Fishing variety at St Helens

by Rocky Carosi

The township at St Helen's is nestled at the back of George Bay, a sheltered waterway situated a quarter of the way down Tasmania's East Coast. St Helen's is quickly becoming recognized locally and on the mainland as the saltwater sport fishing capital of Tasmania, providing a large range of estuarine and offshore species all year round.

Relatively mild weather is experienced even over winter due to protection from the prevailing westerly winds. Five boat ramps service the area, three into George Bay, the other two giving direct ocean access via Binalong Bay and Burns Bay, eliminating the need to cross the St Helens Barway. A description of what fishing is available and when is outlined below:

Game Fishing

Several factors combine which make St Helens a world class game fishing area: - Good water depth (100 metres) only three miles from shore. -Oxygen rich warm water from north combining with nutrient-rich cold water from the South creating up-wellings and current lines.  - Inshore reef systems such as Merricks, Pulfers, Middle ground and Eddystone rising from 60 metres to within 6 metres of the surface providing huge baitfish holding areas. - Low fishing pressure and close proximity (only 13 miles) from St Helens Point to the Continental Shelf. Species available: Albacore Tuna, Yellowfin, Tuna, Bluefin Tuna, Striped Marlin, Striped Tuna, Mako and Blue Shark. Best time: January to June.

Estuary and bay fishing

Rivers and lagoons to the north and south of St Helens provide good Bream fishing, however Georges Bay at St Helens is quite large and offers a diverse range of species. A combination of the deep channel water running quickly at half tide, exposed sand flats at low tide split by deep gutters, extensive sea-grass beds, make it an ideal area for fish such as Garfish, Bream and Flathead. Schools of small Salmon are probably the most common species targeted. Not so often, targeted probably due to the greater difficulty in catching them are: Small snapper, Luderick, Bastard Trumpeter and Silver Trevally. Georges Bay lends itself ideally to those wishing to use a fly rod on the Salmon, Garfish and Bream. Best Time: Large sea Garfish - March - July. Small Garfish - all year round. Salmon are thickest January - June. Most other species are resident all year.

Offshore reef fishing

The most scattered reef systems within close proximity of St Helens Point provide good quality, quantity and variety of fish. The fishing of Georges Bay and its associated nutrients and baitfish into the ocean enhances the quality of the fishing. The large Flathead at St Helens are not in the Bay, but offshore in 30-90 metres of water, often accompanied by large Arrow squid. Latchet, Gurnard and occasional Gummy sharks.

For bottom fishing, the one main advantage St Helens has is the large amount of broken reef on land bottom within a five mile radius of Burns Bay ramp. These reefs are home to most of the species targeted, however the light bottom can only be detected with the use of a good quality echo sounder. Species available: Striped Trumpeter, Silver Morwong, Tiger Flathead, Cod, Coral Perch, Pike, Squid, Latchet. Best time: all year round. Striped Trumpeter and Silver Morwong are present in greater size and number from May to December.

Deep Sea fishing

Deep Sea fishing takes place over the edge of the Continental Shelf only in conditions that are favourable and in craft that are suitably equipped to travel well offshore. This is quite a different style of fishing the calibre of which is quite sensational. Most of the best eating fish in the sea come from these great depths. With sizes up to 30 kg, these fish are an amazing sight coming up from the depths. Species available: Blue-eye Trevalla, Hapuka, Gemfish, Blue Grenadier, Pink Ling, Rays and Bream. Best Time: All year, but best November to June.

Rock and beach fishing

Beaches and rocks from St Helens Point and up to 15 kilometres north, provide the most popular area for this type of fishing. Australian Salmon to 3 kg would be the most common species targeted. Areas such as Taylors and Swimcart Beach drop away steeply into deep water and often form sand banks 20 metres or so from the beach.

The gutters formed either side provide good hunting grounds for the Mullet, Salmon and Flathead. Rock fishing these shorelines will uncover a real variety of fish including: Leather Jacket, Jack Mackerel, Pike, Parrot Fish, Luderick and Bastard Trumpeter. Land based game fishing has been tried by a few keen anglers, with Grants Point and St Helens Point two areas worth considering. Species available: Salmon, Mullet, Flathead, Bream, Gummy, Shark, Skate plus above mentioned rock species. Best Time: September to May.

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