A Great Tamar Season

I must admit I love fishing - and I love the Tamar River - but this past season has especially amazed me!  It has been a season with a difference!  Warmer water temperatures, up to 22 degrees in some areas, is one major difference and the other factor has been the appearance in large numbers of two exciting fish species which are not commonly caught in the Tamar. 

Tailor: Although Tailor are caught occasionally in the river, this season has seen a massive influx of small to medium size Tailor to the estuary system.  The largest I have heard reported was caught by Tamar Fishing identity, Steve Suitor, and weighed in at 2 kg.  A nice fish, but the average size seems to be around 250 to 500 grams.  These fish are in large numbers in some areas - I have heard of some anglers catching up to 20 at a time.  This tally could only be dreamed of in past seasons.  They seem to be here to stay for the winter as the water in the Tamar is around 11.5 degrees at present and does not get much cooler than this in the winter months.  The Tailor are still hanging in, in reasonable numbers.

Snot Gall:  The fish that have really erupted are Blue Warehou (Snotty Trevally or Snot Gall).  These fish in past seasons were occasionally caught in good numbers but the fish tended to be juveniles with the majority undersized or just size.  They are an oval shaped fish with a dark grey to brownish black with silver sides and underbelly, a forked tail and large eyes.  Despite what its name suggests, the Snotty Trevally is not a true Trevally but rather, has a strong resemblance to the Blue Eye Trevalla caught off the Tasmanian East Coast.

This season Snotty Trevally have made a massive increase in population in the Tamar Estuary.  No one seems to know exactly why.  Some theories are, the increased water temperature, perhaps they have lost their way, or my theory...a huge increase in small jelly fish, Warehou's favourite food, has lured them into the Tamar.  The jelly fish boom was due to the increased water temperature.  The Snotties were full of small jelly fish tentacles in March when the water was at its warmest, as the temperature dropped, the jellies disappeared but some Snotties remained.

My first good report of a big Snottie catch was made by my friend, Steve Robinson.  He managed to catch a fine haul of 8 Snotties up to 1.5 lb off the Deviot Pontoon; this was in March, from then on, the fishing just got better and bigger.  My first successful trip was in April when I managed to catch 20 Snotties.  I released quite a few smaller fish but the heaviest weight was 2 lb.  Later that day, I received a phone call from another mate, Ryan DeGrath.  Ryan is a dedicated Tamar angler.  He told me he had a successful day  on Snotties too.  He said he had landed 10 fish, weighing between 2 and 4 lb.  I congratulated Ryan on his unbelievable catch and wished I had stuck at it a bit longer.  The next week, I had a trip with Ryan.  His spot had gone a bit quiet from the previous trip but we still managed to catch about 5 fish.  Ryan landed the biggest which weighed 3 lb.

The next successful trip I had was with Andrew Hart and Nick Duggan from Southern Cross Television.  Andrew asked me to help them catch a few Snotties for their fishing show, Hook Line and Sinker.  I was put under pressure as he only gave me three days notice to produce the goods!  I will not reveal the outcome of the trip because the program probably will not have gone to air by the time this article has released.  Watch Hook Line & Sinker for the results!

