Snotty Fishing at Stanley Wharf

Mark Heran
One of the hot spots of Tasmanian fishing, some would say an icon, is Stanley Wharf in the north west when the blue warehou are running. More commonly known as snotty trevally excitement is brewing locally as April and May traditionally is the time when big schools start appearing.
Mark Heran is a key member of the Fishcare Volunteers on the northwest coast. We interviewed Mark on his fishing pedigree and why he enjoys hooking a snotty trevally when they are on the boil.

TFBN: Tells us when you started fishing and about your fishing experience?
MH: Born and bred a NW coast boy I have been a keen angler for forty years. I"ve enjoyed all forms of fishing including freshwater and saltwater. I had a stint in Canberra during the eighties and some good trout were caught but Tassie is where the heart is and these days I concentrate mainly on saltwater. When the makos are about we like to tackle those but when the snottys start I'll be at Stanley Wharf up to four times each week.

TFBN: Who else fishes the wharf during a snotty run?
MH: When they start the word gets out amazingly fast. You'll get anglers from right along the coast and some times it is not uncommon to see up to three hundred people. Some interstate people plan their holidays for this time for year because they are aware of this amazing fishing opportunity. And it's all ages from youngsters to oldies many of whom camp overnight and they just love catchin" snotties!

TFBN: Yuk, how did they get the name snotties?
MH: When you land one you quickly realise they are covered in a thick mucous membrane that reminds you of someone suffering from a bad cold. The purpose is to protect the fish from jelly fish stings their main source of diet.

TFBN: What sort of gear do you prefer to use?
MH: Snotties are a broad and incredibly strong fish so it's important to have heavy, strong gear capable of keeping them away from the wharf structure and of course the other anglers line next to you. I use a fairly long, 10 to 12 foot Ugly Stick rod coupled with a 7000 size egg-beater reel, spooled with good quality 20lb. line. Depending on current I steer away from a sinker preferring just a single 1/0 hook, a sharp suicide pattern is good. You can use two hooks, one on a longer leader of the same breaking strain below another leader and tied off a swivel. Landing two snotties at a time however can be fraught with problems and might make you pretty unpopular with your neighbours when you tangle their gear! Unfortunately there has been the odd altercation in the past as a result of this.

TFBN: What would be the average size of fish caught?
MH: Average size fish caught are between 300 to 400 mm and the largest I have landed is 450 mm and an estimated 6 to 7lb.

TFBN: You mentioned current, is the tide a factor?
MH: No, a run can start at any time of day or night at any stage of the tide. It can be quiet one minute, then the next rods are buckling everywhere. When they go off you'll see rods going bang, bang, bang all in a row and I've lost count of the rods rocketing into the briny because of an inattentive angler!  

TFBN: So you don't use a sinker?
MH: This is where a lot make the mistake of putting the bait on the bottom. Snotties will be found chasing food in the water column generally in the area just below where your bait disappears from sight. Use a sinker but keep the bait in the strike zone, but depending on the weather run without one if you can.

TFBN: Talking of food, just what do snotties eat?
MH: Their arrival always coincides with huge quantities of small jelly fish which, as I mentioned is the main menu item for blue warehou. When it comes to bait most anglers prefer fresh chicken breast with no skin but I know of some who use rabbit, the odd road kill if they see one.

TFBN: What's the best way to handle a fish once caught?
MH: Because of their slimy nature I always use a clean wet rag to hold them. They have a soft mouth and no teeth to speak of making hook removal generally easy. If undersize I get them back into the water as quickly as possible and if I keep one I'll despatch it quickly and humanely then keep it in a bucket of salt water. Snotties are best eaten fresh and it's preferable not to freeze them.

TFBN: What's your secret snotty recipe?
MH: No great secret here. There are few fish tastier than a freshly caught snotty, filleted, pan fried with a dob of butter and served with lemon juice, pepper and salt!

TFBN: Tell me about your role with Fishcare?
MH: As Senior Support Volunteer I work with a group of thirty or so other members right along the coast. Fishcare is about talking to anglers and the broader community on the importance of looking after Tassie's fantastic fisheries resources. By looking after I mean fishing in a sustainable and responsible way that will ensure our grandkids will be able to go and catch a fish the way we can today.

TFBN: Is there a threat that over-fishing may occur?
MH: I think in the past that a lot of fish were taken in excess just because they were there. Fishcare's message is "Just take what you need for a feed" and there are generous allowances in place to ensure that even large families can do just that. For example, the possession limit for snotties is twenty fish per person and that's more than enough. A rule change for Stanley Wharf this season allows only two rods per person which is good sense. One person trying to fish with more than two rods is being just plain greedy and certainly not being considerate of others on the wharf.

TFBN: What other things detract from a pleasant day at Stanley Wharf?
MH: With, at times, a couple of hundred people fishing one inevitable problem is rubbish. What makes Tassie so special is the beautiful, pristine places we have to fish so one thing I'd like to see is anglers taking their rubbish home to dispose of. And if there are inconsiderate people who don't then take theirs as well. Tas Ports make this facility available to the community providing it is cared for but they could easily lock it up.

TFBN: Finally, what other fish may be caught from the wharf?
MH: Some thumping barracouta are regularly landed as well as black-back salmon and squid.