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Winter

2019

WEST OZ MACKEREL

HIGH TIMES AT BICHENO

TASSIE TROUT THE GUIDED OPTION

GOING LIGHT ON THE ROCKS


Contents EDITORIAL

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Our Cover... Tasmanian trout guide extraordinaire, Ken Orr, with a superb fly-caught brownie from a private lake fishery. Check Shane Mensforth’s article on page 6 for a run-down on some of Tassie’s best guides and trout lodges.

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TASSIE TROUT – THE GUIDED OPTION

GOING LIGHT ON THE ROCKS

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BOAT TEST – STACER WILD RIDER 539

WEST OZ – MACKEREL CAPITAL OF THE WORLD!

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FICHENO AT BICHENO

84 IT’S TIME TO GET THE VIBE

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WINTER REDS www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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From the Editor

From The Editor

SHANE MENSFORTH

HOW IMPORTANT IS FISHERIES MANAGEMENT?

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In times when many of our fisheries are under more pressure than ever before, managing them properly is absolutely vital. It’s no secret that fish stocks across the board are in varying states of decline, due mainly to a combination of environmental factors and overharvesting. Unless long term management is measured, well planned and decisive, many of our most popular target species seemed destined to an uncertain future. South Australia’s snapper fishery, long regarded as the most prolific in the country, is a prime example – and one that’s naturally close to my heart. For as long as I can remember, interstaters have been making the lengthy road trip to SA to catch the snapper of a lifetime. Victorians, in particular, have long regarded my home state as a snapper Mecca, and over the years I’ve hosted many high profile anglers from over the border in their quest for big red. Rex Hunt, Paul Worsteling, Steve Starling, Merv Hughes and Lee Rayner are just a few I’ve been lucky enough to go snapper fishing with in my home waters, and on practically each occasion the reds were big and plentiful. As I write this in late June, however, things on the South Oz snapper front are anything but rosy; in fact, the current situation is downright scary. Figures released recently by the SA Department of Fisheries indicate an alarming reduction in the biomass in both of our gulfs. St Vincent’s Gulf (close to Adelaide) has seen an amazing 87 per cent drop in snapper numbers, while stocks in the already depleted Spencer Gulf have fallen by a further 23 per cent. The biomass is now critically low, sending Fisheries managers into panic mode and scrambling to arrest the decline before the situation is irretrievable. A plethora of possible actions is currently being bandied about, including indefinite state-wide snapper closures, drastic bag limit reductions for recreational anglers, and much tougher controls on the commercial sector. SA’s Fisheries Minister, Tim Whetstone, has some extremely important decisions to make before springtime when snapper fishing traditionally kicks off again in our gulfs. Whichever way he jumps, the Minister’s ultimate call will undoubtedly cause short term pain in several areas. If he closes fishing down completely, even for just six months over the prime summer/autumn period, hundreds of businesses will feel the financial pinch almost immediately. Coastal country towns that rely heavily on fishing tourism over the summer will see a drastic drop in visiting anglers, marine dealers will undoubtedly struggle to sell boats and engines, tackle stores will experience reduced sales in a very significant market sector, and charter operators who specialise in big snapper will lose bookings left, right and centre. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Should Minister Whetstone choose to severely cut the recreational bag limit, all of the above will still apply, albeit perhaps not so drastically. And, of course, if the rec’s are to cop a big hit, it’s only fair that the pro’s have their catch quotas reduced by at least the same percentage – if not more. After all, SA’s commercial snapper fishers take around 80 per cent of the overall catch, so it makes sense to come down hard on them, and in particular the commercial longliners.

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It remains to be seen exactly which way the Minster will jump, but if he doesn’t act swiftly and decisively, there’s a very real chance SA’s mantle of snapper capital of Australia will be lost forever – something none of us considered possible as recently as five years ago. I know of several other fisheries around the country in a similar position, necessitating swift and uncompromising action from those who look after them. Getting vital decisions right is critical, and we have to trust our managers to put the long term well being of our most precious resource before any social or economic considerations.

SPOOLED COMPETITION WINNERS Congratulations to the three winners of our competition from Issue #2, each of whom wins a pack of four Bassman Spinnerbaits. Philip Clapshaw From Stanmore in NSW, Matt Taylor from Greenbank in Queensland, and John Spehr from Adelaide will now be better equipped when next they go fresh water lure casting. Don’t forget to enter the comp in this issue! See details here. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Tassie Trout - The Guided Option

SHANE MENSFORTH

TASSIE SPOOLED MAGAZINE

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TROUT – THE GUIDED

OPTION

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SHANE MENSFORTH RECKONS HOOKING UP WITH ONE OF TASSIE’S ACCREDITED TROUT GUIDES WILL MAXIMISE YOUR CHANCES OF TOP CL ASS FISHING.

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Roger Butler with a beautifully marked brownie from Currawong Lakes www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Tassie Trout - The Guided Option

I’ve always said that if I didn’t have such strong extended family ties here in Adelaide, I’d almost certainly be living in Tasmania. There is so much to love about the Apple Isle; the people are friendly, the scenery is superb, it’s easy to get around and, if you’re a keen fly fisherman, it offers access to some of the best trout on the planet.

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At best I consider myself an average fly fisher. I really love waving the ‘long wand’, and try to do so as often 08 as possible, but SA is renowned as being the driest state in the country, resulting in limited fresh water opportunities. To compensate, I often chase available salt water species like bream, salmon, yellowfin whiting, snapper and mulloway on fly. However, while there is some trout fishing available in SA, I invariably turn to Tasmania when I need a serious fix. I’ve been lucky over the years to have forged close friendships with a couple of Tassie’s most influential fishing guides, Ken Orr and Roger Butler, both of whom have been instrumental in the formation of TGALT – Trout Guides and Lodges Tasmania. Ken was recently inducted into the Tasmanian Anglers Hall of Fame, so he’s a pretty handy ally when planning a fly fishing expedition, and an all round nice guy to boot. Wife Merrilyn and I try to get to Tassie at least every second year and, after discussing our options with Ken and Roger, booked flights to Hobart in the last week of March just gone. Back on our last trip in 2017 we hired a motor home so we could visit some out-of-the-way locations, but this year we opted to hire a car and stay in a variety of cabins and lodges close to good trout water. Both options turned out to be extremely enjoyable in different ways.

Dry fly with Roger on the Lake River www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Due to lack of local knowledge and relative inexperience with Tassie fly fishing techniques, hooking up with professional guides has invariably been our choice. I tried a solo trout mission in the Central Highlands once and, as well as nearly freezing to death, failed dismally on several renowned lakes, so these days it’s either guided or not at all.

First up, we would collect the hire car and drive up to 28 Gates, about 90 minutes from Hobart, for two days’ fishing with Ken Orr as guide. From there we’d spend a day on the Tyenna River with Martin Droz from Rainbow Lodge, and eventually move on to stay at the delightful Somercotes to fish the Lake River with Roger Butler. Next on the itinerary was a two-day stay at Currawong Lakes, and finally a couple of nights with Karen and Peter Brooks at Driftwater Lodge. With travel time tight between the various locations, our Tassie stay was sure to be all go – from landing in Hobart to taking off for home in Launceston. 28 Gates is a luxury farmstay/fishery owned and operated by Michael and Susie Parsons. My first experience there was back in 2014 and, despite galeforce winds and incessant rain on that occasion, caught some lovely rainbow trout in one of the property’s five dams. It’s a seven generation, 5000 acre working sheep farm set in superb natural bushland and, to enhance its appeal to tourists, Michael and Susie have converted the historic shearers’ quarters to a five-star, double storey house. The accommodation sleeps six and it’s about as comfortable as you could ask for in any rural setting.

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To maximise opportunities during our eight-day stay, I contacted Roger to put together a rough itinerary and to organise guides in the areas we intended to visit. It’s a big advantage to have the fishing and accommodation booked in advance, 09 and it didn’t take Roger long to come up with a plan through TGALT that suited us perfectly.


Tassie Trout - The Guided Option

All five of the 28 Gates dams are stocked with trout, some of which are now getting close to double figures. Access to the fishing comes as part of the overnight package, which is becoming increasingly popular with interstate and overseas holiday makers. It’s an easy drive from Hobart and, being fully self contained, you can come and go as you please. Ken Orr is available as fishing guide at 28 Gates if required, and there’s no doubt that hiring his services will improve the catch rate markedly. TASMANIAN GUIDES CONTACT DETAILS

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Ken Orr’s Tasmanian Trout Expeditions Phone: 0408 122209 Email: orrsome@skymesh.com.au Web: www.orrsometassietrout.com.au Red Tag Trout Tours (Roger Butler) Phone: 0419 348070 Email: roger@redtagtrout.com Web: www.redtagtrout.com Rainbow Lodge Tasmania Phone: 0400 567646 Email: christopher@rainbowlodgetasmania.com.au Web: www.rainbowlodgetasmania.com.au The Highland Fly (Nick May) Phone: 0419 381571 Email: nick.may@thehighlandfly.com.au Web: www.thehighlandfly.com.au Driftwater Tasmania (Karen and Peter Brooks) Phone: 0408 427767 Web: www.driftwater.com.au Currawong Lakes Phone: (03) 6381 1148 Email: info@currawonglakes.com.au Web: www.currawonglakes.com.au 28 Gates Phone: 0428 371701 Email: parsonsbloomfield@28gates.com.au Web: www.28gates.com.au www.spooledmagazine.com.au

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Merrilyn Mensforth with a chunky lurecaught rainbow from 28 Gates

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28 Gates offers luxury farm-stay accommodation www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Tassie Trout - The Guided Option

Unfortunately, the weather forecast for the first few days of our visit this year was less than encouraging – again. Strong north-westerly winds, a fair dumping of rain and maximum temperatures of under ten degrees were predicted – a combination sure to make fly fishing difficult, and particularly so for someone like me who often struggles when conditions are perfect!

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It was originally fly fishing only at 28 Gates, but to encourage more family participation, Mike and Susie have decided to open 12 one of their five dams to both spin and fly. This was welcome news for Merrilyn, who is much more at home with a light threadline outfit and some soft plastic or hard-body lures. We were both rugged up and ready to go when Ken Orr arrived just after breakfast on our first fishing day – under a leaden sky and with the wind whistling around our ears. To Ken’s obvious dismay, I totally muffed my first shot at a sizeable brownie he found for me, feeding up top in a sheltered corner. It was never going to be an easy cast, but when the nymph splashed down about two metres from where it should have and was immediately caught up in some surface weed, the look on Ken’s face said it all. With the wind up and my modest casting skills failing the test on fish number one, I knew there and then it was going to be a challenging day. Finding somewhere to fish out of the wind proved near impossible, but at least the dam wall on Windsors Lake would afford a little protection, so Ken took us there as the first of several heavy showers unloaded to make conditions even more miserable. This is the dam at 28 Gates now open to both spin and fly fishing, so I rigged Merrilyn’s ultra-light outfit and tied on a little hard body. Two casts later she was tight to a lovely rainbow that ripped up the surface in a series of spectacular cartwheels. At an estimated five pounds this was a terrific fish to kick off the trip, and it was immediately obvious that the good lady was pretty pleased with herself…….. and we all know how important the “happy wife, happy life” adage can be! Under Ken’s guidance I managed five lovely fish during that session, despite the horrendous conditions – two rainbows and three browns to around four pounds. All were taken on woolly buggers in

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quite deep water under the dam wall and, in typical 28 Gates form, they pulled hard on a six weight. We ended up calling it quits at around 3pm, as it was difficult to feel with numb fingers and hypothermia a very real possibility! One of the great things about staying in the luxury of 28 Gates is its wonderful bathtub, which helped us thaw out after five hours in the wind and rain. I reckon I topped up the tub with hot water three or four times during an hour-long soak, eventually climbing out when my body temperature had returned to normal and I could feel my fingers and toes again! As Ken was committed elsewhere on our second day at 28 Gates, I fished solo – this time on Circus Lake and once again in near blizzard conditions. With 30 knots of north-westerly at my back, all I had to do was get the fly line in the air and let the woolly bugger sail out into the lake – far removed from traditional casting techniques, but surprisingly effective with a howling tail wind.

