Winter fishing in the Tamar River

Steve Suitors home overlooks one of his favourite fisheries - the Tamar River. Steve points out that there is no need to pack the gear up just because it is cold. The Tamar River offers many opportunities for winter fishing.


The Tamar Estuary is home to about a dozen commonly caught species and eight or ten seasonal or less common angling targets. Anglers using bait in deeper sections of the river between Windermere and the Heads can expect to catch good numbers of Rock Cod and odd Ling, Gurnard, Elephant Fish and Gummy Shark.

The entire Tamar is a designated Shark Nursery so any sharks should be returned to the water unharmed. The shallower sand and mud flats are home to good numbers of Flathead, Flounder, Mullet and smaller numbers of Whiting and Garfish. Species such as Leather Jackets, Trevally, Luderick, Parrot Fish, Blue head and Sweep love structure and can be reliably located around Channel markers, piles, reefs, breakwaters and headlands. The Pelagic species Australian Salmon, Mackerel, Pike and Couta tend to move into and out of the Estuary with the tides and are usually located by watching for bird activity. During the summer months the Tamar also boasts small populations of Snapper, Kingfish, Bream and Snotty Trevally. Shore bound anglers catch thousands of Cod annually from Windermere Jetty, Gravelly Beach pontoon and Deviot Jetty  using a variety of baits. Boating anglers concentrate on Spring Bay and Moriarty Reach using the same baits but should also experiment with nylon tailed lead head jigs and chrome jigs.

I have witnessed an angler jigging for Snapper near Redwood Island fourteen Cod in thirty minutes. The new gel spun polyethylene lines have revolutionised fishing in deeper water. Their ultra thin diameters mean such lighter sinkers may be used and their near zero stretch increases hook ups dramatically.

Gurnard and Ling are prevalent in Moriarty Reach, East Arm and Long Reach. Both have large mouths and can be caught using the same tackle and baits used for Cod.

Flathead are regularly taken from Deviot Jetty, Inspection Head, inside Garden Island, Bonney Beach and Kelso Bay. Moving baits catch ten times more Flathead than anchored boats. The shallow parts of Spring Bay, Redwood Bay, East Arm and the Long Flats in Long Reach are popular spots for boaties.

Flathead respond well to bibbed lures, silver slices fished along the sand and also salt water flies. Pink and Lime Green are favoured colours.

Mullet, Whiting and Garfish are caught on baits of sandworm, bread dough, maggots and tiny pieces of squid. Mullet may be caught up the river as far as Windermere while Garfish seldom venture past Swan Point and whiting reaching Garden Island.

These species respond well to berley of bread crumbs, tuna oil and minced fish flesh. All will take a small red worm fly or a bread fly.

Luderick have been recorded as far south as Miserable Island, have been caught around piles at Inspection Head and Bell Bay wharves and are prevalent off West Head. They are usually taken by anglers fishing in mid-water using prawns for Snotty or Silver Trevally. Frequently taken in Graball nets near West Head, Hebe Reef, Black Reef and Shear Reed, they will take small olive Maribou flies or Shrimp patterns. I have not heard of any Luderick taken on a lure.

Trevally are regularly taken by those in the know around piles, permanent boat moorings, reefs and sunken boats from Swan Point to the Heads. They are a mid water species with small mouths. Hooks should be size 4 to 6 O'shannessy or Break pattern. The best bait is peeled prawns with rabbit or chicken having devotees.

Parrot fish and Blue heads are taken in seas reach around kelp beds and reefs. Baits of fish flesh on long shank hooks are recommended. These species will attack any type of lure or fly. Sweep and Leather Jackets favour the waters adjacent to Break waters and head lands. Both are small mouthed species and long shank hooks baited with Squid fish or shell fish score best. These fish inhabit rough snaggy territory and a float will minimise gear losses.

Pike, Couta and Salmon are often encountered in schools following bait fish up the river as far as Egg Island. Silver Slices, Wobblers, Cobras, Spinners and Bibbed Minnow lures are all successful as are deceiver type flies. Bait fisherman favour blue bait, anchovies and whitebait either on the bottom or floating.

For Salmon, white Pilchards or Garfish on gang hooks are a better proposition for Couta and Pike. Favoured spots are near Egg Island, Drum Stick Island and Shag Rock for boat fisherman. Anglers fishing from the shore would do well to try Bonney Beach, Beauty Point, Garden Island, George Town Pier and the Break water at the Pilot Station.

Flounders are occasionally taken on rod and line by anglers using sandworms for whiting but most are speared using under water lights and single prong spears. Hard, clean sand is the least productive bottom for flounders.

A mud or muddy sand bottom harbours more food and is far more productive. A dark night with low tide after 11 o'clock is best for floundering. On favourable nights it is possible to spear many flounder. Anglers should resist the temptation to take excessive numbers as they do not freeze well.

The Tamar River is becoming cleaner, certainly from the middle reaches to the heads and holds prolific and varied fish population. The weather in late autumn and early winter is fairly settled so if you haven't fished the Tamar recently treat yourself to a new experience.

The Port of Launceston Authority put out a very good Tamar River Map. It should be available from the PLA, tackle stores or try Tamar Marine.

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