I don’t think we can really start talking about what May will bring for fishing in Tasmania without first talking about what has been happening in the Tasmanian game fishing scene recently.
Tasmania has just gone off, particularly the lower east coast. Bicheno has seen some battles with over-size yellowfin tuna with sad results. Talking to one angler with years of experience he had a tale of woe. His experience should be a lesson to us all so lets walk through it.
It was a day like any other off the 80m mark just off the top side of the Gulch, looking very fishy. The skipper decided to put in a small spread and troll out to the shelf. He had on a couple of tried and true albacore lures that had never let him down. This one particular lure he mentioned he had owned for over 15 years. They had only been trolling for 10 minutes when the reel screamed off in earnest and within an instant they knew there was a big fish heading home with lure in mouth. They battled this fish for an hour before sighting it at the back of the boat. That’s when things got exciting!
The fish was big and on sighting the boat and the two wide eyed anglers with their bottom jaws nearly on the deck, took off on another blindingly fast run and went deep. The angler and skipper worked for another 2 hours finally getting the fish up for another close look and conformation of species. Big yellowfin! The fish was a good’un and was not finished yet. It turned and pulled and whirled around and… Pop! Something let go.
That lure that had been catching albacore effortlessly for 15 years or more had been let go at the crimp on a fish of a lifetime. Not only did the angler lose a yellowfin as long as his boat was wide, but also a favourite lure
The start of each season, mid-way through the season or just before a big trip are prime times to run the eye over all your terminal tackle. Kids love helping check the gear. Explain to them first what is going on, why you are doing it and the importance of not letting the line hit the ground. Head to a grassy area of a footy oval near you. Have the kids hook the wind-on swivel to the back of their pants and tell then to take off like a fish! Run the line between the thumb and forefinger as it pays out. Check for any issue like chaffing or a nick in the line. Do the same as you wind it back in onto the spool. You should be confident that the line is in very good condition. Any doubt what so ever and it is time to re-spool with fresh line. General use and travelling are all instances when a little chafe or nick can reduce the line breaking resistance dramatically.
The broadbill fishing is mad… seriously mad! This promises to continue right up to the solstice. All you Pagans out there and sun worshipers will know that the solstice is an astronomical event that occurs twice each year as the sun reaches its highest or lowest excursion relative to the celestial equator on the celestial sphere. In short the solstices, together with the equinoxes, are connected with the seasons. In many cultures the solstices mark either the beginning or the midpoint of winter and summer. Broadbill love a good moon phase and will be active right up to June.
There were a number of swords caught over 180kg over 3 days. Leo Miller and his band of swordsman were in great form putting their designated angler onto a broady that not only tore everyone a new one in the Coles Bay Classic, but looks to have smashed the current record for line class to pieces. Read about that elsewhere in this edition!
The very best thing you can do as a game fisher in Tasmania for April and May is sort out your annual leave and holidays. March yourself to a tackle store, load up on some gear and head out and get involved. Get out on the water and get some lures or a bait in the water. The fishing is really firing all down the coast from Bicheno down.
Coles Bay as mentioned, was the venue for angler Kyle Longmore and skipper Leo Miller to snare a monster broadbill. I was lucky enough to be fishing just 2NM from that great capture and we were tagging sharks as that battle went on for 6 hours. It was a superb angling effort and one I was glad to witness. Leo Miller and his crew created world wide news with their capture.
Triabunna fished well recently with a broadbill hooked and lost and a number of mako sharks and good sized albacore being harvested. We move on down to ‘The Neck’ and surrounds and they have had a sensational opening to their season. Early on the albacore came on and with some good size fish in them. Just to keep everyone guessing an angler decided to shake it up and landed a short-billed spearfish. The area picked up a gear after that and started to produce really big albacore while those making the trip to Pedra and Mewstone were catching some impressive southern bluefin tuna.
