Issue 88, October 2010
Smorgasbord – October and November
For fly fishers in Tasmania, October and November offers the greatest range of sight fishing opportunities for the season.
Tailing trout at Little Pine Lagoon, mayflies on the lowland rivers, sea-runners on the wild West Coast: just some of the classic Tasmanian sight fishing events found in the sometimes wild and windy, but always dependable October to November period. Tailing trout Leading on from early season action in September, tailing trout are the fly fishing highlight of October on the Central Plateau. The Nineteen Lagoons, on the edge of the Western Lakes, plays host to the most opportunities to chase tailing trout. Popular waters include the floodplains associated with lakes Augusta and Ada, though the peak events usually occur on the lagoons and tarns along the Little Pine River system, continuing downstream beyond the Nineteen Lagoons and onto Lake Fergus and the more accessible Little Pine Lagoon. Further down the plateau, and more action can be found in Pine Tier and Bronte lagoons. Feeding on caddis, snails, isopods and amphipods in shallow water, with heads grubbing along the bottom and tails waving in the air, hunting tailing trout can be very exciting. Both dry flies and wet flies can be successful, but persistence and patience are the key to catching tailing or mooching shallow water trout. Great fly patterns to try include Woolly Bugger variations, stick caddis imitations, snail patterns, Black Spinner dry flies and of course, the Red Tag. My own personal favourites include the Woolly Caddis, Simon’s Snail, MkII Woolly Bugger, Black Spinner and the Black and Peacock as described in my In Season Tasmania or Fly Cards books.
Launceston Show Day marks the traditional start of the mayfly season on the lowland rivers, but in truth, the hatches are in swing by the last week of September. Red and black spinner mayflies begin to appear according to water temperatures, with the upper Macquarie, Elizabeth, Meander and Break O’Day rivers featuring the first of the hatches, quickly followed by the North Esk, South Esk and Mersey rivers by mid-October. Into November and the mayflies of Brumbys Creek, the Lake and lower Macquarie river tailrace fisheries (delayed by colder water temperatures fed from the hydro-lakes) will be starting to show with consistency. The best conditons are calm weather during the morning and peak of the day; the mythical evening rise is just that at times, mythical, as afternoon sea-breezes force the delicate insects from the water and into the shelter of streamside tussocks and trees. Excellent flies to try include Shaving Brush and Parachute emergers, while more traditional Black and Red Spinner dry flies and Potscrubber Nymphs work as well as ever. My personal favourites are Shaving Brush variations (possum and deer hair versions), Ostrich Herl Nymphs and Pheasant Tail Spinners as described in Fly Cards. Up on the colder and higher Central Plateau, the mayfly season differs from that on the lowland rivers: rather than a dual spring and autumn mayfly season, the hatches are condensed into one long summer hatch, beginning by early November, and ending in February. It’s a great way to spend a season, fishing the spring mayfly on the rivers, chasing summer mayfly on the lakes, and finishing with the long autumn hatches back on the rivers again. Once again, the timing of the lake hatches are staggered in relation to water temperatures and corresponding altitude. The lower altitude Bronte chain, followed by Penstock, then Arthurs and Little Pine offers a rough guide to the timings of the hatches, which should all be underway by mid- November, and peaking by the end of the month and into December. Recommended fly patterns are similar to the listed river patterns, with the addition of modern loch style Carrot flies, and old favourites such as the Highland Dun and Lodge Emerger.
Sea Trout are a bit of an enigma around the world. Runs of these brown trout, born in a river, migrating to sea, and returning to a river for feeding (or spawning in autumn), are notoriously hard to predict. But like searching for Lasseters mythical reef of gold, the thrill of the chase and the promise of big rewards (sight-fishing to double figure fish if successful), offers more than enough attraction for most of us fly fishers! Timing is all about recent rainfalls (the time between the wet of spring and the dry of summer is when things peak), and the availability of migratory food sources such as whitebait are key to success. There’s sea trout hotspots around the state: the Derwent, Huon and Lune systems down south are the most popular, with the Derwent offering months of sea-run fishing throughout its long and complex system, as migratory browns and resident slob trout follow runs of whitebait, lampreys, mullet and glass eels up and down the system from urban Hobart to rural New Norfolk. In the north and north east of the state, the Boobyalla and Ringarooma mouths are a hard-to access hotspot, while the Great and Little Forrester rivers have respected runs of medium sized sea-runners. Across to the West Coast and the Arthur, Henty and Gordon rivers produce the best runs of big trout, but also some of the most un-predictable. If fishing among ancient rainforests or rolling sand dunes, in large tannin rivers sounds interesting, then this is the coastline to follow. The classic BMS whitebait patterns are the most popular flies, though larger and bulkier flies work best when things are quiet. Eight pound leaders and size #2-4 Woolly Buggers, Zonkers and Fuzzle Buggers are the go, complete with rubber legs and coneheads if your serious about getting among the snags and tempting the ambush feeding trout when things are quiet.
Make the most of it.
It’s no secret that October and November can produce some wild weather in Tassie: huge winds and sideways rain can be part of the deal. But as one colleague mentioned the other day, ‘there’s hardly such thing as inappropriate weather for fishing, only inappropriate clothing and destinations’! The moral is, get out there and enjoy the spring weather, regardless. The most dour and misty highland day’s will produce the best tailing trout and mayfly fishing, while the crispest of mornings augers well for a day of chasing duns on the lowland rivers. If you’re unsure of techniques and locations, then book one of Tasmania’s reputable trout guides–it’s how people like myself make a living, and even better, you’ll learn more in a day or two with a professional than you might in a year of making mistakes by yourself. Daniel Hackett – RiverFly Tasmania www.riverfly.com.au
The Service gathers information from anglers during the season to obtain quantitative data on the recreational fishery. Two main surveys conducted are the annual Angler Postal Survey (APS) and the angler creel survey. The APS involves a written questionnaire, which is mailed out at the end of the season to a representative sample of licence holders. The creel survey collects angler catch data and is conducted by Inland Fisheries Inspectors as part of their normal routine licence checking. The results from the APS are collated and calculations made to produce estimates of the catch rate and total harvest for each species and the total number of anglers fishing at each water. A return of over 10% of the questionnaires allows valid statistical analysis about the fishery. This year, a total of 4,790 questionnaire forms were sent out and 862 were returned for analysis, this represents a return of over 17% of questionnaires sent out. The results of the APS in terms of ranking of the most popular fisheries in 2009-10 are displayed in the Table below. It shows the estimated number of anglers who fished at each location along with the estimated total catch rate for all species combined (brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout and Atlantic salmon).
Ranking of fisheries based on results of the 2009-10 Angler Postal Survey The top five still waters have remained relatively unchanged in terms of popularity over the past few years. These are Arthurs, Great and Woods lakes and Penstock and Little Pine lagoons, which are Tasmania’s premium trout fisheries. Of these, Woods Lake has provided anglers with the most consistent and high catch rates. It replaced Bronte Lagoon in 2006-07 after the road was upgraded to two wheel drive standard, which improved access and boosted its popularity. Woods Lake continues to produce fish at a high catch rate despite greatly increased angler visitation. The most significant difference in the results this year compared with last season was the return of Craigbourne Dam into the top ten after a three year absence. The reason for its re-emergence was the return of high water levels and the fishery’s recovery from the severe drought conditions from 2006 to 2009. Lake Echo is another emerging fishery which began its climb in popularity last season with 1,226 anglers visiting it. This year it was ranked 10 with 2,146 anglers visiting. The popularity of this water has been improved by last season’s winter and spring rains as well as an intensive stocking program over the last three years. The other change in rankings for still waters has been the return of Arthurs Lake to the number one position. The 2008-09 season saw Great Lake as the most visited water with Arthurs dropping to second. The restoration of Arthurs to number one during the 2009-10 season was due to the recovery from low lake levels during the 2008-09 season. The highest catch rates, measured by the number of fish caught per angler per day during the season, were also calculated for the most popular waters. The waters with the highest catch rates for the year were Lake Burbury (3.69), North Esk River (3.53), Lake Augusta (3.25), Tyenna River (2.94), Woods Lake (2.90), Meander River (2.59), Lake Echo (2.77), Arthurs Lake (2.02), South Esk River (2.02) and Huntsman Lake (1.83). The creel survey has an advantage over the APS in that the results are immediate and are not biased by memory recall. Inland Fisheries Inspectors check anglers whilst they are fishing which gives a picture of the fisheries at a point in time rather than a season’s summary. The number of anglers checked is often a function of how many visits to a fishery the compliance staff make so it is not the best way to measure angler efforts. Creel surveys conducted at a reasonable frequency are the best way to monitor the progress of the angling season, downturns or sudden improvements in fisheries are often detected this way. Creel survey results show that inspectors checked over 3,000 anglers for a total of 3,577 angler days at 90 different waters throughout the State. The greatest numbers of anglers were checked at Arthurs Lake (590), Great Lake (415), Bradys Lake (368), Brushy Lagoon (178), Four Springs Lake (178), Little Pine Lagoon (172), Lake Binney (157), Bronte Lagoon (156), Lake Burbury (136) and Lake Pedder (123). Of those interviewed, 31% of anglers were bait fishing, 26% spinning, 23% trolling and 20% fly fishing, noting that some anglers use more than one method of fishing. A total of 2,081 fish were caught by anglers participating in the survey; 1,606 (77%) of which were brown trout, 273 (13%) rainbow trout, 188 (9%) Atlantic salmon and 14 (1%) brook trout.
Rainbow Season Opens on 2 October Rainbow waters include Dee Lagoon, Lake Rowallan, Lake Skinner, Lake Meston, Lake Youd, Junction Lake, Lagoon of Islands, Mersey River above Lake Rowallan, a section of the River Leven (between grid reference E416578 N5423533 and E416218 N5416099) and the Weld River in the North and the Weld River in the South of the State.
