Silver trevally from the shoreJamie Henderson
I am sure you have all read a few articles and reports on how BIG the silver trevally are on the East Coast and how good the fishery is these days, hell I have even done a couple myself, but for the most part they are based more on fishing from a boat around Georges Bay and being able to find schools of fish and target them specifically. Owning a boat these days is quite often low on the list of priorities for the family man with many other commitments. So being able to maximise your shore fishing opportunities and make the most of your feet is as important as the tackle you use to do it with. Now just because you don’t own a boat it doesn’t mean you can’t catch some quality silver trevally and St Helens is the perfect area to base yourself from. The following article and photo’s will prove beyond a reasonable doubt the fish caught shore bashing are everywhere as big and hard fighting as those caught from a boat and can offer the wandering angler some of the best light tackle sport fishing this state has to offer.
Georges Bay has a good variety of shore fishing options from sandy flats to rocky shores as well as the many small jetties around the bay and these offer a great place to start. On any given day around St Helens the jetties have a band of local ‘old blokes’ that are always worth a chat with. They will usually have a fish or two in a bucket and are a wealth of knowledge and anecdotes on the fishing at the time, always a good source of what’s being caught in the area. Many good trevally have been caught off these jetties so don’t overlook them by any means.
Good areas to look for are the drop offs into channels on the outside of the shallow mud and sand flats. As a land based angler the tides play a huge role in accessing these areas. As the tide falls the flats dry up allowing you to walk out to the deeper edges where it drops into the channels and cast your plastics into the deeper water. The trevally schools will patrol along the edges looking for food being funnelled along the channel with the water flow coming off the shallow areas. In some areas you can be standing in ankle deep water casting into 15 feet of water in front of you where there is a concentration of fish.
A couple of popular areas around Georges Bay at low tide are the beach along the southern shoreline of the channel just inside the break wall. This can be accessed by parking in the Blanche Point cark park and walking over a short track in the sand dune where an old ladder aids your climb down the bank. Once at the base of the bank, normally covered in water at high tide but dry at low tide, you can walk along the shore fishing into the main channel on the outgoing tide. This can be a hotspot for big trevally as the schools of fish become concentrated in the channel as there is less water.
Another little hot spot is to drive around to Dora Point and head right to the end of the track. Here there is a small car park and a short track through the scrub which brings you onto the sand flats on the northern side of the channel. Once again at low tide there is a great expanse of sand flat high and dry and by walking west toward St Helens for a couple of hundred metres you can stand on the edge of the sand and fish into a large hole on the northern shore behind the Oyster lease that is midway down the main channel. Here some big trevally reside nearly all the time and quite often there will be boats up in the back chasing fish, however at low tide very few can access this area as its surrounded by shallow water.
There is a good drop off at Akaroa Point and a walk out on the Stockyard Flats at low tide can also be productive. Beuaty Bay and Kirwans Beach are favourites as well.
Other areas close by St Helens are the many coastal lagoons, Grants Lagoon at Binalong Bay being one of the more popular ones. This lagoon is easy to fish, easy to access and suits the land based angler extremely well with half of the lagoon covered by sand flats that drop away into deeper water. Some excellent trevally have been caught here along with many other fish as well so expect some variety.
By far the best method for chasing silver trevally from the shore is to use soft plastic lures. This style of lure has revolutionised fishing in the last few years and many new anglers to fishing plastics comment all the time that they have never caught as many fish as easily as they have once they started using soft plastics lures.
Techniques and retrieves for trevally depend greatly on the area being fished, if you are in a location that has a lot of current such as the main channel area in Georges Bay then begin by casting up current using an appropriate sized jig head weight for the conditions, enough to get the plastic to the bottom but still let it drift along the bottom, and let it bounce along naturally with the current back to the boat or section of shoreline your fishing from. Small lifts and drops and twitches imparted with the rod tip as the plastic drifts back toward you work extremely effectively to imitate a small creature or food item being swept past by the current. If after a few casts you have had no indication of a fish showing any interest try a mid water retrieve by not letting the plastic sink to the bottom and work it through the mid water area a little quicker as quite often the trevally will be up off the bottom. 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, small ‘tap, taps’ are sometimes all you will feel then by just lifting the rod you should connect with a solid hook up. Sometimes the largest fish can give you the most timid bight so don’t discount any takes as not worthy of intense concentration.
If areas with little or no current are being fished lighten the jig head weight to allow a more natural flutter to the bottom, this will enable the plastic to be effective throughout the whole water column and not just plummet to the bottom. In this type of terrain I like to use a plastic with a little more action of its own such as a wriggle tail or single tail grub style.
