by Sarah Graham
Many anglers are preparing for the opening of the new angling season on Saturday 7 August and it's shaping up to be another good one with the fishery in excellent health as a result of last year’s drought breaking rains. There are many great fishing locations around the State from which to choose for the opening weekend and early season fishing but here are a few suggestions.
"˜Knowledge is power"so the saying goes. In this article, Barry Hickman shares his knowledge of trout fishing season and what to expect, what flies are needed and when to use them.
Arguably the Macquarie River is Tasmania's best known for angling sport. Its main stem wanders through the open farmland of the Northern Midlands from Ross down to its junction with the South Esk River at Longford, covering about 80 kilometres and is fishable along most of its length.
I spotted a small fish rising to a hatch of snowflake caddis in the far side of the pool. My cast was only average but it did not take long for the fish's little eyes to light up and gobble down my caddis imitation. After a quick but lively fight I'd released my fourth trout for the evening.
Where was I? I was only ten minutes from the city of Launceston, in the middle of the Cataract Gorge, just down from the First Basin.
For the low budget fishing and sight seeing holiday the Far North West Coast, and West Coast of Tasmania is well worth considering. Whereas large fish are dreamt of in many areas - the West Coast often rewards anglers with fish of leviathan size - both in fresh and salt water.
Best time to fish; October to March
Getting there; 4 hours from Launceston or Hobart.
Major angling species; Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, Australian salmon, shark, flounder, striped trumpeter, morwong.
Other attractions; Strahan is the base for many tourist activities.
Warnings;Tasmania's west coast has some of the wildest seas in Australia. Each year commercial fishermen are lost to huge seas that can appear from nowhere. Take extreme care, especially when fishing the ocean.
Great fishing, variety and spectacular scenery is what await anglers venturing to Tasmania's wild west coast.
Strahan, the perfect base for the area, is located on Macquarie Harbour, Australia's second largest harbour after Port Phillip Bay and covers an area of approximately 260 square kilometres. The west coast region is a major tourist destination and the entire area is a fisherman's haven, having the waters of the harbour to fish along with the coastline and a number of readily accessible rivers within ten minutes of Strahan.
Macquarie Harbour is accessible to most types of angler, the most practical though is by boat. This allows easy movement throughout the harbour and some of its hot spots. One of the most sought after fish in the harbour are the many large rainbow trout and Atlantic salmon. These fish are a combination of escapees from the local fish farms as well as a healthy local population. Casting lures from the many headlands jutting out into the harbour using sliced and minnow style lures often results in tremendous sport.
When fish of up to 9 kilograms have been caught within sight of the Strahan township it certainly encourages the locals and visitors alike to pick up their rods. Popular methods include bait, spin and fly fishing. On the still warmer evenings fly fishing offers good sport casting from the boat toward the shore. Trout sometimes rise throughout a number of bays and it is possible to choose one of a number of fish to cast to. Sea-run trout are also common from the beach at Macquarie Heads - particularly between October and November.
During the warmer summer months, the harbour experiences an influx of green water as the harbour level drops. This influx generally attracts schools of Australian Salmon, which can be captured on the edges of this green water and the usual brown water of the harbour.
The favoured options here are trolling (the most rewarding), spin fishing or bait fishing. A popular spot for the Australian salmon is just inside the heads at Hells Gates. From this position you can cast out to the channel that leads out to a long sandbar. There is a camping ground here right near the beach.
The harbour at Strahan offers visitors with their own boats a number of launching sites that will cater for all sized trailerable boats. Within Strahan there are two concrete launching ramps, one at Mill Bay and the other at Letts Bay. Macquarie Heads also offers two gravel ramps with quick access to the fishing spots. The variety of species caught within the Harbour include; Atlantic Salmon, trout, Australian salmon, flathead, flounder, small trumpeter, trevally, couta, morwong, cod and mullet.
Ocean Beach, six kilometres due west of Strahan, offers some great beach fishing that is comparable to anywhere, (when the rugged seas permit). This beach is claimed to be Tasmania's longest with 34 kilometres of unbroken beach. The main fishing from here is Australian Salmon, sharks and skate. One excellent spot here is at the mouth of the Henty River.
