Shore fishing - St Helens
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.
Georges Bay has a good variety of shore fishing options from sandy flats to rocky shores as well as the many small jetty's around the bay and these offer a great place to start especially where the kids or family are concerned. To ensure a successful outing on a wharf or jetty the use of berley is paramount, this will attract fish from a wide area to your fishing position and keep them there for your session. A small berley pot with a couple of handfuls of berley pellets and a capful or two of tuna oil is all that is needed and dropped down a foot or two under the surface. Try not to introduce large amounts of berley to the water column at once as this will only serve to feed the fish and they will soon move on, the effect you are looking for is a constant, steady stream of particles floating down to the bottom--a little bit often is better than a lot at once.
Once the berley has attracted schools of fish to your area then a standard paternoster rig, small bomb sinker on the bottom with two hooks above, dropped to the bottom is by far the best all-purpose rig to use. Place a piece of bait on each hook such as prawn flesh, whitebait, pippies or freshly collected nippers and the action should come thick and fast. Fish such as silver trevally, leatherjacket, mullet and bream will all respond well to this method as will Australian salmon to a lesser extent.
As many of the fish feed on the small bait fish that frequent Georges Bay, at times the water around the jetty's can be black with bait fish, the use of small baitfish imitation lures such as 10-15 gm Halco Twistys, 18 gm Sluk lures, 10-15gm Raiders and Snipers as well as soft plastics like Berkley 3" Bass Minnows and Squidgy Flick baits can be very effective. Just a simple cast and retrieve with an erratic motion will be all that's needed for any small salmon or tailor to jump on it.
Some areas to concentrate on are the main wharf area towards the main township, the small T-Bar shaped jetty in Beauty Bay just along the waterfront, Kirwans jetty along the shoreline a little further from Beauty Bay (both of these can be seen from the road driving into St Helens) and the Treloggens Track jetty out along the road to St Helens Point on the dirt road just past the Sea Scout Hall. All of these jetties produce good fish on a regular basis and are a great spot to take the family.
If a crowded jetty or wharf is not your thing then there is plenty of good wadable shoreline to concentrate on. Starting in the township a quick wander along the foreshore and around the main wharf along the rocks can produce good bream and trevally as well as mackerel and salmon. I find that a lightweight soft plastic rod and reel outfit is an ideal way to target these species and flicking small bait fish imitations up along the pylons and along the rock walls will produce fish as well as unweighted baits being let drift about naturally. As you move over the bridge on your way out of the town there is a small oyster encrusted rock wall that you can climb down to at low tide, this gives casting access to the pylons under the bridge and the rock wall itself can quite often hold good numbers of fish.
From this point almost all the way around the waterfront is a walking/bike track and from here you can access quite a lot of good fishable shoreline with a good mixture of rocky bottom, sandy shore and muddy flats. Here the same soft plastic outfits and lures will work well or a simple running sinker rig of a small ball sinker down to a #1 or 1/0 octopus or long shank style hook, baits such as those mentioned above will be ideal for these areas as well.
When looking for a likely spot to target with the baits I prefer the shorelines that have some shallow mud or sand flats close by that have plenty of small crab and nipper holes in them as this is where the fish will feed as the tide rises over them. Target the drop offs on the edges of these flats when the tide is low and fish up on the shallows as the tide rises over them. When the tide is low or receding good flathead will sit in the deeper water facing up ready to snatch any food item washing down off the flats and they will rarely refuse a well presented bait. If you keep a small bait container on your belt with a handful of pippies, crabs and live nippers in it and cast these out onto the flats as the tide comes in with a very light weight no bream or trevally worth its salt will refuse it. One of my favourite areas in the bay to do this is the Stockyard Flats near Akaroa. It is easily accessible by car, has a good little parking area and is easy to wade, just being careful to keep your eye on the tide when it rushes in over the mudflats. Fish such as bream, trevally, flathead, leatherjacket, garfish, mullet, tailor and squid can all be caught in this area using any of the means mentioned above, most of the bait you need is right at your feet and can be collected at low tide.
This is a great place to fish - especially on the corner, where there is good deep water into the main channel. Further access to deeper water is also available further towards the mouth at the breakwall. Spinning and bait fishing can be quite productive for salmon here.
As you will be spending most of your time on your feet good footwear is a must, the many wharfs and jetty's around Georges Bay can have nails, bits of sharp wood, metal spikes and all sorts of nasty things to damage your feet on them so be prepared and don't go barefoot. If the jetties are not your desirable hangout then a good set of gumboots or waders will be needed to wade the shallow shorelines. I use a pair of neoprene thigh boots for the cooler months but when summer is here just a pair of shorts and an old pair of sneakers does the trick, just remember to keep a towel in the car.
A good wide brimmed hat or cap to keep the sun off your face, a long sleeved shirt to keep your upper body and arms protected from the sun, plenty of sunscreen and most important of all a good pair of polaroid sunglasses. These not only give you an advantage of being able to see in the water better but protect your eyes from harmful UV glare from the waters surface as well. Brands such as "Uglyfish" offer good value for money, stylish models and "Spotters" if you are after top of the range models.
A good quality 6'6" or 7" spinning rod or nibble tip is perfect for most situations both off the jetty's and around the shorelines, rods such as Shimano Spectrum, Taipan Extreme and Backbone Elite are all good models made just for the task matched to a small spinning reel in the 2500 to 4000 size such as Shimano Slade, Sienna or Symetre are all perfect for the job and will give good service for a variety of techniques. For soft plastics the same reels matched to Shimano Catana, Starlo Stix and T-Curve rods will be great weapons for targeting bream and trevally particularly and make even the smaller salmon great sport.
A small tackle box in a waist bag or small back pack with a handful of small size 1 and 2 ball and bean sinkers, #1, #2 and 1/0 size hooks in both octopus and long shank varieties, a couple of small silver lures in 10-20 gram range and a few different soft plastic minnow patterns matched to appropriate jigheads is all the wandering angler needs.
This is the sort of fishing you can do with a spare hour or two up your sleeve and with many of the locations only minutes drive around St Helens you can be on the water hooked up to your first fish in no time. The gear needed is minimal, the cost involved is minimal but the fun factor is at its maximum-.good value angling all round. The next time you are in St Helens drop in to see me, Jamie, at St Helens Bait and Tackle and I will be happy to point you to productive areas and help you with the tackle you need.