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Tuna time, with kings to follow
  |  First Published: April 2016



That bell you can hear tolling mournfully in the background is signalling the end of daylight saving in Tasmania. April is that time of the year when it’s dark straight after work. Later on towards the end of the month it doesn’t even have the decency to wait until you have left work before it’s dark.

But hey, but let’s be glass half full types and not drop the bottom lip just yet. There are several fishing activities that actually benefit from it being dark sooner, and which allow you to get into bed at a reasonable hour after cleaning your catch.

One positive for April is that it typically has settled weather. It is autumn and the evenings can still be warm and have very little wind. I for one love a bit of floundering, and have re-acquainted myself with the fly rod and reel.

This season has been fantastic and it looks like we’ll get more of the same in April. Tuna have been sensational this year, but April is when we all start to think bigger tuna and JUMBOs. The super keen anglers will also be looking to find a broadbill off the waters in and around the shelf in April. There have been some good fish caught recently and that looks set to continue.

Inshore the water temps won’t have cooled as quickly as the ambient air temps. April on land starts to see the breeze find some bite and it can be quite fresh. Water temps will be slower to drop back, and the inshore fishing will still be well worth a look.

This month we’ll hear from a number of local tackle stores about what they predict will happen in April, and where to focus your efforts. It is good to have their input as they have customers coming in giving real time reports on what is happening in the local waters.

TUNA, TUNA EVERYWHERE

We’ve been having a super year on the tuna. Bluefin and albacore have been in large numbers and have been accessible to a great many anglers. This does not look to change in April, the only difference is we expect the jumbos to turn up.

I have seen anglers who normally don’t fish for tuna have a great day out catching them, and this comes from confidence in finding them closer to shelter. The smaller boats have been able to get to school bluefin from the comfort of a lee shore, or poke the nose out from a protective headland close to the comfort of a known boat ramp. The high success rate and close proximity of the tuna schools has really made this possible.

Bicheno and Schouten Island have had big numbers of tuna in close. Maria Island and the surrounding areas have provided sheltered water and good fishing. Eagle Hawk Neck has really stared this season with marlin, massive albacore and bluefin. The yellowtail kings also featured for most of February and right into March. Don’t think April will have an iron curtain fall on this action. Troll small skirts looking for them and cover some ground. Keep your eyes peeled for a bust-up, and change to flashy slice lures or smaller stickbaits. Poppers can be effective as well when you have found fish and can get some action over the top of the school. The predators will have a crack at anything that looks like a wounded baitfish. Tide and water movement is your friend in all instances. The fish love water movement and it really rings the dinner bell for them. Don’t despair and don’t give up. It is a game of a thousand casts and a lot of ground covered.

Points and headlands are your best bet to start if you’re in an estuary, and if you see a big heap of weed floating offshore by all means have a cast in and around it. The yellowtail king fishing has been absolutely outstanding this year so get out and get involved.

Jumbo bluefin are a trophy fish here in Tasmania, and to many anglers they’re the fish of a lifetime. It is pleasing to see these fish being tagged as well as taken for a trophy and eaten. There is great expectation this month that the big fish will start to turn up, and fingers crossed they’ll be here in good numbers. Offshore fishing in April again promises to be a very good month.

North-NorthEast

The Tamar River gave up some very nice snapper in March, and April is still a great time to target these fish. There are a number of ways and areas to target big reds in the Tamar. Deeper water with a bit of water flow calls for some reasonable lead and large baits. Sneaking in and around the shallow mudflats on the incoming tide and fishing the flood and start of the ebb tides calls for some stealth and berley. The Tamar River mouth has been really fishing well, and those persisting into April may find the yellowtail kingfish are still there. The super squid run we had late in 2015 in the area was awesome and they will be starting to thicken up all through April.

Low Head and Bridport are the stars in April. Both areas have good fish species that frequent them, and really good access by land and by boat. The headlands and beaches provide great spots for the land-based angler to have a go in and around both towns.

Break wall fishing is a feature of both areas, along with some pretty strong tides at times. The water movement will mean you will need some good, strong fishing outfits and some solid sinkers to hold bottom. The tried and proven combination of a Penn Spinfisher and Ugly Stik rod is my value-for-money combo to do battle in these grounds.

Croppies Beach at Waterhouse is a good spot for beach fishers to try their arm. Species to come off there lately include flathead, salmon, gummies and occasionally smaller snapper.

