Silver trevally on soft plastics
In the last few years we have seen a revolution in fishing techniques in the way soft plastic lures have opened up fisheries not normally associated with this style of fishing. Light tackle sport fishing has, seemingly taken over our inshore and estuary fishing areas. And some species not normally targeted as a "Sportfish" have turned full circle and become almost iconic with this form of fishing.
When the words "Sport fishing" and "giant trevally" are spoken most of us think of far north Queensland and long boat journey's to offshore reefs but here on the East Coast of Tasmania we have our very own version. Georges Bay is home to Pseudocaranx dentex , or the silver trevally as it's more commonly known, which is one of the most prolific species in our estuarine waters. They are caught as juveniles by children on just about every jetty around our coastline and are the very fish that many have cut our teeth on as a keen youngster. They are fast becoming one of the best sportfish Tasmanian estuarine waters have to offer.
Silver trevally can grow to 76 cm in length and over 6 kg in weight. Examples of fish up to 60 cm fork length and 5-6 lb in weight are being caught by anglers fishing soft plastics in Georges Bay, St Helens quite often. The size of the fish being caught is considered massive on an average scale and fish of this size have only started showing up in recent years, evidence once again that the ban on netting our inshore waters is improving the fishery all the time.
Silver trevally start to show up during late spring/early summer and by Christmas catches of good sized fish are being reported nearly every day. This continues on all through summer.
Once hooked these fish will give one of the most spirited, dragged out fights of any fish of its size. They will generally give a blistering run right from the onset peeling off much line then lay sideways in the water and circle deep much like a tuna. They can be very difficult to pull up off the bottom, but a bit of time and patience will see them boat side, if you are fishing from the shoreline you may need to give chase at times.
Georges Bay has many areas and locations where trevally can be found and it is important not to get trapped in the mind set that there is a "hot spot" or special hole where they will be in all the time. Silver trevally are a schooling fish that move around a lot and where there is one there will be more so one of the most important key factors is to move often and search a wide area until a few fish are caught, then work that area. Being a high speed swimmer they generally like locations with current flow so areas with a good tidal influence, strong flow with access to sand flats and rocky, reefy structure close by are where you should start looking. I like areas with a bit of broken weed, rock and big sandy patches. This is where I cast my plastics and target the sand areas, as this is where the trevally will be feeding.
All pylons or channel markers along these areas will also hold trevally so cast and work over them one by one. Large pieces of structure such as jettys and wharfs are also well worth a cast or two even if they are not in any current flow. They still offer protection for the trevally and are also a haven for bait fish and food items that the trevally like to feed on. Cast in tight to the structure and let the plastics fall naturally to the bottom. One of my most favoured areas to look are the rocky points jutting out from the shoreline, especially those in calm little bays. Schools of fish roam and patrol around these areas searching for food, the rocks and weed harbour lots of small worms, shellfish and bait fish-all of which trevally love to feed on. I like to use small 3" minnows and worm patterns in these areas as they can be fished very effectively on very light jig head weights to ensure a very natural action especially when trying to imitate a wounded or dying baitfish. Another good place to try is underneath a school of feeding salmon, the trevally school up underneath picking up all the little pieces of scrap fish left in the water as the salmon feed, the biggest problem in this situation is getting a plastic past the salmon, but its not a problem many of us mind having.
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 you are 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. Work the plastic through the mid-water area 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 bite, 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. One of the problems with fishing areas, with weed, and without current, is other species. Leatherjackets, in particular, love eating the ends off your soft plastic lures and this can be annoying. Wrasse, weed whiting and toad fish can also hamper finding the target species. If you are doing no good in the types of locations above try water close to the weed beds, but not on it. In Georges Bay, for example water from about six metres down to four metres is easily fished from a drifting boat. You will need to ensure you have enough weight in the jig head though to get down to the strike zone. To slow your drift down use a drogue. And when it comes to fishing drogues there is none better than the new Peter Hayes Super Drogue. These are now under $100 and are a great advantage when drift fishing.
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 2-5 kg 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, T-Curve, 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. My personal favourite is an Ian Miller Bream Buster Brawler, this is a 6'7" extra fast action rod rated 2-5 kg, it has an immense amount of power in the butt section which allows extra manoeuvrability, its fast taper and quick-loading characteristics also lets you be more aggressive while fighting the fish, these are however a premium product and the price tag reflects that. Check out your local tackle store though and you will find a good range from several manufacturers.
Match your 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, Siedo, Symetre, Saros, Stradic and Twin Powers are some of the few that have features and a quality drags capable of dealing with a large trevally also the Penn Powerspin, Applause and Affinity reels are all good choices.
Reels need to be spooled with a quality line, while a monofilament of 6-10 lb 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 new Rapala Titanium Braid. The Fireline comes in 125 yard spools in anything from 1 lb breaking strain, although 4 lb is a good minimum, in fluoro green, smoke and crystal, green being the most popular as it is easiest seen by the anglers. However after months of trials I have found the Rapala Titanium Braid to be a better product, it is slightly thinner, casts better, comes in 140 yard spools and in general is a little cheaper per spool, I have been running the 4 lb in blue on all my soft plastic outfits and have yet to need anything heavier. Because 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 like leaders of around 2-4 metres in length so when the fish is at the side of the boat having the leader wound onto the reel for a few turns can allow you to apply more pressure to stop the fish lunging away, I regularly fish a 4 metre 6 lb leader using Line Systems Fluorocarbon material and its 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 oz through to 1/12th oz or 1.5 gm through to 3 gm 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 oz, 1/12th oz and 3 gm are all good sizes for deep water or fast flowing current where 1/20th oz, 1.5 gm and 2 gm 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.
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 #2 and #3 Squidgy Wriggler in Gary Glitter, Silver Fox, the new Squidgy Pro Range Wrigglers in Bloodworm and Wasabi, Squidgy Pro Range Lobby in Lava and the Squidgy Pro Range Worm in Grenade and Bloodworm. Other plastics proven to be effective on BIG silver trevally are the Berkeley Gulp 6" Sandworm in Natural and Camo colour, the Gulp 2" Jigging Grub in Pumpkinseed, Gulp 3" Fry in Lime Tiger, the Berkley 2" Power Grub in Bloodworm and Ginger Beer 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.
Silver trevally are a hard fighting fish, never willing to give up for a second, and test light tackle and angler's patience and skill to the limit. They are easily targeted in 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 and 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.