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It’s all about the weather
  |  First Published: June 2015



It’s June and it’s the start of winter, but don’t let it bring you down. It is something that will turn a few off as it gets colder here in Tassie, but it really shouldn’t. If you prepare well and have some quality outdoor apparel you can enjoy some magical days fishing.

Water or land-based in winter and there are some fantastic opportunities for the super keen hardy angler. Silver lining is you can also avoid any crowds as most will be on the couch watching TV.

If you believe the statistics on wind for Tasmania, June can have some of the calmest conditions of all months. That’s great news. If you are looking to do most forms of fishing, wind is the enemy so rug up and get out there. Keep in mind however that June is also one of our wettest months as well. Don’t die wondering, get off the couch and get out and find a new winter fishery right on your door step.

DRESS FOR SUCCESS

I have said it before. It is a heck of a lot easier to start warm and peel clothes off when you need. Once cold it is tough to get back to warm and cosy. June is thermals time. Leggings and long sleeve top are essentials. This is the foundation for a shirt with a long back to keep the kidneys warm and a set of warm pants. Your favourite jumper with a hood can be handy. Don’t forget gloves! Some people carry on about gloves, but gloves are a great addition to the winter fishing kit. If you are fishing with kids or your partner it is normally the fingers and toes that give the most grief. Find yourself some ones with fold back fingertips, they are fantastic. Keep the fingers warm and also be able to tie knots and do tricky stuff. What’s not to like!

A waterproof jacket is of huge advantage in Tasmania and I like a quality item that has sealed seams and tight neoprene cuffs. The idea of layering up to keep warm is to allow the layers to do the heavy lifting to get the job done. There is a place for waterproof jackets with a heap of warm inner linings but I find these very bulky and cumbersome. A light weight, thin, yet extremely water proof coat is the best option.

Wet feet are the best way to ruin a day’s fishing. Launching a boat or trying to save a favourite lure from the snags early is a recipe for a miserable day. Quality footwear with a sturdy sole with a high degree of waterproofing will make an enjoyable day a cracker. There is a lot to be said for thick warm socks as well.

With all the right gear you will be set up ready to go. So I think my point is clear: Dress warm and take clothes to dress even warmer. A change of clothes can also be a very, very good idea as well.

TROPHY SQUID

Yes, that’s right, there is such a thing. Tasmania can quite seriously boast about being big squid capital of Australia. This time of year you can come across some monsters.

The easiest species to target this time of year for sport and food are calamari. Great news is there can be some awesome fun to be had on light gear as the trophy squid move in. That’s right, trophy squid. Not just the ones you take a picture of and say on Facebook to boast about what you’re having for dinner, but the sort of squid that has a Facebook post leading with something like “Have a look at this belter, it’s capital ‘M’ massive!”

The squid come in over the inshore grounds and can be targeted by the land-based angler and boat owner alike. If you don’t have a boat, find some ground that drops away into some deeper water pretty quickly. It’s perfect if it also covers some broken ground and possibly some weed, but don’t die in a ditch over that. There are some nice spots all down the east coast and in and around the south that fit the bill.

Those in a boat have the luxury of finding a few more options. This time of year you can start searching in any depth. In my local haunt you can start in 4m of water and watch them come out of their hidey holes and attack the jig. If they are not in close we just keep trying at every 5m of depth increase. Once you locate them you can do one of two things.

Mark on your sounder where you have picked a few up and set up to drift through them. If they slow down a bit then motor back up and set up to drift back down through the ground you had success. This is my preferred method as even if you are meticulous with your drift you still will be working over slightly different patches of an area you have located fish.

The other option is to drop anchor and fish the zone you have identified in a 360 degree area. I love this method when I have the kids aboard. You can drop a light anchor and start to deal with the mayhem. There will be a race between the kids on two fronts. Who can catch the first squid and who can get the biggest tangle trying to get their jig out first…

Winter squid sessions are sensational fun and a great way to spend some time with a couple of mates or the kids. A hot thermos of whatever you fancy and a radio to listen to the game if you must … happy days!

AUSTRALIAN SALMON and BENEFITS OF SHOPPING LOCAL

These great little sportfish slow up as it gets cooler, but the still conditions in June can still have large schools of Australian salmon terrorising baitfish off the coast. These fish are also found in most river mouths and estuaries around Tasmania.

If you choose to target them in June or any other time of the year, some knowledge and tips are always extremely useful and quite valuable. If you are spending good money on tackle and equipment you may as well spend it where you will receive expert advice and follow up service from people that love, live and breathe fishing in Tasmania.