I had two more good sessions on Snot Gall, the first was with my son, Benjamin, when we landed around 25 Snot Gall.  Benjamin landed the two biggest at 3 and 3.5 lb.  We released around 15 fish which were around the pound mark.  The second trip was the most successful of all, I headed out about 9.00 am, there were a fair few boat trailers at the ramp already.  I headed to my regular fishing spot.  On arrival, I found there were already two other boats where I normally fish.  One was my mate, Steve.  I pulled up beside him and asked him if he was doing any good.  He said, "There are a few around but they are only small."  I am not one for crowds so I told him I was going to give another spot a go.  I pulled up in a place where I have not caught Snotties before, but to me it looked a likely spot.  I threw some burley over the side, chook pellets and tuna oil, and baited up my rod with small chicken pieces.  I dropped it to the bottom, then wound 3 or 4 winds off the bottom, where Snotties normally hang in the water column.  A minute or so passed, and my quiver tip rod got a very suspicious bite; I lifted the rod and hooked my first Snottie for the day.  The fish had a big first run, straightened out my small size 8 hook - and got off.  For the next 10 minutes, I lost 3 other fish in the same way which were real thumpers, maybe around the 5 - 6 lb mark.  The first fish I actually landed weighed 4 lbs.  I was on a real high; after this, the tidal flow increased and it went quiet for about an hour.  After a bit of a wait, I got another "sus" bite, I lifted the rod ....and during the next couple of hours I landed another 38 Trevally weighing between 2 and 3.5 lb!  I released around 20 fish. My friend, Steve,  pulled up on the way back to the ramp to see how I was going.  After a minute or so, he saw the unbelievably hot bite which was occurring and decided to give it a bit longer, dropping the anchor about  25 metres away from me.  The first rod he sent down was instantly smashed.  Steve and his fishing partner, Morris, also ended up with an impressive brace of fish.  What an awesome day!  At the end of the day, both Steve and I restrained ourselves with only killing 20 fish each, which is the bag limit at Stanley Wharf area but not in the Tamar.  I think this bag limit should be made legal statewide, 20 2-4 lb Snotties is ample for any angler.

Now for some advice on tackle.  Your rod should be 7 to 9 feet in length, the quiver tip style of rod being ideal for this type of fishing, the light sensor tip picks up the finicky pecks Snotties are renowned for.  

Your reel should be able to hold around 200 metres of 3 - 4 kg line and must have a smooth drag system.  Shimano, Mitchell and Tica all make some excellent small threadline reels suited to the task at hand.

Snottie rigs vary a lot; some people swear by running sinker rigs but I think the padenoster rig is more productive for this type of fishing especially the Sabiki rig style.  Surecatch Sabikis are my favourite, by far.  I have caught Snotties on the bare fly with no bait.  The running sinker rig is more suited to fish that feed on the bottom, such as whiting, bream, snapper etc.

Bait is also a controversial talking point. Chicken, squid, prawns and rabbit seem to work best.  I think it is the light colour more than how it smells. They seem to like white or light coloured baits the best.  Burley is also very important, a good slick is crucial for success with Snotties.  Chook and tuna oil is as good as anything.  A burley bomb will help get it to the bottom in tidal areas.

The tide is important too.  These fish tend to bite best 2 hours either side of a tide change and slow down between the tides.

To me, Snot Gall have a lot going for them; they are a hard fighting fish and taste great as well.  Smoked, fried or grilled, it doesn't matter which way you cook them, they are top table fare and I would rate them in my top five favourite fish.

They have been wide spread throughout the Estuary and I have heard of them caught in the upper reaches near Rosevears but the major catches seem to have been concentrated from Kelso Bay to Spring Bay.

The Tamar certainly produced some nice surprises this season.  I only hope in future seasons, this reoccurs.

If you are planning a trip down the Tamar in the near future, there have been a few Snotties in York Cove  and in the lagoon at Garden Island, also there are nice Garfish schooling in York Cove over the sea grass beds on the northern shore.  Bread for bait and a small fly hook should do the job, burley is essential.  Some good salmon are also being caught in Long Reach and Kelso Bay, they are up to 1 kg in weight and can be caught on bait, lure and fly.  If they are not on the top, try a blue line paravane to get your lure in the strike zone.  The best lures to try are Raiders, Gillies, Halcos and Shark Tackle Slices.  Deceiver pattern flies work well too.  There have been some nice yellow-eyed mullet caught as well in the Supply River Mouth, a small Sabiki rig under a pencil float is deadly on mullet.

Remember, if you have a serious haul on Snotties, let's all stick to a benchmark of 20 fish per person per day.  Believe me, it is plenty.

Tight lines,

Damon Sherriff
CH Smith Marine
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