There can be argument that April in Tasmania is when Fishos start to drag the bottom lip, but hang on a minute! There is a lot to be excited about.
Sure the weather gets a little cooler and that breeze has potential to cut you in half but there is some silver lining to be had with those autumn clouds. Daylight savings is a distant memory but the days are still OK with settled weather and winds. This means that a crew that plans a trip around the forecast can have sensational days on the water and there are a number of species that will put a smile on the dial.
Anglers out there with a reasonable memory will remember that everything seemed to stretch out last year and the big albacore seemed to hang around for ages. Early signs suggest that this will be the same for season 2015.
Albacore are a great species. They are good fun to catch and a superb fish for the table. Good-sized albacore can provide heaps of quality meat if looked after straight away. Yes here we go again, “bleed them straight away”, but don’t waste the blood. Those who have caught them before will know that tuna are the haemophiliacs of the ocean.
Have some forethought and take a container that you can place a whole Albacore in as it bleeds out from the two small incisions you have made to the rear of the pectoral fins. There are a number of benefits to this. Harvesting the blood is good value for two reasons.
The first reason is that you will have some awesome berley for the next time you go mako shark hunting. Adding blood to a berley mix increases your potential of raising a shark 10 fold. The second reason is that you don’t know when that next mako shark session may unfold. We have been nailing Albacore and come across one free swimming and it was a simple matter of circling around and putting the blood in the water and having the mako come straight to the back of the boat. We happened to be in a game competition so we put a hook out on 24kg gear and crunched a 70kg Mako to the boat in short time and popped a tag in him!
Conversely, you will be very popular with the family if you bring home a feed of albacore and mako shark.
Southern bluefin are thick in April and it’s the time of year old-timers start to whisper about jumbos. If you are down south trolling lures during April it is a good idea to prepare for the possibility of the fish of a lifetime. Check and double check all the gear you will use as it will haunt you for a long time if you lose a giant bluefin to gear failure.
Start at the lures and how they are rigged. Check the leaders for wear or any nicks and replace if needed. Take the time to get the kids out in the street and run 200m of line out and as it goes of and back on the spool, feel it with your fingers for anything that may cause a weakness. A jumbo bluefin will find any weakness. The hook up will be explosive and the pressure of the fish running and water pressure on the line will be intense. Take the time to double and triple check or you’ll be sitting there looking at each other wondering what the hell you’d just hooked!
Being hooked up to a jumbo will ensure a good long tussle and during the fight this is a time for your crew to be on the ball. Once there is a solid hook up the crew can get their minds on the job. Get the camera’s on if you have them, find the leader gloves and place them ready to slip on.
Locating the gaffs and positioning them so they are at the ready in an instant they are needed is a good idea. Once this is done the crew can relax and try and stay out of the vision of skipper and angler. The skipper will have his work cut out for him keeping the angle of line at the rear of the boat off the port side. Keeping the vision of the outboard and angler clear will help immensely. This is not a hard and fast rule but for most boats it makes sense. It is easier on the skipper to keep the fish in the right spot and give the angler every opportunity to win the battle. It evens up the boat in having skipper on the opposite side to where all the action will take place.
Working as a team and having gear in excellent condition will tip the scales in your favour and hopefully bring in a fish to hang on a set of real scales.
April does tend to see the mercury drop on average but the weather itself is still mild and the winds can be a lot more settled. The key to enjoying a longer fishing season is to have the right gear and prepare for all for seasons in one day. Good quality outdoor clothing and wet weather gear will stand the test of time. Comfort is the biggest factor when spending long hours in the elements and there are some great products out there. Being comfortable and warm while still maintaining some level of manoeuvrability will allow those anglers who like to get out and about to find some nice table fare inshore.
April and autumn is the time when calamari come on strong again. They head inshore for two reasons. Firstly, the water temperature has dropped, and secondly, it’s time for them to breed. Australian temperate waters allow something unique to happen within the cephalopod world. We in Australia are lucky to have multiple spawning runs, allowing us to target the big spawning adult squid that are massing up over our shallows and weed beds. It just so happens that Tasmania is also one of the best places in Australia to target good numbers and cracking big squid. Back in the ‘old days’, squid were seen as by-catch and bait, but not anymore.
Heaps of anglers are setting up to target these little beauties just as hard as any other species. Specialist rods and reels are being sought after to maximise the fun and effectiveness of a squid session. Rods with the perfect action and reels weighted just right to aid casting and getting a smooth and constant jigging action with the slightest of wrist breaks is top priority. Other squid aficionados like to impart a more aggressive action on the jig as they work over the broken ground and weedy areas. This calls for a rod with a stiffer mid-section while still having a supple tip.
