The Bountiful Tamar - part two
by Steve Suitor
In this article I will discuss some of the seasonal species available in the Tamar River. These include ling, barracouta, whiting, squid, silver bream, yellowtail kingfish and snotty trevally.
Ling, or pink ling, is a bottom feeding fish which looks like a cross between an eel and a rock cod. Ling are usually caught at night, mostly during the winter by anglers fishing from jetties and wharves with baits of fish flesh or crabs. Ling have a very gentle bite and it is often unnoticed unless the angler is holding the rod. Ling are a poor sport fish but they make up for that as a good table fish. I like them better as cutlets than as fillets. Hook sizes 1 to 2/0 are recommended with mullet the best bait, followed by squid, trevally and crabs. I have never heard of a ling being caught on a lure or a fly. Shallow water is most productive. Spring Bay, East Arm, Devils Elbow, Middle Arm, West Arm and Kelso are prime places.
Barracouta can be caught for much of the year from Spring Bay to the heads and from many Northern beaches, rocks and headlands. Couta follow schools of baitfish and salmon and are frequently taken by anglers targeting pike, salmon and kingfish. They will readily attack trolled or spun lures of any description but a simple silver wobbler or slice is a good as anything. Whitebait, bluebait, pilchards, small mullet and strips of fish are all good baits, either cast and retrieved, or fished under a float. Couta also take flies savagely and will often bite off the fly with their sharp teeth. Tie flies well back on a long shank to minimise losses. I don't believe wire traces have any place in fly fishing. Couta have a distinctive flavour, and if killed and bled promptly they are quite good table fish. Although it is possible to catch dozens of couta in a short time when a school is located, they are difficult to catch and release in good condition. This is due to their fearsome teeth and their habit of shedding scales over everything they touch. As couta also bleed easily it is wise to kill these. Use them for the table, as bait or berley. Any fish that bleeds will usually die. Anglers spinning for couta should use wire traces of 20lb to 40lb and 20gr to 40gr silver lures, pilchard lures and wobblers in similar weights. For bait fishing 2/0 to 5/0 stainless long shank, or gang hooks are recommended. Best areas include Bell Bay, Beauty Point, Garden Island, Kelso, Monument Point and West Head.
Whiting is a summer fish which is not often in Tasmania. An excellent table fish, they are caught on ocean beaches and occasionally up to Kelso. Sand worms are the best bait and should be rigged on size 6 or 8 long shank hooks, with a small running ball sinker. A red bead above the hook seems to improve the hook up rate. Fish the edges of sand banks and gutters. Fish will often be found in water less than a metre deep. Light whippy rods or bream gear and 3kg line is ideal for whiting. Fly fishing is also a successful method and a red worm fly is a killing pattern. Best places to fish for whiting include Badgers head, Greens Beach, East Beach, Lagoon Beach and Kelso.
There are two varieties of squid commonly caught in and around the Tamar River - arrow squid and the calamari. Squid are usually caught from November and may in the Bell Bay, Beauty Point and the sea reaches. Good numbers are also taken from West Head, Pilot Station and Low head. Arrow squid can be caught on cloth jigs, jags, plastic jigs, prawn jigs, and occasionally on trolled bibbed lures. Calamari respond best to prawn type jigs or pin jags baited with a small mullet, garfish or pilchard. Bell Bay, Inspection head, Bryants Bay, Pilot Station and West Head are likely spots.
Elephant fish, or bugler shark, as they are sometimes known, are a distinctive fish caught in January, February, march and April in the shallow parts of the estuary. They are a bottom feeding fish which appear to feed predominantly on crabs. Look for these in Spring Bay, Devils Elbow, East Arm, Middle Arm and West Arm. They are fair sport on light tackle and although considered by some as reasonable table fare I wouldn't bother. They are useless as bait.
These can be caught from about October until April. They are generally caught around structures such as piles, moorings, channel markers, jetties and pontoons. Caught from swan Point to the Pilot Station on prawns, whitebait, fish flesh and pipis in mid water - occasionally they are caught while bottom fishing. Try around Egg Island, Swan Point, Bonney Beach, East Arm, Bell Bay, Beauty Point and George Town.
This is a summertime fish which is principally caught around The Heads from December until April. Sometimes they are caught in Long Reach with the occasional wanderer up to the Batman Bridge. The best bait in my opinion is trolled garfish, with mullet, small couta, small mackerel and jack pike also good. Best lures are Halco Lasers, bigger Rapalas, Nilsmasters, Yo Zuris, plastic squid and various large silver sliced lures. Good areas are "˜The Rip"between the Fairway Beacons, in close to the rocks near Low Head lighthouse, around Hebe Reef, and around West Head. Kingfish also respond to jigs, but the fierce tides around "˜The Rip"make jigging hazardous in this area. Trolling for kingfish requires higher speeds than couta, pike and salmon. Speeds around eight knots seem to work best, and if your lure or bait occasionally leaves the water, so much the better. Gear for kingfish needs to be sturdy and usually consists of a fast taper boat rod, an overhead reel, and 10kg to 15kg line. Anglers using a spinning reel should select large robust models. Suitable reels are the Penn Spinfisher 750 or Diawa GS9.
These usually appear around the New Year and stay in the river until the end of April, or early May. They are a mid water fish and are frequently caught around wharves, jetties, piles and reefs. Often they take up residence under boats on moorings. Hook sizes should be size 2 to 1/0 as trevally have small mouths. Best baits are whitebait, small mullet, prawns, pipis, bluebait and small pieces of squid tentacles. Trevally are good sport and good to eat. As a schooling fish the action can be hot when a school is found. They respond well to berley and can sometimes be taken on lures such as small silver wobblers, small bibbed minnows and saltwater flies. Most trevally are taken from Bell Bay and Inspection Head wharves. Other areas to try are Deviot jetty, Bonney Beach, Kelso, Garden Island and George Town. Start fish at between 4 and 8 metres down, and if smaller trevally are caught try fishing a little deeper. Trevally tend to "˜stack"with the bigger fish on the bottom of the school. Rods should be at least 2 metres long and with plenty of power in the butt. This is essential to stop the line snagging and is also needed to lift the fish. Silstar powertips, Shakespeare Ugly Stiks and Jarvis Walker Ultra Tips are all suitable. Trevally do not freeze well, and anglers are asked to refrain from taking cricket score catches.
There are many other species of fish in the Tamar River including rarities such as Allisons blue devil fish. Anyone catching an unusual or unidentifiable fish is asked to record details of its capture, freeze the fish and contact me at Charlton's Sports Store. I will arrange to collect the fish and have it positively identified by the CSIRO.