Family fun on the Tamar

Dan Clifton
Now the weather is starting fine up there is ample opportunity to get out on the water and find some fish. If you just want to get out and have some fun on light line and maybe take home a fish or two then this article is for you.

Most of this will be based on fishing from a boat, but there are also a few locations that you can try from the bank, but they are not quite as predictable as fishing from a boat.
If you have some light line and want a challenge then you can't go past the masses of pike and blue throat wrasse in the Tamar River around George Town. They are great fun and plentiful. They come in various sizes from small wrasse to extra large pike (or snook) to lengths over 1 metre and they put up a good fight.
I have been taking friends and family out to these spots for a few years now and have never been disappointed with the results. With most people getting there fair share of hook ups and losing good fish from time to time, there is also the possibility of catching random, unforseen fish such as bream, tailor and kingfish when they are in the river.

Getting setup
Let's look at what is required to catch these fish. I tend use soft plastics because they work well and they are much easier to deal with than baits.
If you are out catching pike then you are best to use plastics with a long tail, mainly to prevent being bitten off all the time by the pike's sharp teeth. Using long plastics works because when the pike takes the lure they get just enough of the plastic in their mouth to get the hook. If you are using smaller plastics such as gulp fry or minnows these work very well but you tend to have a lot more lures bitten off. On the other hand, you tend to catch more of the other species such as trevally, mullet and salmon.
The jig head of choice is dependant on the tides and depth of the water you are in. I use 1/16th and 1/8th jig heads most of the time in a size 1/0 or 2/0. My preferred jig head is TT lures. I prefer them because you are often close to rocky bottom and the points can get blunt, with the high quality Gamakatsu hooks in these jig heads you can easily re-sharpen them with a small diamond file. But if you are just starting out, you can use whatever you like or already have.

My favourite locations for big pike and wrasse are just out of George Town between George Town and Low Head. There are a few nice little rock bars that jut out towards the beacons marking the channel. These areas are great for picking up pike and wrasse. When you are out there, if you have a sounder you will be able to locate them in about 3-5 metres of water. You will also find wrasse in water as shallow as your boat can go, but you will not pick up many pike there. What you need to be aiming for is the edge of the weed banks where it starts to become sand. This edge provides a great spot for pike to ambush their prey and they continually hunt up and down the same haunts, normally in schools from a few larger fish to large schools of hundreds. I have seen small schools of them when diving these similar edges up at Low Head.
Seeing them when diving has given me a great insight into how they are working these edges. Although they don't come very close, they patrol the area most of the year. In the warmer months, they tend to be more widespread and can be caught just about anywhere, but still they can be found in large numbers in selected locations.
My personal best was taken from the shore at Beauty Point and was just over 1.1 metre and weighed in at 4kg. It was caught on a Berkley Turtleback worm using my trout rod and 4lb leader. They are fun on light gear and you certainly don't need line heavy enough to bring in a stingray. In fact, I think if you haven't been lucky enough to pick them up from time to time it's probably due to the heavy line you're using.
I've never caught many when I was fishing with heavy line and baits in the Tamar but since taking the lighter tackle approach some 4 years ago I've lost count of how many large pike I have landed.
Referring to the maps in this article, I will now expand on the technique for each of the locations and what you might expect to catch there during your visit.

Map 1
If you take a look at Map 1 you can see quite clearly where I have marked some locations that are great for wrasse and pike. You will also see the gutter formations running north to south. It is these gutters with weed edges that hold good schools of pike, and when they are on the bite they will be easily caught using both slow and moderate retrieves.
When you are fishing these areas you will most definitely encounter some very large and powerful blue throat wrasse.  These fish will take you deep into the weed and structure if you give them any slack, so it is important to keep your line tight so you can feel the bite, strike and lift the fish high to get them out of the weeds. Once they get you in the weeds and have wrapped you up, it is hard to retrieve them but if you keep firm pressure on them for a minute or so you can generally pull them back out. This doesn't always work so be prepared to lose some tackle.
When you hook a pike they can generally be identified by long runs and are more likely to come closer to the surface than the wrasse. They don't tend to go for the weed and like to run along the gutters to get away. They are also known for rolling, or a death roll similar to what a crocodile does. They will often do this close to the boat and get the line in their mouth and bite you off, so once again it is important to keep adequate line pressure on them to keep this to a minimum.
Other species to look out for are tailor, bream, trevally, kingfish, blackback and cocky salmon. With the exception of the latter, the other species are quite rare but they are known in these waters.