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Roger hooked up and well into the backing

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Tassie Trout - The Guided Option

First fish of the morning was a lovely brown of close to five pounds, which scoffed the fly almost directly under the rod tip and kept me busy for quite some time around tussocks and weed beds in a shallow section of the lake. The 28 Gates brownies often carry spectacular markings and general colouration, and this one was among the most beautiful I’ve ever caught.

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Fish number two for the session turned out to be one I could tick off the bucket list. I had never seen a tiger trout in the flesh before, and was delighted to eventually lead a stocky fish of close to five pounds into the net. Tigers are brown trout/brook trout hybrids that have been introduced into Circus Lake only, and I had to pinch myself as I 14 extracted the fly and stepped back to fully appreciate its beauty. Unfortunately, fishing solo meant the only pic’s I could manage would be ‘fish with rod’ style shots, but at that point I simply didn’t care. I’d caught my tiger trout, and that’s what really mattered! There’s no doubt Mike and Susie Parsons have done a spectacular job with 28 Gates. As a farmstay/fishery it takes a lot of beating, and definitely comes highly recommended. Our second Tassie guided fishing day didn’t go quite so well. The plan was to meet Martin Droz, from Rainbow Lodge, in the township of Tyenna for a Czech nymphing session on the Tyenna River. I had heard quite a bit about how effective this European fishing technique can be, and also knew Martin’s reputation as a trout guide, so I was quite excited about the prospect of learning something new from an undisputed expert.

Tiger trout are truly beautiful fish

Bead heads are the go in cooler weather

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The author with a nice hen rainbow taken on a black woolly bugger

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It only took a couple of minutes, however, to work out we were in for an extremely difficult day. Due to heavy overnight rain, the Tyenna was running fast, high and dirty as Martin and I made our way down through a dense blackberry thicket to a small clearing. Coffee-coloured water carrying fallen twigs and other debris told the tale immediately, and in less than an hour we were packed up and headed back to the car. Despite an absolute failure on the fishing front, however, I’d learned a lot from Martin, who has fly fished all over the world. We’d spent a disappointingly short time together, but after sharing lunch and chatting into the early afternoon, it was time to go our separate ways; Martin to catch up with his wife and baby in Hobart, and Merrilyn and I to drive on to Somercotes, which would be home base for the following two days. Somercotes is a near 200 year old rural property not far from the township of Ross. These days it’s a working cherry farm that offers rustic accommodation in a setting that dates back to the days of Tasmania’s convicts and bushrangers. Roger Butler uses www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Tassie Trout - The Guided Option

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Martin Droz Czech nymphing on the Tyenna

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Somercoates’ historic stone cottages for overnighting his clients close to some great river fly fishing, and I was very keen for Merrilyn to experience its charm and magic. While Merrilyn opted to spend the first day wandering and photographing the old Somercotes property before driving in to Ross for some shopping, I maintained the fishing focus. Nick May, from the Highland Fly, collected me quite early and we drove up to Penstock Lagoon for a quick session on one of my favourite Tassie waterways. Penstock is a big, shallow lake that carries some lovely browns and rainbows, but definitely fishes best when there’s some breeze about to ruffle the surface. And naturally, when we needed some wind to bring the trout on the bite, there was none – and I mean not a breath – for the entire day. Blue skies, unlimited www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Nick May now guides on Penstock Lagoon

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sunshine and mirror-calm water meant tough fishing, which is exactly what Nick and I walked into at Penstock. Just two trout – a brown and a rainbow – was the result for seven hours on the water, despite using just about every lake fishing technique known to mankind. This was frustrating for sure, but given the miserable cold we’d experienced at 28 Gates, at least the comfort level had improved. Roger Butler is a small stream/dry fly specialist, and after a hearty Somercotes breakfast next morning we bundled into his 4WD and wound our way out toward the Lake River. At last conditions were ideal, with just a zephyr puffing along the watercourse on our arrival and crystal-clear water tumbling over a series of shallow rapids. Roger rigged a four weight outfit for me, tied on a hopper pattern and before long I was tight to an acrobatic little brown that would have nudged a pound or so. None of the trout we caught that day were much bigger than 12 inches, but in skinny water they were pretty feisty and a heap of fun on four pound tippet. As is usually the case when Roger guides me in small, confined waterways, he spent a lot of time extricating flies from trees, bankside shrubbery, reeds and even his hat! We always laugh a lot when we fish together, and I marvel at his seemingly unlimited patience with ham-fisted fly casters like me. From Somercotes it was on to Currawong Lakes, a picturesque estate I’d visited on a couple of earlier Tasmanian excursions and was very keen to try again. This magnificent property changed hands a couple of years back, and I was amazed at how many improvements the new owners have made already. Merryn and Richard Krimmer moved www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Tassie Trout - The Guided Option

down from Queensland to develop Currawong and elevate it to the top echelon of Tasmania’s private trout fisheries. Three lakes are stocked with both brown and rainbow trout, and accommodation choices vary from comfortable two bedroom cabins to a full blown lakeside chalet. It’s a wonderful place that fishes well between October and April, and one that’s ideal for both family groups and keen fly fishing mates.

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Roger would guide us the first day at Currawong, then head home, but I now know enough about the lake systems to fend for myself, so I looked forward to the challenge. As conditions were cool and windy, chances of any dry fly action 18 were remote, and once more I broke out the go-to olive and black woolly buggers for some ‘flogging’. I know many purist fly fishers shun repetitive blind casting, but it doesn’t bother me at all; in fact, I quite enjoy the challenge of improving my casting distance while always having the chance of hooking a nice trout or two.

A small stream rainbow taken on a dry www.spooledmagazine.com.au


The fishing was pretty quiet during the morning session, but when Roger and I moved to a sheltered shore on Currawong’s Lake MacQuarie, things changed up almost instantly. In less than an hour we managed half a dozen mixed browns and rainbows between us, mostly taken on woolly buggers and leech patterns cast into deeper water. There was absolutely nothing moving in close, so it made sense to prospect out wider with weighted flies. Average fish size was around three pounds and, as usual, they were fat, fit and full of fight. One of Currawong Lakes’ most attractive features is its location amongst lush natural forest. The property teems with native wildlife, including devils, wombats, wallabies and possums of varying sizes and dispositions. There are also hundreds of deer that roam the open areas, and enough native birdlife to keep the keenest of ornithologists amused for days. In short, it’s a nature lovers’ paradise.

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A striking little Currawong brown My solo day at Currawong turned out to be a mirror image of the first. Once again there was very little to get excited about before lunch, but the afternoon session on the same shoreline yielded nine beautiful trout – all browns this time – before I called it quits at around 4pm with numb fingers and a runny nose. This time it was the combustion fire that restored body heat (and functions), and a terrific counter meal at the nearby Lake Leake pub rounded things off nicely. Despite the cold, Merrilyn and I couldn’t resist rugging up and wandering the adjacent bush tracks for half an hour before bed time. A powerful flashlight revealed dozens of nocturnal birds and animals doing their thing in the dark, which was pretty spectacular and a nice way to end what had been a most enjoyable day. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Tassie Trout - The Guided Option

Last stop on our Tassie sojourn was a two-night stay at Driftwater Lodge to fish with Karen Brooks. Karen and husband Peter have converted a century-old house at Deloraine, providing upmarket home-stay accommodation and offering a variety of fly fishing options. Karen is a world class lady fly fisher who guides clients on several waters within comfortable reach of Deloraine. As her business’ name suggests, drift boat fishing on the Meander and Mersey Rivers is among her specialties, but she also works on some of the more popular lakes.

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As we only had one day to fish with Karen before driving to Launceston for our homeward flight, she offered the alternative of a half day river/ 20 half day lake package so we could sample a cross section of what she offers. However, as both Merrilyn and I had already experienced seven hectic days, we opted to spend our final session in the boat. This would be much less strenuous and taxing on two tired bodies!

Karen Brooks hooked up to a solid brown on Four Springs Lake www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Although the fishing was never red hot, Karen managed a couple of beautiful browns while static nymphing, and I dropped a good one late in the day. My casting deteriorated markedly as the session wore on, mainly due to cumulative fatigue. Although neither Merrilyn or I were keen about our Tassie adventure coming to an end, I knew that we both needed a break. CLICK

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I’d never heard of Four Springs Lake, which Karen suggested as a reasonable choice, despite it being quite late in the season. Both Merrilyn and I were immediately impressed as we rolled in at around 8am and prepared to launch ‘Tradition’, a handsome hand-made wooden drift boat. Four Springs is quite a big water, surrounded by heavy forest and apparently quite popular with Launceston and Devonport-based anglers. Its beauty became even more apparent as we motored quietly along the eastern shore, casting nymphs below indicators towards the fringing reedbeds.


Tassie Trout - The Guided Option

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Ken Orr has just been inducted into the Tasmanian Anglers’ Hall of Fame www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Tassie Trout - The Guided Option

Sharing a superb homecooked meal and quality red wine with Karen and Peter was certainly the perfect way to end what had been eight magic days in Tasmania. They are wonderful hosts who obviously enjoy the opportunity to interact with fisherfolk from around the country and overseas. Going guided in Tassie is naturally more expensive than a do-it-yourself fly fishing expedition, but to my way of thinking at least, those extra dollars are very well spent. Knowing where to go, where to stay, what tackle to use and the most successful techniques to employ can undoubtedly make your Tasmanian fly fishing experience a lot more enjoyable.

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Currawong Lakes offers a variety of accommodation options www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Going Light On The Rocks

GOING LIGHT ON THE ROCKS

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STEVE ‘STARLO’ STARLING

Longer rods are perfect for casting, line control and fighting energetic fish around rocky edges. Choosing the right footwear and clothing are also vitally important considerations. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


ROCK FISHING IS SPECIAL, AND BY GOING A LIT TLE LIGHTER WITH YOUR GEAR AND RIGS, YOU’LL NOT ONLY LIF T YOUR STRIKE RATE, BUT ALSO DRAMATICALLY INCREASE THE ALL-IMPORTANT FUN FACTOR! STEVE STARLING EXPL AINS.