Whitebait Season Opens on 1 October to 11 November A separate licence is required for whitebait. Fishing Licences are available from the agents listed below, but are not available online via the IFS website. Inland Fisheries Service: 17 Back River Road, New Norfolk Mountain Designs: 2 Rooke Street, Devonport Smithton Sports: 53 Emmett Street, Smithton Wells Home Hardware: PO Box 84, Latrobe Wigstons’s Sports: 63 High Street, New Norfolk Somerset Newsagency: 45 Wragg Street, Somerset Tassie Tackle & Outdoor: 37 Wilson Street, Burnie Devonport Boat ‘n’ Tackle: 13A Forbes Street, Devonport Corbs’ Servo: 74 Forth Road, Turners Beach Ultimate Fishing & Outdoors: 80 Reibey St, Ulverstone Forth Village Store: 668 Main Road, Forth They are also available from Service Tasmania outlets. The season is open from 1 October 2010 to 11 November 2010. Whitebait can only be taken between the hours from sunrise to sunset. It is illegal to take whitebait downstream of the seaward limit on any open water. The Tasmanian Inland Fishing Code 2010-11 has a list of some common seaward limits. The following rivers (to the seaward limit or above) are open for the 2010 whitebait season: • Great Forester River • River Tamar including Trevallyn Tailrace • River Derwent • Huon River • Rubicon River (except 50 m below the weir) • Mersey River (upstream of Frogmore Lane B19) • Forth River (except within 100 m below the weir) • Inglis River • Duck River (except within 50 m below the weir) • Montagu River • Pieman River • Henty River A whitebait licence is required to take whitebait but does not give the right to take or retain any other fish. A person who has not attained the age of 10 years is not eligible to hold a whitebait licence. A person may not hold more than one whitebait licence at a time and a licence cannot be transferred. A whitebait licence does not permit the sale of whitebait. It is an offence for a person to have a whitebait net at or near an inland water, unless the person has a whitebait licence and the particular water is open to whitebait fishing at the time. A maximum daily catch by a licensee is 1 kg. Maximum catch per licence for the season is 10 kg. Maximum quantity that can be held by a licensee at any one time is 10 kg. The whitebait net must carry a tag showing the number of the licence held by the user. No part of the whitebait net, including the opening, can exceed 120 centimetres in circumference. The net cannot be fitted with a funnel or screen or other device that can impede fish from escaping and must not be fitted with or used in conjunction with any wings or other structures that may divert fish into the net. The licensee must be within 8 metres of their net when fishing. The net can be held by hand or tied off to suitable vegetation or staked using a metal or plastic peg only. Natural vegetation cannot be used as a stake. Ranking Water Catch Rate (fish per day) Angler Numbers 1 Arthurs Lake 2.02 9,586 2 Great Lake 1.68 8,871 3 Woods Lake 2.90 5,902 4 Little Pine Lagoon 1.28 3,970 5 Penstock Lagoon 0.90 3,219 6 Bronte Lagoon 1.80 2,968 7 Bradys Lake 1.38 2,503 8 Four Springs Lake 0.95 2,360 9 Craigbourne Dam 0.68 2,146 10 Lake Echo 2.77 2,146 11 Lake Barrington 0.99 1,752 12 Brushy Lagoon 0.86 1,752 13 Huntsman Lake 1.83 1,752 14 Lake Augusta 3.25 1,609 15 Lake Burbury 3.69 1,359 Ranking River Catch Rate (fish per day) Angler Numbers 1 River Derwent 0.50 3,433 2 Mersey River 1.39 3,040 3 Brumbys Creek 0.68 3,004 4 South Esk River 2.02 2,146 5 Macquarie River 1.21 1,967 6 Huon River 0.79 1,824 7 Tyenna River 2.94 1,716 8 Meander River 2.59 1,573 9 River Leven 1.38 1,359 10 North Esk River 3.53 1,287 Editors Note. The whitebait fishery is keenly pursued by a small, but keen following of fishers. Its history is fraught with controversy, which still goes on today as poachers flaunt the law to catch these tiny, but tasty fish. Opposite in an excerpt from the Inland Fisheries Commission’s Annual Report from 1961. It is quite enlightening, but sad that the fishery is still a shadow of its former greatness.
More on whitebait
An extract from the Inland Fisheries Commission Annual Report 1961. Introduction In 1941, commercial exploitation began of the whitebait, Loverria sealii (Johnston).earlier the whitebait had been valued by anglers, who considered that the entry of great quantities of these small fish into the estuaries of rivers on the North- West and Northern Coasts, particularly from August to October, both provided a bountiful source of food for trout (Salmo trutta) and induced the trout to come into areas where they became more available to anglers. Dr M Blackburn of the CSRIO Division of Fisheries, in reports supplied to the Fisheries Division of the Department of Agriculture in 1948 and again in 1949, described the biology was followed by a sharp and substantial decline. A report of Dr Blackburn’s investigations was published in 1950 (Aust. J Mar. Freshw. Res. 1:155-98). Representations by the North-Western Fisheries Association and the former Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Commissioners south the prohibition of further commercial exploitation of whitebait in the north and were referred to the writer by the Hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The published reports show that the whitebait enter from the sea in spring for the purpose of spawning near the upstream limits of tidal waters, the fish are one year old and about two inches long. From 100 to 200 eggs are laid and adhere to submerged logs, stones, &c. Few adults survive for long after spawning. Eggs hatch in about three weeks and the young drift out to sea. Dr Blackburn fund that the whitebait of the Northern rivers belonged to a common stock which should be treated as one for purposes of management. Similarly there was another common stock in the Southern rivers. The Northern fish, when taken, are of higher quality because they comprise mainly gravid and unpigmented fish. The Southern fish, as taken, comprise of a higher proportion of darker, spent fish.
Tidal reaches of the two main Southern rivers, the Huon and the Derwent, are so broad and deep that effective netting with permitted apparatus is difficult, expect above the areas where the main spawning presumably takes place. Most of the Northern whitebaiting rivers have steep gradients to near the coast and have very short tidal reaches. Fishing is permitted by licensees only and is at present restricted to the months of August to December. A licensee may use up to four scoop nets, being not more than 30 inches in diameter at the mouth, nor more than five feet in depth. Such scoops may be fished as dip nets in the margins or as set nets with mouths facing downstream in the assumed path of fish in deeper water. At the peak of fishing activity which occurred in 1947, over 900 scoops were in use on Northern Rivers. Many such rivers are small and leads followed by fish could be almost completely blocked by scoops. If the fish tend to “see-saw” with the tide, or to drop back and return again as rain affects stream levels, the same fish might hae to pass and repass successive batteries of nets. The impracticability of marking such small fish makes it impossible to determine the precise movements of fish after entry and the extent of the escapement during the season. The catches for successive months in 1960 showed that over a third of the total was taken in August, approaching half in September and that thereafter quantities fell rapidly and were only about 3% after October.
Value of the Fishery
At the peak of production in 1947, when the yield of Northern rivers was about 30 times as great as in recent years, the wholesale value of each catch was only £16,000. Canneries took much of the catch. The Tasmanian whitebait has never achieved the special fish delicacy value of the New Zealand whitebait, which fetches several times the price. (The New Zealand Commercial whitebait comprises mainly larval Galaxias attenuatus, a species which, although present in Tasmania, is not sufficiently abundant here to support a fishery). The recent retail price of Tasmanian whitebait has been about 2s. 6d. a pound. Whitebaiting is not a traditional fishery of the kind that has lead to the construction of jetties and other capital assets. A licensee can equip himself for a very small sum, although in paces a rowboat is also desirable. It is not like an ordinary fishery, where the necessity for a substantial capital outlay can condition the rate of expansion. With the whitebait fishery, any appreciable improvement in runs of fish could be followed within a week by a sharp increase in the number of persons equipped with licences and scoops. At its peak, whitebaiting provided direct part or full time seasonal employment for about 230 persons – a number which has declined to about 65. Except for a very few professional fisherman, who would apply themselves to whitebait or other species, according to abundance and ruling prices, the fishing is carried out largely as a spare-time occupation by amateurs having other means of livelihood, or by pensioners. At its former peak, the fiery is said to have had a disturbing effect on regular employment. It has never been dependable and sole source of livelihood. The average earnings of whitebaiters, even at the 1947 peak, were only about £70, earned over a season of several months. In 1960, wen the total catch was a little better than in any of the previous five years, individual fisherman still took on an average only a sixth the quantity they took in 1947.
Destruction of the Whitebait Fishery
Although commercial whitebaiting had commenced a little earlier in the South, there was only slight activity in the North before 1943. Then the number of licenses increased about four-fold from 1944 to 1947. The peak in total production in 1947, a year which there was a 38% increase over the 1946 catch, yet a drop in yield per scoop, or fishing unit of about 27%. Data published by Dr Blackburn for the 1943-1948 seasons have been amplified by further records made available by the Secretary of the Fisheries Division of the Department of Agriculture. The number of rivers fished rose from three in 1943 to seven in 1945 and a maximum of eleven in 1947. The Mersey and the Leven each contributed to about one third of the total catch. The 1960 the number of rivers fished had fallen to eight and in the Inglis, Cam and Blythe the catch was less than 150 lb. each. The Leven and Mersey produced over three-quarters of the total, the balance coming from the Duck, Black and Rubicon. The drop in catch per scoop from 1550 lb. in 1946 to 1130 lb. in 1947 might have been attributable to competition between the increased number of fishing units employed in restricted areas. However, no such explanation could account the catastrophic fall in 1948 of both gross yield and catch per unit. Dr Blackburn, in supplement to his 1948 report, proposed a total closure in 1949, to be followed by catch quotas of 100 tons in 1950 and 200 tons in 1951 with continuing observations to learn the most satisfactory permanent level. In consequence, there was no open season in 1949 and the Sea Fisheries Advisory Board decided to be advised by Dr Blackburn on a suitable duration for the 1950 season. Thereafter, regulations were drafted by providing for an open season from 15th August to 30th November, with machinery provisions for earlier closure to be ordered by Gazette notice, should the proposed quota be reached earlier. When the proposals became known, there was strong opposition from canners to the suggested quota of 100 tons. Following discussions between their representatives and the Sea Fisheries Advisory Board, it was decided the quota for 1950 should be 375 tons. Such a quota amounted to a greater quantity than had been taken in any earlier year except one and was actually 80% greater than the average annual catch f 209 tons for the years 1943-1948, which has caused the collapse of the fishery. A reservation that if “upon examination, any signs of depletion are indicated, the Minister will take action…to terminate the season” was meaningless, in view of the notification to the canners at the same time of this high quota. Obviously, if 375 tons had been taken, it would have proved an abundance of fish. But until such a quota was reached, the canners could argue that the run was late and they were holding cases, tinplate, labels &c., which they should be permitted to use. (The word “quota” was not in fact used in the notification to canners, which referred, not to a maximum, but “optimum” catch). In fact, no action was taken at all under the provisions for terminating the season, although in 1950 the catch fell to 10% of that of 1947 and when thereafter the deterioration continued until, in this last five years, the average annual yield has been 12 tons, that is, about one thirteenth of the proposed quota, the catch per unit in the last two years has averaged 130 lb. as against 440 in 1948 and 1550 in 1946. Since 1950, changes in regulations have ad the effect of making still more effective the destruction of the remnants of the Northern whitebait population. (For other reasons that whitebait conservation the Forth was closed to whitebaiting, but its earlier contribution had amounted to only 4% of the total yield). The 1950 regulations prohibited the taking of whitebait between sunset on Fridays and sunrise on Mondays. This reservation was dropped in the 1957 regulations. The earlier regulations prescribed a closed seasons from 1st December to 14th August. The 1957 regulations provided for an open season from 1st August until 1st January. The extension by four weeks at the end is unimportant, as the run is greatly reduced by the end of October, but the addition of a fortnight in August materially reduced the period within which uninterrupted spawning had previously been possible. In 1960, over a third of the total catch was taken in August and summaries of monthly catches indicate the probability of appreciable runs occurring in July. Probably this pre-season entry is all that saved the stock from extermination, or delayed such a happening.
