105 insore flatheadPresented from Issue 106, October 2013
Warmer and longer days are what all Tasmanian fishers look forward to the most, as we head into the month of October. Here we explore what is in store for southern inshore anglers as we head into spring and how to do it using nothing other than the famous fish catching abilities of just some of the large Berkley range of soft plastics.

 What’s on offer?

Heading into October, while the fishing conditions are more pleasant for the angler, it is what is happening in the water itself that creates the most excitement. Here we are talking about the heating up of our inshore saltwater fishing and although the inshore water temperature may have only risen by just a couple of degrees, it is more than enough to signal the real start of the post winter action for our staple southern inshore species such as Australian salmon, sand flathead and tiger flathead.

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Oliver Byrne gets amongst the salmon

Australian salmon

At this time of year, Australian salmon ranging from 500g – 1.5kg are plentiful if you know where to look. Understanding the species and its feeding habits is key to success and given the species aggressive feeding pattern, the very first place to start is to look for congregations of baitfish. The really great thing about Australian salmon is that they are so easily accessible by both shore and boat based anglers, provided you keep the above information in mind and target the likely fish holding areas.

If you happen to be land based, then look no further than the many rocky points on the lower Derwent River Estuary. If on the Western shore, lower Sandy Bay to Taroona is a very good holding location for Australian salmon. On the Eastern shore, try fishing the main rocky points located in the vicinities of Kangaroo Point, Little Howrah Beach and Tranmere. On two recent outings over September, these Eastern shore locations have given up good solid, hard fighting Australian Salmon in the 1kg bracket.

Other southern shore based haunts that are consistent producers of Salmon are Cremorne Canal and a little further afield, the rocky points and beaches in the Clifton Beach and South Arm areas.

For the boat angler, why go leaving fish to find fish? The point here, being that all of the aforementioned shore based fish holding locations can be worked more than efficiently by boat either by cast and retrieve style fishing or by trolling. Now that we have narrowed down where to find the fish, we turn to how to successfully target and catch these fish on a regular basis. Starting off with tackle, all you need to arm yourself with is a standard light 2-3kg spin rod and 2000 size reel, loaded with a 3kg braid of your choice (I have used Berkley fireline for many years now and have found it both durable and long lasting, even when used regularly in the saltwater). At the business end attached to your braid, 1.5 – 2m of 3-4kg fluorocarbon leader is all that is needed.

When it comes to lures, 20 gram silver spoons, wobblers and slices have been the standard hardware on salmon for many years and still work well. I too was a common user of these lures, until I discovered the sheer versatility and enjoyment of fishing for salmon with Berkley soft plastics. Casting heavy metal lures on my light spin outfit was a thing of the past, and much better on the pocket where for the same price of 1-2 quality metal lures you get a pack of 10 Berkley soft plastic lures! This is also extra handy when the barracouta are present and your loss of lures increases somewhat!

So what Berkley soft plastics are advised for use on salmon? Well you just can’t go past the Berkley 3 inch Power Minnow in either Smelt or Watermelon Pearl or a Pearl Watermelon Shad for their amazing baitfish resemblance. Another personal favourite is also the Berkley 3 inch Ripple Shad in Perch colour, which via its paddle tail, provides a very attractive vibration through the water.

Fish these plastics on relatively heavy jig heads in the 1/4th – 1/8th weight range and in sizes 1-2. The big advantage of using these slightly heavier jig heads is that you can fish all areas of the water column and find where the Salmon are holding, not to mention that the heavier jig heads allow you to slow troll your soft plastic if that happens to be your preferred method (and what a very effective method it is too!)

Using the deadly combination of light spin gear, braided line and quality Berkley soft plastics, you are sure to have increased success and enjoy the hard fighting qualities of this great inshore sportfish. Soft plastic fishing for salmon is also great for the kids and less experienced anglers, where their sheer ease to use ensures that every level of skill is in with a genuine chance of enjoying their day on the water with a bend or two in their rod.

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Flathead love plastics and there is no messy, stinky bait

Sand and tiger flathead – Where and how

Sand flathead (and more seasonally tiger flathead) are prolific in South Eastern INSHORE waters. While sand flathead may be caught throughout the year, it is the warmer water temperatures that appear in mid to late Spring, that really get these fish on the chew and see them move from deeper water into the inshore bays. October is often well regarded as that time of the year when tiger flathead make a re- appearance and start to again feature as a regular catch.

