Winter Atlantics at Lake BarringtonDamon Sherriff
It is strange how anglers get attached to certain waterways. Some people fall in love with a certain little lake, river or estuary that keeps drawing them back time after time. As most people know my passion is chasing snapper in the Tamar estuary, but I normally pursue them in the warmer months. Last brown trout season I re-ignited my love of trolling and spinning for trout and salmon. It was not only the release of 200 adult Atlantic salmon into Lake Barrington which restarted me to the spot again it was the magical beauty of the whole area. It is a real hidden secret.
Lake Barrington in the lush and beautiful Kentish country of Northern Tasmania has first class picturesque beauty. It has a reasonable head of brown trout, which average around 500 grams. But there are good fish in the Lake, which can grow up to 7 kilos. A man-made impoundment created by the hydroelectric commission, Lake Barrington is also the home to Tasmania's International rowing course. It also is a popular skiing and recreational area. Long and narrow with steep banks mostly covered with scenic forests, it is extremely deep with an average depth of 20-40 metres. The other great aspect of Barrington is it is open all year round. Inland fisheries and Saltas released Atlantic's into the Lake during the season. The total was around 1200 fish, ranging between 2.5 kilos and 15 kilos. Yes that's right 15 kilos (33 pounds). There should be plenty left as the last was released in mid May. Now my Snapper rods are packed away and my trout rod gets a serious workout.
A recent trip was just a few days after the last liberation. I arrived early at the ramp with my eldest son Ben who is 6. Ben had caught several Atlantic's out of Barrington early last season. His biggest to date was 5.2 kilos but we know there are a lot of larger fish that had been released since then.
We put our little tinny in at Weeks Reach which is at the rowing course at around 7 am. I have not fished the lake for several months and I had forgotten how much I missed this magical place. There is no wonder they call this the Promised Land.
It was flat calm. We put the boat in and started trolling down the shore towards Kentish Park. Three and a half-hours went by and not a touch. I had gone through every lure in my tackle box when we came across a beautiful small bay. It was lined with man ferns on the banks and submerged timber in the shallows. It was far too hard to troll this area so we decided to drift spin. My cousin Matthew Sherriff caught a 12-pound fish the day before using this method. We wound in the leadlines and flatlines. I sat back, put the kettle on and Ben started casting at the bank using his Rapala Shad Rap. I put on my favorite McGrath deep diver. After my third cast I had a small brown trout chasing my lure but it turned away at the boat. Five casts later I had a 6 kilo Atlantic do the same thing. I told Ben to keep casting. Shortly after Ben yelled, "I've got one Dad!" I looked over to see my little boy holding a very buckled over spinning rod with screaming threadline. After two jumps and a few tense moments the fish ran for the submerged logs. He finally landed a lovely 3.7 kilo Atlantic hen fish. After a few photos we were back into it. After another 20-30 minutes we had 4 big Atlantic males follow up the lures. They were up to about 7.5 kilos. They just wouldn't strike. Maybe because they had only been in the lake for a few days and were not hungry yet. That is my theory anyhow. I was getting very frustrated and started going through my tackle box again. After a couple more casts a salmon I estimate to be around 15 kilos followed my Rapala Shad Rap up to the back of the boat and swum right around to the front where Ben was sitting. Our eyes were popping gout of our heads. I couldn't believe it. It was massive. I do taxidermy from home and I have mounted many Atlantic's up to 10 kilos but none like this one. It was over one metre long. This has pumped me up for the rest of winter. I can't wait till next weekend to fish in Tasmanians own Canadian Salmon Lake.
There are a few contributing factors to make a successful Atlantic troller. The first is the correct lure selection. I prefer to use bibbed minnow for flatline trolling in deep water such as Barrington is a McGrath deep diver and my favorite in the McGrath range are fluoro carp, fluoro tiger deadly attractor, pink and violet, green and brown - these colours are proven salmon catchers. Another lure that is worth a shot is the Rapala Shad Rap in the glass fire perch colour. These lures will dive to around 3 metres. Another dynamite lure on Atlantics is the 5 cm Rapala Taildancer in fire tiger. This colour is not available in Australia but some selected tackle shops have access to the worldwide Rapala market and may be able to help you out on this red-hot colour; so you might have to do some homework.
Another excellent method when trolling for Atlantic's is the use of a leadline. Spool up a large baitcaster with four colours of leadline in conjunction with a 168 cm medium action baitcasting rod. I prefer to run Sting Cobras on my leadlines- they have a superior action and come in some great colours. Some of my favourite colours are #8-a frog pattern with a reddish belly, # 28 - glowgrub pattern, # 56 - pink and white with black dots and # 58 - fluorescent yellow pink and blue. All these lures work well for Atlantic's but there are many more in this range that are worth a shot. Incidentally, a top fish catcher for big brown trout is # 30.
Another lure which, when fished on a leadline, has brought me great success with Atlantic's is the Rapala 8 cm Husky Jerk. Colours such as glass clown, brown trout and rainbow trout are all worth a go and are lethal when fished with two to four colours of leadline.
Boat speed is another critical point. I troll at around 2 km/hr. I believe the fish have more time to grab the lures as they go past. Balsa bibbed minnows also get a flashy wobble at this speed and Atlantic's seem to like this action, rather than a tighter action when trolled faster. Line is another important factor I prefer Platil Strong. It is skinny, has a low memory and is very user friendly. I do not recommend gelspun line for this type of fishing, it's far too hard on the salmon. Many of the fish are lightly hooked and Atlantic's have a soft outer jaw-hooks can pull out very easily. I recommend that you stick to monofilament, which will stretch considerably and act like a shock absorber. A light spinning outfit is all that is needed to land trophy Atlantic salmon. Time on the water is another important element to success. Every time we head to Barrington, I would say to myself we are not going to head home until we have a big salmon in the boat, and this, method did seem to work! Nevertheless, they never came easily. We had to put in long days for the results.
I hope the liberation of adult Atlantic salmon at Lake Barrington will continue for years to come. It draws anglers to try for these fantastic trophy fish and it so challenging to target them when they are in low numbers is such a massive expanse of water. Signs in the vicinity of Lake Barrington inform the traveller that he is entering places with enticing names such as Promised Land and Paradise - perhaps, at least for trout anglers it is just that why not try your luck!
Another lure to try that I have just received is the Pro-Troll lures with E-Chip. This is a revolutionary lure that emits a tiny signal like an injured bait fish. They have a great reputation in USA and are now being imported into Australia.