Presented from Issue 95
Over the last few years there has been many new frontiers that anglers have been faced with in the fishing world, there has been more changes to the way we fish, tackle we use and techniques we deploy than probably any other decade and as anglers we at times become enveloped in whatever new technique, lure or tackle happens to be the next big thing or “Revolution” in fishing. With information highways at our finger tips, social media everywhere we look, more fishing based television and media than ever before the amount of information available to the every day angler can be overwhelming and sometimes confusing.
It can be daunting for someone simply wanting to go and catch a couple of fish for tea but with all that going on there is no doubt that the basics of successful angling rarely change. I always try and remain on the forefront of the angling world, my business and livelihood depends on it, but I have to admit that although I am a hard core soft plastic, lure and flyfisherman I love nothing more than heading out onto Georges Bay with my wife and daughter armed with nothing more than some basic rod and reel outfits, some small hooks and sinkers and a couple of packets of bait to relax and have some fun.
It’s the sort of grass roots fishing that I believe everybody should experience and it really isn’t that hard nor does it need to be complicated, it can be done by young and old, male or female and is the type of activity that can involve the whole family. Living in St Helens on this states beautiful East Coast certainly makes me biased but I defy anyone to find a better saltwater estuary based fishery in Tasmania than Georges Bay. It has everything to offer and is the perfect destination for family based fishing, sheltered waters for small craft, excellent launching facilities, easily accessible jetty’s and wharfs for the land based angler, lots of quality affordable accommodation and all right on your doorstep…..and of course a great tackle shop. Georges Bay has one of the most diverse populations of ‘bread and butter’ species of fish in Tasmania; some have even said the southern half of Australia and is the perfect location for a bit of basic family fishing fun
The list is almost endless and offers many under rated table fish, such as Australian Salmon, Silver Trevally, Leatherjacket, King George Whiting, Southern Black Bream, Flathead, Garfish, Snotty Trevally, Silver Morwong, Mullet, Jack Mackerel, Short Finned Pike, Tailor, Couta, Luderick, Flounder, Squid and at certain times of the year fish such as Elephant Shark and Yellowtail Kingfish One of my favourite forms of fishing in Georges Bay is to use a simple rod and reel combo, basic rigs and some bait, rods around 6’6”-7’ with a good quality spinning reel in the 2500 size range. Shimano do a great couple of models at the moment in the Aquatip and Beastmaster ranges in a 702 Estuary and match that up with a Shimano AX 2500 or Sienna 2500 and you have an outfit that will last for years and handle anything Georges Bay has to throw at it. Spool up with some good quality monofilament such as Asari Pearl in 8lb or some Power Pro Braid in 5lb with a 8lb leader, the braid will allow a better feel of the subtle takes of some of the fish however the mono offers easier management for the younger anglers as well as a little more forgiveness in the system.
I like to keep the rigs pretty basic, if there is little current or you are fishing from a jetty and you are working in shallow water try and use an unweighted rig, or very lightly weighted with either split shot or a small swivel. This will allow the bait to present naturally in the water to the fish and will allow you to fish the whole water column. If for whatever reason - such as current, tide or just the ability to cast a little further and you have to add some more weight use the least amount of weight possible. This is one of the most important lessons of all. You must try and present the bait as naturally as possible, not send out an anchor.
For some species such as Bream, Whiting and Flathead you will need to present your bait mostly on the bottom, in this situation I like to use what some people consider to be a standard Whiting Rig, this consists of a small bomb style sinker, around 10gm, tied to a short trace coming off the mainline, then a trailing longer trace with a small hook tied to the end with the bait. This allows the sinker to sit on the bottom and the bait to bait to move around naturally in the current trailing down stream from the sinker.
The final rig that will cover any other situation be it from a boat, jetty, beach or rock is a standard paternoster rig. This consists of the sinker on the bottom with either one or two hooks on small traces at 90 degrees to the main line above the sinker.
When it comes to hooks there are many brands and types that will all do the job, I favour two styles and they are the long shank “Carlisle” style and the octopus style. The long shank are ideal for Georges Bay and any other estuary style environment, Leatherjacket are a very common species in Tasmania’s waterways and the long shank style helps give a little insurance to being bitten off by these fish, they are also a good hook for representing a prawn or nipper on for fish such as Bream and Trevally. Neptune do a great range of these hooks in well priced pre packs and they come in both red chemically sharpened as well as stainless.