While sand flathead may be caught off the jetty or estuary, we are mostly talking here about launching the boat and fishing the southern inshore bays where anglers have an excellent chance of taking both sand and tiger flathead. Southern Tasmania is home to many of these locations where a boat may be easily launched and line dropped to the bottom, within just a few minutes of leaving the ramp.

Excellent locations to try are Frederick Henry Bay (accessed either from Cremorne or Slopen Main ramps), Marion Bay (accessed from the Dunalley ramp), Bruny Island and Pirates Bay at Eaglehawk Neck.

When on the water at any of the above locations, where to start is all important and experience mostly says that finding some nice sandy bottom in the 30 to 40m depth range is a very good place to start early in the season. If you start making regular catches of blue throated wrasse or red gurnard then you are not on the money location wise and keep moving around until you find that consistent sandy bottom. In some cases, Sandy bottom can be patchy and if that is the case, put your GPS to good use and save yourself some time in re-finding your fish catching points again.

Tackle in this situation is purely a matter of personal choice but is mostly dependent upon the wind conditions and your rate of drift. If you are on a slow drift with little wind, then fishing soft plastics with your light salmon outfit is a very fun way to catch sand and tiger flathead but the key requirement being that your plastic must be on or very much near the bottom. As I often find in Tasmania that we are mostly battling the wind and a generally faster rate of drift where heavier sinkers are required, I favour using heavier spin gear with a rod in the 8kg range, 4000-5000 size reel and 8kg braid. This offers a much more consistent option of keeping your plastic on the bottom and in the strike zone.

There is no doubt that sand and tiger flathead succumb very easily to a well presented strip bait of squid, octopus or mullet but again, I have found targeting these fish much more satisfying (not to mention quite regularly fooling much larger specimens) when presenting Soft Plastic lures. Berkley have an amazing range of life like saltwater soft plastic baits that work amazingly well on our flathead.

Berkley soft plastics that every Tasmanian Flathead angler should have in their arsenal are the 2 inch Crabby in Emerald Shiner and Black, 2 inch Baby shrimp in Green Prawn and Banana Prawn and also 3 inch grubs in Pepper Prawn and Pumpkinseed. For something just a little different, try a 3 inch fry in Lime Tiger colour and don’t be surprised if the Flathead don’t climb all over it!

A recent flathead trip out of Marion Bay left me especially impressed with the above selection of soft plastics that kept catching fish both when the bite had slowed and when even bait was being ignored. This can only be put down to the very lifelike action of these plastics that seem to elicit an aggressive response from the fish even during these slower periods in the day. As is the case with working most plastics in a range of situations, giving the rod regular lifts will impart that irresistible action into your soft plastic, one that the flathead cannot resist.

In terms of presentation, I like to fish these plastics in quite a similar way to the Power minnows, with the use of a 1/4th jig head in size 1. The only difference being that here being a much greater depth of water, we present this using a two hook paternoster rig. Using a natural plastic like a 2 inch Crabby in conjunction with a 3 inch Lime Tiger as an attractant is where this method comes into its own. When in doubt, just experiment with different plastics, as you are sure to find something the fish can’t get enough of.

Just with your paternoster rigs, you can either make up your own using heavier 20lb monofilament, or you can purchase the pre made versions at your tackle shop for ease. When you don’t have a lot of time on your hands to tie up rigs etc, the pre made option is great for its sheer ease and the fact that they work equally as well as self tied rigs! At the sinker end, use simply enough weight to keep your plastics on or near the bottom.

If you have followed the basics of this article, you will be well on your way to success using Berkley soft plastics. These soft plastics with their irresistible fishy scent and realistic action are every bit better than natural bait (you need not panic if you went fishing and left the bait in the freezer at home!). I guarantee you will be impressed with their versatility for your inshore fishing this spring.

With the warmer part of spring on our doorstep, hit your tackle shop for some Berkley soft plastics and get out there and enjoy the fine inshore Australian Salmon and Flathead fishing that’s on offer.

Matt Byrne.

105 insore lures

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