Kingfish in the Derwent
  |  First Published: January 2010

There have been quite a few murmurs around the fishing scene regarding the elusive local kingfish populations.

They are definitely about, but few anglers actively target these infrequently caught fish.

A couple of smaller rats were trolled up at Bellerive Bluff by anglers chasing Australian salmon just before the New Year. Two weeks later, another angler reported seeing several more, hot on the heels of some big black back salmon he was attached to in the Cremorne Channel area.

This fitted in well with more reports in the following few days of a good sized schools of kingies at nearby Betsy Island. These reports are almost identical to the showings of fish from last summer.

Another seasonal pelagic fish has created some renewed interest in the tuna scene, as albacore seemed to have also shown up in small numbers.


Calamari numbers have continued to build, providing good bags for most anglers that chase them. In mid-summer, the northern D’Entrecasteaux Channel area from Barnes Bay to Tinderbox is always good for calamari and arrow squid.

On the other side of the river mouth, fishing just inside the Opossum Bay and South Arm headlands is also well worth a try right now. Calamari can be fussy feeders during bright conditions but respond well to most jigs in low light conditions.

Using better quality Japanese jigs and light line will allow anglers to target squid at almost any time of the day. I find that a light lure bream style rig is just about spot on for finesse fishing for squid. Light braided mainline and virtually invisible fine fluorocarbon leaders make a huge difference when trying to tempt a strike.

All squid have fantastic vision and will inspect lures at length sometimes. Luckily for us, they are also inquisitive and aggressive.

Try to impart plenty of lift and fall when retrieving jigs as calamari often hit on the pause as your lure swims downward. Braided line helps the angler remain in contact with the jig as it falls. Slowly take up any loose line as this converts the touches to hook-ups when the squid pounce.

Early to mid morning and mid to late afternoon are great times to sneak about shallow sea grass areas. I find that 2-5m is the depth range that you seem to catch most squid.

Usually I rig a few different rods with varying weighted jigs and change rods as I slowly drift into deeper water. Casting in front of your drift will allow a much more natural lure movement.

It’s best to have a varied assortment of jigs on hand to suit differing depths and light conditions. Squid tend to school, so once you have located them either anchor or re-drift the area. Fish League Dartmax, Yo-Zuri Aurie Q and Daiwa Emeralda MD are all exceptional jigs and well worth the extra dollars.


February is a great month on the bream scene and the Derwent is not disappointing those that are getting out on the river. There are small fish about but they seem to be localised in their groupings.

Packs of bream seem to be replenishing the mid reaches once again. The whole bream cycle has been a good month behind this year but February should see the river primed to fire.

The bigger man made and natural structures have been attracting the bream throughout January with the major points and reefs offering good sport of late. The flats and their associated feeder channels, drop offs and boulder gardens are also reloaded with some solid blue noses right now.

Recently, I’ve had some good fishing amongst the weed banks and along depth changes with the trusty SX40 and more recent SX43. Small jerk baits like these models are always very useful for probing structure, angled banks and depth changes.

Craigbourne Atlantics

Craigbourne Dam has had another top up of Atlantic salmon over the holiday period but many anglers have struggled to land any at all.

Trolling has proved to be a hit and miss approach; where as wet fly and lure anglers have done a lot better working their offerings from the shore.

Wading or drifting the grassy flats early in the day is a great way to spot the cruising salmon. In my mind this is a much better way of locating the salmon. Once an active fish is spotted an aggressive response to a shallow minnow, soft plastic or fly is just about guaranteed. Staying connected might be another issue!

Stream fishing

The river trout fanatics have gone very quiet. This usually means they are too busy catching trout! Warm but breezy weather makes the upper stretches of our local streams a fine place to be.

The accompanying balmy weather often brings on a peak of insect activity and trout feeding. Everyone seems to have their favourite dry fly for this stage of the season but a buoyant Red Tag or caddis imitation will cover most situations.

The Maydena area on the Tyenna River and the upper Derwent River have both been very popular destinations for fly anglers of late.

Lastly, a recent capture of a 38cm snapper in the Elwick Bay area of the Derwent goes to show that you can never know what to expect on the river during mid summer.

Enjoy February as it’s one of the best times of year on the Derwent.

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