A family tradition of fishing on the Tamar River has given Steve Suitor an intimate knowledge of favourite haunts for many species. This article throws some light on the infamous Tamar River snapper.
Andrew Hart and Damon Sherriff discuss the fun that can be had from a wharf
One fish that is often caught in some parts of Tasmania whilst fishing for trout is the humble redfin. Most people tend to think of this as a rubbish fish and don't do much with it. Personally, I would prefer to eat redfin to trout.
The township at St Helen's is nestled at the back of George Bay, a sheltered waterway situated a quarter of the way down Tasmania's East Coast. St Helen's is quickly becoming recognized locally and on the mainland as the saltwater sport fishing capital of Tasmania, providing a large range of estuarine and offshore species all year round.
Steve Suitors home overlooks one of his favourite fisheries - the Tamar River. Steve points out that there is no need to pack the gear up just because it is cold. The Tamar River offers many opportunities for winter fishing.
The word Bottom fishing is a vary general term which obviously covers the catching of fish in the bottom 20 metres or so of water, whether it be Tiger flathead on sandy bottom, Striped Trumpeter or reef bottom on Deep sea trevalla over the edge of the continental shelf. St Helens is quite a unique area for offshore bottom fishing the quality of which is enhanced by the flushing of nutrients and bait fish from St Georges Bay into the open sea.
Situated about mid way along the North coast of Tasmania lies one of the north's largest water ways, the Tamar River. The Tamar begins its life at Launceston, being fed by the North and South Esk rivers and their tributaries, which drain much of the Northern Tasmania. Winding its way down the picturesque Tamar Valley with its multitude of cottage wineries, art and craft, and historic sites, the Tamar ends its journey to the sea, bordered by the coastal town ships at George Town and Kelso.
Best time to fish; All year.
Getting there; Around two hours from Launceston, three hours+ from Hobart
Major angling species; Australian salmon, flathead, garfish, albacore, yellowfin tuna, striped marlin and mako shark.
Other attractions; The town has many craft shops, secluded beaches, a nearby National Park, swimming and surfing.
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 is recognised as the saltwater sportfishing capital of Tasmania and provides a large range of estuarine and offshore species all year round. 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.
Best time: December-June.
Species available: Albacore tuna, yellowfin tuna, southern bluefin tuna, striped marlin, striped tuna, mako and blue shark.
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 Auastralian 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.
From December gamefishing takes over from reef and bottom fishing. As the temperature starts to rise above 16 degrees Celsius the gamefishing action really begins. If it is mako sharks you want to chase though these are available all year.
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 often 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.
The importance of finding current lines, the best water temperatures, baitfish and consequently gamefish can not be overstated. Without doubt the best way to do this is with one of the several charter operators that are based in St Helens.
Estuary and bay fishing
Best time: Large sea garfish; March-July. Small garfish; all year round. Salmon; January-June. Most other species are resident all year.
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 and fish such as silver trevally are often caught off any jetty around the bay. Other fish not often targeted, probably due to the greater difficulty in catching them are, small snapper, luderick and bastard trumpeter. 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 needed though and berley is the best way to attract these fish and keep them in range.
There are also a few elephant fish that can be caught over the summer months. One of the best spots to try for these is around Akaroa.
Offshore reef fishing
Best time: All year round. Striped trumpeter and silver morwong are present in greater size and number from May-December.
Species available: Striped trumpeter, silver morwong, tiger flathead, cod, perch, pike, squid and latchet
The many scattered reef systems within close proximity of St Helens Point provide good quality, quantity and variety of fish. Georges Bay and its associated nutrients and baitfish enhances the quality of the fishing. The large flathead at St Helens are offshore in 30-90 metres of water, often accompanied by large arrow squid, latchet, gurnard and occasional gummy sharks.
For bottom fishing, the main advantage St Helens has is the large amount of broken reef within a five miles of Burns Bay ramp. These reefs are home to most of the species targeted.
Deep sea fishing
Best time: All year, but best November-June.
Species available: Trevalla, rays bream, hapuku, gemfish, blue grenadier, pink ling.
Deep sea fishing takes place over the edge of the Continental Shelf only when conditions are favourable and in craft that are suitably equipped to travel well offshore - such as large trailer boats and charter vessels. This is quite a different style of fishing - the calibre of which can be quite sensational. Many of the best eating fish in the sea come from these great depths. Trevalla and hapuku up to 20 kg come from these depths.
Rock and beach fishing
Best time: September-May.
Species available: Salmon, mullet, bream, flathead, gummy shark, skate and rock species.
Beaches and rocks from St Helens Point and up to 15 kilometres north are popular for this type of fishing. Australian salmon to 3 kg are the most common species. Areas such as Taylors and Swimcart Beach drop away steeply into deep water and often form sand banks 20 metres or so from the beach.
The gutters formed either side provide good hunting grounds for mullet, salmon and flathead. Rock fishing these shorelines will uncover a variety of fish including: leatherjacket, jack mackerel, pike, wrasse, luderick and bastard trumpeter. Swimcart Beach is considered as one of Tasmania's best surf fishing beaches and hosts the annual Surf Fishing Championships around April every year.
Land-based game fishing has been tried by a few keen anglers, with Grants Point and St Helens Point being two areas worth considering.
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