Presented from Issue 103, April 2013
Tasmania’s coastal waters are fast gaining a reputation of having some of the best variety and quality of fishing in the southern half of Australia. Every season for the last decade or so we seem to be experiencing new and unusual species migrating into our waters and revised management strategies are ensuring that fisheries are protected for future generations. There is one particular species though that has stood the test of time and has the potential to really put us on the map and that is Latris lineata or the striped trumpeter.
Quite often classed by Tasmanians as “one of the best eating fish in the sea”, the striped trumpeter, or sometimes known as the Tasmanian trumpeter, are mainly caught off the coast of Tasmania, but can be caught in South Australia and Victoria and are also found in New Zealand and South American waters. They are reported to grow up to 1.2m in length and about 25kg in weight and live for up to 30 years.Read more ...
As the summer months come to an end many fisherman see it as a time to pack the rods and fishing gear away and hibernate for a few months until the springtime brings some fresh action, but on the east coast this is far from the truth. The months of April, May and even in to June can bring some of the best Estuary fishing the East Coast has to offer and in particular Georges Bay St Helens. The warmer summer months can quite often mean periods of high winds and rough waters on the east coast making it difficult to have consistent days on the water however as we move into April we find the windy weather gives way to more mild conditions. Days can start off quite chilly with frosts quite common but as the day wears on this can mean beautiful clear blue skies, warm air temperatures, glass calm conditions and magic times on the water.
The East Coast of Tasmania, in particular Georges Bay St Helens, is fast growing in popularity as a saltwater sports fishing haven, not only in Tasmanian circles but also with anglers right across the country. It has always been on the map as the "Game Fishing Capital" of Tasmania boasting some of the best Salt Water Game Fishing Tasmania has to offer and now with the inshore bays and coastline fishing better than it ever has it offers sports anglers a diversity of species and environment unmatched by anywhere else in the state.
As an angler one of the joys of living on the East Coast of Tasmania, in particular Georges Bay St Helens, is having a plethora of salt-water fish species to target. The variety of fish being caught in this pristine estuary during the summer months now is nothing short of outstanding. Every year Georges Bay finds itself home to large schools of what I would class as one of the most popular sports fish this country has to offer--The Australian salmon.
When the words "Sportsfishing" and "Giant Trevally" are spoken most think of far north Queensland and long boat journey's to offshore reefs, but here on the East Coast of Tasmania we have our very own version. Georges Bay is home to Pseudocaranx dentex, or the silver trevally as it's more commonly known, which is one of the most prolific species in our estuarine waters. They are caught as juveniles by children on just about every jetty around our coastline and are the very fish that most of us would have cut our teeth on as a keen youngster. They can be caught with a wide variety of methods from simple bait fishing to saltwater flyfishing but no matter what the technique or size of the fish they are one of the best sportfish Tasmanian waters have to offer.
As many of us fish on a tight budget these days, what with mortgages, living costs, family expenses, kids and cars etc, owning a boat is quite often low on the list of priorities. With this in mind being able to maximise your shore fishing opportunities and make the most of your feet is as important as the tackle you use to do it with.
What follows is a quick look at shore fishing options around Georges Bay, St Helens, and the tackle and techniques needed to take home a feed of fish.
As we move through spring, and summer looms ever closer, the days grow longer and the temperatures get warmer. We dust off our fishing gear, service our reels, respool with fresh mono or braid, check lures for rusty hooks - all the while reminiscing on seasons past, and wonder what adventures the new season holds for us. What species will we target this year, what new frontiers will we explore, what records will we strive for and more importantly how many days off do we have to get it all done in.
Mike Stevens spends his summer holidays at St Helens. He has noticed a great improvement in the fishing over the last summer - especially for salmon, tailor and bream. Mike gives a few tips on how you can find some of the big Australian salmon and tailor he has been catching.
Unexpected catches can be some of the most satisfying of all. Planned trips and planned catches are the "norm" and whilst they can be fantastic the surprise catches are somehow special.