Trout and Whitebait
If trout had never been established in the Northern rivers and coastal waters of Tasmania, there would still be adequate justification for a total cessation of whitebaiting for a number of years to learn whether it is not still possible for this species to re-establish itself in sufficient strength to permit carefully regulated exploitation at some future time. However, as was learnt in 1949, when whitebait were very greatly more abundant than now, closure for a single season is quite inadequate to permit recovery. Whatever influence the introduction of trout may have had on the whitebait population, the facts are that the two species co-existed with a considerable overlapping range for nearly 80 years and that predation by the trout was never severe enough to precent the whitebait continuing in very great abundance. Dr A G Nicholls, in a general consideration of size and abundance of trout in fresh and tidal portions of Northern rivers, between 1945 and 1954, (Aust. J. Mar. Freshw. Res. Vol 9, 1, 19-59) made no direct observations on the food of trout or special enquiry into inter-relationships of trout and whitebait. However, he remarks that he did not find any “direct, consistent correlation” between the estuarine trout fishery and the commercial whitebait fishery. It is important that this statement should not be misconstructed as a statement that the estuarine trout fishery was not in any appreciable measure influenced by the abundance of whitebait or the whitebait fishing practice. Direct and consistent correlations are unlikely to be demonstrated by the relatively scanty data, especially when there is only a partial environment overlap and the predator species is very catholic in its feeding habits. Indeed, Dr Nicholls has been careful to how the abundance of whitebait could affect the availability of trout to anglers by bringing them into effective rand of shore-based anglers. He also demonstrated that the number of days devoted to angling in tidal waters by the typical angler dropped by half as the whitebait stocks fell off. The finding that such anglers as did fish tidal waters took much the same quantity of fish as formerly is not inconsistent. While there is no positive evidence that it is so, it is a logical and widely held belief that trout, which are present in abundance in coastal waters, follow shoals of small anadromous fishes into rivers and that the duration of their stay in tidal reaches is much dependent on the continued availability there of such small fry. Whether this is correct or whether the presence of concentrations of whitebait in marginal waters simply induces local inshore movement of trout, which would normally be lying deeper and more widely dispersed in the estuaries, is it not really important. It is beyond reasonable dispute that the presence of whitebait does induce trout to feed both vigorously and conspicuously at inshore points where the small fry concentrate and that thereby trout become readily available to anglers. Such concentration points (usually eddies offering some shelter from strong currents) appeal equally to whitebaiters and to trout. As the angler seeks the actively feeding trout, he comes into direct positional conflict with the whitebaiter. In the restricted estuaries of the Northern rivers, each with its limited number of good concentration points, the actual disturbance or domination of areas by whitebaiters can make angling relatively ineffectual, or, at the very least, very unattractive. To the angler, the whitebaiter is a source of direct interference with his sport, while the whitebaiter, I turn, suffers the annoyance of having the smooth movement of whitebait frequently disturbed by the feeding trout. No one who has observed trout feeding on whitebait would need to have his observations reinforced by analysis of gut contents, before and after the commercial whitebait fishery developed, to be convinces that the substantial destruction of the whitebait population has been seriously damaging to the trout fishery.
1. An indigenous species of fish, the whitebait, which a few year back was enormously abundant, has so diminished in numbers that recent commercial yield has been about 6% of what it formerly was.
2. Trout and whitebait had co-existed for nearly 80 years and the whitebait continued to be extraordinarily abundant until commercial exploitation started.
3. There is irrefutable evidence that the whitebait fishery has been substantially destroyed by gross over-fishing, which has continued, with increasing ill effects, for a decade after competent scientific enquiry had diagnosed the cause of the first sharp decline and recommended remedial measures. There has for 10 years been failure to attempt to arrest or remedy the continuing decline by exercising powers provided for that purpose in regulations made in 1950. Instead, the earlier regulations have been relaxed further to permit more sustained fishing during the former open season and an extension of such season.
4. The destruction of the Northern whitebait population may already have proceeded beyond the point from which recovery might be possible. Only the immediate and complete cessation of all exploitation in Northern waters for some years would appear to offer any hope of saving the whitebait population.
5. An incidental effect on the substantial destruction of the whitebait population has been the loss of a valued trout food. Such food has been of special significance in that it greatly increased the availability of trout in estuarine waters, thereby making for better fishing and less congestion in inland waters.
6. Whitebait fishing in the Northern rivers is the part-time interest of 65 persons. Trout fishing in the same rivers is the part-time interest of over 6500 local North-West Coast residents.
1. It is recommended that regulation 33 (3) of the 1957 Sea Fisheries Regulations be invoked at once and that a Gazette notice be issued closing all the Northern rivers to whitebaiting in the season which otherwise would be open on 1st August next.
2. That in view f the failure of the single closed season in 1949, to permit recovery of the stock, which was then in a very greatly stronger position, closure for a number of years now be contemplated. DF Hobbs, Commissioner. 30th June, 1961.
North West Trout
The 2010 brown trout season is well and truly upon us. Anglers have returned to the water and freshwater fishing is hotting up. There are already many dams and rivers that are producing some fantastic angling opportunities here on the North West coast. Weeks of heavy rain have proved to be very useful on my first few trips as each and every dam has a fresh and clean supplement of water. Rivers may be flowing at a rapid rate at the moment but when the rain stops and the water settles down, fishing in local rivers such as the Cam, Emu, Blythe and Inglis should be sensational. Even before the opening of the season, the excitement of being finally able to pursue a trout was getting the better of me and I eventually overdosed on purchasing all the required gear for tackling the almighty brown trout . Ashley Spinners, Yep Soft Plastics, Squidgy Fish and even Gulps overflowed from my tackle box as I prepared for the Opening Day.
Guide Reservoir and Opening Day
As the Opening Day loomed upon me, I decided that the Guide Reservoir was going to be the much anticipated destination of the day. I had done considerably well at the Guide in past seasons and the thought of big and plentiful fish couldn’t escape me. The good old Green and Gold Spinner was going to be the lure of choice by many anglers fishing at the Guide and I was going to be one of them. After preparing all of my gear the day before the Opening, I checked the weather forecast and barometer for obvious signs of declining weather. The weather was going to be acceptable and the barometer was aiming high; good signs for the next day. After awaking to the sound of my alarm clock at about 4:30am, getting dressed and preparing all my gear for a long day, I found myself sitting in a car bound for the Guide Reservoir. After arriving at the Guide at about 6:15 am, accompanied by Zac Bartels and Bryan Van Wyk, I began the short trek to a small grassy outcrop on the south western end of the system known as the ‘Plateau’. As we walked along the track, I noticed that nearly every puddle was completely frozen over, a sure sign that the previous night had been very cold! After discovering that the Plateau had no occupying anglers, we decided to begin fishing for the elusive brown trout . Upon entering the water and having a few quick casts with the faithful Green and Gold Ashley Spinner, I found myself hooked up to a nice little brown. Although the fish was only relatively small, it was great to see a nice fish landed in so little time. A few quick photographs were taken and the fish was returned to the water. This was a great start to the day as a decent fish was caught on the first three casts! As we moved south, Bryan hooked up to another smaller fish. Bryan was stoked with this capture as it was his first trout from the Guide. Fishing became tough for the next few hours as the sun came up and there was little cloud cover. After a little planning, we decided to relocate to the western side of the reservoir where the wind was lapping against the shore and there was little shade from the surrounding trees. We soon found out that the western side of the Reservoir could be productive as Zac quickly landed a tiny Rainbow on a single hooked Ashley Spinner. This method made the removal of the hook very easy and did a lot less damage that a treble. After moving on, all three of us had almost instant strikes! Zac and I failed to set the hooks firmly but Bryan managed to stay connected with his fish and safely guided it into the net. The fish seemed to be getting bigger, the capture rate was up and conditions started to work in our favour. Bryan soon released his fish after a few photographs and we were back into the action. A short while after Bryan released his fish, I found myself hooked up to something a little more substantial, a fish that would soon go aerial. Most fish caught throughout the day were only prepared to breach once or twice, but this particular fish went nuts! After landing the fish and taking a few quick happy snaps, I released the fish and began to cast again. Bryan caught the last memorable fish for the day, a nice specimen that was set aside for the table. A few other smaller fish were caught before calling it a day at about 4:30 pm. It was a great start to what is sure to be a fantastic season. So far I have had three very successful trips to the Guide Reservoir; the fishing has just been sensational. All the fish have been in excellent condition, most are incredibly fat and they are without a doubt, the hardest fighting fresh water species here on the North West coast. If you want to get into some early trout action, I strongly suggest you head to the Guide, even if you just want to take the family or have a quick cast or two after work. Make sure to take a pair of waders as fishing without them is nearly impossible!
Guide - What to Use
The Guide Dam also fishes considerably well early in the season and captures of large fish are common. I strictly use artificial lures in this water as they seem to produce the most fish. I use the good old Green and Gold Ashley Spinner, Tassie Devils, Berkley T-Tail Minnows in Black/Gold and Olive/Pearl, Berkley Walleye 2” Power Grub in Bloodworm and Yep Flappers in Black ‘n’ Gold. All plastics are weighted with a 1/12oz, 1/8oz or 1/6oz TT Jighead. Don’t expect the fish to come easily, but just keep belting out the casts and you will catch them.
The Pet Reservoir has been a little slow this year due to the introduction of Blackfish; these unwanted species have been wreaking havoc on bait fishermen. The Pet was one of my favourite fishing destinations as a child and I still like to head up there for a quick cast. Last season was a very productive time for the Pet; I ventured up there on numerous occasions and experienced some great fishing. At one time, I even managed to snag a beautiful little brown on my first cast! I personally favour the Pet for its Rainbows, catching these feisty little buggers can be great fun for the whole family. The Pet Reservoir is a great place for a quick cast if you aren’t interested in spending the whole day there. The system itself is very accessible and can be fished from both sides with ease. I like to fish the Southern end of the Reservoir just because it is out of the way from other anglers that often situate themselves on the Northern end.
Pet - What to Use
The Pet Dam fishes really well early in the season and you have the choice of fishing with either bait or artificial lures. If you decide to fish with bait, try to avoid compost worms, use fresh scrub worms as these seem to work better. PowerBait trout Nuggets do work up there but I usually try and stick with natural baits. Try and use the smallest possible hook when bait fishing to lower the risk of harming the fish, unless you want to take it. I generally run a small running sinker rig with a tiny circle hook; this almost guarantees a mouth hook-up and a healthy fish to release. I personally favour artificial lures while fishing in the Pet such as Ashley Spinners in Green and Gold, Tassie Devils, Berkley T-Tail Minnows in Black/Gold or Olive/Pearl, Berkley Dropshot 3” Minnows in Pearl Watermelon and 50mm Squidgy Fish in Gary Glitter, Black Gold and Silver Fox. All plastics are weighted with a 1/16oz, 1/12oz or 1/8oz TT Jighead.
The Blythe is my favourite river here on the North West coast, not only because of the enormous fish it produces, but the environment and scenery it runs through. As most people will know, the Blythe is well known for its big Sea Runners, I have seen fish in this river that would easily exceed eight pounds! I generally start to fish the Blythe when the whitebait starts to run in early November and the water temperature warms up. The Blythe has some fantastic structure to fish around such as overhanging trees, bridges, weirs, waterfalls and rocky ledges. I have a number of ‘secret spots’ at the Blythe and I encourage anglers and readers to explore this system to some extent and gather knowledge of just how great this fishery really is. I prefer to fish this river via boat as it becomes much easier to navigate due to its steep edges and dense forest. An electric motor is vital when fishing the Blythe as some stretches of the river can be very tight; having an electric also gives you the advantage of being stealthy.
Blythe - What to Use
Don’t be afraid to use big plastics in the Blythe for those bigger fish, always keep in mind that the possibility of encountering a large Sea Runner or Resident fish is high so you want to have the advantage of being able to entice a strike. I like to run a vast range of plastics in the Blythe such as Berkley T-Tail Minnows in Black/Gold or Olive/Pearl, Berkley Dropshot 3” Minnows in Pearl Watermelon and Pearl Blue, 50 and 65mm Squidgy Fish in Gary Glitter, Black Gold, Neon and Silver Fox. All plastics are weighted with a 1/12oz, 1/8oz or 1/6oz TT Jighead. Depending on the weather and water flow, picking a suitable lure can often be the difference between catching a fish and not being able to catch anything at all.