Two good ramps at Bridport make ocean access a breeze. From here you can easily fish Waterhouse and Ninth islands. The locals have reported plenty of kings in and around these lumps of rock. The deeper water around Ninth Island has plenty of sandy bottom areas, which hold sensational numbers of flathead. Look on your sounder for some bottom that drops away, and start a drift to come up or down that. If your sounder is showing a gutter or a ridge make sure you get a solid drift in and around these.

Low Head is a wonderful area to spend some time. Not just for the fishing, but as a standout spot to take the family for the day or spend the weekend. April will see the summer crowds dwindle and you will have the area pretty much to yourself. If you have a boat, the Low Head ramp gives you easy access to all the great fishing at the mouth of the Tamar. The Kelso area and surrounding grounds will still give up some very nice whiting during April. Look for the broken weedy and sandy bottom and find bigger patches of sand. Set up a drift over these patches if the weather allows or set the anchor. Getting a light but constant berley trail going will give you greater success. The added bonus of this is that anything could turn up for a feed. Remember to always look after your fish flesh as soon as you catch it. Sand and King George whiting are superb eating, and looking after them will reward you with some great tucker. Dispatch the fish quickly and get on some ice for best results.

NorthWest

The days in April will be drawing in and the cold water approaching, but fishing on the coast is still very good. Flathead are drawn back into a bit deeper water as the coastal water cools and there is still some good flathead fishing to be had. Those anglers who love to flick plastics will be rewarded with some explosive takes in shallower water as water recedes back into the channels on an outgoing tide.

Whiting may slow a touch, but good catches in the far North West are still keeping anglers wanting more. Western Inlet near Stanley is a stand-out at this time of year. The central north will see numbers slow with the cooling water later in April. Don’t give up too early as a well-presented bait will still bring a feed undone. Light line, sinkers and hooks will be the best bet, and bait with some tail and action. Cut baits into thin strips and wind it on the hook, leaving a dangly bit. Berley will help the cause, whether you’re shore-based or fishing from a boat.

Gummy shark will still be plentiful off the coast. A good berley trail on the bottom will see good results of tasty flake coming aboard. The settled autumn conditions will aid in a slow drift. Fishing at anchor is becoming more and more popular so attach the berley pot just above your anchor and lower the whole lot down. Often a good by-catch when targeting gummy is much bigger flathead, the odd snapper and possibly a bigger school shark. For this reason a solid trace should be used along with stout and quality hooks.

Speaking of snapper, April is a good month to fish some shale bottom or off the side of some reefy structure. Once again, a good berley trail will see results.

The mako shark fishing along the coast this year looked good with the early warm water arriving. While not being a fabulous year, the shark fishers were hoping catches would be up from the last three years. It’s been a solid year without being special, and April is the last month to expect some reasonable results. The season is tapering off with the cold water approaching.

Australian salmon are still around in good numbers. The Port Sorell estuary is producing good size fish up to 5lb, and there are also some snapper up near Squeaking Point. Once again, a good berley trail will produce fish.

The beach anglers should continue to do well in April, and as it gets darker earlier, you can find the right tide without being up until 3am. The targets here are salmon and gummy shark along the coast’s sandy beaches. The Blythe River mouth has been producing good size fish, and the beaches down the northern end of Moreland’s beach past the airport at Devonport are also worth a look.

NORTHEAST

The northeast of the state is still producing good numbers of fish, with flathead and gummy shark being the staple catch.

A good run of kingfish around Flinders Island earlier in the year is starting to taper off now the East Australian Current is heading back up the coast. You can still find good fish but you have to be persistent, and do the miles to get the smiles.

April is a good time to chase flounder of a night. The wind backs off a bit before winter sets in, and the numbers seem to increase. Around Waterhouse and Tomahawk there are good beaches and flats to chase these tasty morsels.

I managed to have a good chat with Stuart Blackwell from Musselroe Charters about what April means for him and his operation. Stuart runs a purpose-built 7.5m custom Cape Cat with twin 225 Yamaha 4-strokes. The operation caters for scenic tours and all types of fishing charters. Stuart has lived in the area all his life and has considerable knowledge of the area along with the Clarke, Cape Barren and Passage islands.

This area offers spectacular diving in and around Cape Naturalist and Deep Creek, and the fishing in the far northeast is legendary. Big kingfish and stripy trumpeter are Stuart’s speciality, along with blue-eye trevalla and all the other deep sea delicacies. The bread-and-butter fishing is also of interest, with massive flathead and gummy sharks two of the many species clients can take home. If you would like more information check out the website at www.scenic fishingcharters.com.au.