Early January is beach time for our family, and this usually means St Helens. The trout are forgotten for a while and we turn to bait, lure and fly. It is really an eclectic mixture of fishing - mostly in Georges Bay.
Everyone was a winner at the www.tasfish.com St Helens Grand Slam held on 24 January at Georges Bay on Tasmania's east coast.
The rollup for a low profile and inaugural event was spectacular with 29 teams and about 70 anglers competing for no prizes. The only thing on offer was three trophies for the top three and an equally spectacular trophy for a "Room for improvement" award.
The big winner on the day was Canteen with a cheque going to them for $1600. Canteen supports young people living with cancer.
The other winners were Michael Haley's team from St Helens in first place, Jamie Henderson from St Helens second and Les Simms team from Devonport third.
Its Jaymie and Jake from Melbourne that came down to St Helens for 7 days. You took a quick snap of me with the bream with Michael Haley.
Thought we might just say thanks from my brother Jake, Dad and I.
Might also give you a quick insight to how good we thought the fishing was down there in Georges bay.
After just a couple of years as a (mainly) recreational fishery Georges Bay at St Helens is looking better than ever. I spent a week there over the March long weekend (2000) and the bay was a hive of activity. The jetty and foreshore in the centre of town played host to the increasingly popular St Helens Game Fishing Classic.
The township of St Helens is nestled at the back of Georges Bay, a sheltered track of water situated a quarter of the way down the East Coast of Tasmania. The area is now regularly visited by leading Australian fishing journalists such as Rick Huckstepp, who regard St Helens as the sport fishing mecca of Tasmania and a true world-class sport fishing destination.
The township at St Helen's is nestled at the back of George Bay, a sheltered waterway situated a quarter of the way down Tasmania's East Coast. St Helen's is quickly becoming recognized locally and on the mainland as the saltwater sport fishing capital of Tasmania, providing a large range of estuarine and offshore species all year round.
The word Bottom fishing is a vary general term which obviously covers the catching of fish in the bottom 20 metres or so of water, whether it be Tiger flathead on sandy bottom, Striped Trumpeter or reef bottom on Deep sea trevalla over the edge of the continental shelf. St Helens is quite a unique area for offshore bottom fishing the quality of which is enhanced by the flushing of nutrients and bait fish from St Georges Bay into the open sea.
Best time to fish; All year.
Getting there; Around two hours from Launceston, three hours+ from Hobart
Major angling species; Australian salmon, flathead, garfish, albacore, yellowfin tuna, striped marlin and mako shark.
Other attractions; The town has many craft shops, secluded beaches, a nearby National Park, swimming and surfing.
The township of St Helens is nestled on Georges Bay, a sheltered area of water situated a quarter of the way down Tasmania's East Coast. St Helens is recognised as the saltwater sportfishing capital of Tasmania and provides a large range of estuarine and offshore species all year round. Relatively mild weather is experienced even over winter due to protection from the prevailing westerly winds. Five boat ramps service the area, three in Georges Bay, the other two giving direct ocean access via Binalong Bay and Burns Bay, eliminating the need to cross the St Helens barway.
Best time: December-June.
Species available: Albacore tuna, yellowfin tuna, southern bluefin tuna, striped marlin, striped tuna, mako and blue shark.
Several factors combine to make St Helens a world-class game fishing area. These include; Good water depth (100 metres) only three miles from shore. Oxygen rich warm water from the north (eastern Auastralian current) combining with nutrient-rich cold water from the south creating upwellings and current lines. Inshore reef systems such as Merricks, Pulfers and Eddystone rise from 60 metres to within 6 metres of the surface and provide huge baitfish holding areas. Low fishing pressure and close proximity (only 13 miles) from St Helens Point to the Continental Shelf make St Helens a great gamefishing base.