There are a number of fishing and tackle stores that I would call the technical stores. These are often privately owned retail outlets that have been around for a long time. They pride themselves on having a range of products that are well suited to all the fishing we do in Tasmania and have formed that range on the back of years of personal experience. One such store is Spot On – The fishing connection in Hobart and staff member Andrew Large. Spot On and the crew in there have been a fisher’s treasure trove of gear and knowledge forever. Tasmanian and mainland fisher folk alike would do themselves a huge disservice by not going in and saying hi when within 50km of the place. In Harrington St in the city of Hobart they have it all.

Andrew Large has a vast knowledge of not only fishing, but also hunting and shooting so going and seeing him in Spot On has many benefits. His experience and information will short track your quest in targeting any species. His knowledge of Australian Salmon is sensational.

Tasmania is fortunate to have two types of salmon roaming our coastline. The two closely-related species are the Eastern Australian salmon and the Western Australian salmon.

The Eastern Australian salmon is the more abundant of the two species and is commonly found in small to large schools right across the Eastern Australian seaboard. Younger fish, which are often called cocky or colonial salmon, are regularly found in coastal bays, estuaries and channels.

The Western Australian salmon, although abundant across Australia’s southern coastline, is rarely found in Tasmania. These species are nearly impossible to tell apart. The Western Australian variety has a maximum length of around 96cm and maximum weight of 9kg whereas the Eastern species has been recorded at 7kg and a maximum length of 89cm.

Either way, a good salmon from any of the two species is usually known as a black back (owing to its colour change to dark later in life) and will not only test an angler’s fishing tackle to the maximum, but the angler as well. These fish have earned themselves the reputation of being ferocious feeders, hard hitters, and incredibly strong fighters.

Finding Salmon

Australian salmon, especially juveniles, love to frequent coastal bays and estuaries, river, creek and lagoon mouths. Bigger fish will also patrol these areas looking for unsuspecting schools of baitfish but in much smaller numbers.

Younger fish prefer these areas because normally smaller pilchards, pretty fish and mullet are plentiful and the danger of being eaten by marauding toothy critters like squid, couta, tuna and thresher sharks is kept to a minimum. The open ocean and rocky exposed headlands are really the domain of larger salmon. Areas of reef, rocky outcrops, white water and ocean running retainer walls should be looked at as serious fishing options by those anglers wishing to hook bigger than average salmon.

Anglers should exercise extreme care when fishing these areas as rocks can be slippery and the ocean very dangerous. One of my favourite salmon spots is a sandy gutter that cuts in close to a rocky headland. The gutter which is well within the casting range of a 20 gram slice or slug lure and 8lb line chops up pretty rough in a sea breeze and can nearly always be relied upon to produce a fish or three.

Feeding signs

Flocks of darting, diving mutton birds, terns and seagulls are probably the best indicators of feeding Australian salmon. Like all schooling bait chasers, salmon round up, push and then trap schools of prey (pilchards, pretty fish and krill) against the surface and then take great delight in chopping them to pieces in a mad feeding frenzy.

Predatory birds also make the most of this chance to swoop and dive on the vulnerable hordes of bait swimming just centimetres beneath the surface. Fewer sights excite keen salmon anglers more than seeing a screaming squall of sea birds within casting distance of the shore or boat. The presence of feeding birds does not just indicate Australian salmon, more often than not in Tasmanian waters, couta, pike or a mix of all three could be responsible for the commotion. The only way an angler can really tell for sure is by sending a probing silver lure on its way, hopefully into the middle of it all.

Sometimes anglers faced with all of the above feeding signs, and only a few fish for all their perseverance, become disheartened. Do not be - as there is a reason for the mediocre results. Salmon, at times like this, are sometimes feeding on krill and are virtually impossible to catch on a lure. Keep on spinning as there is always the odd fish amongst the many that is prepared to strike.

Best feeding times

Like most open water species Australian salmon have light-sensitive eyes and therefore do not feed well under bright conditions. Salmon much prefer dim or dark conditions and as a result become much more efficient and bold at hunting baitfish.

As a rule of thumb, dawn and dusk produce the best bags. Light levels are low at these times and night-moving pretty fish and garfish are either on their way out to exposed waters for the night or returning to the safety of weed patches and shallow sandy flats at first light, in the morning, all the time leaving themselves prone to hit-and-run salmon attacks.

Windy, dark, overcast or rainy days are excellent for salmon fishing and salmon seize any opportunity to feed and strike at lures and baits. These conditions effectively allow anglers to fish and be confident of a good catch.

Tides

Tides are not terribly important when fishing for salmon from a boat in deep open water. Salmon that are schooling close to the surface are usually opportunistic feeders and will readily strike lures regardless of the tidal conditions.

