Presented from Issue 94

Little Swanport is about one hour from Hobart and a little less than half way between Triabunna and Swansea. It is probably my number one saltwater kayak fishing spot. The reasons for that include:

  • • Proximity to Hobart,
  • • Excellent range of fish species – bream, salmon, trevally, flathead, whiting and more,
  • • Limited boat traffic,
  • • Varied array of structures to fish – shallow weedy mudflats, rocky shores, deep channels, sand flats and oyster racks,
  • • Smallness of the system – allowing you to peddle/paddle to different shores with different structure quite easily and cover a substantial amount of the water,
  • • Bream can be caught right from the boat ramp all the way up to the river,
  • • Protected waterway. There are two places you can launch a kayak at Little Swanport. Either at the public boat ramp at the mouth of the estuary or into the river above the bridge at the small camping area there. It is a bit tricky launching here, but if there are a couple of you and you use a rope then it is quite manageable. A launch at the river is good for an early morning session after camping. But the short distance further to the boat ramp is rewarded with easier launching and just as much chance of getting into some good fish soon after launching. Either way we have found bream and salmon from top to bottom of the estuary.

One thing that becomes quickly apparent when kayaking in Little Swanport is that the tide rips very hard in the main channels. This can cause problems when fishing from a traditional paddle kayak. A Hobie Mirage Drive kayak easily negates this factor though. You can peddle to keep station in the main current and toss lures quite effectively. In the main channels I usually fish a soft plastic such as a gulp fry or sandworm on a jig from 1/16th to 1/6th ounce to get it down towards the bottom. Most of the trevally I’ve caught from there came from fishing this style in the fast flowing water. Anywhere that tide rips hard seems to be the best feeding grounds for trevally, you just need to make sure you can get your offering down to them without too much weight so that you can still impart realistic movement into the lure.

One of the other great places to concentrate your efforts is along the edge of these channels. Just a short paddle down from the boat ramp there is a small island that has the main channel going to one side of it and a slower running channel around the back to the north. On this northern side of the island it has some rocky edges with patches of mud and sand. This is also another awesome spot to work a soft plastic down deep and slow.

Also vibes, blades and deep diving hard bodies all work along these edges. The current isn’t so intense here so you can relax and really fish the area thoroughly. On one mid winter trip I managed 15 plus bream from the back of that little island, with a few trevally and salmon thrown in for good measure.

There are still plenty of options for fishing away from the strong tidal influence. Beyond this small island there is a large island in the middle of estuary. From here all the way to the river mouth there is a mixture of shallow weedy flats and rocky shores that are a bit deeper. Both areas hold good fish but my preference has to be for the adrenalin pumping action of sight fishing the flats.

This is especially exciting when you fish surface lures such as poppers and walk the dog style lures. When the conditions are right at Little Swanport the bream will come from a long distance away in shallow water of about half a metre to track down your offering. They send out big bow waves as they chase it down. The tricky bit that we have learnt the hard way is that these fish are not silly like the salmon and will often suck the lure down half a dozen times before they eventually decide to suck it all the way into their mouths. If a fish takes it straight away you can usually call it for a salmon, although the odd hungry bream will take it on the first go.

This surface fishing technique is intense! For you will see many more fish attacking your lure than you will actually hook up. It’s real heart in your mouth stuff as you see a bow wave and then slurps and sucks at the lure watching it get pulled under, sometimes even hearing a big smack as they suck the water down. But you have to tell yourself to wait for the feeling of weight at the end of your line. Even then you’ll miss a few when you feel a solid weight and strike only to lose the fish in a second. But when it does happen it is pure magic as you’ve been watching, waiting and willing the fish to take and then finally bang it takes it and runs full bore out towards deeper water making the drag on your reel scream. That’s the kind of thing that keeps me wanting to go fishing. It can be a toss up as to whether to fish these flats from a boat or from a kayak. Both have their advantages. In the boat you can see better and you can cover ground faster. But then of course the bream can see you better too. We’ve had plenty of examples of that, when you go to pump out a long cast only to spook off half a dozen fish close to the boat. In the kayaks we don’t have that problem and can sneak right up close to them.

If they aren’t in the mood for a surface bite then shallow running hard bodies in the weedy shallows are the way to go. Lures such as a Daiwa Presso, Ecogear MW72F or MX48F and Atomic Hardz Shads all work well. You need to pick a lure that will dive to just above the weed and slow roll it or use an occasional pause in your retrieve where you dive it down and then suspend it above the weed for a few seconds. The bream in these weedy spots are suckers for a well worked hard body lure. The only major drama is that you will pick up a lot of weed on your lures and this can be quite frustrating as you feel like you’re picking up weed on just about every cast. But persevere with it, because there’s still plenty of retrieve time before the lure gets weeded up and that’s all you need to get onto some quality bream.

Mixed in with these weedy shallows are some old oyster leases, some drowned timber and some rocky reefs. These are all fish holding structures that are well worth putting some extra casts around.

On some of the rocky and slightly deeper shores a mid depth diving hard body works well, as does a very slowly worked soft plastic. Some of these spots will drop down to a couple of metres depth quite quickly so you need to get your lure down to the strike zone. At any point you’re also likely to hear a few sploshes and surface feeding commotion from the scattered schools of salmon. I’ve caught them in all weight classes at Little Swanport too, from quarter pounders to six pounders. A big brute of a salmon on light tackle from a kayak in fast flowing current is an experience I can highly recommend.

The salmon generally aren’t as fussy as the bream. It’s usually just a matter of making sure your lure is in the zone. Though I did come across a school of big salmon near the little island once that would only take gulp fry or sandworms fished super slow drifted across the bottom. So the key to success is keep trying different lures and different depths and different retrieves until you get the pattern right.

Further on up the estuary there are some very tricky weedy shallows that lead into the river. The weed growth is quite thick and lush. Bream hide in those weeds and will come up and gobble a slow wobbling hard body lure worked across the top of the weeds.

Finally this article would not be complete without mentioning the large array of oyster racks at the bottom end of the estuary, just a short paddle from the boat ramp. For many people this would have to be the stand out feature of the whole waterway. There is a network of deep channels funnelling the main current past the racks. Once again a deep soft plastic or a vibe will get bream and trevally out of these channels. In between the racks the water is shallower and here a very lightly weighted soft plastic or a shallow running hard body are my go to lures.

Also a surface popper does well around the racks. Make sure you fish this area on the high tide, otherwise your lures will not have enough room above the weeds and the fish have probably gone off the chew and moved back to the deeper channels and holes. You will actually notice a lot of bream moving about between the racks across the sandy shell grit covered channels in the super clear water during summer.

With all that Little Swanport has to offer it can be seen as a real smorgasbord. It’s easily navigated from a kayak or a small boat. Fish the racks and the flats on the high tide then fish the channels, deep holes and rocky shores during the low tide. You can stay on the water all day long and still find the fish feeding somewhere at anytime through the tide cycle. There are not many other places in Tassie with this much on offer where you can quickly paddle about from spot to spot on a kayak fishing the different structures. This is why I rate Little Swanport as one of the best kayak fishing venues in the state.

Craig Vertigan

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