From December gamefishing takes over from reef and bottom fishing. As the temperature starts to rise above 16 degrees Celsius the gamefishing action really begins. If it is mako sharks you want to chase though these are available all year.
Albacore are the first of the tunas to arrive around the end of December, but this really depends on the water temperature, which starts to rise around October from 14 degrees and peaks around 22 degrees usually in February - March. The 22 degree water can be running in a current line right next to cooler nutrient rich water and it is often here that the action excels.
School size southern bluefin tuna often feature in catches around December - January, whilst bigger bluefin and yellowfin peak in size from March until the end of April.
Yellowfin appear when temperatures rise above 17 degrees and striped marlin activity peaks when temperatures hit 19 degrees, which is often in February - March.
The importance of finding current lines, the best water temperatures, baitfish and consequently gamefish can not be overstated. Without doubt the best way to do this is with one of the several charter operators that are based in St Helens.
Estuary and bay fishing
Best time: Large sea garfish; March-July. Small garfish; all year round. Salmon; January-June. Most other species are resident all year.
Rivers and lagoons to the north and south of St Helens provide good bream fishing, however Georges Bay at the heart of St Helens is large and offers a diverse range of species. A combination of the deep channel water running quickly at half tide, exposed sand flats at low tide split by deep gutters and extensive sea-grass beds make it an ideal area for fish such as garfish, bream and flathead.
Schools of small salmon are probably the most common species targeted and fish such as silver trevally are often caught off any jetty around the bay. Other fish not often targeted, probably due to the greater difficulty in catching them are, small snapper, luderick and bastard trumpeter. The main wharf in the middle of town is one of the best places to catch a fish and it is rare to find it void of anglers.
Georges Bay lends itself ideally to those wishing to use a fly-rod on salmon, garfish and bream. A boat is needed though and berley is the best way to attract these fish and keep them in range.
There are also a few elephant fish that can be caught over the summer months. One of the best spots to try for these is around Akaroa.
Offshore reef fishing
Best time: All year round. Striped trumpeter and silver morwong are present in greater size and number from May-December.
Species available: Striped trumpeter, silver morwong, tiger flathead, cod, perch, pike, squid and latchet
The many scattered reef systems within close proximity of St Helens Point provide good quality, quantity and variety of fish. Georges Bay and its associated nutrients and baitfish enhances the quality of the fishing. The large flathead at St Helens are offshore in 30-90 metres of water, often accompanied by large arrow squid, latchet, gurnard and occasional gummy sharks.
For bottom fishing, the main advantage St Helens has is the large amount of broken reef within a five miles of Burns Bay ramp. These reefs are home to most of the species targeted.
Deep sea fishing
Best time: All year, but best November-June.
Species available: Trevalla, rays bream, hapuku, gemfish, blue grenadier, pink ling.
Deep sea fishing takes place over the edge of the Continental Shelf only when conditions are favourable and in craft that are suitably equipped to travel well offshore - such as large trailer boats and charter vessels. This is quite a different style of fishing - the calibre of which can be quite sensational. Many of the best eating fish in the sea come from these great depths. Trevalla and hapuku up to 20 kg come from these depths.
Rock and beach fishing
Best time: September-May.
Species available: Salmon, mullet, bream, flathead, gummy shark, skate and rock species.
Beaches and rocks from St Helens Point and up to 15 kilometres north are popular for this type of fishing. Australian salmon to 3 kg are the most common species. Areas such as Taylors and Swimcart Beach drop away steeply into deep water and often form sand banks 20 metres or so from the beach.
The gutters formed either side provide good hunting grounds for mullet, salmon and flathead. Rock fishing these shorelines will uncover a variety of fish including: leatherjacket, jack mackerel, pike, wrasse, luderick and bastard trumpeter. Swimcart Beach is considered as one of Tasmania's best surf fishing beaches and hosts the annual Surf Fishing Championships around April every year.
Land-based game fishing has been tried by a few keen anglers, with Grants Point and St Helens Point being two areas worth considering.
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