Believe it or not, there are some big fish in the Cam! Although not known for its resident fish, the Cam has been producing some beautiful Sea Runners over the past decade or so. If you want to target the bigger specimens in the Cam, fish within the whitebait run that generally starts in early November. Fishing spots can vary between the seasons and exploration is needed to find the fish throughout the river. When I target Sea Runners in the Cam, I generally fish around the mouth of the river; high tide is the best time to fish as fresh salt water is pushed back into the system. Try casting around underneath the bridge on the Bass Highway as fish will often wait between the pylons waiting for incoming whitebait. It is common to stumble upon a feeding frenzy in the Cam, like most trout fishing; it always pays to be sneaky about the way you move around the rivers. If you manage to find the fish smashing a school of whitebait, just be quiet and sneak a cast into the chaos and you may just hook up to something!
Cam - What to Use
The Cam is very small; fishing with heavy jigheads and big plastics is just out of the question. Use small and slim profiled soft plastics and try to imitate the baitfish you see swimming around. I try and stick with whitebait style plastics but you can often choose from a variety of styles that will work. I favour soft plastics such as Berkley T-Tail Minnows in Black/Gold or Olive/Pearl, Berkley Dropshot 3” Minnows in Pearl Watermelon, Galaxia, Pearl Olive and Pearl Blue, 50mm Squidgy Fish in Gary Glitter, Black Gold and Silver Fox, a variety of curly tailed grubs and Yep Flappers in Black ‘N’ Gold. All plastics are weighted with a 1/16oz, 1/12oz or 1/8oz TT Jighead.
The Emu is my number one go to spot for small resident brown trout , although you can encounter big Sea Runners in the lower stretches of the river, it is just as good to head right up to the upper reaches of the river and Polaroid fish swimming in the shallows. I think that the Emu is one of the most productive rivers on the North West because of the catch ratio you earn each time you head up there. I like to fish from the Fern Glade area to the furthest reaches of the river, fishing can be tough with plenty of snags and little fishing space but it can also be very productive if you are prepared to keep tying leaders and lose a few jigheads. If you are prepared to walk, and keep on walking, you can take the Rutherford Road walking track which will virtually take you to the furthest accessible reaches of the river. If you are more interested in locating the Sea Runners downstream at the mouth, you can’t go past the mouth itself. Anywhere between the mouth of the river and the Bass Highway Bridge is your best bet for a big Sea Runner. Fish often lay between these two areas waiting for passing whitebait and finding them is easier than you may think.
Emu - What to Use
I strictly use flickbait pattern plastics in the Emu as the profile both imitates whitebait and other baitfish that inhabit the system. Simple plastics such as Berkley Dropshot 3” Minnows in Pearl Watermelon, Galaxia and Pearl Blue, Pearl Olive and Yep 3” flickbaits in Olive Gold, Green Olive, Salt ‘N’ Pepper and Pearl White. All plastics are weighted with a 1/16oz, 1/12oz or 1/8oz TT Jighead.
The Inglis is the place to go if you want a mixture of resident, stocked and Sea Running trout. The river itself is quiet large and it has substantial tributary system, the Flowerdale River. Both systems fish very well during the annual run of whitebait and can often produce some enormous fish. You can either fish big or small in this river, it really depends on what size of fish you are after. There are many rocky ledges, small cliffs, jetties, rapids, creeks and weirs to flick a cast to. The entire river is ideal for the soft plastic angler and I strongly encourage people to check both the Inglis and Flowerdale systems out during the season at some point. I usually fish for Sea Runners in the Inglis and there are many spots where you can locate them. You can often find big Inglis Sea Runners anywhere between the wharf at the mouth of the river and underneath the Bass Highway Bridge. When the whitebait starts to run, the Inglis is virtually alive with life; this makes it one of the very best Sea Runner destinations here on the North West coast.
Emu - What to Use
You can use a multitude of soft plastic and hard bodied lures in the Inglis and Flowerdale systems. I personally favour soft plastics, as I do in any other river, because of their superior action and profile options. Because you can fish with so many different styles of soft plastics, you can catch a fish on almost anything. I personally favour Berkley T-Tail Minnows in Black/Gold or Olive/Pearl, Berkley Dropshot 3” Minnows in Pearl Watermelon and Pearl Blue, 50 and 65mm Squidgy Fish in Gary Glitter, Black Gold, Neon and Silver Fox and Yep 3” flickbaits in Olive Gold, Green Olive, Salt ‘N’ Pepper and Pearl White. All plastics are weighted with a 1/16oz, 1/12oz, 1/8oz or 1/6oz TT Jighead.
I hope TFBN readers and subscribers enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. The North West coast has some fantastic freshwater fishing options and I encourage more people to get out and explore their surroundings. If you are stuck and you haven’t got a clue on where to start fishing, ask around at your local fishing store for any information or notable captures. Sometimes you can achieve great and memorable things with the smallest of ideas; you can never anticipate what you may find on your next little river adventure. Daniel Paull
Leaders and Tippets
When it comes to catching a fish on a fly, there is one section of the fly fishing system up which is of utmost importance. The balance needs to be right to present the fly, it needs to be fine enough not inhibit the swim of the fly and also not arouse suspicion in the trout, yet it needs to be strong enough to hold the fish once hooked and withstand fraying and ware and tear from the fish, rocks and other external influences. The leader really is the business end of a fly fishing system, and yes, it can be a complex business, yet one does not need to be a science degree to have a few set ups which will cover most fishing situations. The myriad of leader materials, diameters, breaking strains and set ups can be broken down, lakes or rivers some common principle apply and they can be used as a template to success. Traditionally leaders were made of silk and were given an X factor for the diameter of the gut. With the advent of modern materials such as nylon and tapered knotless leaders the X factor now generally refers to the diameter of the tippet of the tapered leader, or the general diameter rating of a particular material. (Although most spools now refer to diameter in decimal points of inches or millimetres). The attached table is a general guides to diameters and breaking strain. It still varies between the thousands of materials available, but works well as a general guide.
Apples and Apples
How often to you hear people make a statement like ‘this 8lb would pull a 4wd out of a bog’ when referring to their favourite leader material. The leader may be packaged as 8lb, but the diameter is really the point to consider. As you can see with both materials, there can be a large variance in diameter for a matching breaking strain. So the 8lb which ‘pulls your 4wd out of a bog’ may not be quite the product you think if it is compared to a truly comparable product of equal diameter.
Straight Leaders LAKE: On a fair day, with a nice gentle breeze at your back, a leader can be as simple as a straight piece of monofilament or fluorocarbon straight to the fly. Presentation and turnover of the fly are all but assured as the wind will aid in this and straighten out the leader for you. One of the basic principles of drift fishing in a boat is that you are always fishing down or down and slightly across the wind. Loch Style leaders are generally designed with straight monofilament or fluorocarbon for this reason. Multiple droppers, up to 6 or even 8 flies on a cast can be tied on a loch style straight leader, although a maximum of 3 flies is permitted in Tasmania. The diameter / breaking strain you select should match the size of your quarry, and the likely wear issues you will face while fishing. A simple leader for Tasmanian boat fishing is 15ft with 2 droppers no longer than 300mm and no shorter than 100mm in length. From the fly line the leader is 3ft (90cm) to the first dropper, then 5ft (1.5m) to the next and 5ft (1.5m) to the point. RIVER: Short line or Czech Nymphing at its basic form only requires a 6ft (1.8m) leader with two flies. Once again a level leader can be used, in the diameter appropriate to your quarry and conditions, and it is simply 4ft (1.2m) to the first fly and 2ft (600mm) to the point. As a short leader is being fished, turn over even with heavy nymphs is easy as they are basically lobbed with an open short cast. A three fly leader can be used for this technique by adding a third fly on a further 600mm from the point, and making a dropper where the point used to be. Droppers for these set ups should be between 100mm & 150mm long.
The tapering leader is where the world can get complicated. The mechanics of a tapered leader relate to an even transfer of power from the fly line through the leader to the fly /flies on the tippet. Of course there are so many variables and external influences in the weather and conditions we fish in that no one size ever fits all. Tapered leaders are used for delicate presentation of flies, for casting into and across wind, for presenting to spooky fish that require a long leader. Of course the level leaders I have already detailed can also have a taper added to them to assist in turn over if conditions are less than ideal, this is done by simply using a thicker butt section to commence the leader. Pascal Cognard, the French triple world champion varies his leaders according to set formulas for windy and still conditions. The digressive leader clearly has a longer, heavier butt section to aid turnover of the fly in windy conditions, while the progressive leader has a longer more even taper throughout ensuring a smooth transfer of energy when there is less resistance from the wind. Fortunately we mere mortals have factory tapered leaders available to us; the point to take is that a factory leader can be easily modified to present a similar progressive or digressive leader depending on the conditions on the day. You do not have to buy different length leaders, just a few spools of varying diameter tippet and a little thought and experimentation will see you right. If conditions are windy, modify the leader with heavier and shorter tippet sections to aid turn over, and if it is calm, finer and more even sections can be added before the tippet section is added. The important thing is to graduate down and not go from a thick butt directly to a fine tippet, a surprisingly common mistake.
Fluorocarbon and Monofilament.