However, many coastal lagoons rely heavily on changing tide conditions to fill and empty them. Generally speaking, salmon enter these lagoons through narrow channel-like mouth entrances on an incoming tide and remain inside lagoons or rivers while the tide remains high. This is the best time to target these fish.

On an outgoing tide these lagoons empty quite quickly and their narrow entrances usually become very turbid and fast running. Salmon quickly leave the deeper sand flats where baitfish are plentiful and return to the main channel. Some remain here while most leave the lagoons and retreat to the sea via the lagoon mouth.

Anglers fishing a dropping tide should fish the seaward side and pick fish up as they pass through. Also, salmon tend to congregate on the seaward side and slam baitfish that have been unfortunate enough to be washed out in the tidal rip. Generally speaking, fish for salmon as you would most fish species on an incoming tide rather than a dropping one.

Tackle

Any functioning 6-7ft spin rod and medium-sized threadline or baitcaster reel is more than ideal for trolling, spinning and bait fishing.

For the salmon-chasing surf fisher a good choice would be a standard 10-12ft medium action two-piece surf rod combined with a large spooled thread line or 6 in Alvey side cast reel.

Line choice is critically important and should have a breaking strain of around 6-8lb for light to medium-sized chrome spinning lures. For heavier lures try 10-12lb line and if targeting salmon in the surf look at 12-15lb as a minimum.

Remember, salmon are strong fighters and will test the endurance of all tackle being used. Do not let poor quality line be the weak link between you and your fish. Swivels, split rings and trace material should also be of a good quality to prevent breakages and seizures while fishing.

Although slightly more expensive, consider using roller-bearing swivels and good quality, coated stainless trace wire. If mono trace is your preference, particularly in the surf, try 20-40lb breaking strains. Quality hooks are essential. Treble sizes should be between no. 4-1/0. Surf fishers normally consider a no. 2 limerick-style as average but do sometimes use 1/0 and 2/0 sizes.

Lures

Salmon lures should be predominantly silver, roughly the same shape and size as the salmon prey and big on action.

My favourites are our locally-produced Shark Chrome 20g Slice, Twister and Hex lures in either blue or yellow prism tape. I have found that yellow prism tape increases the strike rate on bright sunny days when all other colours seem to be ignored.

Solvkroken Minnows seem to work well and come in a variety of colours and cast weights. Best catchers seem to be the purple, blue and green minnows.

Silver Wonder Wobblers, in 10-20g sizes, are another safe bet and help elicit ferocious strikes with their gentle fluttering minnow action.

One of the best tips ever given to me was to use Cobra-style lures on bright days when the salmon are down deep. Silver Cobras have saved me on more than one occasion and seem to have a distinct advantage over other faster-style lures particularly when trolled.

Wigstons, Norton, Old Cobbers, Lofty’s, Johnson and King Cobra all have silver patterns in their ranges. When spinning in the surf choose large, heavy, chrome lures in the 30-50g range with plenty of action to grab the evil eye of passing salmon. Bigger lures work well in turbid conditions.

Flies

Choose any bright no. 2-1/0 silver clad Deceiver, Crazy Charlie, Teaser or Minnow-style fly. Popular colours include blue with silver, yellow with white, and black and silver.

Black Magic have just released in the last 12 months assorted jigging flies in typical saltwater colours and styles. These flies worked well last season and are sure to be a hit this year. Hook sizes range from no. 8-5/0.

Rod weights are as for trout with any 6-8wt being more than adequate for black back. Tapered leaders can be kept short, around 9ft, and should be within 6-10lb breaking strains. If wire is necessary try a Toothy Critter with its reinforced bite resistant section.

Bait

Salmon respond well to a pilchard-baited Paternoster rig cast into deep channels, canals and surf beach gutters. The key to successful salmon fishing is to continually change the bait and maintain its freshness. Also vary the offering. Do not use pilchards all day. Try blue-bait, glassies, squid and mackerel or mullet strips.

It is now common practice to see surf fishers targeting salmon with surf poppers. A popper, usually red and white or blue and white, is simply used instead of the first or second hook in a Paternoster rig. Salmon just love to whack these highly active jigs.

Remember, when fishing in the surf, choose fish-holding gutters that exhibit deep tidal flowing characteristics. A gutter such as this may be located close to the beach or further out. Either way, be observant when approaching the surf and do not fall into the trap of overcasting potential gutters just because they seem too close to the shore. Salmon will not ignore a good feed regardless of how close it is to the beach!

