North-west Coast Australian Salmon

Jamie Harris
The small town of Marrawah on the rugged west coast is home of the famous land based fishing platform called Sinking Rock. Make sure you pronounce it Mar-u-war if you want to fit in. Many of you would have heard of this spot or are probably already regular visitors to this great place, but for those of you who are not it is not as far out of the way as you think and it's easily accessible.

Marrawah lies some 25 minutes west of Smithton, just follow the signs and you won't miss it. Once you arrive at Marrawah take your first left just past the pub and keep driving until you come to a gravel road, and just a few kilometers further and you'll arrive at Nettley Bay. From here you can fish the main rock near the carpark or walk 20 minutes or so to right to Sinking rock. Tackle stores or the friendly locals will point you in the right direction.
The main target that we fish for here is Australian salmon , but gummy sharks, couta and pike are common bycatches. Average salmon here are 1-2kg but 4kg+ fish are not uncommon. Most rocky spots on the west coast has bull kelp growing to the waters edge and on the reefs and good knots and strong line are needed to muscle these powerful fish away from the kelp. Take plenty of spare lures and terminal tackle because the big salmon and the kelp can be unforgiving.

A strong 10-12ft rod is a must. A light 10'graphite rod with a powerful butt is preferred for spinning as a heavy rod will fatigue you quickly if you intend on doing a lot of lure tossing. Match your rod to a quality highspeed threadline in the 4500 - 6000 size range and spool up with 10kg line. I prefer mono as opposed to braid to spin with as the stretch factor soaks up the big hits and the headshakes of salmon better than braid. On my bait rod I run 15kg braid, the zero stretch makes it far superior to mono for feeling bites on the bait.

It's hard to beat the trusty Raider on salmon , although any chrome slices or baitfish profiles will also work. I always use a dropper fly or 2 inch squid unless the salmon are to thick and big to lift two at a time. On some bright days the fish can shy away from lures and will only go for the smaller droppers. Another lure worth trying are deep divers, you won't see many people using them but they are definitely a favourite with the salmon. On three separate occasions I have caught two fish on the one lure(one fish on each treble). You can only cast these lures half as far as metal lures but most of the strikes will come within 10 metres of the rocks.
A personal favourite and perhaps the most entertaining way to fish for salmon is with a surface popper. They cast a mile and crank it back fast with starts and stops and on days when the salmon are thick they will smash and crash the popper sometimes all the way to the rocks. They work best on dull rough days as do most salmon lures. Don't be scared to use large poppers, as the this will attract the larger fish and they are the ones to first attack. Strike Pros, Kokoda, and Smiling Jacks all work well.

On bright days at times the only way to catch a fish is to run a bait under a big attractor float. A single 2/0 chemically sharpened hook at least a metre under the float works the best. Ganged hooks are okay, but the salmon seem to swallow baits better with a single hook. A small barrel sinker just under the float adds casting weight and also helps keep the float upright.
Bottom fishing can also be very productive on rough days. A simple paternoster rig will do the job. I like to tie my own rigs out of 10-15kg mono. Wire traces are not a good idea for salmon. I can't ever remember coming home fishless from the Marrawah area. Sinking Rock itself is so good because it faces north so it is protected from the big southwesterly swells. It also runs into deep water with a sandy bottom. Any of the good rock platforms on the west coast will hold salmon. Most spots though face west and can only be fished safely on calmer days.

The beaches around Marrawah are fairly flat and don't have many good gutters for consistent fishing. About 15 minutes south is the Arthur River. In the warmer months when theres not too much freshwater in the river big bags of small to medium salmon can be caught from the beach at the river mouth. Just remember to only take what you need for a feed. Small slices, soft plastics and trout gear is the go here.

Many of you would have heard of the huge W.A salmon that are caught all along the Great Australian Bight to S.A. These fish range from 5-10kg+ with average fish being 12-14lb in the old scale. Every year there is a small run of these fish here in Tas further south around Sandy Cape. If you are lucky enough to tackle these brutes make sure your drag is properly set or your rod may be dragged into the drink. The beaches here are steep and have awesome gutters. Big gummy and school shark can be taken here after dark.
I recommend going with someone who knows the area well because the creek crossings and soft sand can be very trecherous. Four wheel drives with winches and or quad bikes are needed to access the cape area. Sandy Cape is remote and along way from anywhere but if you have the gear and are keen it could prove to be the most productive trip of your life.
If you decide to explore the wild west coast, make sure you pack your waterproof clothing as well as good strong boots and even a change of clothes can be a good idea. When arriving at your chosen spot take your time rigging up and study the swell whilst doing so. Always keep one eye on the waves and never turn your back on them. If you snag a lure or lose a hat or any gear near the waters edge never go after them as waves aren't forgiving and have tremendous force. Gear is replaceable, you are not. Respect the ocean and be prepared and you will be in for some great fishing. See you there.

Jamie Harris

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