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My feature in the previous issue of Spooled examined the significant advantages that can result from the application of a little extra “finesse” to beach or surf fishing. In that piece I explained that the single biggest mistake I see surf casters making is burdening themselves with overly heavy gear for the task at hand. By doing so, they reduce both their catch rate and their enjoyment of the sport. Some readers may be surprised to learn that I apply exactly the same principles to my rock fishing. In my opinion, many rockhoppers also choose gear that’s far too heavy, especially when chasing the core “bread and butter” winter species: fish such as bream, drummer, blackfish (luderick), sweep, leatherjackets, trevally, salmon, tailor and bonito. These fish typically range in weight from a few hundred grams to a couple of kilos, and although most are great fighters, you don’t necessarily need heavy tackle to handle them. Sure, we all dream about hooking into a snapper, a mulloway or a big kingfish from the rocks, but the reality is that these larger prizes are relatively few and far between, and mostly fall to specialist anglers. If you’re out to have some fun and simply catch a feed from the ocean rocks, you don’t always need to be loaded for bear! By going a little lighter with your tackle, I can just about guarantee that you’ll hook more fish, and have a heap more fun while you’re doing it. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Going Light On The Rocks

//THE NEED FOR FINESSE At first glance, the concept of “finesse” mightn’t seem to sit so well in the more rugged realm of rock fishing. Our ocean rock ledges lie at the dramatic interface between two worlds. They’re tough, wild places: ceaselessly pounded by swells, whipped by winds and eroded by exposure to salt-laden air. The creatures populating this harsh environment reflect its rigors. Armour-plated crabs, tightly clinging shellfish with heavy cases, sharp-spined urchins, leathery sea squirts and muscular, thick-scaled fish dominate our inshore coastal washes.

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Traditionally, Aussie rock hoppers have matched their tackle and mind-set to this rugged environment, sandwiched precariously between the sea and the land. For decades, robust rods, thick lines, sturdy hooks and big sinkers were their weapons of choice. But there have always been significant exceptions, especially folks like the East Coast luderick or blackfish specialists. These hardy souls in their plastic sandals, tattered

Jo hooks up in a classic gutter.

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shorts, shoulder bags and faded spray jackets catch more fish than just about any other group of land-based fishers, yet they do it while using deceptively flimsy gear. Long, willowy rods, light lines, simple centrepin or sidecast reels, stemmed floats, split shot and tiny hooks are their tools of the trade. Blackfishing hopefuls who fail to embrace these important finesse concepts are more often than not cursed with empty keeper nets. Elsewhere on the rocks, an acceptance of the benefits of fishing lighter, finer, longer and smarter has also gradually crept into the macho world of the rockhopper. This need for increased sophistication is most often hammered home by falling catch rates as all the easy or “dumb” fish are weeded out by the heavy tackle brigade, especially

The author’s daughter Amy with a less-common rock fishing catch. This is either a zebra fish or (more likely) a hybrid or cross-breed between a zebra and the closely related black drummer. Either way, it pulled hard and was absolutely delicious!

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Going Light On The Rocks

close to major population centres. For better or worse, the days of optimistically venturing forth with hawser-like lines, telephone pole rods, crane hooks and anvil-sized sinkers have largely been relegated to the pages of history. While it may be the last bastion of the skull-dragging mentality, even “bread and butter” rock fishing is slowly yielding to the concept of finesse. It’s a shift driven by necessity rather than fashion.

//THE FINE, FINE LINE

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It’d be fair to say that “finesse” has become my core fishing philosophy over the 30 years. I truly believe its intelligent application is capable of improving the strike rate of every angler in every scenario, whether they chase pan-sized trout in alpine streams or hefty tuna and billfish beyond the continental shelf. Rock fishing is no exception. When bait fishing from the rocks for a whole host of temperate and cool water species, finesse is mostly about keeping sinker weights as light as practical, so that baits descend slowly, wash around, or suspend in the water column, rather than plunging

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If one tiny sinker isn’t quite enough weight to reach your target, simply add a second small sinker! www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Going Light On The Rocks

BERLEYING THE ROCKS

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Berley, ground bait or chum really helps to attract, concentrate and excite fish and can dramatically boost your rock fishing results, especially when using bait.

They won’t all be highly-prized target fish! Bait stealers like this kelpfish can become a real nuisance at times, but are less likely to be regularly hooked if you use lightly weighted baits that suspend in the water column.

to the seabed and being anchored firmly in one spot. This becomes especially important when using berley to attract fish (see the breakout box hereabout for more on berleying). Berley trails tends to bring target fish up into mid-water. Presenting your baits underneath this activity level not only risks missing those desirable targets, but is also more likely to produce an endless stream of nuisance fish such as kelpies, cale, cockies, wirrahs, wrasse, green eels, rock cod and the like, not to mention way too many snags!

The best base for any berley mix is a starchy cereal or carbohydrate such as soaked, stale bread. Other likely contenders include boiled wheat, cooked rice, potatoes, pollard, chicken feed pellets and pet food. Whatever berley base you use, soak it well, so that most of it sinks, and add a splash of fish oil and any old bait scraps, prawn heads and other tasty offcuts. I always have a cast or two first, before beginning to berley, as the fish may already be present and willing! But if things are slow, waste no time in getting your berley trail going. Remember: a little bit often is the key. Toss in a tennis ball-sized lump of berley mix each time you rebait. Drop it right at your feet and watch which way it disperses, then fish along that trail‌ If you build it, they will come!

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Dispensing with a sinker altogether, or using a float rig to suspend baits and give a visual indication of bites, are simply further extensions of this finesse concept. Logically enough, it’s much easier to reduce sinker weight if you reduce the diameter of your line and leader. Finer lines are also less affected by wave and wind action and transmit bites more efficiently. As a huge bonus, skinny lines and leaders are much less obvious to shy, fickle or hard-pressured fish: something that becomes paramount on clear, bright and calm days, when rock fishing can be notoriously tough.

//THE CONUNDRUM

This is the author’s favoured rock fishing rig. Normally he’d choose a smaller sinker, but on this day a powerful surge called for a little more weight. Those Mustad Big Gun hooks are hard to beat on the rocks: sharp and strong!

Naturally enough, the lighter you go in your tackle choices when rock fishing, the more likely it is that you’ll start to lose a few good fish. This becomes especially relevant when dealing with so-called “dirty” fighters like drummer and groper. These opponents are notorious for powerdiving straight for their favourite cave or undercut the instant they feel the sting of a hook, dragging your delicate line across encrusted rocks and kelp stems in the process.

A handsome black drummer or “pig” alongside the sort of gear Starlo favours for this caper.

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Going Light On The Rocks

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A better than average black dummer or “pig” pulled from the wash.

Hooking a pugnacious black drummer (rock blackfish) weighing a couple of kilos on four kilo line and a long, whippy rod is an experience never forgotten, regardless of the ultimate outcome. But I guarantee that you’ll hook many more of these fish on four kilo line than you will on 14 kilo line! And, as I like to say: you’ve got to get them on before you can get them out! So, while there’s no doubt that the use of lighter gear increases the risk of losing fish, but it also increases the number of fish you’ll hook in the first place. The trick lies in walking that fine, fine line between pleasure and pain: balancing brain, brawn and cunning to hopefully rack up more wins than losses. In this regard there are two really important lessons I’ve learnt while finessing the stones over the past 40 years: Firstly, many fish don’t pull quite as hard nor panic as madly when hooked on slightly lighter gear, and if you’re on the ball, it’s sometimes possible to “lead” an opponent away from trouble before going for the doctor. Secondly, if you tie good knots, have fresh, undamaged line and leaders and know your gear really well, you can pull much harder on light tackle than most people realise… Unbelievably hard, as a matter of fact! www.spooledmagazine.com.au


READING THE ROCKS Finding and catching fish from the rocks is all about identifying concentrations of accessible food. Gutters and channels emptying aerated water back into the sea from food-rich ledges and pools are obvious starting points, and represent ideal places to introduce a little berley.

Tides can play a vital role on the rocks. A rising or making tide tends to bring feeding fish closer in and offer them access to more food, but low tide can also concentrate life in any obvious holes or gutters. Tides are also important from a safety perspective. A ledge that’s safe on the low tide might well become risky as the water level rises. Remember, you’ll often only need a very short cast to reach the prime feeding zone, especially at high tide. Don’t make the mistake of always trying to punch holes in the horizon with your sinker and bait. It’s easy to cast over the best fish, which may well be swimming literally at your feet, particularly during the “change of light” periods (dawn and dusk), or when you’ve introduced some berley into the system. Start with short casts before expanding your hunting zone… and always keep your eye on the sea!

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Inter-tidal zones that are heavily encrusted with cunjevoi (sea squirts), kelp, algae and shellfish are generally much more productive than cleaner stretches of rock, and broken or bubble-laced water also tends to provide better cover for fish, especially on sunny days. Deep shadows created by cliffs and headlands can also be very happy hunting grounds, and these defined shadow zones will obviously shift during the course of the day.


Going Light On The Rocks

//LIGHTEN UP! For most of my “bread and butter” rock fishing I choose to use relatively light 3-4m rods, and I typically match these sticks up with either 2500 to 4000 size spinning reels or light, shallow-spooled Alvey sidecasts.

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My main line of choice is usually in the four to six kilo breaking strain range and is most often braid, although I sometimes revert to mono on a sidecast, as it’s easier on the hands and fingers. When running braid, I’ll add a leader of at least a 36 rod-length or two to the business end, consisting of 5-8kg breaking strain nylon or fluorocarbon. Only very occasionally will I step this leader up to 10 or even 12 kilos, mostly where bigger drummer or the odd groper are on the cards while bait fishing, or kings and small to middling tuna are a chance when chucking lures.

Wave action concentrates food and attracts fish. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


PLAY IT SAFE Rock fishing is a potentially dangerous pastime. Statistically, it has been cited as one of the most hazardous sports in Australia, and the third highest cause of drowning deaths after swimming and boating. It’s sobering to consider this statistic on a per capita basis: in terms of how many people swim and go boating each year compared to the much smaller numbers who rock fish.

There’s been a great deal of debate about the introduction of laws mandating the wearing of flotation vests (life jackets) by rock fishers in certain jurisdictions. Such laws have already come to pass in parts of NSW, much to the chagrin of many observers. I’ve come to accept that wearing life jackets on the rocks might not be such a bad idea. I often wear an inflatable, yoke-style PFD myself on the rocks these days, even where the law doesn’t demand it. Rather like choosing sensible, grippy footwear and lightweight clothing that I can swim in if necessary, wearing a life jacket is no great inconvenience, and it just might save my life one day. For me, that’s enough reason to do it. But in the end, rock fishing safety is about a lot more than what you wear. It’s a matter of mindset, observation, planning for possible eventualities and a strong sense of self-preservation. The bottom line must always be that no fish, item of tackle or fishing experience is worth risking your life — or anyone else’s life — for. It really is as simple as that! www.spooledmagazine.com.au

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Every time an angler loses his or her life on the ocean rocks, the media talks about “freak waves”, implying that the tragedy was somehow beyond the control of the hapless fishers involved. This is wrong. In my experience, “freak waves” are extremely rare. Sure, in every hour of every day there will be a couple of larger-than-average swells. These are not “freaks”, but rather natural anomalies that occur in any medium affected by wave patterns. More experienced rock-hoppers understand this. New chums (especially those not born in this country) often don’t. The best advice I can offer in this regard is to sit and watch the spot where you intend to fish for at least 20 minutes before venturing onto it. If in doubt, go home.