Anyone wishing to drive along Ocean Beach to access its fishing spots should be very wary of the quick sand, common throughout this area. It is suggested to obtain local advice before the trip.
Outside the Heads
If you have the right boat and good weather it can be worth your while to venture just beyond the heads to Cape Sorell or Pilot Bay where fishing can be excellent. In this area trolling or bait fishing with light gear can yield good results for a number of species. The main fish caught immediately outside the heads are; trevally, couta and striped trumpeter.
Not only has Strahan got its variety of fishing on offer but makes for an excellent family holiday destination. Tours on offer include the river cruises to the Gordon River, jet boat rides up the King River, trail rides, sea plane tours to a variety of areas, helicopter joy flights and four wheel drive and fishing tours.
Travelling west from Smithton, taking the coastal road over the Duck River bridge. A 15 minute drive will bring you into the small farming community of Montagu. Old Port Road takes you to the Montagu camping area which is a good place to start fishing. The boat ramp at Montagu is excellent and is really the only spot to launch a boat. Shore fishing is quite rewarding and places to fish are the jetty (near ramp), off rocks and beaches all along the foreshore.
Montagu is a huge channel and successful fishing there can depend greatly on the tide. Some days the mix of tide and wind that rips through this channel, makes boating very interesting, and an enormous amount of care should be taken. Species that inhabit this spot are Australian salmon, pike, couta, shark, tailor and flathead. Spinning or trolling on high tide from shore, jetty or boat with wobblers, soft plastics, flies and bait will all catch fish.
A 45 minute drive west from Montagu or Smithton finds you at Marrawah. Marrawah is a prime dairy farming and world known surfing location on the west coast. A short drive down Green Point Road, will take you to a car park at Nettley Bay. From there you may fish the rock directly off the car park. A 45 minute walk along the beach, over sand dunes to the north will bring you to Sinking Rock.
Big runs of blackback (large Australian salmon) are found congregating around the rocky edges, feeding on small bait fish and krill. Successful fishing methods are either spinning or bait fishing. Good lures to use are large silver wobblers (30-60 gm) with a fly dropper. Bait fishing quite often takes the bigger specimens, using a large float or balloon with a pilchard below.
Blackback up to 2-3 kg are landed for most of the year, with the occasional yellowtail kingfish and tailor being snagged. The weather plays an important role on the fishing there, with the ruggedness of the west coast sometimes making these hot spots unfishable.
Located 20 minutes down the west coast from Marrawah, is the holiday destination of the Arthur River. This thriving fishing spot is positioned in the Arthur - Pieman Protected Area.
In recent years, holiday units, camping, boat hire, shop, cruises and guided fishing trips, have started to operate around the river. From November, Australian salmon make their way into the river mouth, staying there (depending on the freshwater flow) right through until late February.
Both boating and shore angling from rocks or beach, are equally as productive - making it a perfect recreational fishing location for the whole family. Boats do give access to much more river and trolling is popular along the entire navigable length.
Lures to try are green and gold wobblers or spinners, silver wobblers and soft plastics. Pilchards, anchovies and sand worms work very well for the patient bait angler. Fly anglers may try a green or silver streamer fly, which is most effective.
October - February in more recent times has seen more trout anglers journey to the area. Large resident and sea-run trout are landed from this water every year. From early October sea-runners can be seen near the river mouth, charging and swirling through huge schools of white bait, sending them fleeing across the surface. At this time a fly or small wobbler imitating these bait, may fool them. As the bait schools move further up, so do the trout. Trolling along the banks, is most productive. Lead lines with green, gold, red or bronze cobras, is a deadly trolling rig. Nils Masters, Rapalas, Stump Jumpers along with other bib lures, flicked around snags take a lot of trout and sometimes estuarine perch.
A 30 minute drive further south from the Arthur River, bypassing commercial Rock Lobster fishing villages, will bring you to Temma Harbour. A 4WD or off road vehicle is then essential if you wish to continue south further down the west cost, to Sandy Cape. A permit from Temma to Sandy Cape is needed, and may be collected from the Arthur River rangers station. Sandy Cape mainly consists of vast white sandy beaches, breathtaking dunes and catches of big blackback salmon. These fish which are commonly caught around the mid to end of the year period, or when access to this area can be made. The Sandy Cape Beach, which is just north of the Cape has a history of treacherous quick-sand and has seen many vehicles lost. These salmon are caught from the beaches around the cape, they can be found in the deep gutters not too far off shore. Big heavy silver wobblers and large salt water flies work best. Fish in the 4 - 6 kg range are beached frequently, therefore a strong surf rig with a 2.5-3.5 m rod and low geared reel makes fishing a lot easier. Gang hooked pilchards or anchovies fished with a heavy sinker on a deep sea rig, take their fair share of big salmon and gummy shark.
