though and berley is the best way to attract these fish and keep them in range.
5 East Coast Rivers
Although not a single location the east coast rivers of Tasmania offer perhaps the best bream fishing in Australia. From below Hobart to Musselroe all river have healthy populations of black bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri).
The Derwent River boasts the biggest weight of bream ever weighed in an ABT bream tournament of nearly 13 kilograms for 10 fish. Other top waters include Little Swanport, Swan River, Scamander River, Ansons River and Musselroe River.
6 Arthurs Lake
This is Tasmania's premium stillwater trout fishery. Open from August until May it is open to all trout angling methods including bait, lure and fly fishing.
Access is easy and Arthurs is situated about one hour from Launceston and about 1½ from Devonport and Hobart.
There are three good boat ramps at Jonah Bay, Pumphouse Bay and the Dam wall. As the level only varies a couple of metres all ramps are usually easily used.
Arthurs only contains brown trout and the average weight would be a little under one kilogram. Fish to two kilograms are often caught and bigger specimens to five kilograms feature annually.
Trolling is popular and any local tackle store will advise on the best lures to use. Tassie Devils and other brands of cobra style lures are favoured, but other lures can be worth a try. The eastern side of the lake, generally known as the "Sand Lake" is the most popular area for trollers, whilst the western side is known as "Blue Lake". This is because prior to the dam being built in 1965 it was two separate lakes.
Fly fishers fish mostly the northern end of the lake with Hydro Bay, Cowpaddock Bay, Jonah Bay, Fleming Bay all popular. Good dun hatches are found from December until February and gum beetle and ant falls can also bring plenty of fish to the top. If fish aren't rising wet fly fishing can bring excellent results.
Bait fishers should take heart as this water produces very good catches. One of the best baits is the mudeye fished under a bubble float. This can be from the shore or a boat. Mudeyes can usually be bought from tackle stores and anglers should be reminded that under quarantine laws they must not be brought into the state.
Arthurs Lake has two formal camping areas at Jonah Bay and Pumphouse Bay.
7 Four Springs Lake
Only twenty five minutes from Launceston is Four Springs Lake. This small, easily accessed lake was the dream of a group of anglers. The dream was to have a premium fishery in natural surroundings, close to Launceston, with a good head of large fish.
Everything that was desired was achieved and the confluence of four creeks was dammed in the 1990s and a new fishery was born.
Situated adjacent to Hagley, west of Launceston, Four Springs is a tremendous fishery from the very start of the season in August. In fact on opening day it is difficult to find a park.
All methods are catered for in what is essentially a stocked fishery. Browns and rainbows to four kilograms are regularly caught by bait, fly and lure fishers.
Although it is only open from an hour before sunrise to an hour after sunset it is long enough for most. Like many fisheries early and late are prime times. As darkness falls fish move right into shore and although these can be tough fish it is very rewarding.
From early October dun hatches start and action can be terrific when conditions are right. Midge hatches also abound early mornings and some good wind lanes can be found.
Access is excellent for all and there is even a platform that can be accessed by wheelchairs.
8 Duck Bay - Smithton
A premium protected estuary situated on the Duck River at Smithton. Some years ago this bay was netted regularly, both commercially and recreationally. That is now in the past and the fishing has improved enormously. Australian salmon, flathead, silver trevally and big King George whiting are regulars on bait and lures, soft plastic lures being especially popular.
Fishing around the oyster racks and gutters brings the best results for the big flathead. A good boat ramp can be found in town and on the western shore opposite the boat ramp is an area known as the "reclaim". This reclaimed land is a great place to spend an hour or two and if you are really lazy, or perhaps incapacitated you can even fish from your car, or close to it. Expect to catch flathead, silver trevally and small salmon here. P.S. The locals call silver trevally silver bream. For some unknown reason the extent of bream in Tasmania seems to finish about a dozen kilometres to the east of Smithton at Black River. The west coast seems barren of them and they reappear around the D'Entrecasteaux and Lune rivers on the south east coast.
9 Lake Burbury
Situated about eight kilometres east of Queenstown on Tasmania's west coast is Lake Burbury. The lake is split by the Lyell Highway and overall it is about 20 kilometres long, but one would never be more than one kilometre from shore. This is a relatively new lake, being filled in 1992.
Predictions varied about how it would shape up due to copper pollution from the old Mount Lyell mine. Some said it would become barren and the trout would die, whilst other predicted a Lake Pedder experience of huge fish and then others claimed it would be over populated with small fish.
It seems everyone was wrong and we have a tremendous fishery that attracts keen bait, lure, trolling and fly fishers. All methods are very successful.
Like many Tasmanian lakes mudeyes are the most successful baits and are usually fished from the shore. Good success is had by anglers using soft plastic lures and trolling cobras and bibbed lures will always bring results.
Fly fishers love the early morning windlane fishing from boats. These windlanes or slicks can contain hundreds of midging fish swimming along mopping up the food. However once the windlanes are gone fly fishing becomes quite difficult.
Expect to catch good numbers of browns and rainbows to well over one kilogram.
Lake Burbury is open all year round and has a 20 fish bag limit which is higher than most.
Most brown trout designated waters open in August and close at the end of April.
Most rainbow trout designated waters open in October and close at the end of May.
Lakes Barrington, Burbury, Great, Gordon, Pedder, Meadowbank Dam, Craigbourne Dam and Brushy Lagoon are open all year round.
10 Best Inland waters by catch rate
The top ten most popular still water fisheries in 2011-12 (in descending order) were Arthurs Lake, Great Lake, Woods Lake, Little Pine Lagoon, Craigbourne Dam, Penstock Lagoon, Four Springs Lake, Lake Barrington, Bronte Lagoon and Bradys Lake. The most popular rivers were the River Derwent, South Esk, Brumbys Creek, Mersey River, Meander River, Macquarie River, River Leven, Tyenna River, Huon River, and St Patricks River.
The highest catch rates (fish per angler per day) for the year across all the waters (where the number of respondents was greater than 12 anglers) were reported at Lake King William (3.87), Woods Lake (2.97), Lake Burbury (2.94), Lake St Clair (2.68), Lake River (2.55), Tyenna River (2.37), Lake Ada (2.29), Lake Pedder (2.15), Huntsman Lake (2.09) and Mersey River (1.99).
All inland fisheries regulations, a calendar of events plus licences can be found at www.ifs.tas.gov.au or call 6261 8050 or locally 1300 INFISH.
Tasmania's biggest trout was caught by Governor Hamilton in the Huon River and weighed 13 kilograms.