Archie Cashion managed to feed a big southern bluefin tuna a lure and find himself a very nice trophy fish. The fish pulled the scales down and read 112kg making it a true jumbo! The talk and whispers were about when these fish might find their way to Eaglehawk Neck. They didn’t have to wait long to find out, as the following week there were some very impressive captures of fish well over 100kg.
The fishing really fired up and with the boat traffic came more great reports of fish being caught in and around the Pirates Bay and Tasman Island areas. One boat managed to capture a 30kg+ albacore that would have ordinarily been a story in its own right. However this same vessel managed to also catch a broadbill swordfish and nice mako shark as well.
It is often good to hear of the good news stories, but for every fishing story that goes well there is always another that did not. One particular super keen angler was out having a great day on the water outside the Little and Big Hippo when it all happened at once…
On seeing some SBT breaking their backs out of the water and seeing they were big fish, he manoeuvred to head the fish off. It happened like clock work and once he quartered the fish and their lures went over them he heard a noise he had never heard before. His 15kg tuna outfit was literally screaming line out at a rate never experienced!
In and amongst the mayhem of clearing rods and getting settled the fish were busting up around them and so too where a heap of seals. The fish was obviously a barrel and the angler wanted to get this fish to the boat quickly. He pushed the lever past strike drag and up to sunset in an attempt to slow the fish and pull it through the seals quickly. On 15kg with a good fish on, nothing happens quickly and the inevitable happened. The speed of which the line was being pulled from the reel combined with the water pressure against the line was too much at strike drag and the line parted. This is a very, very frustrating moment when using lever drag reels. It just should not happen!
Pre set drag lever action reels like the offerings from Penn Reels are designed to be a fail safe system. You set them up for what line class you feel you would like to fish. The size of the reel is normally matched to the line breaking strain. It is not a hard and fast rule but as a guide a 30 size reel is for 15kg line, a 50 for 24kg and a 70 for 37kg and so on. The lever on the side of these reels applies a set amount of tension adjusted by the angler. These levers operate on an indent or stopper that does not allow them to move past a certain spot without depressing a button. This is from what is called free spool to ‘strike’.
In the strike position the drag tension is set to 1/3 line breaking point so for 15kg it would be set at 5kg and for 37kg line it would be set to 12.3kg. This is done, as at this stage if your knots and rigging are perfect you will always be connected to a fish and be tiring it out. Barring disaster like touching the line on another, the side of the boat or the reef, it will only now be up to who tires first – the fish or the angler.
When that fish of a lifetime comes along you will know. The reel will be 3 pitches higher than normal on the ratchet and the rod will have a serious bend in it. This is the time to be the Fonz… Be cool and relax. Push the drag lever up to strike (it would be down off strike for reasons we will discuss later) and get a good hook set.
Clear the other lines in the spread starting from the shortest to the boat first. This is for two reasons. The first being you will quickly make a hole in the spread to fight the fish into and gain some control. The second being it’s a much better idea than winding the longer set lures over the top of other lines and lures. The last thing you need is a tangle. Once you have the lines clear have a crew member get the harness on you and settle in.
If you are on the rod and yell out to a crew member to quick grab the harness and they say, “The what?” this is less than ideal. Getting a harness on someone on a rocking boat is not something you want to be doing for the first time with a jumbo on. Have a run through the night before with new crew and have a practice if things are a bit slow while out on the boat. The sooner you are comfortably in a harness with weight off your arms the sooner you are in control.
The first part of any battle with a big fish you are more often a passenger. Use this time to play the fight out in your mind. Get a sense of the fish position in the water, the drift and line angle.
If there are some seals about don’t panic. In the early part of the fight a fresh tunny will out distance a seal or two no worries at all, so use this to your advantage. If the drift and line angle allow, come away from any rocks or shallow ground and seals.
Line off the reel is no big deal. It just means time, which you should have plenty of. If you get a sense you are down to under a third of your line capacity, then angle over to a fish and run down the line to gain some back. The boat driver must be ready to react should the fish move quickly, but it should be in only one direction and that is away from the line. So while running down the line the skipper should be watching and have arm and hands positioned ready to turn and accelerate away from the line should the need arise.