Berley

This is one sure-fire method to get salmon into your immediate vicinity and interested in your offering. Salmon are not fussy feeders and can usually be attracted by placing a mixture of tuna oil and fish pieces into the water or surf and allowing it to dissipate throughout the water column.

Crushed shells can be added from time to time, which constantly emit glittering arrays of light as they sink to the ocean floor. Salmon become even more excited as they assume the falling shells are passing schools of bait.

Berleying also works well for spin fishers working deep water and rocky headlands. Once salmon have been coaxed in from the deep the use of silver lures can normally be relied upon to seduce them into striking.

In summary

With the exception of the flathead, the Australian salmon would have to be the second most commonly caught fish species in Tasmanian waters. Thousands of local anglers every year, both young and old, take great pleasure in trying to find, hook and land these great sportfish during our late spring, summer and autumn months.

Salmon are not regarded highly as an eating fish and are considered by many as sportfish only. Whether or not you enjoy this great, but pressured, resource for food or pleasure is entirely up to you but try and help protect it by adhering to suggested bag limits and minimum size requirements.

OFFSHORE
Sword fever

The broadbill sword fishing has taken main stage and is genuinely pretty wild. This has dead set exploded onto the Tasmanian fishing scene this year. The catches last year had people thinking there might be a few around and we should set up to try and catch one. To date this year has been wow… just WOW!

Those who have taken the time to understand where to target them and on what gear have been richly rewarded. There have also been some remarkable catches while fishing electrics for bottom dwellers.

The news has excited those fishers from far and wide and we had some mainland crews come and try their luck. This is fantastic as the fishing grounds are half the distance you would have to travel to reach the shelf elsewhere in Australia.

There has not been a Broadbill caught under 100kg and the biggest so far has pulled the scales down to 354kg. This adds to the attraction of coming over and having a crack at the Gladiator of the Sea.

There are a few options to fish the area from interstate. You can either bring over your own boat or taking one of the charters available in the area. The trip on the passenger ferry with a boat in tow is a little restrictive for a short stay. There are a number of boat storage options and storing for the season and flying in and out. This allows you to take advantage of the world class southern bluefin fishery we have in Tasmania also enjoy when the broadbill when they are on the chew. There is another option that is a new concept and that is boatsurfers.com. Check their website out for more information - https://www.boatsurfers.com/

Broady by-catch

The targeting of broadbill has also exposed another new dimension to recreational fishing and that is broady by-catch. The term by-catch is a phrase from commercial fishing, which basically means a species of fish you are not targeting.

The controversial example of this is the small pelagic fishery and the 30m super trawler, the Geelong Star. It is looking to scoop up schools of small pelagic baitfish and its rather disturbing by-catch has been dolphins. Not all by-catch is bad as in a recreational sense, as you may be targeting snapper on rod and line and your by-catch could be a large flathead.

The guys really having a crack and targeting swords have discovered some really exciting by-catch of the good kind. In the short space that deep dropping for swords has been in play, there have been about a dozen large southern bluefin tuna caught at considerable depth. These events are exciting on a number of fronts. Firstly, catching more tha one species while you have a bait down is a fabulous problem to have. It may be a while before someone deep dropping for a sword actually says, “Damn! I am getting sick of catching these big Tuna on my sword bait”

Other cool by-catch while looking for a broadbill is mako shark and large blue eye trevalla – two very tasty items to catch and have land in the boat. It’s amazing that the makos I have seen caught were landed with just big mono trace. Very lucky indeed! It may pay for a short section of wire trace be added to your broadbill rig if you plan on maximising your mako by-catch.

Second exciting development is the catching of large tuna on a single bait dropped to 400m must now open our minds to cubing? Cubing has copped a bum rap in Tasmania for many years and there are a couple of half reasonable issues. Seals are a major headache when cubing and the fact that, we have never done any good so far.

I am suggesting that this has now become a new area to explore for keen offshore anglers. The runs are now on the board if there has been tuna caught regularly with one single bait down imagine how you may go with a good cubing session. My hot tip would be to cube some salmon or striped tuna. I nearly forgot my first hot tip… Don’t start a cube session anywhere near seals. This is the beauty of this new development as the broadbill grounds are out away from the seal hotspots. If you do encounter some it may only be one or two and not a huge issue.

Now back to the cubes. Make some serious cubes. I am talking 4cm squares for the first half hour and over a period of time bring them back to around 2cm. Just cut them up slowly and plop one or two over every now and then. If you have struck a nice day out on the shelf it just adds a new dimension to what we can do. In an hour of fishing, you have given yourself a fair chance and maximised the opportunity of coming across at least 5 species of super table fare.

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