Cremorne Channel and Fredrick Henry Bay kayak fishing
Craig Vertigan reports on one of his favourite locations.
The weather is warming up and now is the ideal time to start targeting that most delicious of table fish the flathead. I met up with a group of like-minded kayak fishermen during early September in the hope of getting onto some early season flathead. Flathead and Salmon are usually a sure bet anytime from October through to April, with the hotter months providing the best action.
We all know each other through the online discussion forum Australian Kayak Fishing Forum (www.akff.com.au). There are a growing number of Tasmanian members now, and we have been having regular get togethers now to fish as a group of kayakers. It's great to compare kayaks and equipment set-up, discuss techniques, recent captures and of course - go fishing.
I've fished this area from the beach of the channel before, trying to catch some of the reported salmon that frequent the channel. But I'd never had any luck from the shore. The only other times I've fished this area is fishing for flathead and salmon from the rocks further down the coast, such as the Northern end of Clifton Beach and Goat's Head Bluff. The rocks at Clifton Beach have produced some particularly good sessions catching large flathead, on the few occasions it has actually been safe to get out to the best rocks. Fishing from the rocks can be a dangerous business. And from the beach it's often hard to cast out to the other side of the breakers to the best spots. So I've not fished off the rocks here since getting my kayak.
There had been talk of sweet tasting whiting and the best technique to catch them. And whether the flathead would be about yet. A few new faces joined the crew and we checked out each other's kayaks, comparing features. Like all good fishermen, we're all gear junkies and jump at the chance to see what others are using. Soon the call was made to hit the water.
We all headed out to fish the bay to try our luck. The conditions seemed perfect. Around 20 degrees, a beautiful sunny day and a slight bit of breeze running across the bay. We drifted far and wide, yet after an hour or so we'd only managed a handful of flathead and a lone whiting amongst us. The call was made that "yes we must have been too early for the flathead'. We headed back in, a bit jaded and dejected, until I heard that Scott had scored a salmon. Then Dan hooked up. Not long after James had one on. I cast in the general vicinity and pretty soon I had one too.
Then they seemed to disappear for a while. We all circled around and tried different techniques and different lures. And eventually we nutted out a pattern. The fish were hanging down low and you needed to get your lure right down in front of their noses. Most times when I've come across a school of salmon they will respond eagerly to a quickly moving lure. But this time they would only respond to a very subtle, slowly twitched lure. I found that a Squidgy 3gm jig head on a size 1 hook got me to the right depth. This provided just enough weight to get the lure down to the right depth and still provide the ability to give it some subtle lifelike movement, while drifting in the strong current of the channel. The successful soft plastics used were 3inch Berkley Power Minnows in pearl watermelon, bloodworm coloured Squidgy Wrigglers and black gold Squidgy Fish. These plastics all had very natural colours and when given small twitches they are very realistic representations of injured or scared small fish and prawns.
This trip was a real eye opener for me, after trying to catch salmon from the shore at Cremorne with no luck in the past. Now I'd nutted out a pattern and was easily able to locate them and have a fish on every cast. There were about half a dozen people fishing from the shore and none of them were catching any fish. There was no surface activity, which is the usual give away of actively feeding salmon. So my theory is that these fish had been into the lagoon feeding already and were now coming out with the tide. They were no longer in a switched on feeding mode, so would only travel small distances to attack prey. So if your lure wasn't right in the strike zone you had no chance. The people on the beach just couldn't get their lures far enough to get to the tightly packed stream of salmon which were hanging deep and close to the Eastern bank.
I ended up taking 6 good sized fish home for the table. The kids loved the meal of home made potato wedges and fried fish in bread crumbs. If you bleed the salmon straight away they make good table fish when eaten fresh. But since they don't freeze that well, I released the twenty or so other fish. They truly are a fine sporting fish on light gear. And the bigger specimens are capable of towing you around for a while.
In the end all the guys got onto some salmon and even a trevally was landed. And the trip really highlighted the need to try different techniques sometimes to crack the pattern of what will work on the day.