Big bluefin are here!
  |  First Published: May 2014

While May brings with it the closed season on brown trout, it does bring the traditional time for big southern bluefin tuna in the south east of Tasmania.


On the freshwater front, there isn’t a great deal to talk about apart from some brilliant late season dry fly fishing on Great Lake and Dee Lagoon. I for one have never really understood the timing of closed seasons on the lakes in Tasmania – the fish are spawning in the creeks, not the lakes. Close the spawning creeks by all means, but leave open the lakes areas.

This has been a very good jassid season, and May will see the last of them hitting the water. The northern reaches of Great Lake are as good a spot as any, especially in a light northerly with some warmth in the air. Don’t bother getting out of bed too early, lunch time is a good time to start.

Dee Lagoon also has some brilliant late season fishing for thumping rainbows and pre-spawn brown trout. Hill 42 is the main spot and don’t worry too much about hugging the shores as the deep water will have plenty of fish marauding the surface layers of water.

Lakes Rowallan and Burbury are always good for late season fishing as well, with Burbury open all year round.

Spin fishing on the dirty days is the way to really mount up a big tally of fish, especially from a boat. Throw those lures, especially small hardbodied lures like a Zerek Tango right in close to the shore and rip and pause it back to the boat.


Even though the cooler weather is now with us, the fishing is far from cool. Bream are still feeding hard in the estuary systems, and will continue to do so until the first big cold floods wash through.

The Derwent River is the prime location for big bags of large bream, and if you don’t mind the industrial landscape and sensory invasion, the shores around the zinc works and Incat and into Prince of Wales Bay are good spots to begin.

Either side of the Bowen Bridge is good for shallow water feeding bream, as is the shore around the Lindisfarne side of the Tasman Bridge. Bigger hardbodied lures are the first option, and having some blue in the colour pattern is important.

Brown trout are always about in these areas too, and form an interesting by-catch.

On the east coast estuaries such as Little Swan Port and the Swan River feature wonderful surface bream fishing until that first big easterly flood washes through. Around the mouth of the river systems the smaller Australian salmon will hit anything silver and blue that moves quickly, and are a great fall back if the anticipated bream fishing fails to eventuate.

Georges Bay at St Helens isn’t quite an estuary, but it is marvellous in May. The bigger silver trevally are always on the agenda and some thumping bream are always on the flats while conditions and water quality permits.

The last of the yellowtail kingfish have probably moved on, but are replaced by those wonderfully tasty garfish. St Helens has some of the biggest gars in the state, and they are dead easy to catch. A simple berley trail with plenty of tuna oil and you will soon have a heap behind your boat.

Local charter operator Michael Haley recommends limiting the amount of berley as too many birds like seagulls can put them down.

The Tamar River has been flush with snapper it seems this autumn, and if this year is anything like last year there will be plenty about right until the end of May.

While the areas around the Batman Bridge are the traditional hotspots, don’t ignore the long stretch along Long Reach, where many were caught last year by anglers using sounders to find individual fish.

The north west coast has seen some brilliant fishing this year, with most of it outside the estuaries. Big schools of Australian salmon are always an autumn feature with some bigger pike and barracouta hunting the bait schools. Outside the Leven River is always worth a look as well as the extensive shorelines around Burnie.

Game fishing

The game season has been in full swing for several months now, with all serious game-heads focussed on Eaglehawk Neck and surrounding areas. Big bluefin have been landed since mid March, when Stewie Nichols on Big Pig got his crew onto a 104kg specimen. The very next day a 125kg thumping jumbo was also landed.

With water temperatures now heading back down towards the 16ºC mark the prospects of yellowfin tuna and mako sharks has pretty much evaporated, but ample numbers of SBT should be enough to keep all and sundry happy.

The prospects of bigger fish will always get the adventurous heading down to remote locations like Mewstone and Pedra Branca. These locations are not for the faint-hearted or the ill-prepared, as massive seas can push through here.

Always head down with at least one other boat and take an experienced crew, this is not the place for first-time blue water adventures.

On the broader game fishing front, most boats are trolling a mix of pushers and bibless hardbodied lures, and for the uninitiated (like me), it seems pretty random as far as successful lures go.

Top operators like Stewie Nichols love lures like the Halco Laser Pro rigged with singles as well as a Macbait for under the prop wash, while others will swear by mid-sized pushers and skirts.

Above all it probably pays to match your lures in colour and size to the redbait, which most fish will be looking for.

I’d love to see someone really work out how to catch more free jumping tuna on cast lures – how thrilling would it be to catch a big tuna on a cast and retrieved lure!

This is my final Tasmanian report for Victorian and Tasmanian Fishing Monthly as a new role means I have less time to get around the traps to round things up. I’ll still be submitting the odd feature for consideration though.

I’ve been lucky enough to be writing for V&TFM since the very first issue, as well as four and half years as Editor, so it is with a tinge of sadness that about 8 years of regular writing comes to an end.

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