117 winter break fillet garfishPresented from Issue 117, August 2015

Where to go and what to do?

Just how lucky are we to live in a naturally beautiful and safe place like Tasmania?

It is school holiday time and I am lucky that I have been able to schedule a full week off my work to take the kids on an adventure somewhere. So where should we go? Just a relatively short drive in any direction can take you to some terrific places. Should we go back to Wynyard where we caught bucketfuls of magnificent squid at this time last year. But then again, maybe we should take the camper with the dingy on the roof back to Bruny Island where we had such fun catching tuck loads of Salmon the last time we were there? Then again there is always Strahan and that magnificent wild ocean beach to explore !

My daughter suggested we sneak around the east coast and maybe we could work out a win/win deal where all our needs could be met. My son is mad about fishing a nd my daughter is mad about surfing. Let’s go to St Helens I said.


Rather than lug loads of camping gear about ( I was thinking of the work packing and cleaning when I got back home as well as the very cold weather we were experiencing) I thought it wise to book a 2 bedroom cabin at the Hillcrest Caravan Park in St Helens. Hillcrest has a shop attached and that provided our day to day vittles. The cabin was toasty warm with two heaters and an electric blanket on the double bed that the oldest in the family was entitled to. The days were bright and clear with hardly a breath of wind. The boating and fishing was delightful in these conditions but the clear nights came with a cruel coldness and I was pleased to not be camping.

Unfortunately life in small business cannot be a total holiday very often so my life was made easier with the WiFi system I could access at Hillcrest.

The boat washing machine made sure the boat kept tidy at the end of each day.

I would not hesitate to recommend Hillcrest as a place to stay in St Helens.


I’m on holidays and the sole carer of the 2 kids so it was nice to eat locally and keep me out of more work in the cabin kitchen. The kids really appreciated the break from dishes duty too!

We ate locally and the fish and chips at the Blue Shed were great. The chips were so good the local seagulls look anorexic.

Breakfasts were had at the Laundromat Café and I don’t know how they can pile you plate with such copious amounts of bacon, eggs, toast, tomatoes and mushrooms for the meagre amount of money it costs.

Local knowledge and tackle

Before we fished we dropped in to visit Jamie Henderson at his tackle store in the main street. Things are pretty quiet in the town at the moment and while that suited us just perfectly I felt that Jamie was missing the busy summer trade. I asked lots of questions about where and how we might find success with the different species in the bay and as always Jamie did not disappoint. His local knowledge is outstanding and just a 10 minute chat while I spent some $$$$ on squid jigs, hooks, line and berley was invaluable.

I assure you that Jamie’s valuable advice in that brief time helped us catch plenty of fish when otherwise we would have struggled. It’s a no brainer – support your local tackle dealers. There is much more to it than saving a few cents on a packet of hooks when buying on the internet. Here’s a tip… next time you are in his shop ask him why the little tiny lumo sticks are so deadly when fishing for squid.

The fishing I knew I was in a good spot, and at the right time of the tide, when Michael Haley, the local fishing guide (Gone Fishing Charters) and my hero, pulled into the bay with his beautiful new boat and a couple of clients.

Michael stood up high on the bow with his polaroids on while he electric motored quietly about. I was sure he was looking for something.

Perhaps expecting fish of some sort to be there. Then we saw them first – A huge school of beautiful big Trevally swam past our boat.

Lachie was onto them like a flash with his soft plastic rod. Try as he did they proved very difficult to catch. After a half hour of very determined effort on his part he finally managed a hook up and a sensational fight with a fish that tore the hook in the last moments before the net. Bad luck Lachie !

117 winter break poles
A 15’ squid pole with no reel
and just a line attached
is a very effective garfish tool.

The poles

Later we angled for the humble Garfish. And I mean angled. We used our newly minted poles. These telescopic poles were about 15 feet long and they had a similar length orange flyline tied to the end. A simple 4 foot leader of 5lb maxima and a long shank hook completed the deadly rig.

We found out several years ago from some friendly anglers on the water that a small strip of chicken skin makes for the best bait. I remember the day I found out about the chicken skin. The boat beside us was catching maybe 6 to our 1 and I could not help but to ask. They told us about their secret bait.

When the kids and I bought the single chicken wing from the IGA the lady serving asked us if we were going Garfishing. I guess the secret is well and truly out now.

Garfish were in numbers but were very shy. The berley trail worked well and I have no doubt it was helped enormously by the use of the Berkley Stimulate we bought from Jamie Henderson. I have used it for several seasons now and I truly believe it is special. Another advantage of this berley is that there were no fish spooking birds working our trail where there were many on other boats nearby.

We had a ball catching both Mullet and Garfish on the free drifting baits. We would only gently lift into a hook set if we could see the floating fly line draw away as the fish gently took.

It sounds cocky but I think this time we were catching 6 to 1 compared to the surrounding boats. It was a combination of berley and more importantly a better fishing technique.

The poles were great fun as well as effective. And they provided a very different contrast to our normal rod and reel fishing styles. There is something really nice about the simplicity of fishing like this. It is ‘back to our roots’ fishing and that can only be good for us. More on them in the next issue.

Filleting Garfish

You really need a fish scaling bag so the fish are scale free when you start to fillet them. Do yourself a favour and buy one of these green nylon bags if you fish in the brine.

A simple bone handled kitchen knife is by far the best filleting knife I have used for small fish. Get one and sharpen it like a razor and you will thank me for that advice one day. Check out the YOUTUBE video of how to fillet garfish. Here is the link https://youtu.be/ZQAny0kXwsk

117 winter break fillet garfish 
 Filleting garfish is easy. Scan
the QR code and see how
117 winter break qr code


The beach to the south of beer barrel (I cannot remember its name) seemed to offer the best surf break at the time we were there. My daughter loved it. The big fat wetsuit kept her warm and she spent hours in the water on the new board she has designed. I watched the two kids surfing and messed about learning to drive the new camera. One of the local ‘dudes’ dropped by and did some amazing stuff on his board. He was an ex Queenslander and we talked about how lucky we are here in Tasmania to have so many places we can go and very few people to intrude on our nature based experiences.

How lucky are we.

We gorged ourselves on boneless fillets of sweet white fleshed Garfish when we got home. My kids love them coated in ‘Fog Dog’ Panko breadcrumbs mixed with a chilli, salt, pepper blend and shallow fried in a super hot wok. Try it sometime.

Peter Hayes

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