Going Light On The Rocks

Slicing open a sea squirt or cunjevoi exposes several prime baits.

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If I’m lure casting, my metal slice, baitfish profile, minnow or jig-rigged soft plastic is tied directly to the end of this long leader. When I’m bait fishing, the smallest ball, bean or bug sinker I can get away with (usually a 00 or 0 size ball) runs freely on the long leader right down to my hook, which is most often a No. 4 to 2/0 Octopus or Suicide pattern, depending on the bait I’m using and the mix of species I’m 38 targeting. My favorite baits are things like cunjevoi flesh, crab pieces, peeled prawn tails, strips of squid that I’ve pounded and softened with a knife handle, pink nippers (bass yabbies) or even balls of fresh bread moulded and kneaded onto the hook. Bigger fish obviously need to be played on this light gear, and they can’t be simply hauled or dragged up the rocks against a powerful backwash. Doing so will often tear out hooks or even snap leader knots. Instead, you’ll need to learn to make use of the waves to wash your catch up onto the rocks, or carry a longhandled landing net to secure larger fish. Winter and early spring are my favourite times of year for walking the rocky headlands and points with a couple of light rods and a backpack, flicking lightly-weighted baits or lures into the sudsy washes. Scaling down a little in the tackle department and applying the all-important concept of finesse to this game helps transform it from a pleasant stroll along the coast into a challenging, exciting and often action-packed angling adventure. That’s good enough reason for me to turn to the lighter side.

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West Oz — ­ Mackerel Capital of the World

SCOTT COGHLAN

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MACKEREL CAPITAL OF THE WORLD! SPANISH MACKEREL ARE ONE OF OUR MOST ICONIC BLUE WATER SPORTFISH. SCOTT COGHLAN EXPL AINS HOW, WHERE AND WHEN TO CATCH THEM IN HIS HOME WATERS OF WA.

Spaniards are always an impressive sight as they slide up to the boat. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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The good-natured banter in the boat is suddenly halted as a reel screams in the starboard corner, line peeling off rapidly against a tight drag. As the motor is cut, the rod in the port corner goes off as well – double hook-up! Two anglers scramble to wrench the rods out of their holders against the pressure on the other end while the skipper reaches for a pre-rigged casting rod, ready to heave a lure into the action. The mackies are on! Narrow-barred spanish mackerel are one of the most popular recreational fishing targets along most of the West Australian coast, and with good reason. They are widely accessible, hit hard, produce sizzling runs and are both an imposing and magnificent looking fish in and out of the water, especially when they get up over a metre in size. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


West Oz — ­ Mackerel Capital of the World

Calm weather off Kalbarri meant kayak fishing for spaniards was an option. Similar fish are often caught this way around Perth over summer.

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Spaniards also make fine eating if handled carefully after capture and each mackie provides plenty of meat, making them both an excellent sport and table fish. Growing to more than 40 kilos in WA waters, but usually encountered at less than a quarter of that size, spaniards can be found along most of the length of the West Coast. They are an all-year proposition in the northern half of the State, but will push well south when the warm flush of the Leeuwin Current is strong and have, at times, even showed up along the south coast. Almost every year, generally around late summer, schools of spaniards will show up in Perth waters, offering metro fishers an exciting taste of north sportfishing action. While they are a prized capture for Perth, the truth is across much of WA www.spooledmagazine.com.au


finding spaniards is generally not hard if you are in the right areas, as they are a fairly predictable fish most of the time. If you are in an area known for holding mackies, drop-offs are the best place to start, whether that be along the edge of offshore reefs, around islands or even just a sheer drop from the shore. These are the areas, usually in anything from 6-50m, where spaniards will be patrolling, looking for an easy feed, and they aren’t hard to identify on nautical charts.

We’ve caught fish on the full and new moon, but many keen spaniard anglers prefer the latter, as they believe the fish have to wait for the sun to come up to feed, rather than being able to do so by moonlight overnight. Clean water is a key, especially when shore fishing where movement between spots is limited. Stirred up, discoloured or greenish water is normally a sure sign the fishing will be poor. As an example, when fishing from the rocks at one of our favourite spots, we can gauge water clarity by our ability to see features on the bottom from where we fish. If we can’t, then the fishing will usually be poor, but if the water is crystal clear and we can even see small baitfish in the depths, then our confidence soars.

Not running wire is a big risk, but does pay off on occasions.

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Periods of low light also generally offer the best spaniard fishing, although they can be caught all day. Dawn and dusk are peak feeding times for mackies, and we have generally done best around the former. Often there is a good bite just as the first rays of sunlight hit the water, and this can continue for some time, slowing as the sun actually rises over the eastern horizon. Once the sun is well up, the action usually slows, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying, as there will usually still be short bursts of activity right through the day. If we don’t get any action at all around first light, that often means it’s going to be a tough day on the spaniards.


West Oz — ­ Mackerel Capital of the World

As spaniards are found most of the way along the west coast, there are many excellent spots to chase them. Around Perth the pick of the locations are Cockburn Sound, Three-Mile Reef, and the south side of Rottnest Island, while a few get picked up by shore anglers at places like the North Mole and Woodman Point. Kayak anglers do well around the northern end of Cockburn Sound and off Fremantle as well.

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North of Perth, Jurien Bay is renowned for producing good spaniards, both along the back of the inshore reef and out wider on the deeper banks. The Abrolhos Islands, off Geraldton, are a noted spaniard hotspot and they can be found right through this area by boat anglers. Kalbarri is another prime location for spaniards, with boat anglers doing 44 well both sides of town and especially at the Sand Patch, just north of the river mouth.

Ballooners wait for action near Steep Point. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Plenty get caught from the beach at Wagoe, just south of Kalbarri, by ballooners, and a few are caught along the reefs by shore anglers fishing for tailor and mulloway. We’ve also caught them on kayaks just out from the Murchison River mouth, but this should only be attempted in very calm conditions! Steep Point is the westernmost part of the Australian mainland and is a land-based fishing mecca, producing countless spaniard captures each year for shore fishos either ballooning or spinning. Boat anglers also do well off here, often camping in nearby Shelter Bay or making the long trip from Denham. The islands off Carnarvon – Dirk Hartog, Bernier and Dorre – are also great spots to chase mackies from boats, while DHI is also a good shore fishing location although access is limited.

Just north of Exmouth is the Mackerel Islands, which is well-named and is probably WA’s best spot for chasing them. This is boat fishing only and accommodation is available at Thevenard Island, with these waters teeming

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Just north of Carnarvon is Quobba Station, which, like Steep Point, produces great land-based fishing from its many rock ledges, some famous like Garth’s Rock. Farther north, Exmouth offers many good mackerel fishing options, but few better than along the edge of the Ningaloo Reef, an area which seems to constantly produce. Boat fishing is definitely the go around Exmouth, and they can also be found on the shoals in the gulf, as well as around Muiron Islands and Peak Island.


West Oz — ­ Mackerel Capital of the World

with spaniards, often in almost plague numbers. From here north spaniards are a consistent option, with great catches off Dampier and Karratha, Port Hedland and Broome, as well as throughout the Kimberley. There are few fish that cover more territory in WA than spaniards, as they have been caught from Albany on the south coast all the way to the Northern Territory border.

//BOAT FISHING

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The best and easiest way to target spaniards is clearly from a boat. Having a boat, even 46 a small dinghy (or kayak) will suffice in some locations, just makes it that much easier to access spots where fish are likely to be holding consistently. As mentioned earlier, drop-offs are the best place to start, whether that be along a shoreline or the edge of an offshore reef, and always keep an eye out for concentrations of bait and working birds. Trolling likely areas is the simplest way to find the mackerel, which won’t always be in the exact same spot, but will often be somewhere along the same feature.

Many a spaniard has fallen to a Halco Laser Pro. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


There are several options when trolling and both lures and baits can be used. These days many anglers are doing well slow trolling rigged dead baits such as garfish, especially when the fishing is very quiet. This is also regarded as a very effective way to find larger fish, however I’ve always used lures and rarely had a need to consider otherwise. My usual approach is to start with a bibbed minnow, and while there are both shallow and deep diving options, I usually go with the former. I prefer a baitfish pattern and a couple of the obvious choices are Rapala X-Raps and Halco Laser Pros (the red-head has probably caught more mackies than any other in Australia).

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West Oz — ­ Mackerel Capital of the World

Both are proven fish catchers that usually troll well at the preferred speeds of 6-8 knots. Once they are deployed in the chosen area, it is a simple matter of waiting until you find the fish, which may often be seen on the sounder just before the lures go off.

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Big mackerel appear to be more solitary, while ‘school’ size fish of around 5-8kg can often be found in huge numbers. When the latter are found, it can offer some really exciting fishing and it is worth marking the spot on the sounder so you can easily return to it later. The school will often follow the hooked fish to the boat and you can look over the side and see them circling underneath. Having a casting rod ready means you can capitalise on this opportunity to hook more spaniards and 48 we’ve had some great fun using poppers like Halco Roostas to provoke spectacular surface strikes around the boat. Sometimes the spaniards will launch into the air at the lure and almost land in the boat, which can be both terrifying and exciting.

Solid spaniard caught on the troll off Carnarvon on a live-aboard charter.

If the fish won’t come to the surface, casting metals such as 80g Raiders or sinking bibless lures like the Halco Max can be devastatingly effective, and I always have a casting rod ready to go when trolling. I don’t mind trolling surface lures either, again because it results in some exciting aerial action on the hook-ups. Poppers, stickbaits and even large metals will all catch spaniards when trolled along the surface and there’ll be no missing the strike when it comes! Halco Maxs are also very effective for spaniard trolling, as they can run truly at a high speed. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Boat fishing outfits for mackerel need not break the bank and there are countless rods and reels that will do the job, from budget combos to top-end gear. For trolling, either spinning or overhead outfits will do, often coming down to personal choice, and anything from a short, stubby boat rod to a 2.4m casting rod will get the job done. Mono line is preferred for trolling due to its shock absorption and the fact casting distance is not needed, and strengths of 12-23kg will suffice.

Another option for boat fishers is to anchor and berley in likely locations. Set up a berley trail and cast a bait such as a mulie or scaly mackerel as far as possible along it, before retrieving it slowly. If there are any spaniards around, they should show up before too long. One of the best anglers I know always deploys a floating bait as soon as the boat is stopped to bottom fish, and has caught countless spaniards this way. Remember to always handle spaniards with care when you bring them into the boat, as those teeth can do plenty of damage.