There is an endless argument and everyone has their own opinion about which is best and why they should be used this way or that. I can only put my spin on this argument here and hope it helps in your own decision making. Looking at the first chart it is quickly apparent that for a given diameter copolymers are stronger in breaking strain than fluorocarbons, so at first glance it would seem a no brainer to then use copolymer for most applications. However both copolymer and fluorocarbon have their strengths and weaknesses. Copolymers are supple and strong for their diameter. I choose to use these for dry fly and for light nymphing for smaller trout where small nymphs can be presented delicately. I particularly use fine copolymers for single dry fly on rivers where a very fine tippet can be fished with a small dry fly #16 - #20. Last season I caught a brown trout in excess of 3lb on the South Esk River with 0.12 mm, 3.6lb (1.8kg) copolymer tippet on a #16 Quill Body Spinner. This fish was under willows on the far bank and caused merry hell once hooked, but side strained out from under the willows and then kept out of the weed with a high rod, the tippet was more than ample. For dry fly on lakes with multiple fly rigs, I still use copolymer, however I use a less supple brand as droppers can twist badly with a very fine/supple material when long casting. If fishing a single fly on a lake I will revert to the finer, more supple brand of copolymer. Fluorocarbon really comes into its own lake fishing with lures, and where abrasion resistance is needed. Heavy fluorocarbon .22mm (around 10lb) can be used for lure fishing even on bright days. Using bead head lures counteracts the stiffness of the material will not affect how the lures swim and the diameter does not show up to fish, lighter fluorocarbon is required for smaller wet flies such as nymphs. The general ‘toothiness’ of trout on lakes takes its toll on tippet material and a thicker diameter and general toughness of fluorocarbon which can have its benefits when sub surface fishing on lakes. Occasionally I will use fluorocarbon on rivers where there are larger fish or there are particularly abrasive rocks such as pumice, but generally I prefer copolymer due to its suppleness allowing nymphs to move more naturally and dries to be presented on finer tippets. Fluorocarbon tapered leaders are hellishly expensive and the general consensus is that fluorocarbon and monofilaments do not tie well together. Generally this is rule is right, however if you intend to join a monofilament tapered leader to fluorocarbon, do it with heavier fluorocarbon around .22mm or .25mm. At these diameters a sturdy knot can be tied, which will hold better than a lighter tippet. Whatever you decide to do with leaders and tippet materials, a few simple rules will see you be able to make good leaders which can be fished effectively in many conditions. • Don’t buy materials based on breaking strain alone; compare diameters to make sure you are comparing apples with apples. • Think about whether you want a supple (being fine diameter and soft) or stiff (being relatively strong and abrasion resistant). • Shorten overall leader length and make a ‘steeper’ taper for windy conditions. • Likewise graduate the taper for smoother, better presentations is calm weather. With a bit of thought about what you want to achieve, making a leader to suit the conditions will make bringing that awkward trout undone all the more pleasurable. Likewise keeping a leader simple and easy will also save frustration and time when all you intend to do is fish down the wind. After all it’s only a simple fish you are trying to catch! Pascal COGNARD 5.75m nymphing leader Filament Length in cm Diameter - mm digressive progressive 0.45 75 45 0.40 65 50 0.35 55 55 0.30 45 60 0.25 35 65 0.20 50 50 0.15 50 20 0.08 – 0.12 200 200 Pascal COGNARD 5.75m nymphing leader *Source Czech Nymph and other Related fly fishing methods. X rating Diameter – inches Diameter – Millimetres Breaking strain Fluorocarbon Breaking strain Stroft Copolymer 8X .003 inch .10mm 1.4lb 2.2lb 7X .004 inch .12mm 2.6lb 3.9lb 6X .005 inch .14mm 3.2lb 4.8lb 5X .006 inch .16mm 4.7lb 6.6lb 4X .007 inch .18mm 6.2lb 7.9lb 3X .008 inch .20mm 7.8lb 8.6lb 2X .009 inch .22mm 9.8lb 11.3lb 1X .010 inch .25mm 11.2lb 14.2lb 0X .011 inch .28mm 12.9lb 16.2lb Note – Fluorocarbon in particular can vary enormously for given diameters, so check your own brand against this table. Brand Breaking Strain Diameter Stroft Copolymer 7.9lb 0.18mm Maxima 8lb 0.25mm Airflo Ultra Strong 8lb 0.205mm Scientific Anglers 8.8lb 0.20mm Copolymer / Monofilament Brand Diameter Breaking Strain Fulling Mill 0.255 8lb Riverge Grand Max 0.21 9.5lb Scientific Anglers 0.20mm 8.6lb Sight Free 0.21mm 8lb Fluorocarbons Joe Riley
Come in spinner that’s what all the fly fishing people are waiting for—the spinner hatches of spring time. On the rivers it will happen through October sometimes, it’s mostly dependent on the weather it’s those balmy mild spring days with little or no wind that’s required. On the highland lakes the first to be seen are normally a month later and for the past two seasons it has been so good one is not sure where to go first. So October and November are fairly well booked for me it will be mostly shore based fishing on the lowland rivers and highland lakes. Mid to late morning on the rivers and on a really good day the hatch can go on till late afternoon mind you that’s the rarity not the norm. Highland lakes spinner hatches are a little different in I like a slight breeze pushing off shore that’s to carry the spinners out onto deep water then better fish will hopefully feed. River fish will mostly work a beat. They will cover a few metres and disappear for a short time and then reappear and start the beat again. Stillwater fish will rise spasmodically so keep a sharp eye on the rise and try and judge which way the fish will head taking note where the fishes head is. This will mostly give the direction. Place the fly out in front so the fish will come upon it. My spinner patterns are fairly simple both red and black. Black Spinner Hook – Finewire size 14 12 10 Thread – Black Tail – Black cock fibres Rib – Very fine silver or copper wire Hackle – Black cock hackle Red Spinner Hook – Finewire size 12 10 Thread – Orange Tail – Black cock fibres Rib – Silverwire Head – One fine peacock herl Hackle – Red cock hackle Method for red spinner 1. Place hook in vice 2. Starting at the eye end take the thread the full length of the shank 3. Place a small bunch of cock fibres on top of rear end of shank tie down firmly and cut excess fibres away 4. Tie in rib and take thread two thirds of the way toward the eye now bring rib forward with nice even turns to where the thread is hanging cut away excess rib 5. Take one fine peacock herl and tie in cut away excess herl. Tie in hackle and wind forward toward eye making a nice tight hackle cut away any excess hackle 6. With the fine peacock herl wind it through the hackle try not to crush the hackle too much cut away excess peacock herl 7. Whip finish cut thread away and varnish The black spinner is tied the same but omit the peacock herl. Call 1300 787 060 Express
Meet the Flatheads
How many Flathead are caught in Tassie? Flathead are the most commonly caught recreational species in Tasmania, accounting for almost two-thirds of all fish caught. Over 1.8 million flathead were caught by Tasmanian recreational fishers between December 2007 and November 2008. 1.07 million of these flathead were kept and 745 000 (around 40%) were released, showing an increasing trend toward fishers doing the right thing by releasing undersize fish.
Interesting Flattie Facts
•The annual recreational harvest of flathead is estimated at 293 tonnes, four times greater than the commercial catch of flathead from Tasmanian waters.
• 85% of the catch was taken from the central East and South East Coasts, in particular the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Norfolk-Frederick Henry Bay regions. North Coast catches were low by comparison while West Coast catches were insignificant.
• Of total catch numbers, 95% were southern sand flathead and just 3% were tiger flathead.
• Over 40% of all flathead caught were released or discarded with size being identified by recreational fishers as an important reason for release.
• The flathead fishery is seasonal, with high catch levels during summer and autumn including a strong peak in January- February and a distinct drop-off between June and September. The main fishing period between December and March accounted for almost three quarters of the annual catch.
• Numbers of flathead caught by Tasmanians during 2007-08 were similar (within 5%) to those caught during the previous survey period in 2000-01. • There has been an increase in the use of lures, particularly soft plastics, to take flathead, traditionally a bait capture species. 90% of fishers used bait during 2000-01 compared with 65% during 2007-08.
• More than 90% of flathead were taken by boat-based fishing.
Which Flathead is That?
Flathead are characterised by their flattened bodies, broad heads, eyes on the top of their heads and large mouths. They use this body shape to hide in sand and attack overhead prey. Flathead have sharp spines on their gill covers and dorsal fins. Around five different flathead species are known to inhabit our waters. Meet three of them below.
Southern Sand Flathead A.K.A: common flathead, slimy flathead, bay flathead Distinguishing features: Sandy brownish colour covered in spots that vary from white to blackish. May also have dark bands across the body and black spots on the tail fin. Can grow to around 45cm and 3 kilograms. Where: Waters all around Tasmania, preferring shallow depths of 15 - 25 metres and sandy bottoms. More common inshore in warmer months.
Tiger Flathead A.K.A: king flathead Distinguishing features: Body shape is rounder than other flatheads and colour is light brown or pinkish with orange spots. Darkish bands of colour may be present on the body. Tiger flathead have large teeth and can grow up to 65cm with fish up to 50cm commonly caught. Where: Found in deeper water than sand flathead of between 10 -160 metres depth. Distributed all around Tasmania but more commonly caught off the south and east coasts.
Southern Bluespotted Flathead A.K.A: yank flathead, Castelnau’s flathead, deepwater flathead Distinguishing features: Lighter sandy brown body with scattered small blue to white spots intermingled with dark blotches. The tail fin has dark spots surrounded by white. Can grow to up to 90cm and 8 kilograms. Where: North coast in waters up to 30 metres deep. Found on sandy bottom adjacent to seagrass beds.
Common Flathead Myths That recreational and commercial fishers take the same species. Southern sand flathead are mostly caught by recreational fishers, whereas commercial fishers tend to target tiger flathead, with Danish seine nets accounting for most of the commercial catch of flathead from Tasmanian waters. Bottom trawl nets are not permitted in Tasmanian waters as commonly thought but are used to take tiger flathead and other scalefish in waters more than 3 nautical miles offshore from Tasmania that are managed by the Commonwealth.
Flathead Rules Reminder Minimum size for flathead is 300mm. Possession limit for all flathead species combined is 30. Possession limits apply everywhere, including the home, so your catch at home counts toward your personal possession limit. Don’t forget, it’s a limit, not a challenge! Although the minimum size is 300 mm, responsible fishers should aim to retain only the larger size fish which give an increased meat recovery. Flathead have good survival rates when released, depending on hooks and fishing techniques used. Use circle and barbless hooks when possible to minimise hook damage.
Need more information? • Get a copy of the Recreational Sea Fishing Guide from Service Tasmania; • visit www.fishing.tas.gov.au; or • subscribe online to have fishing news information updates emailed. • Phone 1300 368 550 or 03 6233 7042 *Catch figures and survey data from the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute publication: 2007- 08 Survey of Recreational Fishing in Tasmania. To read the full report, go to: www.tafi.org.au or to download the summary booklet from: www. fishing.tas.gov.au
Surface lures For Trout Fishing the surface is just about the most fun you can have as an angler. Whether chasing giant trevally in the coral sea, bream in the estuaries, or dry flying trout here in Tassie you can’t help but get excited watching something come up and slurp or smash your top-water offering. Although they have been around for many years, surface hardbodies for trout have never really hit a spotlight but with the new methods and gear being developed at the moment it’s only a matter of time before people begin to look more seriously at top-water options. It takes some time to perfect your technique but it is essentially easy to get started and can be a very effective tool in your trout fishing arsenal.
The Bream Link It is interesting to note that most of the ‘tech’ stuff currently being developed or marketed is aimed at luring bream. This is a reversal from earlier on in the 20th century when people first began using their trout lures to catch bream. I have read recently that Steve Starling predicts this pattern to become a full circle and for trout gear to take off and surpass bream gear again. Bream on lures has certainly boomed over the last 10 years and has brought with it a lot of new techniques and tools of the trade. Most of the new products are fairly specifically aimed at bream. Despite this generalisation a lot of the Japanese made top-water “bream” lures are actually designed for trout and imported by wholesalers who market them to the breaming community. Likewise, bass fishing in the US has seen a great deal of research and development go into surface ‘baits’ and these too can be used to successfully target trout. Most of the hardbodied surface lures you will see in Tasmanian tackle stores today have been developed for catching bream in the coastal systems but they can be adapted for use just as effectively in inland waterways.
One of the added bonuses to this style of luring is that you can do it very successfully at night. While everyone else is in bed sleeping, you can hit the water and avoid the crowds. More often than not I find that fishing at night brings out the bigger trout in almost any system and the surface is no exception. The night air fractionally cools the surface and brings lake and dam fish up to the top. Overall, the darkness makes them significantly less spooky and reserved. It is usually very difficult to fish small rivers and streams at night. To make life easier it is best to locate some of the larger pools and open water areas where casting is less hazardous and accuracy is less paramount. The best nights for fishing the surface are mild nights with little wind and most importantly I find that a clear sky and full moon produce the most results. The clear sky and full moon makes it much easier to keep track of what you’re doing and it means that the lure shows a much stronger silhouette against the night sky. If you’re fishing from the bank then it’s best to fish when the water is dead calm. Glassy conditions are preferred because any water disturbed by your lure shows up distinctly on the surface. Conversely, if you are fishing from a boat then the disturbed water gives away your presence. It is better to try and fish from a boat when there is a very slight ripple on the water, enough to remove the mirror finish but not enough to form tumbling crests. When the water is choppy or rippled the fish are much harder to attract and a lure that makes a lot of noise and vibration is best. You can also use a much larger lure to give a big silhouette; at times I have caught trout on 100mm poppers at night. Lures with a glow-in-the-dark bib or body are also worth trying as they can attract fish from a long distance but sometimes the finicky trout will shy away at the unexpected light. Nights with a lot of wind and very choppy water are very difficult to fish and usually it’s best to sit it out and wait for better conditions. It’s important to point out here that it’s not ONLY at night time that trout will attack a full sized surface lure. I get so much pleasure out of surface fishing that I will often use them in broad daylight over a sub-surface lure and not without success.
