Pontoon Fishing in the Tamar

As most of you would probably know, I love fishing the Tamar.  Unfortunately, lately, due to work and family commitments, I don't have quite as much time to fish but, after work,  when time allows, one thing I really do enjoy is fishing the new Tamar pontoons.  The pontoons are placed at intervals right along the estuary.  In this article, I am going to run through the Tamar pontoons and give you some general information on the species you may catch, techniques, bait, peak times, tides and modern rigs all of which may make the difference between no fish and a fine brace.

The first pontoon is at Rosevears.  Rosevears is a difficult pontoon to fish due to strong tidal flow.  Because of this, It is not the most popular pontoon in the river. I don't often fish it but my friend, Rex Gohran, regularly fishes at Rosevears where he catches cod, mullet and taylor.  He mainly uses  padenoster or sabiki rigs.  The best baits are whitebait, prawns and mussels.  Peak times are one hour either side of low or high tide, when the current is flowing at its slowest.  Use a burley mix of chook pellets, tuna oil, bread, sand or earth.  This will send the yellow-eyed mullet silly.  If you get sick of fishing, you can nip across to the Rosevears Pub for a couple of coldies or a fantastic feed.

The second pontoon worth trying is my favourite, especially in the summer months - Gravelly Beach.  I have fished Gravelly Beach for many years and have had some impressive catches from here.  I like to fish high tide at Gravelly, especially in the first two hours of the runout.  I have caught eagle and smooth rays, sea run trout, mullet, salmon, snotty and silver trevally, taylor, flathead, gummy sharks and a couple of large unknown fish I lost from my son, Benjamin's rod which could only have been big bream or possibly, oversized silver trevally.  Gravelly is a top fishing platform with fantastic facilities; it has toilets nearby and barbecue which my family regularly uses.  (On Friday nights, I love to come home from work to find my wife and two boys packed up ready for our Friday evening barbecue at Gravelly, after which we all fish from the pontoon.)  My cousin, Suzanne and her husband, Paul Cowell, own the Gravelly Beach General Store where you can purchase bait less than 200 m away from the pontoon.  Deep water nearby wotj heaps of structure such as oysters, rocks, rubble and contour lines all make for a great fishing spot  If you are after eagle or smooth rays, try a whole Australian salmon or mullet for bait.  Fillets also work well.  The best effort I have achieved was one afternoon last summer, after a barbecue, when I managed to have 9 eagle ray hookups in an hour.  I would have to rate this as the best eagle ray spot on the Tamar, but it you are targeting smaller fry, try using a sabiki rig either baited every second hook or unbaited.  They are deadly on Gravelly pontoon.  Sabiki rigs under a float fished in the carpark bay are worth a shot but beware, keep your rod tip up high when winding in, it is very snaggy.

The next pontoon is at Hillwood on the East Tamar.  Hillwood has started to gain a reputation for big blue warehoe.  Many large warehoe between 500 g and 3.5 kg have been taken.   Try using a pink and white Surecatch sabiki rig size 18, in conjunction with a burley trail of chook pellets and tuna oil and baited up with chicken.  You will also catch salmon, mullet, flathead, silver trevally and occasionally, snapper from the pontoon.  Two hours before and after high and low tides are the most productive times.

Deviot is one of the most popular pontoons on the Tamar.  It is a great family pontoon for all ages.  A strong current is present between the tides so the most productive tide is around high and low.  A padenoster or sabiki rig is the best for chasing smaller species.  Try a burley sinker; it will increase your catch rate dramatically.  Use bread or dough soaked in tuna oil and squash it into the spring of your sinker, this will increase your results.  If you are after B52s (eagle rays), there are plenty of these to be caught off Deviot pontoon in the summer months.

Sidmouth and Bonnie Beach fish very similar.  They are only about two kilometres apart.  They both produce salmon, silver trevally, blue warehoe, taylor, searun trout, atlantic salmon, gummy shark, rays, flathead and the occasional snapper.  Try using a Surecatch sabiki rig with a light sinker underneath or a small silver and gold sliced lure.