//SHORE FISHING In WA we are blessed with not only great boat fishing opportunities for mackerel, but also some fantastic world-class land-based locations to target them as well. Shore fishing for mackies requires a little more specialised gear than boat fishing and is not as reliable generally, but it can be very exciting when it all comes together. Spots like Steep Point and Quobba are renowned for producing incredible shore-based spaniard fishing, as the jagged rocks that make it a very dangerous coastline also drop off into deep blue Indian Ocean water – ideal for cruising pelagics like mackerel and tuna. There are two main ways of shore fishing for spaniards – ballooning and spinning. I find ballooning a bit too passive for my liking and so have rarely done it, but there is no doubting its popularity and effectiveness. By carrying out sizeable baits such as gardies under big balloons filled with helium on large capacity overhead reels (line capacity of around 1000m of 23kg line), fishers can access spaniards and other species, well out of the casting range of any angler. Ideally, the bait will skip around on the surface, imitating a fleeing baitfish and thereby attracting any nearby pelagics. Many good fish are caught this way each year and it is a more relaxed style of fishing, as it is pretty much set and forget until the reel, hopefully, goes off. www.spooledmagazine.com.au

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Mackerel generally fight cleanly, but sharks also love them and can be a massive problem in heavily fished areas, meaning heavier gear will be needed to get the fish to the boat in one piece. Wire traces are a good idea when fishing for spaniards because of their razor-sharp teeth, although I do believe I get more strikes when not running wire. However, the cost of lure losses when you run that gauntlet can quickly mount up, so that’s a big factor in this decision. If the fish are really firing and hitting anything, then wire is definitely a better bet. I always run a high quality snap at the end of the wire, usually a crosslock snap or similar, as I like to change lures regularly.


West Oz — ­ Mackerel Capital of the World

Heavier gear is used for ballooning than spinning, which also means hooked fish can often be retrieved quite quickly, which can be a distinct advantage when there are sharks about– an all-too-common problem in WA these days.

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While the rocks of Steep Point and Quobba are mecca for ballooners, there are also spots like Wagoe, and even close to Perth, where they can be caught from the beach this way, which is a superb fishing experience. In all locations the key is an offshore breeze to carry the bait out to where the fish are, so ballooning activity peaks when the prevailing winds are easterly in most cases. Steep Point is different as it faces in a northerly direction, which is what makes it so popular over summer, when the breezes usually blow from the south. My preference when shore fishing is lure casting, as it provides much more of the type of excitement I enjoy when chasing pelagics from shore. It can mean hours of unrewarded casting, but that is forgotten when the strike comes. The real buzz for me comes from the explosive hits and that initial surge when the spaniard heads for the horizon at full tilt. Perched up on the rocks, you often get a great view as a silver streak materialises from nowhere, savagely broadsiding the lure just metres from the shore. They will usually shake their head for a few seconds to try to dislodge the lure and then turn the jets on once more.

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Back in the day it was back-breaking stuff when we used to cast lead-head jigs and Bomber minnows from shore on a heavy Ugly Stik and Penn combo, but nowadays casting gear has come a long way and is a delight to use. A 2.73m graphite casting rod capable of casting up to 100gm does the job perfectly for most scenarios, and should be matched to a quality spinning reel capable of holding around 400m of 14kg braid. A decent length of wind-on leader is recommended to allow for some shock absorption when the hit comes. A high retrieve ratio on the reel is a good thing, as lures should be wound in as fast as possible when targeting spaniards because they get very excited by a fleeing meal. That said, I once watched an old timer cast out a Nils Master on an Alvey combo and the slow clicking retrieve didn’t stop a spaniard belting his lure!

Around 22 kilos of mackerel caught spinning from the rocks on an X-Rap.

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I use a mix of lures when spinning from the rocks for mackies and will rotate them through a session to find what is working. Sometimes spaniards seem to be close to the surface, especially at first and last light, and other times they appear to drop deeper, usually as the sun comes up. So my lure selection on any given day will include a range of options to cover the entire water column. Generally, I will start with a shallow diving minnow lure such as a 14cm Rapala X-Rap, which is good for casting. If this doesn’t attract interest, I will switch to a sinking lure and I have a couple of options here. A 60-100gm metal, such as a Raider, is one that’s simple to use. I simply cast it as far as possible, let it sink to near the bottom, and then reef it in as fast as I can, often with the occasional pause or even a violent rip of the rod. When it hits the surface, I’ll open the bail arm and let it sink down again, or sometimes just keep ripping it along the top. The latter approach leads to some spectacular strikes as a spaniard charges onto the lure from below and finds itself suspended in mid-air – an awesome sight from up above on the rocks.


West Oz — ­ Mackerel Capital of the World

Another great sinking option is a Halco Max 130, fished very similarly to the metal, cast as far as possible and wound in at high speed. The Max swims all the way to the base of the rocks, so the strike can often come almost at your feet, which is another great adrenaline rush. Don’t disregard the time-honoured white lead-head jig either, as these might be old fashioned, but still catch plenty of mackerel!

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Working surface lures can be difficult from the high rock platforms usually fished for spaniards in WA, but they do work. I have bounced Richter Plugs along the surface and there is a great range of sinking and floating stickbaits that can by dynamite on spaniards. I like sinking stickbaits due to the extra versatility to work them through the water column, and a couple of good options are the Maria 52 Loadeds and new Halco Slidogs. An erratic retrieve is needed with stickbaits to give them action, but most of the aforementioned lures are best simply retrieved as fast as possible. No matter how fast you go, a fired-up spaniard has you covered and it will usually hit your lure before you’ve even seen it coming! Baitcasting also works well and we’ve caught some fine spaniards this way, casting unweighted mulies or scaly mackerel. When fishing for mackerel from the rocks you’ll need an appropriate gaff. Most locations in WA are too high for conventional gaffs or nets, so a specialised sliding cliff gaff that runs down the line to the fish is required. Catch and release is usually not an option, unless you can find a safe spot at water level, and wearing a PFD is always recommended when rock fishing in these areas, which are rugged and dangerous, and where any mistake can be fatal. Many anglers have perished on the rocks in WA, and a PFD gives you the best chance of survival should the unthinkable happen and you end up in the water.

//BYCATCH When fishing for mackerel from boat or shore, the bycatch can be pretty impressive too. Obviously, when trolling from a boat, all sorts of pelagics can show up and these can include shark mackerel, broad-barred spanish mackerel (which I have found don’t fight anything like as well as narrow-barred!), several species of tuna, particularly yellowfin and longtail (northern bluefin), wahoo, cobia, samson fish, dolphinfish, trevally and even billfish, to name just a few of the likely suspects when spaniard fishing. All are pretty welcome captures and most will also be caught from the shore from time to time as well. Dollies and wahoo aren’t likely when casting from the rocks, but it has been known to happen, and we’ve certainly had billfish hook-ups when spinning for spaniards. I once hooked a nice sailfish while casting metals for mackies near Steep Point. It all but spooled me on a Daiwa Saltiga 4500, but I eventually got it to the rocks, where I busted it off rather than drag it ashore. The bonus lucky dip when spaniard fishing is just another one of its many attractions! www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Boat Test - Stacer Wild Rider 539

BOAT TEST

SHANE MENSFORTH

STACER WILD RIDER 539

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SHANE MENSFORTH RECENTLY TOOK ONE OF STACER’S NEW BOWRIDERS FOR A TEST RUN, AND CAME AWAY FEELING WELL IMPRESSED.

So called ‘cross-over’ style boats seem to be grabbing more and more attention these days. Unless you’re a true hard-core fisho, getting into something that offers multiple uses makes good sense, particularly if you’re trying to convince the good lady that the family really does need a boat! Well set up bowriders, like Stacer’s Wild Rider series, are a serious option – probably more so than ever before. There are five models in the Wild Rider range, all of which have become extremely popular across much of the country. My home state of SA isn’t recognised as an easy place to sell bowriders, but word is gradually getting around that they really do have a place here, and acrossthe-board sales are slowly, but surely creeping upward. On first inspection the Wild Rider 539 looks a bit ‘stumpy’ (for lack of a better word). With a decent amount of space up forward consumed by the bow seating, the helm is set well back; in fact, it’s close to mid-ships, which takes some getting used to. However, once you consider how practical this layout really is, it’s easy to get past the unconventional configuration and think about fishing, skiing, tubing or even wake boarding.

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Boat Test - Stacer Wild Rider 539

I can already imagine hundreds of died-in-the-wool anglers tuning out and looking for the next story, but let’s just hang in there for a minute to examine the Wild Rider’s good points – and there are many. Apart from convincing the wife about buying a boat, that bowrider section also turns into a useful fishing space. Lure casting from a bowrider isn’t a whole different from lure casting in a centre or side console. With the walk-through windscreen arrangement you still get 360 degree access, which is essentially what most anglers are looking for. And to have comfortable seating up there at the bow on your ‘casting platform’ has to be a bonus.

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The curved four-piece windscreen wraps nicely around the helm area, 56 providing ample protection for driver and passenger. Seating behind the ‘screen is extremely comfortable, which is important in any boat that could be used for extended skiing or wake boarding sessions. It’s also great up front, providing bow accommodation for three in absolute comfort. The test boat (from Sports Marine in Adelaide) had been fitted with an easily removable bimini top, which makes a lot of sense in a climate like ours. It takes just seconds to erect or lower the bimini if there’s lure casting to be done, and I’d definitely rate this as a ‘must have’ accessory. Useful bits and pieces from the standard features list include full carpeting throughout, casting platform conversion kit, folding rear lounge with backrest, Fusion stereo system and a rear boarding ladder. Stacer is renowned for its

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SPECIFICATIONS HOW MUCH? $52,950 GENERAL INFO’ Length – 5.4m Beam – 2.36m HP range – 90-135

Dry weight – 645kg

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Length on trailer – 6.80m

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Aluminium gauge – Bottom 4mm, topsides 3mm

CAPACITIES Fuel – 95 litres SUPPLIED BY Sports Marine 614-616 South Road, Angle Park Ph: (08) 8349 7177 sales@sports-marine.com.au www.sports-marine.com.au optional extras catalogue, and I reckon hydraulic steering, a transom bait board, electric motor mounting bracket, berley bucket and transom door would all be worth considering – particularly so if fishing was to be the boat’s major use. Stacer recommends outboards of between 90-135hp for the Wild Rider 539, and engine choice naturally depends a lot on what you’ll be doing with it. Skiers would obviously opt for maximum power, while fishers and cruisers would likely be happy with a 115. Engines of up to 206kg can be fitted within manufacturer’s specifications, so most modern four strokes in that range can be considered. Stacer uses 4mm on the bottom and transom, with 3mm on the topsides – pretty standard alloy gauge for boats in this category and size range. The Wild Rider hull weighs in at 645kg dry, making it a snack to tow and launch. It’s presented on a single axle trailer, ensuring it’s very easy to manoeuvre for carport storage. Sports Marine had put the Stacer package together with a Mercury 115 ProXS four stroke, which is indeed a sweet choice. It’s an 8-valve, single overhead cam engine that weighs a respectable 163 kilos and has a displacement of 2.1 litres. Like all Mercury four strokes these days, fuel economy is exceptionally good. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Boat Test - Stacer Wild Rider 539

I tested the Wild Rider on the Gold Coast last year with a 90hp engine on the back, and recall being suitably impressed, so I was naturally keen to see how the rig would perform with 25 extra horses. As mentioned, this hull is not particularly heavy, and I had a fair idea it would be pretty quick with the 115.