Map 2
This is a map of York Cove. You will find two floating pontoons here. This is a great place to catch a variety of species from the shore, including trevally, salmon, pike, gurnard, garfish, flathead, just to name a few, but in this article I am going to concentrate once again on the pike as, in this area, they are a great sportfish to improve your skills of fighting large fish on light gear.
You will notice on the map that I have marked an edge along the side on the eastern pontoon. This edge has small ribbon weed and then a drop off into deeper water which provides an excellent environment for pike. I often find them here in good numbers in the warming and cooling months of the year, so now is a great time for some shore fishing in this area. The pontoons provide excellent fishing opportunities most of the year, but for pike they can be a bit hit and miss in the cooler months.
Once again I use the same technique here, a 1/8th jig head, and the reason for this is because often there can be small schools of mullet and salmon hanging on top of the edge, and the pike will be just below them hunting the drop off, and the second reason is so that it drops the face of the drop off without drifting too far out into deeper water before making the bottom as it does when using 1/16th jig heads.
Here I prefer to use Berkley Gulp 6" Camo Sandworms as my favourite, or Watermelon Fry. As I mentioned before with the fry, they tend to be a bit more risky as they are quite short and you will get more bitten off. In saying that, I find when they are a bit quiet I can entice them more easily with a Fry than I can a Sandworm. It is just a case of experimentation to see what suits you the best for your style of fishing.  Don't be scared to try different colours either, some days I have done well on really bright colours such as Nuclear Chicken.

Map 3
If you have been reading this magazine, local paper or listening to the radio fishing reports, you would most likely have heard of Pipe Clay Bay mentioned when the snotty trevally are in season. Well, don't be fooled into thinking that Pipe Clay Bay is only good for snotty trevally. I would have to say it is one of the most reliable spots on the river to catch a fish that has mass. On average, I have caught some of the largest pike there.  I have also had large 2 kg salmon and squid with tubes in excess of 50 cm.  
This is one of my first stops on the river when taking the family out for a day to have some fun. There is a sand spit with a double sides drop off the bay marked on the map.  This drop off in my concentration area, I will sit off to the side just within casting distance to the opposing side of the spit, and I will continue to work it all over as best I can. One important thing I would like to add about Pipe Clay is that it is a good spot to put the anchor out and just sit down to have some lunch and do a bit of berlying. I would have to say that this place fishes best after about 30 minutes to an hour of berley trail to bring the fish in, you will then end up with a mix of fish in the area including mullet, salmon, trevally, pike, tailor, and squid.
The squid will often follow your soft plastics, and quite often take a grab at them too. If you get a squid on your plastic, it will usually feel like a long soft pull on your rod, and if you stop it will most likely happen again. If this has happened to you in the Tamar, then keep your plastic moving quite quick until you can just see it from the boat, then have a spare rod ready with a squid jig on it (they are about $4 for a cheap one at any tackle store).
When you can see your plastic, just throw the squid jig out past it and then quickly remove the plastic from the water. In a few seconds you will be bringing in some nice fresh southern calamari. Make a great starter for your evening meal!.

Ok fisho's, well I hope that with this article I have once again inspired you to get out there and try something different. If you are a keen fisherman, these species are as much fun to catch as any fish in the ocean. They are great on light gear and can teach you a lot about playing a fish out.  So, when the big day comes and you hook something like a large snapper, bream or even large tail race trout you will hopefully have the  knowledge on how you took on the great pike and wrasse of the Tamar River and if you can handle them you can handle any fish that comes at you.

Dan Clifton

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