Atlantic Salmon At Large

Recently Atlantic salmon seems to be a very hot topic amongst local anglers, especially those in the south of the state in the D'Entrecasteaux area. Northern anglers should take a close look at the Tamar as there are opportunities here as well.  
The recent "great escape" has provided a perfect opportunity for fresh and saltwater anglers alike to experience some truly memorable sport. Tasmania's pristine, clean and cool waters are the perfect nursery for the Atlantic Salmon and as our local fish farms produce more and more fresh quality seafood it is a fact that there are going to be tangible consequences.

One of these is the escape of farm fish into the wild; the waters surrounding the many farms statewide have a reasonably healthy population of escapee Atlantic salmon - although numbers do greatly vary.In particular the large concentration of farms in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel is a great playground for anglers prepared to put in the time to find fish.
Location is the key when chasing these illusive fish, and hearing of the fish's whereabouts is more often than not half the battle. For those that are lucky enough to now somebody who works in the associated industry, these contacts will allow you to get the first real "crack" at these fish in the wild.For the rest of us it is usually over hearing a loud discussion at the local pub or a friend of a friend that lets you know of a recent escape.
After you know there are some salmon present, prioritise a time to target them as there numbers soon thin out! Time needs to be spent locating where the school has moved to, they normally stay close together as they have been raised in such confined spaces, "personal space" is something they have never had an issue with. Staying together is what they do best!
If you can find a congregation of Atlantics they will either be cruising in close, normally hugging the shore, or circling in deeper water.
The "tell tale" signs are large swirls in close, as a fish of this size usually makes a pretty decent disturbance in water that shallow. Although this behaviour is common, the most obvious way to find a school of Atlantic salmon is to see them jumping out of the water. They are renowned for their aerobatics and after you have seen a 10lb Atlantic clear the water by 4ft you will no what I mean!Although they have an extremely streamline body shape, graceful in the air is something they certainly are not!
As they crash back into the water after their high flying acrobatics the aftermath is obvious with a mass of white water and an unmistakable bubble trail.
The noise is also quite distinct. Tide is also an import factor when chasing these 'silver bullets'. As long as the tide is moving it is fair to say that the fish are also on the move and willing to embrace a well presented offering. I personally prefer an outgoing tide, but in depends on the location you are fishing.
The general rule is to avoid a tide that has very little movement.
Following are a few techniques that have been successful over the last few years:
Lure -
Lure is great way to fish for Atlantic salmon, basically because you have the ability to cover so much water.
You're chosen lure can either be trolled slowly or preferably drift spinning is a more successful technique.
A standard spinning combo of around 6'6" is ideal and should be spooled with around 8lb. monofilament line, if fishing around oyster racks and other snaggy structures a 10lb. leader is recommended.Wobbler or spoon style lures are the most popular choice, accounting for the majority of the escapee Atlantic salmon that are caught using a rod and reel technique.The "humble" silver wonder wobbler is a real favourite and rightly so, when the salmon are in large numbers the silver wobbler is just as effective as the next lure.
It is when the fish are a little more difficult that they tend to shy away from such a lure.It is then that a smaller style wobbler will often be more effective, a lure of around 7grams is often more effective than there heavier counterparts.
Also a "rude', brightly coloured wobbler, such as a fluoro green or a bright purple have both been successful in my personal experience. Just recently we found that a bright green was doing particularly well.
A straight gold toby style is also often effective and will "on its day" out-fish most lures.Deep diver or bibbed minnow lures are also becoming a more popular lure for Atlantic salmon and theyhave proven themselves repeatedly, especially on there freshwater counterparts.A small bibbed minnow in a silver or gold colour is often deadly when trolled and can be a really effective way to locate a school of fish if they are not visible on the surface. I have recently had good success on a particular Surecatch branded lure. But I am confident in saying that any minnow style lure that has a nice "tight" action and closely imitates the local baitfish will work effectively.The key with lures is don't be afraid to try different styles and colours because it is crucial to   remember that these fish are often biting out of frustration, not due to the food factor.
Fly -
              This is the hardest technique to take consistent numbers of Atlantic salmon, and although fly anglers are used to being frustrated (I know I am) these fish will often make the most placid and patient angler throw a "tantrum'.For starters use an old fly line as the constant threat of oysters cutting your good fly line can be a real concern.
The outfit weight is really up to the individual - personally I find a 6 weight offers good sport with enough pulling power required to turn a fish when needed.Don't be shy with leader set up, often using a heavy leader is essential, I will often go to a tippet as heavy as 10lb if fishing around a lot of structure.
Fly choice is huge, with many anglers having different opinions on what works best. Basically a baitfish profile pattern is the most effective.Although I have heard of anglers catching fish on traditional freshwater patterns and even in one circumstance I know an angler that uses small English wets and Loch styles!Good patterns for the fly angler to consider are BMS (Bullen Merri special), Tasman Whitebait and Zonkers.
Often using two flies is advantageous, put some lead in your point fly for getting it down a little, this will also help in straightening your leader out when casting.
Bait - This is by far the most effective method of catching escapee Atlantic salmon.I have found when the fishing is at its most difficult and nothing else works a well presented bait does the trick.
When the fish first escape a pellet (either carefully thread on a hook or super glued on) fished amongst a berley trail is very effective, but it does not take long for the fish to wean off the pellets.After two weeks or so a pellet bait will only catch mullet and the odd cocky salmon - not the real McKoy.
Now the real deal - Prettyfish. This locally caught baitfish is the secret to most anglers" success.There are many times when I have thrown lures and fly offerings at a school of fish with no response, it is then that the prettyfish is used, and normally with instant success.Although bait is not my prefered method the results are too hard to ignore - it is by far the most consistent way to tempt this particular species.Rigging of the prettyfish is simple - for those that have chased sea-run trout with the same bait, the fishing technique is identical.
Simply carefully cast the unweighted bait and slowly retrieve, you will now when an Atlantic has accepted the offering, and although the bite is not ferocious the weight that is on the other end is the indication.
Sometimes a little split shot or running sinker is required to help with casting weight.When hooked the Atlantic salmon are great sport and spend a great deal of the battle out of the water, their leaps are simply awesome to watch.These fish are beautiful eating and I highly recommend them for there eating qualities and are great grilled, smoked or for those that like sushi, they are sensational with wasabi and soy.

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