Lures and Retrieves
There are a myriad of new lure shapes, styles, colours and sizes on the market and selecting a lure is becoming more and more difficult. The upside of this is that you can nearly always find what you’re after. The styles of surface lure differ greatly in action and hence your retrieve needs to be altered for each one in each circumstance. It sounds complicated but there are a few simple rules that make it all quite easy. All lures can be worked fast or slow, and can be worked consistently or erratically. The best way to discover the perfect technique is to try all methods and incorporate them together until one works for you. That’s about the long and the short of it. There are no hard and fast rules but for each lure style there is usually a generally accepted method of retrieve. Poppers have a distinct ‘blooping’ action. A jerk of the rod tip makes the cup-shaped face spray water forwards, accompanied by a popping noise, hence the name ‘popper’. The line gained is taken up and then the rod tip jerked again. Poppers are best on rippled or slightly choppy water as they can pull fish from great distances. A fairly consistent blooping retrieve works well in these conditions. Make sure you leave the lure still in the water or ‘pause’ it between jerks. Often you will see a bow wave come up and follow your lure for a while before the fish strikes. If you are using a constant retrieve then it is important not to change when the fish swipes at the lure or follows it up, keep the lure moving in the same pattern and wait for another strike as the fish will often lose interest in a popper if it stop dead all of a sudden. For nights where it is dead calm then short sharp bloops and long pauses in between work best. The fish will usually hit the lure on the pause directly after a twitch. The term ‘walking the dog’ is an Americanism that has crept into our Australian angling terms and it refers to the action of a lure that darts left and right as it is retrieved across the top. Walking-thedog style lures are generally a long thin profile with a tapered front end and a low tow point. Mostly these lures are called ‘stickbaits’ although there are always exceptions. To get a stickbait to walk-thedog you have to impart all the action with your rod. You twitch the rod tip sharply but only over a short distance, this brings the lure forward through the water and then as your rod returns to its original position the slack line allows the lure to dart off sideways. Timing is important when keeping a constant retrieve because you have to twitch at the right time to make the lure dart back the other way. It doesn’t take much practise to get the lure walking well so don’t be concerned that it might be too difficult to use these highly effective lures. Small stickbaits work very well in still, shallow water when used with a couple of short sharp twitches and then a longer pause. They also have been very effective for me in running water, where you cast diagonally upstream and just twitch it occasionally as it floats back with the water. This works best with stickbaits that sit vertically in the water with the rear hooks hanging a few centimetres below the surface. Often the trout will just suck in the back hooks without engulfing the whole lure. When the fish are really on the chew, trout can even see the lure coming through the air and attack it the second it hits the surface. Fish can hit them so hard that they will leave the water entirely as they take the stickbait so it pays to be on your toes. Don’t be afraid to go big at night. Even small fish will attack a big stickbait as it darts across the water. Terrestrials are a group of lures that closely replicate a typical food source for the trout. Animals such as frogs, dragonflies, cicadas, spiders and lizards have all been copied and adapted as surface fishing lures and these can be some of the most effective and versatile weapons. They usually have no built in action and need very little imparted on them to catch fish. Long casts onto dead calm water and very small wobbles of the rod tip make the trout go crazy. Getting the lure over the area you want to fish and the making it vibrate is the key to success here. Anything with plenty of arms, legs or wings to wriggle will stir the water up around the lure and drag the fish in from quite a distance. If you intend to fish at night then terrestrials can be the perfect tool but as with all surface lures it pays to test them out during the day first and work out how to make them most appealing. Built-in-action swimmers are by far and away my favourite surface lures for trout. Unfortunately they also seem to be the hardest to locate in tackle stores. I think this is probably due to the limited number of people using hardbodies on the top for trout. Builtin- action lures are often very similar in design to sub-surface hardbodies. They can be short and stubby or long and slender, and everything in between. The main thing they do have in common is a bib protruding from the underside of the lure. The bib is usually very wide and short and nearly dead vertical to the lure profile. Built-in-action lures are the easiest to use as they require very little input from the angler to work. Quite often the best retrieve is a slow rolling wind with the odd pause here and there. Sometimes they will work better twitched and paused similar to a popper but a little less aggressively. Again, it’s all about practise and the more you do it, the better you will get at picking the right retrieves but for the most part the normal swimming action is the best way to start. Two of the top designs available are the megabass anthrax, which can be scary in price but has produced more than half of the trout I have caught on surface lures, the river2sea froggy and river2sea bee-tit. These three lures have an excellent built-in-action and can be dived, walked or popped to give whatever pattern you feel is required and will provide an easy change from sub-surface to top water lures. Definitely try and get your hands on some built-in-action lures if you’re planning on taking up the challenge of surface lures for trout.
When you’re selecting a lure it’s important to consider a few different factors. The main things to think about are relatively simple. The size, style and colour of lure are generally functions of the environment your fishing. If the fish you are trying to catch are feeding on bait fish then you try and represent a bait fish, if they are feeding on frogs then you try and replicate a frog stroking across the top. It’s pretty elementary to that effect but to get the very best out of your time on the water there are many other things to look at. For example, fish that are in shallow water are especially shy and can spook very easily. You should use a lure that is the right size and shape to make minimal splash and it is usually best to use one that can be worked very slowly. In deeper or more open water you may need to draw fish from further away and hence a large noisy lure might prove better. For night fishing applications some lures come with a glow-in-the-dark bib or body. These can be a curse or gift depending on the mood of the fish as some fish will chase it very willingly but be much more tentative to strike. Calm nights are better fished with a more subtle approach. Every aspect of the fish you’re chasing, the food source, the time of year, the weather conditions, the habitat and many more things should be analysed before you can pick the right lure for the job. Having said that, don’t be afraid to chop and change between lures when the fish are being tough. If you feel like you have fished an area effectively and haven’t had a strike then it’s time to try something new. Start with small differences between lures and work your way up to the really outlandish ones. Sometimes you can fish the same area for 30 minutes without a sniff and then first lure change you will get a hit. When nothing normal seems to be working then your only option is usually to try the most obscure or unusual surface lure in the box. Sometimes the most insanely unnatural lure will be the one to work but usually its best to keep with the program. ‘Match the hatch’ as they say. Colours are a relatively simple choice when it comes to surface lures. If you’re fishing streams with crystal clear water in the middle of the day, then it stands to reason that you want the most natural looking colour lures. Natural can mean two things in my mind; dull greens, browns etc or clear. I think clear colours are often underestimated as a surface lure as they can be very inconspicuous but the distorted water around the lure profile still gives the trout a target to hone in on. For hunting those big aggressive Atlantic salmon it’s hard to go past a fluoro green or chartreuse colour but I also think that those super bright bold colours work well on the trout in very low light periods just before and after dark. Generally you can just go with whatever colour you would normally use in a subsurface lure for the given conditions. Brumbys Creek browns seem to have a certain penchant for pink and silver that I’ve noticed, although this hasn’t necessarily been reflected in the other places I usually fish. Once the light is gone all together then there are three options. Black, white or glow-in-the-dark. If you put yourself in the trout’s position, black lures stand out against the small amount of light in the night sky better than any other colour. Anything lurking down deeper will see a strong and defined silhouette hovering over the surface. White stands out of course because it reflects the most of what little light is available at night time. Glow-in-the-dark lures seem to draw the attention of a fish with follows and bow waves but they seem much more tentative on the take. To summarise all the above, main factors for colour choices are the same as with sub-surface lures but once it gets dark, change over to a solid black or solid white. If things aren’t coming together for you then start mixing and matching until something does. For lure style/shape; small stickbaits and terrestrials in the small waters, larger terrestrials, stickbaits, poppers and fish profiles in the open water.
One of the great things about the transition from sub-surface to top water hardbodies is that you don’t need to update your normal lure fishing gear at all. A light spinning rod and reel loaded with GSP (gel spun polyethylene or ‘braid’) line will fit the bill perfectly. Of course there are better and worse rods and reels in any situation but for all intents and purposes you should be able to use your current outfit with very few limitations. Couple this with 1-2 metres of 2-10lb fluorocarbon leader and you’re away. The same as in any other angling discipline, always make sure you tie good knots, check your hook points are sharp and pay attention to detail. I prefer to tie my leader down hard onto the tow point of lures but a strong case can be made for the Leftys loop knot which leaves a small loop between the knot and the lure to give it more freedom and room to move around its natural action. If your hook points are dulled at all then touching them up is a must! The hooks need to be as sharp as possible because most trout will either swipe hard at the lure or slurp at it from below. It’s not often that a surface lure will be engulfed and swallowed so any hook point that touches the fishes mouth needs to be able to grab and hold first time. One other thing that is worth mentioning here is the use of single hooks on surface lures. I personally have found that the hook-up rate with single/treble/ double hooks is entirely a product of the situation you’re fishing in. Small stickbaits in the rivers and streams work infinitely better with a single trailing hook and if there are two tow points for hooks then I will usually change the back to single and leave the front as a double or treble. For larger lures in the more open water I’ve found that the traditional treble is hard to beat although sometimes I will change the front hooks to a double and rear to a single if I think the trout are being tentative. Essentially, trout that are very aggressive and swipe at lures will snag more easily on a treble but fish that are just sucking the lure down from below will connect to a single better. I rig single/double hooks with the point facing up but one of my friends who also fishes quite successfully with surface lures faces the point down (only on the back hook, the front hook should always face down away from the body). I guess it’s a case of more testing required!
More importantly than anything else you need to feel confident in your lure. If you decide on a lure and tie it on, make sure that you tell yourself it will work. Confidence is such a big factor in luring success. Without it, the tough days become almost impossible. If you’re having fun and fishing with confidence then you pay much more attention to casting accuracy, retrieve style, strikes and general surroundings which results in more fish in the boat. There is nothing like watching on as your surface lure gets destroyed in an explosion of water and you don’t want to be day dreaming about whether or not you’re using the right lure when it happens. To catch fish you need to think you’re going to catch one every time you put in a cast. Pay attention to detail; knots and rigging getting tangled or worn, weed on the lure, blunt or bent hooks; all of these things can bring you undone. If your gear is good, your knots are good and you think you are doing the right things with the right lure, then it’s only a matter of time before you latch onto a fish. Simon Little
For anyone who loves sight fishing, but finds scrambling along rocky shores and dodging Tiger Snakes a bit too taxing, boat polaroiding can offer an easy alternative. I really enjoy walking into our remote western lakes, but when you’re a bit foot sore or you find yourself carrying an injury, a day sight fishing from a boat can be magic. For many anglers, sight fishing is as good as it gets. From the moment your eyes first catch a glimpse of that elongated shape, fin or shadow, to the point where the whole fish suddenly materializes into full view as it eases up to your offering and then eats it, is totally engaging and extremely addictive. Blue skies with a light breeze are treasured and if you find yourself working on a day such as this you have my sympathy! Whether you’re into wet or dry fly fishing, lure fishing or bait fishing, spotting fish with the aid of polarized sunglasses from a boat, before you make the cast, is a very rewarding technique. Large lakes cover a huge area and have many different shorelines and islands on offer. You can invest a lot of time driving or walking to a particular shore, only to find it totally void of fish despite the seemingly perfect conditions. Weather permitting; a boat can access different parts of a lake in a very short time. This freedom to travel to almost any corner of the lake opens up a whole range of options to find fish. A boat fitted with an electric outboard is a very efficient way to quickly search many kilometres of shoreline to locate fish. Once you have found an area that holds fish, you can seek out similar locations around the lake. Fluctuating water levels can dramatically change the characteristics of a lake and the need to get up to speed with the current conditions becomes a whole lot faster from a boat. This freedom to quickly explore a different areas of a lake while the sun is still high in the sky is a great way of making the most of your time on the water.