Because the silver trevally are such a hard fighting fish, targeting them with soft plastics requires good quality rods and reels and whilst this is no time to skimp on tackle just try and purchase the best you can afford. Rods need to be sensitive enough to detect the often subtle takes, have the ability to cast long distances with lightly weighted jig heads but still retain the power in the butt section to soak up the head shakes, lunges and huge runs and wear the fish down. High modulus, lightweight graphite rods of 6’6”-7’6” in 2-5kg weight ranges are perfect as they give a good combination of casting distance, feel and power and are still light and agile enough to cast all day. Rods such as Shimano’s series of Catana (the new 6’8” model is great…!!!), Starlo Stix, Raider and Starlo Stix Tournament Pro are all good choices, cover a wide price range and they are all designed specifically for soft plastic lure fishing. Also check out the range of G Loomis rods. These are more into the premium range and are a joy to use.
Match any of these rods up with a good quality spinning reel in the 1000-2500 size range making sure that the reel has an adequate drag system that will cope with a fish that takes long fast runs. Reels such as Shimano’s Sienna, Sedona, Symetre and Stradic models are some of the few that have features and a quality drags capable of dealing with a large trevally also the Penn Applause and Affinity reels are all good choices.
The reels need to be spooled with a quality line, while a monofilament of 6-10lb could be used I favour a good braid or gelspun line due to its characteristics of high strength, finer diameter for better casting distance and low stretch to better detect takes. The number of different brands of GSP, braid and Superlines on the market these days is quite staggering and can be very confusing to the new purchaser; there are two lines I prefer to recommend for soft plastic fishing, Berkley Fireline and the Rapala Titanium Braid and Sufix. These lines come in a variety of sizes however 4-6lb is a good place to start.
Because the trevally put up such a hard fight and can quite often be located near structure such as rocks and pylons leaders of 6-8lb in a quality fluorocarbon should also be used. The fluorocarbon line has superior abrasion resistance to the equivalent standard monofilament and can be dragged across rocks and around pylons and still hold up. I regularly fish a 6lb leader using Line Systems Fluorocarbon material and it’s amazing just how much pressure I can put on a fish without breaking. The best knot for joining your leader to the braid is the double uni knot; I have very rarely had this knot fail on me when tied correctly.
You will need to have a variety of jig head sizes to cover as many scenarios of water depth and current being fished; 1/20th ounce through to 1/12th ounce or 1.5gm through to 3gm in hook sizes #2, #1 and 1/0 should cover everything. I use either TT-Lures heads or Squidgy Round heads depending on the plastic being used. 1/16th ounce, 1/12th ounce and 3gm are all good sizes for deep water or fast flowing current where 1/20th ounce, 1.5gm and 2gm are all good for shallower water or water with very little movement, choosing the right weight is vitally important as its allows the plastic to have a more natural action in the water and stay in the strike zone.
With the huge range of soft plastics available in tackle stores today it can be difficult to choose a good pattern for targeting large Silver trevally. Some of the best plastics I have found are the 80-100mm Pro Range Squidgy Wrigglers in Bloodworm, Wasabi and Evil Minnow colours and the Squidgy Pro Range Lobby in Lava and Evil Minnow. Other plastics proven to be effective on BIG Silver trevally are the Yep Tassie tackle 3” Minnow, the new Strike Pro Reaction Baits in the 3” Minnow and 6” Worm and always a good standby the Berkley 3” Power Minnow in Pearl Watermelon. Many other plastic patterns will work at any given time however the ones mentioned above all appear to be very consistent at producing quality fish on a regular basis.
A small tackle pocket sized box with various compartments is all that is needed to house a handful of different sized heads and various soft plastic lures. A pair of scissors for cutting line, forceps for removing hooks and a spare spool of leader material is all the basic requirements for successful shore fishing for silver trevally. A pair of waders is great for staying dry if needing to wade out to the edge of drop offs but during the summer months a pair of shorts and some good footwear is all that is needed. Keep it all simple and travel light and you will get some great bang for your buck and it also allows you to easily drive to few different areas during the session without having to pack up lots of gear and tackle.
The Silver trevally is a hard fighting fish never willing to give up for a second and tests light tackle and angler’s patience and skill to the limit. They are easily targeted in and around Georges Bay with many areas holding good schools of fish and offer the angler a solid sports fishing alternative to some of our more romantic species unavailable to the average fisho.
They are also quite a reasonable table fish for anyone seeking to take home a feed for the family. Dispatched and bled quickly, placed on ice, filleted and eaten that night will certainly please the family and guests at a BBQ.
Next time you are on the coast stop in and see me, Jamie, at St Helens Bait & Tackle and I will be happy to give you all the hints and tips and point you in the right direction of one of our regions premier sportfish.