Saltwater Sport fishing - St Helens

The township of St Helens is nestled at the back of Georges Bay, a sheltered track of water situated a quarter of the way down the East Coast of Tasmania. The area is now regularly visited by leading Australian fishing journalists such as Rick Huckstepp, who regard St Helens as the sport fishing mecca of Tasmania and a true world-class sport fishing destination.


St Helens position, tucked in behind a mountain range, gives Georges Bay and the offshore waters protection for most of the year from the prevailing westerly winds that blow hard on the opposite coastline during the winter months.

Off shore game fishing from Christmas until May is where St Helens has quickly developed a reputation for producing numbers of many game fish species close to shore. Increasing water temperatures over the past decade has seen Tasmania's East Coast reap the benefits of increased numbers of yellowfin tuna and striped marlin arriving from the North feeding of Tasmania's plentiful baitfish supplies.

1997 and 1998 had the best showing of striped marlin for the past decade, with most sightings and hook ups occurring within five miles of shore. The same applies to the large yellowfin tuna (up to 100 kg) where most action is only one mile from shore on the rich baitfish grounds of Merricks Reef.

Water temperatures will play a big part with the location of the various pelagics. The albacore tuna are prolific off St Helens early and late in the season when the water temperature is cooler (16.5-18C) while the yellowfin and marlin prefer 17.5-20C)   

Plague proportions of striped tuna are often encountered, which is also an indication of larger fish in the area. Those that chase toothy "shark" critters could do well to put in a few hours in St Helens waters. While their appearance is rare, Great Whites do feed in the area and Oceanic and Blue Whalers are common.

The most common of all the sharks is the Mako and it is not uncommon to encounter one of these every day out with sizes up to 250 kg.

While the Continental Shelf starting twelve miles out, a major sea mount a further five miles out and stronger pushes of warm water each year, there is terrific potential for the serious big game fishermen. Georges Bay is quite large and offers a diverse range of species. Three good boat ramps service small boat operators while two excellent ramps service large trailer boats for direct offshore access. Schools of pan-sized salmon run throughout the Bay and can be located under the diving gulls.

The shallow sand flats are scattered throughout the Bay providing prime flathead territory.

The giant sea garfish that invade the Bay (up to 55 cm) have provided another target for those willing to refine their berley trails and work the tides. Often while chasing the garfish, yellow-eye mullet will also be encountered, both species often found hovering over the extensive tape-weed beds.

Sand banks on the southern side of the shipping channel are dissected by deeper gutters for fast-flowing water and nutrients being carried to waiting schools of bream. Fresh locally caught yabbies and pippies are the only way to go for your bait and berley supply.

Other species encountered in the Bay include pink snapper, elephant fish, silver trevally, flounder and mackerel.

Offshore, the Winter and Spring months at St Helens provide an influx of bottom dwelling striped trumpeter. The rocky ledges and drop offs are favourite "stripey" haunts (30-18- metres).

The use and interpretation of a good echo sounder, the use of fresh fish bait, squid or octopus, plus the correct positioning of the boat will ensure success. Silver morwong is abundant at this time of the year, also a prime eating fish, their home is slightly different to the stripey. They seem to prefer the lighter gravely bits of bottom that are on the edges of the reef as they extend to the sand.

As most of this bottom fishing is performed in excess of 40 metres of water, the use of braided non-stretch line is a definite advantage for feeling the bites.

One of the most overlooked areas in this type of fishing is the anchoring system, especially if the wind conditions exceed ten knots. There is no substitute for having a good Reef Anchor attached to 250 metres of rope. The flushing of Georges Bay each tide provides a major food source for the waiting masses of regulation 50 cm size tiger flathead that wait a mile off the St Helens Barway.

For those wishing to venture further offshore to the Continental Shelf drop off, the challenge of catching blue-eye trevalla, hupuka of gemfish awaits.

A minimum of 300 metres of line, thick and strong bottom traces, plus a strong winding arm are important requirements. These fish can be up to 40 kg in weight and will test angler and tackle when they take the bait half a kilometre below the surface.

St Helens is a two hour drive from Launceston or three hours from where the Devilcat docks at George Town is serviced by a light aircraft airstrip. The quality, quantity and variety of fish that can be located around and off St Helens takes some boating.

Accommodation at St Helens is varied. There are motels, hotels, excellent Edwardian and colonial guest houses, caravan and tourist parks and self contained cottages. Eating houses include hotel counter meals, takeaways, cook your own freshly caught seafood or eat at the award winning Tidal Water Restaurant.

Professional Charters offer a first class boating and fishing charter operation specialising in Saltwater sport fishing. Rocky and his crew provide a memorable day of excitement for novice or experienced anglers. The fully surveyed 24 ft Sharkcat Adosinda 11 is safe, fast, clean and comfortable, and is fitted with the latest technology in navigation, fish finding equipment and high quality fishing gear.

Included on all tours is morning tea, sun block, spray jackets, fishing gear - plus your own caught fish are filleted and iced down.

Rocky offers a very friendly and personalised fishing charter service. To experience Australia's newest sport fishing frontier, why not plan a fishing holiday to St Helens and enjoy not only the superb fishing but the friendly hospitality. For more information on St Helens, it's accommodation, fishing and boating charter, tourist activities, restaurants and things to do, contact: Rocky Carosi at Professional charters:

Ph/Fax: (03)6376 3083 or 0419 383 362 or Christine Dewar at St Helens Visitor Information Centre Ph: (03) 6376 1329.

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