My other favourite style is the Octopus style of hook, this is great for Bream, Trevally, Salmon and most other fish however having the smaller shank means there is the possibility of bite offs from the more toothy fish. I like to use the Gamakatsu brand in these as they are extremely sharp, made from a fine wire but are still very strong and don’t rust easily.
Being an estuary you need to think like an estuary fish when it comes to baits, estuary species generally don’t swim around taking bites out of squid or large pilchards they tend to take advantage of the easy meals that are all around them. Food items such as small baitfish, shellfish, crabs, molluscs etc are all on the menu of fish that live in an estuary so go for baits that represent natural food items, I tend to favour frozen Pippies and Prawns……I know what you are going to say “but they don’t stay on the hook”, well if the bait is being nibbled off on a regular basis then at least the fish are keen to eat it, if the bait is staying on the hook then the fish are obviously not interested. If you are not hooking the fish but are losing baits and getting plenty of bites try downsizing the hooks, maybe a lighter line or braid, more sensitive rod as mentioned above and keep a tight line so you can strike as soon as the fish is detected. I don’t worry too much about tides and times, fish will be active and feed on all parts of the run in and run out tide it’s really only the dead top and bottom of the tides that the flow and action will slow. Tides that are rising will flood new ground and have fish following the water up to forage and as the tide drops fish will sit down in the edge of the channels taking advantage of the food being brought to them as the water recedes, bear this in mind when choosing an area to anchor up and throw out a couple of baits.
The humble old Leather Jacket are available in Georges Bay all year round and are a staple table fish of many families, they are relatively easy to catch, are widespread all over the bay and can be quite often found grazing on the barnacles and weed growth on the pylons which make them a great target for the kids. The Leather jacket is a very under rated eating fish and exhibits a firm white flesh with a very sweet taste, however peeling the skin off the fish is a must. Once skinned and filleted they are a great eating fish to take home for the family.
With the many sand flat and mud flat areas around Georges Bay it is of no surprise that good numbers of Flathead are caught throughout the spring and summer months. The bay lends itself to being a bit of a nursery for Flathead with great numbers of small juvenile fish, an indication of a very healthy fishery, however as spring approaches the abundant, nutrient rich mudflats become a veritable treasure trove of tasty food items for the Flathead to feed on, the fish putting on condition very quickly and anglers have no trouble catching a feed of legal sized fish as summer approaches. As the tide rises the fish will move up onto the flats feeding on all manner of items such as small crabs and crustaceans, prawns, shrimps, sandworms, nippers and small baitfish all being dispersed as the water floods the new ground. As the tide recedes the Flathead will sit on the drop offs and gutters on the outer edges of the flats waiting in ambush of any tasty morsel moving past them. It is at this stage that the angler has the best chance of capture as the fish will attack nearly anything that moves past it. Flathead are considered by most of the fishing public to be one of the best eating fish in the sea and those caught in Georges Bay are no exception, whack a simple fillet off each side, remove the rib bones, a quick dip in some batter or dust with some crumb mix and you have a dining experience fit for kings.
The Silver Trevally is one of the most prolific species in our estuarine waters and are one of the ‘bread and butter’ species are caught by children on just about every jetty or out of every boat all around our coastline and are quite possibly the very fish that most of us would have cut our teeth on as a keen youngster. The humble little Trevally, or not so little in Georges Bay’s case, have fast become the best sportfish Tasmanian estuarine waters have to offer that can be easily caught by pretty much everybody. The explosion in numbers and size of Silver Trevally in St Helens waters over the last few seasons is evidence once again that the ban on netting is improving the fishery all the time and certainly helping St Helens keep the banner as the best sports fishing destination in Tasmania. The bite from a Trevally can at times be very subtle and requires a bit more concentration from the angler to strike at the right time but once hooked Trevally are awesome fighters on light tackle testing drags and leaders to the limit and are heaps of fun. Silver Trevally are quite a reasonable table fish quickly bled and filleted however I like to smoke them, a bit of brine, quick dry, light drizzle of Maple Syrup and smoked at 90 degrees with a maple Alder flavoured smoke and you will be very surprised at how well they come out.
So next time you have a weekend spare and need to get your fishing fix grab the family and head east to Georges Bay St Helens where the sun is always shining and the fish are always hungry, and while you are here stop in and see me, Jamie, at St Helens Bait and Tackle for all your tackle and tips on the East Coast.