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And quick it most certainly was. Acceleration from rest was exactly what the water skier/wake boarder will be looking for, and it took very little time to achieve top speed of 66kph. The Stacer Revolution hull is extremely efficient at climbing onto the plane, and far increased buoyancy up forward will be appreciated by all who sit up in the bow. This quite unique hull design offers several obvious 58 benefits, particularly in terms of ride and general handling. Most experts agree it’s the most significant hull design improvement from Stacer in over a decade. Throwing the hull from lock to lock at speed induces no cavitation whatsoever, and you always feel that you’re in control. It’s an extremely predictable rig to drive, and extremely responsive to trim adjustment. At rest it’s exceptionally stable, despite being relatively light in weight. There’s no doubt that Stacer’s Wild Rider 539 fits neatly into the multipurpose category, making it a very attractive family boating option indeed.

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“In terms of safety, vision and looks, it’s hard to go past Clearview Powerfold Mirrors.” Pat Callinan

Clearview Towing Mirrors now include the following options* • Black or chrome • Manual or electric • With or without indicators • Power-Fold • Blind spot monitoring • Heated glass *selected models only

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Ficheno at Bicheno

JOHN WILLIS

FICHENO AT BICHENO

JOHN WILLIS RECKONS TASSIE’S EAST COAST HAS PLENT Y GOING FOR IT, PARTICUL ARLY WELL OFFSHORE.

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THE CREW - Honorary photographer and videographer Mollie Hammersley and her fatjher, and skipper Josh with decky Jason Probey

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Ficheno at Bicheno

There’s just a slight hint of a chill in the air at 5am after a balmy night at the quaint little coastal town of Bicheno, midway up the east coast of Tasmania. I was pleased to find the doors open at the Blue Edge Bakery, where a gruff, but very friendly nugget behind the counter questioned, “Strong flat white, mate?” I nodded with a smile, registering that he remembered me from yesterday’s visit. The baker appeared behind the counter with a tray of irresistible chicken camembert pies, fresh from the oven. Decision made – these are too good to refuse and a great foundation for a long day at sea. The shop is in full stride with the baker starting his shift at 10.00pm the night before, and the doors opening to serve fishermen since 3.00 am. This is a fishing town; it starts early.

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The pre-dawn peace settles my mind and body in anticipation for yet another day at sea. The head’s still fuzzy from last night’s antics, but the anticipation of yet another day in this piscatorial playground beckons like an Athenian siren.

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Bicheno is about half way up the east coast of Tasmania, and has the only public “all weather and tides” facility between St Helens, some 70km to the north, and Coles Bay or Triabunna, both somewhat to the south. Its close proximity to the Continental Shelf is one of the reasons for its bountiful, temperate waters. There are fishing options from beaches and land-based platforms through to extended offshore sojourns. Target species include the coastal calamari, abalone, crayfish, flathead, salmon, gummy and school shark, plus inshore reef species. Out further are the prized striped trumpeter grounds, and beyond we search for large pelagics, including southern bluefin tuna, albacore, sharks and the occasional striped marlin. Even further eastwards are blue eye trevalla, hapuka, gemfish, ray’s bream, blue grenadier, ling and the prized broadbill swordfish, along with a plethora of strange ooglies in the deep water abyss on the steep edge of the Continental Shelf.

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Albacore are common targets at Bicheno www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Ficheno at Bicheno

Bicheno is particularly popular between Christmas and April, when the east Australian current feeds fish- rich warm water to the coastal fringes. There are a couple of trailerable dive charter boats, but only one permanently moored fishing charter that is more attuned to bottom bouncing than offshore game fishing. However, I have found the locals and most visiting anglers exceptionally friendly so it’s worth nuzzling up to them if you are looking for an offshore adventure and don’t have your own boat. You will share the ocean with huge pods of dolphins, including some of the largest individual specimens I have ever seen, and, of course, the annual migrating humpback and southern right whales between May and November.

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Big and little kids alike will love the nightly little penguin parade offered by Bicheno Penguin Tours, and for a truly unique experience there’s the “Devils in the Dark” tour that showcases the iconic Tasmanian devil in an “as wild as possible setting.” There’s Tasmanian Coastal Seafoods and the Lobster Shack specialising in fresh local seafood and offering lobster rolls as a specialty. (Tell Sarah that Bear sent ya!) The region is home to some of the world’s best cool climate vineyards and many with their own tasting and restaurant facilities, including nearby White Sands Resort with its Iron House Vineyard, Brewery, Distillery and restaurant.

The ideallic little natural harbour called The Gulch www.spooledmagazine.com.au


There’s no shortage of great local food and wine on offer at Bicheno, and these lobster rolls from The Lobster Shack are a must.

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Ficheno at Bicheno

When it comes time for some exercise, grab your camera and take the walk to the Whalers Lookout at the top of Bicheno township with its panoramic 360 degree views, complete with signs describing the history, cultural significance and features of this beautiful region. Back on the water’s edge the Bicheno Blowhole erupts like a geyser out of the ochrecolored granite rocks, even on a relatively small swell, but be warned that people have been washed out to sea off the platforms by underestimating the conditions!

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The Bicheno Harbor is named “The Gulch”. It is one of the most beautiful little naturally protected aquatic havens in the country, with direct ocean access to the prolific east coast fishery. It’s a small natural harbour nestled

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behind the Governor Island Sanctuary and Marine Reserve. The air fills with the screech of its thousands of feathered inhabitants that all seem to be flapping aimlessly overhead, protesting the human hive of activity at the ramp. The seabird rookery boasts one of Tasmania’s largest breeding populations of crested terns, but naturally it’s just a little on the nose on this balmy mid-summer’s morning.


Ficheno at Bicheno

You can catch succulent calamari amongst a selection of fish species off the jetty, or even dive for a crayfish in the busy little waterway. This idyllic little stretch of water even boasts a glass bottom boat for tourists to view the undersea delights in the quaint little refuge. Governor Island boasts a world renowned marine reserve on the seaward side with some of the best SCUBA diving in Australia. Shallow kelpcovered reef quickly drops down over the colourful granite boulders to spectacular sponge gardens that a myriad of sea creatures call home.

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The crayfish (southern rock lobster) season opened for both professional and recreational fisho’s alike just prior to our Australia Day Ficheno excursion, creating plenty of activity as punters launch and retrieve their boats to pull or place their pots in the hour preceding the dawn. Recreational fishers can buy a licence for one pot each and enjoy regular success on these spiny seafood delicacies.

//BACK TO THE FICHENO Ficheno is simply an annual get together for a group of mainly Tasmanians whose prime objective is fishing. Catching is a priority, but it’s also about a group of mates getting together once a year to enjoy and support each other in an ideal environment. There are all the fishing trip shenanigans, particularly when it involves Tasmanian fishing identities Adrian “Mozza” Morrisby and Kelly “Hooch” Hunt, also known as Team Penn/Simrad amongst other expletives.

There’s plenty of bread and butter action available on the local pier at The Gulch www.spooledmagazine.com.au


I am amazed with how far removed Tasmania seems from the land of Lacoste polos, Bermuda shorts, Timberland boat shoes and little white sports socks common too much of the mainland game fishing fraternity. There’s no airs and graces down here; it’s all about Blundies, hoodies, singlets, Stormy’s, hi-vis and wooly hats with salt-of-the earth seafarers who regularly face enormous seas drummed up by mighty Antarctic swells. Larger trailer boats will get you to the wide grounds easily, however there is plenty to keep small boat owners happy in close to shore. The inshore reefs hold good numbers of calamari and, of course, salmon, trevally and similar bread and butter species, but don’t forget some heavier casting jigs for the hoodlums (yellowtail kingfish), particularly around crashing bommies and rock walls.

My skipper this day is “Bert”, a third generation coal miner from the nearby mountainous town of St Marys. He loads the portable oven on the Skippercraft with party pies (an essential lifesaving requirement in the often frigid Tasmanian conditions), sets the outriggers and tuna lures while the Simrad shows the way to “Seymour” on the striped trumpeter grounds. It’s a sea mist kind of morning with a very gentle swell and sunshine gradually breaking through a strange summer inversion heralding some blistering heat blowing in from the north. I wondered as we passed numerous seals lazing on the calm swell how on earth they slept peacefully with the large numbers of big toothy predators threatening their daily existence. There are pods of big dolphins jumping playfully, cute little penguins ducking and weaving, and sea birds all around. Nature seemed to be enjoying a lazy morning where the fishing wasn’t so hot, perhaps due to a quickly falling barometer heralding the oncoming heatwave. We laughed at a comical discussion on the VHF radio with the Ficheno clan debating the fighting abilities of a massive manta ray that chose to visit our friends’ Stabicraft just as he boated a large striped trumpeter. www.spooledmagazine.com.au

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Tasmania is full of great characters Paul Digger Digney and Kelly Hooch Hunt play up for the camera


Ficheno at Bicheno

We are all salivating at the thought of the trumpeter’s culinary delights. This all lead to a lively discussion on world-changing social affairs, like who puts cucumber on their salad rolls and inferences on the crews sexuality due to their like or dislikes of coriander.

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Deeper we go in search of something more sizeable, but not before the kill tanks are filled with a box of flathead. It constantly amazes me that we incessantly target flathead throughout inshore waterways, but when it comes to offshore waters they are almost an unspoken by-catch. Either way, their succulent fillets are most welcome on the dinner table and very simple rigs with all manners of bait or jigs on simple paternoster rigs do the job easily. I’ve seen flathead in waters to 100 metres, 70 but it seems that 10-50 metres is far more productive for quality specimens. It’s only around 14 nautical miles to the first drop on the Shelf, but there are often plenty of bluefin, albacore and stripies to play with on the way. There’s even the occasional striped marlin or yellowfin tuna in the warm summer currents and I am sure we hooked a jumbo broadbill on a lure momentarily. Don’t be at all surprised if a school of kingies make their presence known either! Once we hit the first drop in around 300 metres, it’s time to start looking. Hooch once said to me that “charts ‘round here are more of an artist’s impression” so don’t be surprised if what you see on the plotter doesn’t seem to correlate to what’s on the sounder. Water depths from 300 to about 700 metres are worth a drop, depending on the tide, wind and current. It’s always nice to try to set your drift across a “horseshoe” or similar underwater structure, and if your sounder can identify bait schools or individual fish, then drop away.

Bear with a prized Striped Trumpeter - yummy www.spooledmagazine.com.au


It is a long, long way to the bottom, so electric reels with heavy lead, leaders and at least 80kg braid are usual. Most fish at this depth have sharp teeth so heavy fluorocarbon paternosters are generally the go. But it is always worthwhile having a swordfish rig out as well. The crew at Swordpro.com say “no light – no bite!” so specialised lights are attached to heavy leaders and large hooks to attract the swords. Bait can be just about any squid or whole fish, arrow or calamari, bonito, slimy or stripey – at this depth I really don’t think they’re that picky! Swordfish have become the main target on the drop-off; however, there are always many surprises in the depths. Large bluefin are a regular bycatch, as are makos and all manner of sharks. If you want some action in between bottom bites, just start a berley trail and it never seems to take long to berley up the man in the grey coat – or gal as the case may be!