Boats come in all shapes and sizes to suit many different needs. For boat polaroiding, some things to consider would be a boat with a stable platform to stand or sit, as well as the ability to quietly control the position and speed at which the boat moves along the shoreline. An electric motor used in conjunction with a flat broad side drogue such as the Hayes Super Drogue is ideal. The advantage of using this type of drogue is that as soon as the boat is driven forward or back the drogue is deflated as it is towed by one set of ropes. You can now intercept an approaching fish that is just out of reach by engaging the electric motor to close the gap between the caster and the fish, without the need to pull in the drogue. This set up also allows you to reset your drift around an obstruction or water that is too shallow to float your boat. The speed at which you need to drift is driven by the type of watercraft you own and the conditions on the day. I find my light tinny drifts uncontrollably and far to quickly in a strong wind without utilizing a drogue, where as a slightly larger, heavier craft, can drift comfortably in these same conditions. Large lakes demand respect and can quickly turn ugly as the wind increases. For this reason larger boats are better suited to exploring the far corners of these bigger lakes. That said, small boats still have their place, you just need to realize their limitations on a big lake and plan accordingly. I have a small car topper and if the weather forecast is predicting strong winds I will choose my location accordingly and launch the boat adjacent to the area I want to fish. It’s far safer to relocate to another area using your car than it is to risk crossing a large expanse of water in a small craft during unfavourable weather conditions.
Making the wind work for you
It is well known that the wind plays a major role when it comes to the distribution of insects above and beneath the water. The decision to fish a particular shore is often driven by the time of year, wind direction, the type of bottom, be it sand, mud, weed or stone and the available food source that may be present. Drifting or slowly making your way along a shoreline that has the wind blowing along or directly into it, often holds fish feeding on dislodged aquatic insects such as sick caddis or an accumulation of airborne insects that have blown to the far side of the lake. Fish cruise these shorelines or holding stationary in a prominent position to intercept anything that the wind, or waves, may carry their way. When you find fish along these shores the water can be systematically searched by making repeated drifts into the shore. With each new drift another piece of water is covered. There are times, however, when the accumulation of food is so great that the sheer numbers of fish in a small area make it impractical to continue fishing from a boat. It is often much more productive to ditch the boat and wade an area such as this. The alternative is to simply hold position using the anchor and wait for the fish to come to you. During the warmer months, when terrestrials, caddis and mayflies are blown onto the water, fish can be found along the edge of the lake that has the wind blowing off shore. The sheltered areas along these shores are often flat calm, opening up your view of the water even more. In this instance an electric motor is all that is needed to scan these sheltered shores. The down side is, fish also have a better view of the world above and can be easily spooked by movement. Keeping a low profile and standing still is essential during close encounters in these calm conditions. Further out into the lake, fish can be seen along wind lanes and foam lines as they clean up what’s left of the morning midge hatch and any other insect that has found its way onto the water. Wind lanes and foam lines are a good place to start, although a change in wind direction can destroy these wind lanes, dispersing the accumulated insects out across the lake. Finding fish that are still feeding near the surface, beyond these wind lanes, can be done by looking into the waves as the boat travels along them. Teamwork can play an important role here, with one person ready to fish while the other controls the position of the boat, to set up the cast. Northerly winds with the sun at your back are ideal conditions for this type of sight fishing. But as always there has to be a concentration of food present to draw the fish near the surface in the first place.
Polaroiding is often spoken of in association with fly fishing but I learnt many of my sight fishing skills during my early days bait fishing. I have fond memories of actively polaroiding fish and then lobbing out a big black cockroach, which was very rarely refused. There are two types of baits that are well suited to this type of sight fishing. The first is the cockroach and the second is the mudeye. Both these baits can be cast un-weighted on a single hook and are irresistible to trout. All of the situations mentioned previously can be fished with one of these baits. The technique used to cast these baits is simple and easily mastered using the right set up. One way is to use a fly rod and reel spooled with 10 pound line. The heavy line is used to reduce the loops of line tangling in your hand as it is retrieved by hand and not the reel once a manageable length of line has been established. Casting is a single smooth action so as not to tear the bait from the hook. The length of a fly rod also assists in this smooth lobbing action. The other method is to use very light line on a thread line or spin caster on a long rod. The light line allows the bait to be cast from the reel with less friction generated across the spool. During very windy conditions this method sees less tangles as there are no loose loops of line to be managed by hand. Using this method, there is never any time to be bored waiting for a fish to find your bait because you are always on the move, actively searching the water with the additional visibility that polaroid sunglasses provide. From a boat, casting long distances is rarely required; I am constantly amazed how close fish will come to a drifting boat. This is especially true when drifting amongst a stand of dead trees. In this situation I have caught fish within a couple of metres of the boat, so casting a long way isn’t a priority. The wind is never a problem when casting unweighted baits when it is at your back. It’s simply a matter of finding a fish, lobbing the bait out with the assistance of the wind and watching for the white of the mouth as it opens and shuts. Let it take a couple of foot of line and set the hook, it can be as simple as that. For anyone who wants to expand his or her bait fishing experience, then sight fishing from a boat may be just what you are looking for. The hardest part is probably going to be collecting enough bait in the first place.
Easy Day On The water
Jim Schofield, Steven Hambleton and I had made an early start to the day with a dawn run on the wind lane feeders on Great Lake. As the morning progressed and the midge feeders disappeared we moved onto some boat polaroiding. There was a northeasterly wind blowing as we punched our way into chop from Swan Bay towards the southern side of Howells Neck Island. The water level of Great Lake had dropped so much that Howells Neck Island was no longer an island and was more like an extension of Elizabeth Bay. As we moved into the shallows, fish were spotted almost immediately. Big buggy Chernobyl Ants, Red Tags and stick caddis all took fish. Further along the shore the wind was blowing into the shoreline stirring up the water along its edge. A closer look saw fish appear and then disappear in amongst this band of discoloured water. The fish were also patrolling the clearer less turbulent water. A single hookup quickly turned into a double hook up, then a triple hookup as all three of us made the most of a steady run of fish as the boat continued to drift down this productive shore. Fish numbers started to drop off, as the features of the lake started to change. In an attempt to seek out similar water we crossed over to the western side of the lake into Canal Bay. With the wind and sun at our back we drifted in and along the southern shore. Conditions were perfect, with blue skies and a light wind to conceal our presence, we had fish swimming right up to within a couple of metres of the boat before they would spook. It was just one of those days when everything came together. We stayed for the evening rise in Swan Bay as usual, before finally calling it a day. We had fished from dawn to dusk and had done it all from the comfort of Jim’s mobile viewing platform. Far too civilized for me, now where are those walking boots! Craig Rist
Return to Rowallan
It had been over 16 years since I last fished Lake Rowallan. As a young man growing up in the rural community of Deloraine, it was a lake reasonably close to home and where I spent many a night camped on its shorelines. My last trip there was 14 December 1994. I remember this as I have a picture of a 14 pound brown trout on my lounge room wall with that date on the plaque. It is my biggest ever trout and the memories of that catch remain with me as if it were yesterday. To see a fish of that size come out of Rowallan’s light tannin coloured depths was something I will never forget but as I was a bit of a “scallywag” in those days, and I won’t elaborate on that, it was a reward that to this day…. I hardly felt that I had earn’t. Many things have changed since then, the most notable is the outlook and respect I now possess for our fisheries and those charged with looking after them. Anyway, with this all in mind, I decided to hook on the trailer, grab a couple of mates and head back for a day’s fishing at a lake that I seemed to have forgotten about . Why it’s been so long between drinks I cannot answer, perhaps it’s just another one of those lakes that are largely forgotten about… and I don’t know why. It is a lake close to many of our major population areas, yet seems to fly under the radar of most of the State’s freshwater anglers. In fact I would go so far as to say that many wouldn’t even know where it is. It is well stocked, has some absolute monsters in it and is very easily accessed, especially to those living in Tasmania’s North and North West. You hardly ever hear of any fishing reports coming from it and those that do fish it on a regular basis seem to like to keep it that way.
How to get there
Lake Rowallan is a Hydro Tasmania lake in North Western Tasmania. The lake is a 30 minute drive (25 kilometres/16 miles) south of Liena, past Lake Parangana and the Mersey White Water Forest Reserve. The last few kilometres of road to Lake Rowallan are unsealed. From where I live, (in the Longford area), it’s about 1 hour 45 minutes away. I head past Mole creek and follow the signage from there on. Lake Rowallan offers excellent boat and land based fishing with a well stocked population of rainbow and brown trout as well as some native species such as the ever present blackfish that will monster any baits left in after dark. Speaking of blackfish, although there are some very sizable examples in its depths, most are quite small. If bait fishing of a night, expect to catch plenty of these! A quick check on the Inland Fisheries data base showing the past five years stockings, revealed that rainbow trout have been placed in it on a regular basis, the last stocking (at the time of writing) were on the 9th of June 2009 where there were 7500 and 13500 fingerlings of 15 grams set free in its depths. You can launch your boat at the northern end of the lake or follow the four wheel drive vehicle tracks to one of the many sheltered camping areas on offer. Small boats can easily be launched from its shoreline in front of these sites, only metres away. A word of warning, when camping, be aware of the leeches that exist there in their thousands. I remember waking up one morning after sleeping in an open-ended swag with my pillow covered in blood, they took to my head as I slept!! This wouldn’t be a problem to those camping in the “clearer” sites though.
This would be the most popular form of fishing on this water and the use of any natural baits such as garden worms, wood grubs, cockroaches and crickets will catch plenty of fish. Probably the most effective bait you can use though would be a mudeye suspended a couple of feet off the bottom with a float. The bail arm of the reel should be left open allowing the fish to run with the line before you strike. I like using this method with all the baits mentioned above when at Rowallan because the “by-catch” of blackfish is significantly reduced. They don’t seem to like to swimming that high in the water column, preferring to ambush baits sitting dormant on the bottom instead. That’s not to say you still won’t catch at least a couple...you will!!!
As with most of our large still water impoundments, early morning and late evening offers the most consistent fly fishing opportunities here. Smutting fish are quite often found in windlanes cleaning up on a recent caenid hatch. Although the rainbows (quite often on the smallish side) require fast accurate casts, one is often surprised when the rod buckles and line screams off with an angry specimen of 2kgs or more heading straight to the lakes depths as deep as it can. The browns are often a lot bigger (1.5 kgs on average) and easier to cast to, due to the slower direction they take when locked in on a feeding pattern. Corby moths and mudeye migrations in the warmer months often lead to fantastic sport and given the right conditions the bag limit of 12 brown and rainbow trout (combined) over 220 mm minimum in length is often achievable. Small Red Tags are not often refused as would a mudeye pattern twitched amongst timber of an evening. The Lake often sees healthy falls of gum beetles especially in November/ December. The fish we caught were absolutely full of them. Even with the water being a light tannin colour, surprisingly, it still lends itself to polaroiding, especially during Hydro draw down periods when its level is a lot lower. So to sum up, I would suggest any well placed “Beetle shaped” pattern tied on a size 12 or 14 hook will not often be refused but that being said, if there are huge slicks of food on the water like on the morning we were there, it can be very frustrating fishing indeed, as they swim under ,around or in some cases over your line without giving your offering a second glance, in fact I witnessed Mike Stevens put one well placed cast between five fish at one stage and they all just ignored it as if it wasn’t even there, but that’s fishing isn’t it?
