Georges Bay salmon on the chew
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.
Since commercial and recreation netting have been banned from Georges Bay the salmon have come back with a vengeance and as each year goes by large schools of extraordinary big fish are showing up.
Fish reaching sizes of up to 6lb are easily caught using a variety of methods; by far the most fun is salt water fly fishing however lures, bait and soft plastics all have their place. Australian Salmon will respond well to a number of different baits such as blue bait, whitebait, squid, pipis, sandworms and prawns but "matching the hatch" is always your best option and if the fish are chasing bait schools then the smaller fish bait is the best option.
During spring time small pilchards, anchovies and the Tasmanian whitebait move into the bay and this is what the salmon predominantly feed on. While the salmon are focussed on the bait schools it is prime time to target the fish with artificial means such as lure, soft plastics and saltwater fly. The first trick is to locate the schools of fish, this can be done by looking for working birds which will be picking up the fish scraps left by salmon marauding the bait schools, but failing working birds while the water is glassy calm it is generally not too hard to spot the tell tale boils and rings of fish working the waters surface. If the water is choppy and no birds are working then a quick troll around prospecting for fish is a good method to employ, once the fish are located move up current or up wind shut off the outboard and set up a drift onto the area the school is holding. Drifting and casting lures, or drift spinning, is one of the most effective ways of catching Salmon and certainly saves of fuel costs.
This technique will keep the school up on top and quite often you end up right in the middle of a school of feeding fish all around you. The boat itself can also act as a large F.A.D. (fish attracting device) as it casts a large shadow in the water and the baitfish quite often try and find refuge underneath keeping the school of salmon all around your boat.
Lures such as Halco Slices and Twisty's, Raiders, Snipers and Norstream Sluk lures in the 15-30 gram sizes work wonders especially when cast and retrieved at high speed, even skipping the lure across the surface can attract savage strikes from hungry Salmon and makes for exciting visual fishing. Bibbed lures such as Rapala Husky Jerks, Bushy's Stiffy's and Reidy's Lures Little Lucifer are all good lures to try a little prospecting when the fish are further down in the water column.
Soft plastic lures such as Squidgy Fish in True Blue, Black & Gold and Silver Fox, Squidgy Flick baits in Evil Minnow, Slick Green and Dark & Stormy, Berkley 3" Bass minnows in just about any colour and Snapback 4" Minnow and Finesse Jerk Bait are all deadly on salmon.
Salmon tend to roam the bay following the bait but likely spots to start are the main channel leading out to the barway and the Moulting Bay area.
If targeting salmon on fly tackle a good #6/7 weight fly rod with plenty of backing should subdue all but the largest specimens with leader tippets around 6-10lb. Having both an intermediate line as well as a sinking line is recommended as the fish will either be up on the waters surface feeding or as the sun raises high above the horizon the fish will move deeper down in the water column to escape the bright conditions. Flies such as Lefty Deceivers, Surf Candy's, Epoxy minnows and Clousers will all work well however one of my favourite patterns is the Muzz Wilson Fuzzle Bugger in both standard and bead head versions. A very fast stripping retrieve or let the fly sink then a fast jerky retrieve back to the boat with intermittent pauses will result in savage strikes from the salmon. Clasping the fly rod in between your knees or under your arm and double handed stripping at high speed will result in savage takes, sometimes this technique is needed to fire the fish up and get them in the mood. Whilst not considered much of a table fish by most, if dispatched immediately after capture, bled, filleted and placed on ice will offer quite a tasty meal on the BBQ.
For any more tips and techniques on how to catch Australian salmon in Georges Bay just call and see me at St Helens Bait & Tackle and I will point you in the right direction.