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The man in the grey suit arrives in the berley trail - a Mako

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Ficheno at Bicheno

Makos are most common; in fact, I’m trying to remember any day that we haven’t had one come up a decent berley trail, and some of these are XXXXOS sizes. Fish around the 80-150kg mark are very common, but there are MUCH bigger models in what seems abundance. I witnessed an unusual catch of a mako around 100kg that had its dorsal fin removed, probably by that bastard fin clipping industry, but it had completely healed and was living a healthy lifestyle – until it took a bait at Bicheno, that is. Come to think of it, Ficheno isn’t much good for the health of most attendees, especially when Digger breaks out the karaoke machine at midnight – but what goes on a fishing trip, stays on a fishing trip and the only damage done is to ourselves!

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Mark Hateleys 2400 Stabicraft - Thirsty Work - with a 300 plus kilo Mako www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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It’s Time To Get The Vibe

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JARROD DAY

IT’S TIME TO GET THE VIBE AS JARROD DAY EXPL AINS, VIBES ARE RAPIDLY GAINING TRACTION IN LURE FISHING CIRCLES. THEY ARE VERSATILE AND EFFECTIVE ON MANY SPECIES, BUT FISHING THEM CORRECTLY IS VITAL.

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Metal vibes can take a beating, especially when targeting big oyster-crunching bream.

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It’s Time To Get The Vibe

Hard bodies, metals and soft plastics make up the majority of lures in today’s market, and while there are still plenty of other types of lures available, imagine if you could have that one lure that just continues to catch fish after fish, no matter where you’re fishing or what species you’re targeting around the country. Unfortunately, that lure has not been invented yet, but coming a close second is the vibe. Fish hunt using smell, sight and sense and when detecting a vibe, they sense the noise through the water using the lateral line on their body. The commotion a vibe generates in water intensifies when worked correctly, and fish quickly sense this, picking up on the noise they create and move in to investigate.

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Don’t get me wrong – vibes are by no means new, but their effectiveness is growing in leaps and bounds for a huge variety of species right around the country.

//SOFT OR HARD? While vibes are made from varying materials, whether you use a metal, soft or a hard vibe is entirely the angler’s choice. However, each does have its benefits over the other. Soft vibes certainly have their place and are made from materials such as TPE or TPR, of which both are Thermoplastic elastomers. The main difference between the two is that TPE has a much longer life span, better heat resistance and corrosion resistance

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Working vibes along rock walls can see you become snagged, but when bream are feeding in these areas, a vibe is rarely passed up.

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It’s Time To Get The Vibe

than TPR. The benefit in using a soft vibe made from either TPE or TPR is that they have the ability to stretch when a fish bites them and can return to their near original shape. In saying that, fish with sharp teeth can still sever the tail from a soft vibe in one bite. Soft vibes have a more natural feel and, being manufactured from TPE or TPR, to a fish they feel as natural as live prey when eaten. Think of it this way – a fish that grabs the vibe, but misses the hooks has the potential to spit the lure if it feels foreign. However, due to the nature and feeling of a soft vibe, it is more lifelike, and a predator is more likely to have a second bite, hopefully engulfing the entire lure.

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Hard body vibes, on the other hand, do have an advantage over soft and metal 78 vibes, as the external body is hardened plastic, allowing it much more wear and tear. Hard body vibes also contain an internal cavity in which ball bearings or rattles can be placed during manufacture to enable the lure to make noise when worked in the water. This makes it much louder when worked, subsequently attracting fish. In saying that, some hard body vibes can also come as silent models, and although the internal rattle may transmit a higher sound through the water, silent models rely on the body shape to create the vibration. This can turn shut down fish into striking because the sound is more subtle and not so aggressive, which could have the opposite effect.

A big oyster cruncher falling victim to a solid black bream from off a rock wall. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Unlike their cousins, metal vibes tend to be made from a flat piece of steel with a lead weight moulded to the chin area. However, they can also have the lead moulded on the back end if the design of the vibe is to resemble a prawn. The body design is similar to that of hard and soft body vibe, but with metal. They are a capable of taking much more of a pounding, however they tend to be heavier for their size and need to be fished in deeper water than their hard and soft cousins.

//MOTION OF THE OCEAN Whether it’s fishing a hard, soft or metal vibe, the techniques are all the same. Soft plastic and hard body vibes tend to have one tow point on the top of the lure. This allows them to be cast and retrieved or jigged vertically, whereas metal vibes tend to have multiple tow points to allow for different fishing methods like trolling. Any vibe can be trolled, however those with multiple tow points are specifically designed for this technique, as the front hole points the nose of the lure more vertically so it trolls and vibrates through the water on a better angle. Looking at a vibe’s profile, you’ll notice they are all weighted towards the head end or, depending on the brand, the bum end to represent a yabby or prawn that swims in reverse. Being weighted at one end with the tow point at the other enables the rest of the body to vibrate when ripped through the water. The vibe is weight forward, allowing the tail end to vibrate left and right as it catches the water. Depending on the depth of water being fished, vibe selection is important to ensure you use the correctly weighted vibe to deliver a natural presentation on the drop rather than just a plummeting action straight to the bottom. On the drop a vibe should sink at a medium pace, head down and bum up, and once it hits the bottom, should sit exactly in this position like a feeding fish. This gives the impression that it’s a small fish feeding on the bottom, unaware of the surroundings, and a predatory fish will sense this as vulnerability and not hesitate to take bite. Fishing a vibe is relatively easy; in fact, even simpler than attempting to get the right action from a jerk bait or the finesse approach in hopping a two inch grub over an oysterencrusted submerged log. The crux of working a vibe is to rip the rod tip vertically, followed by slowly winding up the slack while lowering the rod tip back to the water’s surface. www.spooledmagazine.com.au

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Vibes also have an advantage over other lures, especially when the fishing is tough. You may be hunting bream in shallow water on a bright, sunny day and find the fish scattered amongst the weed beds or holding on the edge of a bank. These fish seldom come up and attack a slow rolled softie or twitched hardbody. A vibe, on the other hand, can be worked relatively easily and the vibrations it emits can cause the fish to follow as it’s being worked before picking it to eat when it is resting. Then again, if the vibe is worked amongst timber structure where fish are hiding, the emitted rattle or vibration gets them excited and can send them into a feeding frenzy.


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Victoria’s winter is the prime time to vibe for big bream.

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Vibes can be cast to a destination, whether that’s blindly to the edge of an estuary bank or deep over a reef to where fish are holding before being retrieved. While the vibe is sinking, keep an eye on the braid, as you’ll notice when the lure hits the bottom, it will give a subtle “flick”. Obviously, in windy conditions this is harder to notice, but providing you have control of the lure by winding in the slack, you will notice it. Depending on where you’re fishing, vibes can be worked in a manner of ways, and while it is traditionally a cast and retrieve method that is used, vibes can also be jigged vertically over deep reefs for demersal species. In this case it is a matter of sounding fish over a reef, casting ahead of the current to allow the vibe to get down to where the fish are holding before almost jigging the vibe in one lift, then allowing it to re-sink to the reef.

So, no matter where you’re fishing or what you’re fishing for, there is a vibe to suit your location and species, no matter how tough the fishing becomes.

//WHERE AND WHEN Knowing when to deploy a vibe is determined by the behaviour of the fish your targeting. At any given time of the day fish behaviour can change due to environmental factors. For instance, a low pressure system might push in, causing the barometer to drop. This can determine where the fish sit in the water column, and getting to them with other lures may be a challenge. Snapper and other demersal species might hold closer to the bottom on a low barometer, and a vibe in these situations can be dropped directly to where the fish are feeding. It can be vertically jigged in the strike zone, unlike a soft plastic using the cast and retrieve method. Vibes can be fished anywhere and, given their versatility, can be used in numerous ways. What ultimately determines where a vibe is used depends on whether you want to cast one or not. Regardless of where you’re fishing, the vibration is a huge part of getting a strike. Take fishing in dirty water for example. A fish’s vision is compromised, and it tends to hunt using smell and sound. A vibe in these situations can be the determining factor in getting strike, as the sound emitted can travel for miles. I guess it’s like rigging the dinner bell. Obviously, with all lures there is always that one negative, and when it comes to vibes, it is snagging, especially when fishing around structure. Hooks on vibes hang directly under the belly, and thus have the potential to catch on any snag. In saying that, however, the recent development of a weedless vibe has come to fruition after www.spooledmagazine.com.au

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Unbeknown to some, vibes are also a very good lure to troll. Heavily weighted vibes, such as the River 2 Sea 160 Killer Vibe, are traditionally trolled for tuna, mackerel, mahi mahi and other pelagics. On the other hand, small vibes such as the Bone Dash can be trolled up rivers for barra, jacks and other estuaries species. If you want to go even smaller, Yakamito’s Bribe Vibe, which is only 40mm, can also be trolled at a slow pace for salmon, tailor, trevally and even flathead over shallow flats.


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much testing and is being well received by estuarine anglers.

VIBE SELECTION SUGGESTION

No doubt weedless soft vibes will be developed in larger sizes, but in the meantime, if you’re an estuary angler, these will be right up your ally.

ESTUARY:

//WORK IT RIGHT

Soft Vibe: Yakamaito Viper S 50, Zerek Fish Trap 65

Hard Body: Zerek Venus Trap, Yakamito Bribe, Bass Day Kangoku Vib, River 2 Sea Baby Vibe Metal: Yakamito Lancet 40, Ecogear VX 35, Ecogear ZX 40, Megabass Blading X

As with any fishing, the result can be affected by the gear being used. Using a vibe relies on getting the lure to vibrate under the water. Not just any rod and reel will get the desired action from a vibe; you need total control over what the vibe is doing. Of course, if you’re going to try a new lure or technique for that matter, you want to get the best from it and with any new technique comes the right outfit designed to maximise success. Essentially, you need to be using a graphite rod with a fast to extra fast taper. Of course, a rod with a fast taper is particularly used for fishing with lures, so if you’re already a lure flicker, no doubt you’ll be geared up for vibing. Using vibes can be highly successful and is certainly worth giving a try. Although there is a myriad of vibe options available, just think about the species you’re going to be fishing for, the location and water you’ll be fishing in and purchase the right one to suit. I guarantee that the first fish you hook on a vibe won’t be the last.