East Arm pontoon is a great fishing platform which takes a 500 downhill walk to get to but is certainly worth a go.  It is way out of the mainstream current which makes it  great for burleying.  The main problem here is the water depth so I would recommend you fish it at high tide only.  You could catch salmon, mullet, flathead, snotty and silver trevally, bream, taylor, rays, sharks, the occasional snapper and, of course, cod.

West Arm pontoon is another very productive pontoon which is out of the mainstream of the current flow and has a flat mud bottom.  At high tide, you are casting in about four metres of water.  West Arm is nearly a separate waterway to the Tamar at low tide and what I class as the Tamar's only tidal lagoon.  It is truly a beautiful spot to fish.  From this pontoon, you could catch couta, snook, trout, flathead, mullet, sometimes big silver trevally, blue warehoe, mackerel, taylor, salmon, elephant fish, fidler rays, smooth rays, Port Jackson sharks and gummy sharks and occasionally, snapper.  It is another good spot to use burley productively.  Lure, fly and bait all work well.

Clarence Point is another deep water pontoon, with water up to a depth of 30 metres nearby.   It is a great pontoon for lure casting.  Halcos, gillies, shark tackle, big couta and snook frequently cruise this area but remember to use a light wire trace to stop bit -offs.  Big salmon of up to 12 kg or more are regularly taken.

The Pier pontoon at George Town is another productive place to fish and is a very popular local fishing spot.  It is not uncommon for the pontoon to be packed, especially when couta or blue warehoe are on the run.  It is also a top spot for big garfish which you need to specialise in if you are to catch them consistently.  A quill or pencil float with a small size 12 hook is the way to go, bread is the bait for gars, make sure you roll the bread into small  balls, otherwise it won't stay on the hook.  Use small splitshot sinkers to tune your float for the least resistance.  Good mullet and silver trevally also hang around the pontoon area, mussels are my number one mullet bait.

The last pontoon on the Tamar before the Bass Strait is at How Head.  I have fished this one regularly as I lived in George Town for some time before moving to Swan Point.  Probably the most sought after species from the Low Head pontoon are southern calamari and arrowhead squid.  A king prawn squidjig cast out and slowly retrieved works well.  Try rainbow and red and white coloured squid jigs.  High tide, after dark, is the best time to chase squid from the pontoon.  You will also catch jack mackerel, yellow eyed mullet, couta, flathead, leather jackets, garfish, small salmon and rays - if you can stop them.   Best baits are prawns, whitebait, mussels and bluebait. I have also seen luderick off the pontoon at times but have never caught one, however, I have never targeted them.  

For tackle on the pontoons, I recommend using a light 7 to 8.6 sensor tip or soft tip rod for most situations.  Shakespeare Uglystick makes some beautiful light estuary rods such as the Gold, 2000 Plus and Original series. You could use a line class of around 2 to 5 kg, depending on what you are fishing for.  For rays and sharks, a line class from 6 to 24 kgs, once again depending on whether you are after elephant sharks or smooth rays.

For reels, I recommend a threadline for light estuary, Shimano, Tica and Abu Garcia all make superb threadlines.  For the serious stuff, an overhead reel is the only way to go, such as a Shimano TLD 15, 20, 25 or 30 II speed, they are all silky smooth and are built to do the job.

My friend, Johnny Scott, of Beauty Point last year landed an 8 foot seven gill shark from the land in the mdidle reaches of the Tamar.  Johnny targets big rays and sharks from the pontoons and jetties on the Tamar.  He has had some impressive catches such as eagle rays up to 120 lbs and smooth rays up to 300 lbs, all caught from the land.  I grew up doing this type of fishing and it can be very exciting.  Some people frown on fishing for rays and sharks and think rays do not fight... They are usually people who have not caught one.   In my opinion, eagle rays are one of the hardest fighting fish in our estuary system.  Eagle rays are recognised by the International Game Fishing Association as a true game fish and Australian and world records are held for them.  For some strange reason, some people will not recognise them to be weighed-in in local fishing competitions.  Dedicated Tamar anglers, including myself, think this is strange and believe that there should at least be a separate class or category for them if not recognised as eligible to win the competition outright.    Most estuary competitions, let you weigh in cod and flathead which are not even recognised as a sports fish!

If you would like some more information on Tamar Pontoons and jetty fishing, come in and see me at Charltons Fishing Departments.

Tight lines,

Damon Sherriff.
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