Spinning and Trolling
Spinning or trolling flatfish and cobra wobblers continues to take many well-conditioned brown and rainbow trout here. If launching a boat from the Dam wall (Northern end) of Rowallan, the best place to head is for the other end — in a westerly direction. Once you negotiate your way through the old river bed, (marked with assorted beer cans and bottles in the trees above your head), the water opens right out, especially as you reach the top end of the lake. If the water level is very high, you won’t have to worry about this as it’s then just a matter taking it slowly and working your way around the remaining tree tops that you will see sticking out of the water. Having said that, a word of warning, a lot of submerged timber exists in this lake ready to take out a boat propeller or worse, so please be very careful as you negotiate the timbered sections of the lake, no matter what its height is at the time. Once through, look for the junction where the Mersey River runs in. This is a great area to work especially early and late in the day as the fish push up into the marshes that exist there in anticipation of a feed washed down by the Mersey’s inflow, if the level is high, the marshes are virtually non existent to the land based angler, but in a boat , you will still be drifting over them in a depth of around 15 ft. Please be aware though that there are fifty metre permanent exclusion zones placed on all waters that flow into this lake so don’t get too keen …or your liable to end up with a fine as well as fish. Best colours have always been, yellow and green, yellow, black and green and gold. The winged cobras (in all sizes and brands) are definitely the stand out lure used amongst the locals here, use these in the colours mentioned above and you shouldn’t return disappointed. As you may have already picked up on, the water level you are fishing in at the time will largely dictate as to how you will need to fish, if full, you will need to use lead lines in the majority of the lake with a couple of colours out to help you get your lure down to where the fish are, if the level is low, you will only need to “flat line”, (run straight monofilament line.) Important/ Before you plan your trip, look up the Lake Rowallan’s current water level either on the internet (www.tasfish.com) or in the local paper as this will dictate to a large extent as to how and where you can fish on this water to help maximise your chances of success.
Soft plastic fishing in Lake Rowallan is another method which, on its day, can be very productive, especially early morning and at last light. As stated earlier, I hadn’t been back to this water for many years and “to be honest” had never fished it with plastics , as way back then , they were largely unheard of, but as with most methods when given half a chance, they “will work” and they “work well” here. Fished around the shorelines or “slow and deep” when out in the middle, I suggest you use at least a 1/8th jig head, as the average depth of this lake when approaching full water level is forty five feet…… so your plastic needs to be down there with them. There is plenty of structure in the form of submerged timber to fish around and if you stick close to the lakes shorelines you will often pick up a cruising trout around it’s sharp drop offs and ledges. Another option that we found worked for us, even if you’re not a fly fisherman is a well placed cast next to rising fish in wind lanes or food slicks as they will often induce a take from a fast moving and aggressive rainbow intent on taking a bite out of the new found morsel that has seemingly just dropped out of the sky. A word of warning, be prepared for the strike as soon as the plastic hits the water as they seem to love taking it “on the drop” and the chance will be lost if you have too much slack in your line when this happens. Soft plastics in the Yep - Smoke Cloud colour or black and gold Yep Flapper, or Gulp Pumpkinseed colours are proven fish takers (well they were to us, as that’s what we caught ours on!!).
16 years on – Is it as good?
In short—yes! The fish still remain in large numbers, they are in fantastic condition and the scenery there is magnificent. It is a lake that will appear different virtually every time you go thanks in large to it’s forever changing water levels. That said, it may well look at its best when full, but if its fish you’re after, I believe your chances of success will be greatly enhanced by waiting until it’s at lower levels. This will allow you greater access to its weed beds and submerged structure. Don’t expect it to be easy when fishing here because more than likely it won’t be, but perseverance will reap rewards in the long run. Someone said to me the other day, many people who rate themselves as good anglers only fish Arthurs Lake. Are you one of those? There are so many other waters out there to explore close to home such as Lake Rowallan. Your reward will be that you will have uncovered a great fishery and camping area for yourself, friends and family to go to, and you will have it largely to yourself. But, keep it quiet please. It won’t be another 16 years before I will be back this time around, that’s for sure! Todd Lambert
Footy Final Fishing
Some may call me un-Australian, even a heathen, but the day was just looking far too good to sit at home and watch the AFL Grand Final…..for a second time. Word on the street was that the bream were on the chew up the Scamander River and after a few weekends of missed fishing trip opportunities I was chafing at the bit to loosen up the casting arm and wet a line……Football or Fishing, that was the choice…..the Football lost…..turns out so did St Kilda. The weather was magnificent, clear blue skies, light breeze and nice comfortable temperature so as soon as Midday came around I flipped the closed sign over, changed out of my work clothes jumped in the car and headed up to Scamander with the dinghy in tow. I grabbed lunch from the bakery on the way through and headed for the Upper Scamander boat ramp, I was hoping being Grand Final day that no one would be about and I wasn’t far from the truth. I found a couple of local elderly anglers soaking a bait off the jetty and a quick chat informed me that they had been struggling and my thoughts of the fish being much further up stream looked like being confirmed, a couple more old blokes were launching a tinnie heading out to soak some baits and one other vehicle and boat trailer in the carpark…… ”great….!!” I thought, “should have most of the river all to myself”. I quickly got my gear together and set the boat up, launching within a few minutes, parked the car and threw on a PFD as I was jumping in the boat, “good luck” was the cry from the fishos on the jetty, and I was off up river scoffing my sandwich while I was travelling. I motored up river, around a few bends, past the two old fellas bait fishing and up past the island and slowed a little, checking in the shadows and amongst the snags for any signs of schools of fish, and I wasn’t disappointed, there were small schools of bream of all sizes in along the banks and also out in the open sunning themselves…..this is what I wanted to see. I quickly rigged up my rods, 3 set ups in total, a Shimano Starlo Stix Pro 7’3” matched with a Shimano Stradic 1000 and 5lb Power Pro Braid rigged with a Vibe Lure for fishing the rock walls and deeper water, a Millerods Finesse XF matched with a Shimano Stella 2500 and 5lb Power Pro Braid rigged with 4lb leader and a new Berkley 3B Crank Bait Puppy Dog that I had as a sample and wanted to put it through its paces and a Millerods Brawler XF matched with a Shimano Stella 2500 and 5lb Power Pro Braid rigged with 4lb leader and my favourite lure for throwing at Bream in the snags and that’s a 80mm Bloodworm Squidgy Wriggler rigged on the lightest head possible and juiced up with S-Factor scent. Once I had my gear ready I slapped on some sunscreen, threw the Polaroids on, put the net where it was easy to get to, dropped the bow mount motor in the water and started slowly motoring along the bank. There were a lot of fish high in the water in small schools, some in hard against the shoreline and under the bushes and trees and some out in the open water. They were spooky though and even just the noise of the electric bow mount motor turning was enough to send the fish darting off…..”this wasn’t going to be easy” I thought. I motored along polaroiding all the way, the sun was high and the water was as clear as I have ever seen it in the Scamander so spotting fish was pretty easy, I snuck up on a group of fish and watched them for a second or two milling around, they were only in shallow water hard up against a bank in a small pocket of shade. I grabbed the rod with rigged with the Wriggler, I sent a quick cast out in the opposite direction as I hadn’t used that rod for a while and wanted to make sure the braid wasn’t all sticky as it gets like sometimes when its been sitting for a while. Once I had wound it back onto the reel I quickly fired a short back hand cast in low under the over hanging shrubs and into the shady hole……only to have all the fish spook and take off in all directions….”huh” I thought, “going to be a tough day”. The next two little shady pockets had the same result so I motored along a bit further until I started seeing larger groups of fish. I thought maybe a higher concentration of fish might create a bit more competition for the lure. It worked, just around the next corner was a tree snag jutting out into the middle of the river and under it in some shade was a large school of fish just hanging out, but they were in pretty tight, the cast was going to have to be spot on. I sent a quick cast a little further up the log just to get the distance and power right and then I sent on into the “V” of the large branch coming off the log where about 20 fish were laying. The wriggler landed almost perfectly, I let it just drop without giving any action and one fish shot straight at the lure and grabbed it. It wasn’t a huge fish but a nice little Scamander Bream about 34cm, it gave a top little fight and tried to head me back into the snag twice but soon came to the net for a quick picture and back in the water. First fish for the session and the monkey was off my back, I slowly worked my way up the river, coming across groups of fish all over the place, some were super spooky and even just the action of casting the rod were enough to send them swimming where others were more eager to take the lure. I found a large school of fish a little further up stream in a big open hole, here they were schooled up out in open water so I opted to throw the small hard body lure at them instead of the plastic. I tried various retrieves until I found one that the fish were willing to accept, it seemed an aggressive quick wind was what it took to get a couple of fish to attack the lure and the small Berkley 3B Crank bait Puppy Dog account for 2 nice fish and the best of the day at 37cm. I continued of for another couple of hours finding various smaller schools of fish and only managed 3 more making a total of around a dozen fish in a few hours, at one stage a large Eagle swooped down low over the water and the water erupted in a school of fish being spooked, giving an indication of just how many fish were around. The bream at this time of year are great fun to target however pre-spawn bream can be either easy or very hard to catch. This quick afternoon trip cemented some of the key elements needed to target bream during this period. Its important to be as stealthy as possible, sudden movements and loud noises should be avoided as much as possible, as I stated earlier even the steering motor noise of the bow mount electric was at times enough to scare fish. With bright sunlight and clear water light leaders are generally required, I was using 4lb leaders on all outfits and as long as 3 metres, this worked fine but a change down to 3lb or even 2lb leader may have resulted in more fish however when deep in snags it doesn’t always work in your favour. As many of the fish were hard in the shadows and tight snaggy areas accurate casting is vitally important, being half a metre to one side or the other if often not good enough, you need to be able to sit that lure on an ice cream container lid in order to give yourself the best chance. This form if fishing is great fun, its mostly visual as you are polaroiding many of the fish and quite often you can watch the fish take the lure, but be careful I missed 2 fish by striking too early when I watched the fish take the soft plastic in mid water, make sure the fish has taken the lure in its mouth before tightening on the fish. So get out there and give it a crack, a good quality soft plastic outfit, light braid line, light leader, accurate casting and a small Squidgy Wriggler and you too can bag yourself a load of Scamander River bream. But Scamander isn’t the only place on the East Coast producing fish at the moment, as I sit here writing this Saturday night after my bream session, I am planning a quick session on Georges Bay tomorrow as all week I have been hearing reports of big salmon being caught off the Sea Scout Hall beach by shore based anglers throwing metal slice lures and soft plastics. The bay is so full of small anchovy bait fish at the moment that the salmon are here in big numbers and have been pushing the bay fish hard into the shoreline, people have even been seeing bait showering out of the water and landing on the beach to escape the salmon. Also there have been some great sized silver trevally, mackerel and elephant fish to 10lb being caught so I have decided I need a bit of that action as well. If you want to find out the latest information on what’s happening in Georges bay and on the East Coast check out my fishing reports on www. sthelensbaitntackle.com.au or just drop in to my tackle store next time you are in St Helens. Jamie Henderson