Stanley would have to be the most well known small town on Tasmania's north coast. It is steeped in history, which makes it a popular spot for visiting tourists. Stanley wharf is the most popular recreational fishing spot on the north west coast. It boasts good catches of snotty trevally (blue warehou), Australian salmon, couta, mullet, leatherjacket, squid and even the odd yellowtail kingfish and shark. The snotty trevally frequent this area from December through to April and these can be most productive times. It is not uncommon to see 80 to 100 anglers shoulder to shoulder on the wharf. The trevally run along the edge of the wharf in large schools, multiple hook ups can see 20 or 30 anglers all hooked up at once, making it very interesting when it comes to landing these fish.
A strong rod 2.5-3.5 m long with a reasonably light tip is very effective, Hi Vis monofilament line 7-9 kg must also be used, this is to be tied to small running sinker rig. Best bait for trevally is uncooked chicken on size 1 or 2 chemically sharpened hook. Fish with the drag locked up completely, because if a fish runs you will tangle with other anglers and end up in an almighty mess.
Other fishing around Stanley includes Godfrey's Beach on the northern shore, where good catches of Australian Salmon, flathead and even tailor are caught both from the beach or rocks.
Stanley sits out on a quite large headland and two bodies of water occupy each side, East and Western Inlets. These inlets are popular fishing places. Since the ban of netting in these spots fishing has improved with Australian salmon, flounder, couta, pike, gummy shark and BIG spawning flathead being the main targets. Spinning or baiting these particular species on the incoming tide is great fishing. For boat fishing, the Stanley area is very good. Drifting with either bait or plastics is effective. Trolling lures such as wobblers, large flies and bib lures can produce good catches of, Australian salmon, couta and pike.
Positioned on the edge of Duck River, Smithton offers the recreational angler with a number of fishing opportunities. All your fishing requirements and local information on the area, can be found at Smithton Sports in the main street of town, open seven days a week. Shore based anglers have the potential to catch silver trevally, large flathead, Australian salmon, tailor and more often than not sea-run trout. These fish can be found right in Smithton fishing from either the reclaimed land on the western shore or around the boat ramp on the eastern shore. Fish can be caught from around this area, by spinning, fly fishing or bait fishing.
Fishing the Duck Bay estuary a boat is essential. From October to early April Australian salmon are readily caught either by trolling or bait fishing. With the estuary being basically two large sand flats east and west of the channel, there is great opportunity for the salt water fly fisherman. Polaroiding big flathead over the sand is a fantastic sport, these fish can also be taken with larger bib lures and bait.
From the oyster leases "The Duck"continues further out through a fairly narrow mouth. Near the mouth, trolling for couta, pike, Australian salmon and tailor with wobblers, flies and surface lures, pick up quite a few fish. Good catches of gummy shark and elephant fish on bait, are taken commonly and recently King George whiting have also been caught in good numbers.
The mouth access by shore can only be made via Seven Mile Beach on the eastern side (4WD Track Only). Off the Duck River mouth lays 4 large islands all of which hold a plentiful number of fish, all year round. Boat access is necessary to these islands. Recreational diving around this area is also popular with rock lobster, green and black lipped abalone being taken during the open season.
The whitebait run up the Duck River is around the months of October - January. During their season, they are fairly heavily fished. With the whitebait, sea-run trout and Australian Salmon move further up into the tidal area. Small Lures and Flies are a good option for snagging these fish.
