Variety off the West Head rocks
by Andrew Hart
Land based game fishing is a new and exciting style of fishing for Tasmanians, and although large tuna and marlin are not realistic targets, there are many other game fish to be caught. A safe rock ledge with deep water is what is required, and West head at the Tamar River mouth has much to offer.
West Head is located within the boundaries of the Asbestos Range national Park and an entry fee should be paid at the entrance. From Launceston, head north to Greens Beach and follow the sign along Gardiners Road to the national Park where a gravel road leads to a car park, followed by an easy walk of around half an hour to the point. The water depth at West Head quickly drops off to over 9 metres, only ten metres off the rocks. This deep water is the reason that game fish and such a variety of small fish can be caught here.
To list all the small or bait fish that can be caught at West Head is quite impossible - there are many different types. Some of these include blue and jack mackerel, snook, pike, many types of wrasse, large flathead, Australian salmon, barracouta, leather jacket, large sweep, gurnard, and other numerous reef fish. To catch these smaller fish, use a simple rig with a sinker at the bottom and two droppers above with size 1 hooks. Best baits include bluebait, squid, whitebait, and crustaceans and sea anemones found around the rocks.
Berley is a must at West head to attract the mackerel, couta and salmon. My favourite mixture is stale bread, pilchards, and tuna oil. This can be put into the water scoop by scoop, or placed in a hessian bag, thrown in and left to dangle on the edge of a rope. Much fun can be had by concentrating on these smaller fish, but the more adventurous angler may try for something like a shark. Sharks are one of many game fish to be caught, others include yellowtail kingfish and rays.
There are many different species of shark that can be taken from West Head. The most common are the bottom dwelling sharks, such as gummy and Port Jackson sharks. Catching these bottom dwellers is easy, a reasonably hefty sinker is left free to run, and a wire trace added to the end of the line. Hook sizes should be between 5/0 and 9/0. The tackle should be built to suit no less than 8 kilogram line. Any fish flesh can be used from fish caught from the rocks.
The second type of shark that is fished for is the very large, very toothy, man eating bronze whaler. This shark requires a game rod and reel that are capable of fitting 1000 metres of line. Breaking strain of the line should be no less than 15 kilograms. Whole blue or jack mackerel and large Australian salmon are excellent bait. The best way to fish such a large bait is to suspend the bait around 4-5 metres under the surface of the water. To achieve this, the bait must be floated out from the rocks on a balloon. The balloon is tied onto a swivel using light line or cotton, so when a fish takes the bait the balloon will break free of the main line. A wire trace is needed, and this should be over 150 kilograms, and the hook size should be at least a 10/0.
Yellowtail kingfish, or kingies, are the ultimate prize for a land based game angler. Kingfish can be caught a number of different ways, the best technique however is live bait. Jack mackerel and Australian salmon make the best live bait. These are caught first on light gear and can be kept alive in a nearby rock pool for the best part of a day. Mainland anglers often take a paddling pool with them for this purpose.
A rig that is best suited to live baiting is not unlike the shark rig. A balloon is used as a float to stop the live bait from swimming down into the weeds. A wire trace is not used for kingfish; it spooks the fish. Therefore, as a trace - 100-200 pound jinkai should be used. A Gamakatsu Live Bait Hook is the best hook for kingfish and the size should vary according to the size of the bait, but a 8/0 is usually a good size. Line strength should be no lighter than 10kg. If a kingfish snags you, try letting all pressure off the line, this often bewilders the fish and hopefully the kingy will swim out of the snag the same way it went on.
Rays are a common catch from the rocks at West Head. The techniques used to catch rays are almost the same as those used to catch the bottom dwelling sharks. The only difference, however, is a procedure called balloon dropping.
Balloon dropping is much the same as ballooning. Firstly, the balloon is attached to a swivel with cotton. Your line is carried out by the balloon blowing across the surface until you think that the balloon is far enough out. The difference to ballooning being that on the main line a sinker is attached, therefore when you want your bait on the bottom simply break the balloon off with one sharp yank. Bait that is most successful on rays is fish flesh.
West head is a spot that offers fun and challenge for the experienced angler. Whether one prefers to try for larger or smaller fish, there are plenty to go around.