Winter woollies smell fishy
  |  First Published: June 2008

The cooler weather has definitely set in and the typical winter species have arrived with gusto. Bream, flathead, cod, school jew, snapper, squid and schools of tailor can be found destroying bait schools around the smaller bay islands and the mouth of the river.

Small hard body lures like Ecogear SX40, SX48, CK40 or surface walking lures like PX45Fs or similar style lures are all catching good numbers of fish in theses areas. Due to the gin clear water, fish can be extremely spooky around the shallows so extra long casts and good boat positioning is the key to continually catch at this time of year.

Tuna species including longtails and macks can be found thrashing through schools of bait around the mouth of the river, bay islands and further into the paddock.

The larger longtail variety has been in smallish schools for this time of the year but can be targeted successfully with chrome slugs, surface poppers or soft plastic style presentations. Patients and stealth are required to target theses speedsters of the bay because tuna can be very testing at times; moving to the surface for mere seconds before vanishing into the deep before reappearing hundreds of metres away on the surface thrashing into another bait school.

Threadfin Releasing

As I said last month, I want to reveal a few tips that I’ve learnt over the past few years on how to release these huge fish.

Over the years I’ve filled my freezer many times because I couldn’t get a big 1m+ breeder to successfully swim away. One thing I will make clear from the start is that I don’t begrudge any angler for taking a feed of these fish. I feel the more of every species that gets successfully released, the healthier the future stocks will be, but if you’re legally entitled to keep one or two, then good on you. Just make sure the fish does not go to waste as there is a lot of fillet on a big fish.

Tip – Try to use barra style rods, reels, line and leader. Theses fish are not leader shy and the longer you fight a threadfin on light lines and leaders the less likely it will swim away. (20lb minimum main line and 40lb minimum leader).

Tip – Fish that are caught in shallow water (less than 20 feet) are very easy to release and often display aerial antics much like their northern brothers and sisters. Fish that are caught in deep water are often hard to release and like to slug it out close to the bottom.

Tip – Try not to remove the fish from the water. A threadfin will lie on its side after a solid battle and can easily be handled with a solid ‘thumb grip’ or a set of ‘Boga’ style grips to the jaw. They have no teeth, much like a barra, yet still have a raspy bone-like mouth. Remove the hooks once you have a firm grip and I mean firm grip as theses fish can be very large and occasionally play up popping hooks in fingers in an instant (just ask Steve Booth how easily Owner hooks penetrate when you’re removing a lure from a threadfin’s mouth!).

Tip – Once the hooks are removed submerge the head into the water immediately facing into the current to start the water moving through its gill. We generally drive on one of the motors to increase the boat speed and overall water flow through the fish’s mouth. Some fish will want to swim away once the hooks are removed and the best sign of this is them biting on your hand and generally trying to break free from your grip. If this happens I will grab them by the tail wrist and spear them head first towards the bottom.

Tip – If tip 4 fails and the fish swims back towards the surface then I will employ a ‘dropper’ style bomb to the thready’s mouth and get the fish closer towards the bottom. I have been playing around with a home made contraption which is made from a house brick and tent pegs that definitely gets the fish towards the bottom and most times I can feel them fighting against the bomb to get free. Often is only about 10 feet under the boat when they will pull free of the bomb but it’s the only method I’ve found that gets the fish down deep enough to stabilise them enough to swim away. The one thing with this method of release is I don’t know the survival rates of fish being released; they seem to swim away with a fighting chance which is better than ending up in my freezer. Sorry for no photo’s of this release method as all fish I’ve released this way has been on my own at night.

Tip – Most fish that I have seen removed from the water for the customary photo have not swum away. Some do but most don’t. Take the photo with the fish still in the water. Try to support the threadfin’s neck and gill soft tissue area by supporting the thready’s bodies weight when removing it from the water and lay them across your lap rather than holding them by the mouth in the upright position which stretches the vitals.

I hope theses few tips will aid in the release of theses huge breeding fish and future breeding stocks will benefit from successful releases.

Until next month.

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