EAST COAST

April is yellowfin time for St Helens to shine. It has failed to fire in the past few seasons, but the start to 2016 has looked good. Yellowfin tuna and marlin have been caught and it is looking good for a great April. The trick is to not get sucked out to the shelf and work the current lines in and around the 100m mark and shallower. Merricks and Middle Ground hold bait, as does St Helens Island and Pulfers Bank further to the south. Hit Merricks and head 45° to the 100m line and back into Middle Ground. Turn and head 45° back to the hundred and back into St Helens Island. Do the same off St Helens Island and back into Pulfers and you have covered some very good fish-holding grounds.

Other good spots down the coast are Schouten Passage and Bicheno. The warm currents that went past earlier in the year are pushed back up past and stall off the coast. You can get some good temp breaks off these areas in April. These currents can be filled with pelagic species looking to head back north. The 100m line all up the coast is a good spot to start as the temp change is often the greatest around this area.

Large albacore are being caught in good numbers and the action looks to continue through April. Albacore respond well to all types of fishing whether it be trolling lures or casting stickbaits. Cubes and jigs are another good option while chasing mako sharks on the east and south coasts. These fish are often attracted to the berley and are just under the boat out of sight. It often pays to have a bit of a jig in your trail from time to time. It relieves the boredom and might fill the freezer as well.

SOUTHERN TASMANIA

The good news for squid lovers is that they are starting to really thicken up. On some of the lighter designated squid outfits, they are great fun to target and catch. I have seen some anglers’ extensive squid jig collections and the way they pore over them… I sometimes wonder are they anglers or collectors? Why not, I say! There are some very nice looking squid jigs out in the marketplace at the moment.

So squid are back in force. Look for them in all their usual haunts. Sheltered bays with light reefy bottom will have you find the best of them. Whether you’re land-based or out in a boat, you can do very well in the right spots. Work the water column over from top to bottom. As your skills in working the bottom third without getting snagged improves, so will your catch rate.

Garfish are sneaking about, and berley and unweighted baits will bring them undone. Mix in some tuna oil and bread to really fire them up. You can also use a quill or pencil float and suspend some small squid strips or prawns.

Flounder are great to eat, and a night out spearing flounder is a great adventure. You will need a good light, and there are plenty of LED ones getting about. Ralphs Bay and south arm areas are always worth a look.

April is also a good time to find some southern snapper. Blackmans Bay and Norfolk Bay are good spots to start, but don’t get too hung up on a special spot. If you can find a drop-off or a spot in some depth where reef meets sand, start a trail. You never know what might be attracted to it. Big baits are the order of the day, and whole squid heads are the bomb!

Derwent has been spectacular for kingfish for most of the summer. Spot On the Fishing Connection in Harrington St, Hobart is the place to go for info. Owner Steve Bax runs a top show and the staff have their fingers well on the pulse and are very happy to help in any way. Rob and Isaac have been targeting the kings and know where they are at and what they are taking. Drop in or give them a call.

Bream fishing will be crazy in the Derwent throughout April. Bigger fish can usually be found in and around the rock bars. Use a good suspending hardbody with a slow roll and twitch. The best method is to pull and twitch it down to depth, pause for a long time and repeat.

The Fisherman’s Shed is a fantastic new tackle store in Kingston. You can find it on the way out of Hobart via the southern outlet. Owner-managers Thomas Crawford and Jarod Vander Laan have set up a very nice store in Merton vale Circuit. They have a great range and are fully stocked with great gear and a heap of local knowledge. Here is what they think will be happening down south this month.

Squid

Smaller calamari and slightly bigger arrow squid are still being found in good numbers by both shore-based anglers and those fishing from a boat. More natural colours have been popular in jigs, with the life like blues and greys being the stand-out colours among local anglers. Popular spots such as Blackmans Bay, Kingston Beach, Margate, Dennes Point, Bull Bay and the Iron Pot still continue to be the stand-out spots.

Flathead

Good numbers of flathead are still being caught in 20-30ft of water. Bull Bay, Iron Pot, Betsey Island and Kingston Beach have been popular. Anglers after a feed of tiger flathead should concentrate their efforts in the deeper water (60-200ft) off Marion Bay and Eaglehawk Neck. Squid has been the most popular bait, with lumo soft plastics also a very popular method.

Bream

Bream will continue to fish well across the state through April. Look for fish being caught in the various east coast lagoons and rivers. Locally, the Derwent River and of course Browns River are stand-out spots. Anyone looking to chase these fish with bait can also expect good success on the Derwent River around Old Beach, Otago Bay, Bowen Bridge and Cadburys.