Detention River and Hellyer Beach
Detention River lies about a five minutes drive west from the Rocky Cape turn off. This offers the shore angler with a few species of fish that can be targeted. They include sea-run trout, Australian salmon and flathead. Spinning for sea-run trout and salmon towards the mouth is the most common form of fishing. These fish can be caught further up the estuary when the tide is full. Good lures for these fish are small bib lures, silver wobblers, cobras and smelt type flies. Bait fishing is also quite common for catching flathead and salmon. Squid, pilchards and prawns are very effective. From the mouth of the Detention River, on the western shore, starts Hellyer beach. This gives the fishermen a chance to do some surf fishing. With the right breeze, and sea, gummy shark frequent the area and can be caught when the water temperatures are warm. A particularly good time to catch shark is of a night. A deep sea rig with 6/0 hook and a big bait works best.
Situated 15 minutes west of Hellyer Beach, Black River is easily accessed through Peggs Creek camping area on the eastern side of the river. Most shore angling and boat access is done from here. A short walk puts you in prime Australian Salmon territory, from the months through October to March. Most shore anglers tend to concentrate at the mouth area, whilst boat fisherman follow the tide up. Lures that are most common on these fish are silver wobblers, bib lures, plastics. Bait fisherman use pilchards, squid and berley washing off the shore is most rewarding. Good catches of flathead, couta, pike and tailor are also caught every year, generally by the unsuspecting bait and spinner fishermen. Big sea-run trout are also frequent visitors to this area.
The fishing either side is terrific and off the end the water drops off significantly. This is mostly a boat fishing area and boats can be launched at the Wynyard Yacht Club or in the Inglis River. Athletic and rock climbing skills are an advantage if you want to fish the cape from the shore, but the rewards may be worth it..
Surf fishing off the beach is fantastic - natural bait is best. Yabbies, mussels and sandworms can be found in the area and these outfish anything else by a country mile. There is a good ramp for boat access and the boating angler will find this is one of the most productive areas on the north west coast.
Rocky Cape is situated in a National Park, with many well defined bush walks and excellent views. This is one of the premier locations for the recreational diver on Tasmania's North Coast. Unfortunately for the shore angler the Cape itself offers limited access to safe fishing areas, this is due to the steep drop offs and many spots are inaccessible to the average angler. Successful boat fishing on the other hand is a different story with Rocky Cape offering two boat ramps. Excellent fishing can be found on both sides of the cape, this is due to the large sand bottom that surrounds the point. Over this bottom many fish species can be targeted, drifting over the sand can produce good catches of flathead. Most effective in hooking these big flathead is to use either soft plastic baits or try squid or octopus bait. Australian Salmon, couta and pike are readily caught by all means of fishing. Trolling for these fish using silver wobblers, brighter coloured bib lures (reasonable size), Tassie Devil or a clear piece of plastic tube. In late Summer, large schools of blue warehou (snotties) pass by the Cape. Many of these large sport fish are caught by waiting anglers using running sinker setup with a small piece of skinless chicken.
Best shore based areas are Black and Red Rocks at Cooee Point west of Burnie. The Penguin boat ramp is a great location as is Penguin Point just to the west of the ramp. Boat Harbour is good from the beach and the point is also good from the rocks. The Bund Breakwall in front of the Burnie Yacht Club is fast becoming one of the hot spots around Burnie. A lot of salmon are taken during the day and good catches of squid are also caught. Small snapper are also taken here occasionally.
Blackmans Reef off the main Burnie wharf is a terrific hot spot when the salmon are running and if it is too rough here the water on the inside of the main breakwall will give good fishing and protected waters.
Also near Burnie, to the west, is the Cam River at Somerset. This a great place to take the family with grassy banks adjoining the river and a playground to keep them occupied. Mullet are plentiful and there is always a bream or two to be caught.
Wynyard has some fantastic fishing - from Table Cape just west of the town to the Inglis River on which it is situated. Table Cape and Fossil Bluff are especially productive. The Inglis River adjoins Wynyard and fish are caught virtually in the main street. Fishing off the wharf is always productive. At night, salmon are almost guaranteed and it's a lot of fun. Off the mouth, trolling for salmon is virtually a local custom with a sliced piece of plastic tube as the lure. There is some great bream fishing in the Inglis River.
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Sea-run trout fishing this year got off to a cracking start in most areas, with the majority of anglers employing nearly every trout fishing technique to secure fish in local estuaries statewide.
Even those anglers fishing the "off-season" lower down in our estuaries for sea-trout commented on the number of fish moving in early August.