On the bottom at St Helens
by Rocky Carosi
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.
There are numerous areas of broken reefy bottom extending from Pulfers Bank to the south, connecting St Helens Island, Middle ground, Merricks Reef and the extensive areas of reef around Eddystone Point. All these areas are accessible by powerboat from St Helens Point and hold a terrific variety of fish. Achieving the right wind and current conditions is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome when bottom fishing. We find the three most important weapons to ensure the best chance of success are GPS, sea anchor and reef anchor. As we increase the wind, current and tidal movement also tend to increase.
When targeting the King or Tier flathead the idea is to drift over known grounds which takes your bait to the fish. If the drift rate is too fast the use of the seas anchor or drogue will slow the boat down and can often make a difference between going home with a nice feed of fish or no fish at all. The sea anchor can be tied off the bow, stern or side of the boat.
The other main species encountered while drifting for flathead are Latchet, gurnard, squid and gummy shark. We find stainless steel hooks from 4/0-6/0 are suitable when fishing for our 3 main species, flathead, sliver morwong and striped trumpeter. Sharp hooks will definitely increase your catch rate as with a depth range of 60-100 metres, line stretch and tidal movement can make it difficult to set the hook. When targeting reef or hard bottom species the choice is whether to drift or anchor. Sometimes the weather will dictate that anchoring is your only choice. Personally I have had greater success when anchored especially when you can position the boat as close as possible to the desired spot. Striped Trumpeter and Silver Morwong are the target species with others encountered including rock cod, coral perch, nannygai, leather jackets, pike, blue trout wrasse, perch and squid. Bottom fishing is an all year around activity with no set season, Striped Trumpeter and silver morwong appear in good size and large numbers from August to January which possibly coincides with spawning. When fishing on the reef a certain method may work one day but not the next, therefore if anchoring in a spot is not productive, then, either adjust the anchor, re-set it or try a drift, always be prepared to change or try something different. The bait is after a selection from octopus, squid, tuna and gurnard all of which seem to work equally as well - these bait also stay on the hook very well to which stops the little pickers from robbing your bait. A bottom fishing rig which allows you to change easily to a heavier sinker when required is also an advantage. The last 12 months has seen consistently good numbers of large flathead being caught with the Winter and Spring months producing increased numbers of Striped Trumpeter and Silver Morwong. This healthy state of bottom fishing is pleasing and hopefully indicates a bright future for all Amateur fishermen. For enquires phone: 0419 383 362, 03 6376 3093 or 03 6343 2070.