Keep cool, calm and collected and that big fish will be beside the boat in no time. Keeping a constant bend in the rod and having the load on the fish will mean he will tire and be laying along side.
Decisions need to be made before this happens as this is the time a lot of fish are sealed. Have a plan and talk it through. Run through who is going to leader the fish, who will sink the gaff and where the second gaff is. Having 2-3 seals rock up and launch on an unmarked fish while looking for the gaff is about as uncool as socks with sandals!
Tasmania is having a fantastic period of bluewater fishing and it is time to plan a trip. The fish are here and they look to be here in reasonable numbers. This will build through April and right into May. Last season went on and on so don’t feel just because the football starts you have to put the boat away. There are some magic days in autumn and not taking advantage of them is a waste. The fish will be there so gear up and get after them.
It is hard not to get caught up with all the game fishing at the moment but autumn in Tasmania offers so very much more. There are a number of species sought after for their eating and fighting qualities. So if you are looking for a bit of sports fishing or just wanting to top the freezer, don’t discount May as a prime fishing time here in the southern state.
The big calamari will load up in the shallows and have come in as the inshore water temperature drops. These fish can be targeted from the shore or in a boat and are great fun and wicked eating. The fascination and fun in targeting squid is really picking up momentum here in Tasmania, and so it should.
We have some all time calamari fishing and they are great fun on the light gear. Kids love catching them as well. So if you are out in the boat and the kids are starting to break you, get a squid jig on the rod and the little devils will love it. Should they get a nice little one on, turn that puppy back around with a twin hook rig in it and try and find a snapper.
Snapper are on big time in the minds of fishers in Tasmania. May is when the Tamar is a great place to start and an even better place to start is Damon Sherriff’s Sports and Fish. If you want a heads up on technique and tackle go and see Damon at Georgetown.
Speaking of George, how good is Georges Bay down at St Helens in autumn? Garfish, salmon and silver trevally are all teeming in the bay and waiting for you to book a weekend and come play. If in St Helens, make sure you call by Jamie at St Helens Bait and Tackle. He has been the cornerstone for quality tackle and great advice for many years. He may even have a nice spot to try a bit of floundering.
Flounder are a species of fish that people forget and it’s their loss. They are superb eating and a lot of fun. You also learn a lot about your local fishery while walking slowly and silently in thigh deep water at night. Species that you never would have thought to target will appear in your light and if they are there of a night they are there during the day.
Change the way you do things and shape your rigs to the target species and you may well have a new feather in your cap. Technology allows flounder set ups to be lightweight and powerful in their light beam. Head into a tackle store and have a look at the options available. If you are looking for something to do with your kids over together, a night floundering will be the talk of playground for weeks to come.
The season for trout is not really a season anymore. The all year round waters mean you can have a fish whenever you have the time, but check the information on the inland fisheries web site. The lure fishers will find plenty of waters open to keep them keen.
Keeping warm towards the mid to latter half of May is the biggest concern. A quality jacket is a must. The fly fisher people will have their season wind down with the dry fly opportunities.
May can see a late flourish of jassids, but the weather has to be mild with no severe cold. Jassids are often mistaken for a beetle type insect when in fact they are a leafhopper. They don’t have a hatch as such, but when conditions are right they can be blown onto the surface of the water.
Those looking to try casting a spinner can find some sensational results along the shore of the Great Lake. Look at the weather pattern for the last few days and if the wind has been pushing onto a particular shore start there. Shores that also have something of interest like a log or bigger rocks here and there. Some undulation is also a better option when looking for a place to start. Work the deeper water and the shallow ground constantly.
The worst thing you can do is fall foul of rumour and other peoples laziness as a fishers. Those people that say you are wasting your time and wait for ‘next season’ will miss out terribly. Tasmania has a shifting set of parameters that are leading to longer angling windows and a whole heap of new ones. Don’t listen – get out and fish hard!
See you out there .Reads: 3594