Squid jigs are an area that has really come on in Tasmania in the last few years. You can now get jigs from around $6 through to $26 and everywhere in between. The more expensive jigs will last longer when presented to squid after squid. It is surprising just how abrasive the candles of a good size squid actually are.
Squid can also see some colours in UV that we humans cannot. The high-end squid jig manufacturers are aware of this and have some special colours and dies within their designs. If you take a little UV torch into a tackle store and shine it on their range of squid jigs you will be amazed. Some of the detail and workmanship in the more expensive Japanese jigs are as at home in a jewellery box as they are a tackle box.
When it comes to colours there are a myriad of options left and right of a few general rules. In the morning and evenings, gold is great. Gold hues and gold under foils get the job done. During the daytime, give the silvers, the holographics and the greens a run. In super lowlight conditions, either try the red body and foil colours, or go home as someone may be worried about you.
As a great angling experience for adults and kids, garfish are a much-overlooked Tasmanian species. Gar are found in and around Tasmania in numbers probably underestimated because we don’t take any notice.
The southern sea garfish is the fish we find here in Tasmania. Southern garfish are a fish that schools up and fish are often found in sheltered bays and inshore coastal areas. They occasionally head into estuaries, and especially where seagrass meadows are abundant. This is why Georges Bay on Tasmania’s East coast is a hot spot. The bay is well known for producing monster gar and when conditions are right, in good numbers.
The secret with garfish is berley and specific rigging. Berley is a must when looking to take a few gar for the table. It’s not berley like we would normally make, but a bucket with some light fine berley ingredients that will sit on the surface and slowly sink into the water column.
There are a number of options for berley, but a some made of crushed bread and tuna pellets will get the job done. Try and find stale bread as it crumbles much better and doesn’t ball up in your hand. A little bit of fish oil spread onto the surface with some fine breadcrumbs sprinkled on top works very well. The breadcrumb gets suspended on the oil and will attract the gar to the surface, holding them in the area.
Garfish, when caught on light gear put up a great tussle. A float rig with a small hook and another just with a small hook is the way to go. You should have one rod set up with float holding the bait 3ft under the surface and the other rod set up to have the bait sink naturally down into the water.
I remember Pop tying a little bit of wool on his line as a bit indicator on the free weighted rig. The float will let you know you have a bite, so watch them carefully. Typically a small size 10-12 long shank hook will suffice and for a float there are a number of small quill or ball floats at tackle stores fit for this purpose.
The best bait is that made to mimic the berley, so anything pale works well. Small pieces of fish flesh and uncooked chicken work well as does unshelled prawn pieces. Yet again, squid is also a stand out bait. It is pale and when cut into small slivers, stays on the hook very well.
April is prime for a session on the flounder. The water is cooling inshore and the sun is disappearing way earlier than in daylight savings. You don’t have to wait till 11 o’clock to head out to your favourite flounder spot. The reason why people gear up and wander around in water up to their knees for flounder is because its fun and they taste good!
Flounder have an excellent flavour, have a fine textured, firm white flesh and low oil content. They are simple and easy to cook and go well when pan fried, baked, barbequed or grilled.
The capture of these little beauties is a little different to your average fishing trip. The go is to use flounder spears and waterproof spotlights at night. There are a heap of different set ups to suit each user so head into a tackle store and discuss, but it is heaps of fun.
The other species you can see while sneaking about at night up to your knees are awesome fun as well. You can start by finding a large estuary or look for beaches that are flat and shallow. The best time to go is on still nights with an incoming tide. The flounder will come into the shallows to feed and if you walk slowly and keep your eyes peeled you will see them sitting hard on the bottom.
There are two species in Tasmania you are likely to encounter, the greenback and the longsnout. The greenback is a more diamond shape while the longsnout is a rounder looking unit. These fish have the same bag limits and minimum sizes , but it always pays to check.
April is not a time for putting the gear away, but for looking for gear to compliment what you already have. New species demand new techniques and slightly different gear. More often than not you will have a rod and reel that will work, but the terminal tackle may need a tweak. Head into a tackle store that has staff that fish every bit as hard or harder than you. They will hold a few key ideas and a couple of tips that will set you well on your way.
Make sure you have some good warm weather gear and be prepared for every season. You don’t want to miss a hot bite just because of a little rain. You know that it may only last a little while and could come out brilliant again. Having the right gear will allow you to find fish, catch fish and stay on the water for longer.Reads: 1219