Garfish and whiting

Sand whiting are being caught near beaches on the Derwent River with Sandy Bay, Blackmans Bay and Kingston Beach being the stand-out spots. Sabiki rigs with a bit of squid have been deadly. There have been rumours of some King George whiting being caught off Bruny lately as well.

Australian salmon

Salmon up to 60cm have been caught in North West Bay, and anglers casting lures from the rocks at Kingston Beach and Blackmans Bay have had some good results too. A silver slice around 30-40g or a minnow-style soft plastic is ideal for casting from the rocks. Long casts and quick retrieves are the best way to cover water when fishing for salmon.

Gummy shark

Gummies are on the move, and people can expect a feed of flake if they concentrate their efforts around Betsey Island and Bull Bay. The 30-40ft mark continues to be a popular depth, with small squid and whole sauries being stand-out baits. A berley trail and running sinker rig made up of 20-40lb leader attached to a 5/0 circle hook has proven to be a deadly combination.

Couta

Small couta continue to be caught all around Bruny Island, North West Bay and the Derwent River. Anglers targeting them will find silver sliced lures and soft plastics are always effective. There have been reports of a few larger fish being caught out deeper. For those of you who don’t like the taste of couta cooked traditionally, try hot smoking them.

Striped trumpeter

Tasman Island and the Friars have been the best areas for striped trumpeter. Some anglers have been reporting frequent catches of fish over 10kg. April will be a good month for targeting these fish in the settled conditions of autumn.

Tuna

Good numbers of albacore and bluefin are being caught by anglers trolling skirts and divers around Eaglehawk Neck, Dart Bank and Maria Island. The big yellowfin off St Helens are proving elusive, but persistence and covering the ocean with your lures will get results. Striped marlin off Schouten Island are still being reported and both of these prized species can be teased up with big skirted lures. Look for lures that put up a lot of push and smoke trail. Don’t be scared to run much bigger lures than you normally would. These lures create quite the surface disturbance and that is what you want to do to attract them. Zacatak lures are proven fish takers in our waters.

Kingfish

Kingfish are being caught in good numbers right across the state. For anyone hoping to hunt these fish in their local waters, a good starting point is to search for baitfish, structure and current. Down south, recent hotspots include Kingston Beach, Iron Pot, Betsey Island, Bull Bay, Dennes Point, Lewisham and North West Bay. Trolling small skirted lures around rocky points and other structure at 5 knots has been a popular method for finding these fish. For those casting lures, quickly retrieving larger soft plastics around 5-7” rigged on 1/2oz jigheads has been the go-to method. Looking for schools of baitfish on the sounder and fishing under schools of salmon can also be a great way to search for kingfish. If the fishing is slow, a berley trail can sometimes bring these fish up to the boat. If they aren’t interested in your lures (which can happen!) try rigging up a live squid.

Trout

It is heading towards the end of trout fishing season, but don’t panic – there is some very good fishing to be had. The end of March does see the mayfly hatches taper off along with the midges, but gum beetles and jassids may still provide some fun in early April. Look for the Great Lake, Arthurs Lake and Lake Echo for most of the action.

Stalking the edges looking for good-size trout in the shallow water is a fun pastime at this time of year. This is especially the case in waters holding good amount of galaxid.

The river fishing will still hold some joy for the flyfishers as well. April fishing is generally great on the rivers, with classic mayfly fishing. Good sight fishing is often experienced until the last day of each season.

The late March rain and still, quite warm conditions will mean the grass growth will be solid, and so too will be the grasshopper numbers. If you are thinking of trying flyfishing, April is the time. There’s generally little or no wind, and trout keen on a feed of hoppers are as easy a target as any. Clumsy casts make a nice plop down on the water, and hungry trout hear that as the dinner bell. They often self-hook as well as they roar out of cover, inhale the fly and take off back for cover. They fly doesn’t have to be anything too special; as long as it looks grasshopper-ish you are in the game.

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

So there you have it – a round-up of what you can expect from April. What this season has taught me so far is to expect the unexpected! The traditions and species timings of old are all pretty much out the window. The fish species that are frequenting our shores and waters are on the increase. Short-billed spearfish, marlin and yellowtail kings are all in greater numbers and are hanging around longer. It is a great time to be an angler in Tasmania and an even a better time to start fishing. You can be super serious and get totally involved in all the knots, rigs and lures under the sun, or just sit back, relax and take it easy. Get into your local tackle stores, support local business and generate some smiles and memories you will keep forever.

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