REEF: Hard Body: Bone Dash Metal: Spanyard Blade 71, Evergreen Little Max Vibe Soft Vibe: Yakamaito Viper S 120, Zerek Fish Trap 110

CREEKS/RIVERS: Hard Body: Yakamito Rabid Vibe 60, Megabass Vibration-X Smatra, Metal: Yakamito Lancet 40, Ecogear ZX 40 Soft Vibe: Yakamaito Viper S 95, Zerek Fish Trap 95

LAKES: Hard Body: Yakamito Rabid Vibe 60, Megabass Vibration-X Smatra, Metal: Yakamito Lancet 40, Ecogear VX 35, Ecogear ZX 40 Soft Vibe: Yakamaito Viper S 55, Zerek Fish Trap 65

OFFSHORE/TROLLING Hard Body: River 2 Sea Killer Vibe 160 Metal: Spanyard Blade 145 Soft Vibe: Yakamaito Viper S 120

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Winter Reds

GLEN BOOTH

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SO IT’S NOT THE WARMEST TIME OF YEAR, BUT A SCHOOL OF RAMPAGING REDS IN THE BERLEY WILL SOON HEAT THINGS UP, AS GLEN BOOTH EXPL AINS.

Perfect eating size, and it’s T-shirt weather in winter on the mid north coast of NSW. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Winter and into spring is snapper season on the East Coast. Most of the marlin have slipped away to go do whatever they do in the vast Pacific, the mackerel have withdrawn to behind the banana curtain, and tuna fishing can be very much weather dependent. Inshore, however, there is a lot of fishing on offer and even if those icy sou’ westers are pumping, there’s usually a protected corner behind a headland that can be fished. And when those big, slow moving high-pressure systems start drifting across the continent, there can be dream weather windows for days on end. In saying that, a rip-roaring southerly can really fire the reds up. They’re definitely full of reckless disregard after a couple of days of big seas, and that first fishable day invariably sees some nice fish decked.

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Anchoring and bait fishing in conjunction with a berley trail also expands the catch list dramatically. Reds of all sizes are often accompanied by pearl perch, teraglin, tuskfish, jewfish and kings. Of course, berley stirs up


Winter Reds

less desirable species as well, but let’s concentrate on the positives. Besides which, when the reds are in full flight, the trash struggles to get a look-in.

SPOOLED MAGAZINE

If you’re in position before dawn, shallow water is the place to be – reef complexes just off the beach, in fact. As the sun rises, the bite usually tapers off, and deeper water is the next port of call. 86 Overcast days can extend the inshore bite window, however, and I have enjoyed some inexplicably red hot bites with the sun directly overhead. But for the rest of the time, successful floater fishing usually takes place in water between 10 and 25 fathoms deep. Anything beyond that is probably stretching the friendship, unless there’s negligible current.

//FLOATER FISHING BAITS Nationwide, the West Australian pilchard (or its local derivative) is the number one snapper bait. IQF boxes of 4-15kg size are a better value than block Double trouble. A pair of red pillies, as there’s less wastage and it’s rockies on a ganged hook rig. Get possible to tailor the amount to suit a stung by one of these buggers and you’ll know all about it. Two just day’s fishing. What doesn’t get used doesn’t bear thinking about! this trip can be re-used on the next or turned into berley. A handful of table salt toughens them up for a second crack, and reds don’t seem to mind slightly stale bait. Summer months see a cord line with a couple of pink squids positioned amongst the heavy tackle outfits while trolling for marlin. To avoid a short-lived hookup on a billfish — and they’re past masters at finding the wrong lure on the wrong gear — the crash line is kept on-board until working birds are sighted. Muscling stripies to the boat on a length of VB cord is also bloody good fun; the only downside being the skipper (me) totally losing his mind with every skipjack that falls off at the side of the boat. As reddie bait, tuna strips really www.spooledmagazine.com.au


A classic knobby snapper profile.

are hard to beat. Mack’ tuna and frigate mackerel are also gun cut baits. I’m not a big fan of bonito, but some people enjoy good success with it. Aside from the space it will take up, rather than freeze the tuna whole, it’s best to knock the fillets off, sprinkle the flesh side with coarse salt, wrap in newspaper and freeze. The salt will draw the moisture out, making for a much tougher bait that will resist pickers until Mr Red (or Mr Pearlie, Mr Tuskie or Mr Trag) finds it. Periodically while fishing floaters, a mysterious weight will come on the line, which is usually a squid tearing chunks out of that pilchard. A steady retrieve may see you slipping a net under tonight’s entree, but most times they drop off in plain sight. This is when having a jig ready-rigged on a handline comes in handy. Since I decided to get on the front foot in this regard, I haven’t been bothered by a squid. Not once! For those who have better success in the cephalopod stakes (or even target them specifically), whether fished whole or split in two, a squid head makes great big snapper bait. Threaded onto a single hook like a beach worm, the individual tentacles are largely picker free too. Dead cuttlefish floating on the surface after spawning are another source of free bait. They occasionally have a big red or two lurking in the immediate vicinity, so don’t rush in to net it without scoping out the area first. www.spooledmagazine.com.au

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Winter Reds

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Long baits like pilchards and tuna strips are best presented on a ganged hook rig. I use a pair of 3/0 and 4/0 Mustad 542 hooks linked by a number nine or ten barrel swivel, but a standard double gang hook rig will also work. A three-hook gang might be necessary for long baits such as garfish and pike — two under-heralded but extremely worthwhile snapper baits — that are also easy and fun to gather yourself.

//THE BERLEY BASICS It’s certainly possible to catch reds by fishing baits back down to the reef, but it’s berley that really brings them undone. It’s immensely satisfying to clean the catch and recognise a piece of something you’d flicked off the bait board earlier in the day. Remarkably, what turns up in their guts is often not a juicy chunk of meat, but a piece of skin, head or backbone that nobody in their right mind would consider putting on a hook. Or would they? I once used chicken pellets a lot, but prawn shells stockpiled over summer, and bits and pieces like old pilchards are more than sufficient to keep the trail going all day if necessary. While berley can liven up the reef, it can also get the rubbish on the move. This may not be altogether bad, especially if yellowtail and slimy mackerel are present. A small live yakka can produce some quality snaps, and the fillets of both bait species make excellent strip baits. If the pickers are particularly savage, try a whole butterflied yellowtail, or a slimy or yakka head split www.spooledmagazine.com.au

A pilchard and a striped tuna strip on a gang hook rig, made by linking the two hooks via a swivel.


down the middle. Hard baits like this will also produce a substantially better class of snapper, but there can be a long time between bites. The key to success with the floater technique is to have that pillie or strip bait wafting down as naturally as possible with the berley, until it’s in the bottom third of the water column. What we don’t want is the bait plummeting to the depths below and snagging up, or holding up too high, away from where the snapper will be dining on the berley. The trick is then, to get the sinker weight right. Depending on the day and the location, you might go from no lead at all to the biggest ball sinker they make. Sometimes an adjustment up or down just one size is all that’s needed to tap into a memorable bite. And as always with berley, it’s a little, often. We’re not trying to lure tigers up off the bottom in 100 fathoms here, so don’t go too hard.

//FLOATER OUTFITS Spin reels and snapper fishing just go together. The drawback with spin reels is when fishing in strong current, as the spool diameter drops, the line drags on the lip and doesn’t peel off the spool as smoothly, so the bait can possibly hold up off the bottom. For spin reels, 10-20kg braid will suffice, with a couple of rod lengths of 10kg mono at the business end. It’s definitely good insurance to rerig after each big fish, or if the mono shows any sign of scuffing. Just about every rod manufacturer on the planet has a versatile 7’ spin rod in their lineup, and depending on the line weight, all get the job done. Personally, I prefer an Alvey because you can feed line faster in a strong current to keep the bait sinking correctly. Additionally, if the line is allowed to pile up on the spool in one spot — an unforgivable sin if using an overhead — it’s possible to drop the next bait to the exact depth the fish are holding at. Once the hill disappears, you’re in the zone, so be ready. The bottom line though, is that Alveys are just more fun! A plain 600 A or B series, without the drag mechanism, is a man versus fish encounter

It happens from time to time with Alveys. In this instance it was easier to keep winding the line round the handles... Still got the fish though! www.spooledmagazine.com.au

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Winter Reds

pretty close to handline fishing. Hook a big red on one of these and you’ll be boring the crap out of your mates for weeks as you re-live the knuckledusting palm-scouring encounter. Where it does get painful is at mixed species locations when mackerel, tuna and kings turn up in the berley. Ouchy! Six kilo nylon was more than sufficient for floater fishing off Sydney, but a move to the mid north coast with more rugged underwater topography (not to mention those troublemakers listed above), saw the breaking strain step up to 7.5, and then finally to 10kg.

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I experimented with 15kg, and while there was no discernible decline in bite activity, it was harder to break off when snagged up, so I reverted back to 10kg. I still get cleaned up though. A lot! In saying that, if fishing the kelp forests inshore, a 2m length of 15kg leader might keep a couple of fish out of the jungle. Suitable Alvey rods with a low winch mount are pretty thin on the ground though. A shortened version of what were once known as ‘wash’ rods, for firing a ganged pillie or gar into the sudsy water around bommies and headlands is the go, but you’ll most likely have to go custom as there’s not much call for them. At eight old fashioned feet in length, the Pacific Composites SB 8 builds up into a nice stick.

Snapper are available year round, but tend to fly under the radar during warmer months when there’s a host of other target species on the prowl. This one ate a downrigged live slimy aimed at mackerel.

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//BOTTOM OUTFITS Aside from a floater rod (or two), it’s imperative to have a paternoster rig down as well. For some inexplicable reason, on some days the floaters are completely ignored by the snapper, especially early in the season. This outfit can be spin or overhead, a handline sitting in a side pocket, or tied off on a springer if you’re strictly old school. With a snapper sinker on the bottom and one or two droppers above it, this rig produces mostly smaller fish (with the occasional hump-headed surprise), but depending on the geographic location, pearl perch, tuskfish and teraglin come into the picture — and no-one is ever sad about that.

The Black Magic KL hook in 5/0 is an excellent pattern for this approach. A semicircle shape, they’re great for set and forget fishing while you tend to the floaters and keep the berley going. A lumo bead on the dropper above the hook is a nice piece of added bling that may or may not make a difference. And instead of running a snapper lead on the bottom, try a heavy Kabura, Lucanus or slow jig for some tasty bonuses.

//ANCHORING UP AND GETTING IT BACK Depth sounders are excellent right across the board these days, and it’s possible to establish if anyone’s at home downstairs long before putting a line in the water. Even if you’re not marking snapper, any form of fish activity is better than nothing. There’ll be reds around somewhere. Barren reefs are best avoided. Ideally, choose a high peak of the reef and fish off the back with the current (assuming it’s flowing north to south). A bit of prospecting on the drift prior to anchoring can tell you a lot, and the GPS will also show the direction and speed of the current, which can be important for planting that pick accurately. Current against wind can ruin a session, as snapper don’t seem to like hanging around the anchor rope slapping and snapping taut, no matter how diligently you berley. It’s also hard to manage lines, especially if there are a few people fishing. In these situations it’s best to relocate inshore, out of the current.

A classic high point of reef with a bit of rubbish on top, but a school of snapper milling about on the down-current side. The anchor needs to go in up current (to the left) of the peak.

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24-37kg braided line is a must for good bite detection, especially in deeper water, and droppers made from 24kg nylon is usually sufficient.


Winter Reds

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A reef pick is a necessity, as is a good length of solid chain (about a boat length), to hold you in place. The prongs on most storebought grapnel type reef picks are too long and will straighten out in a bit of swell, so shorten them up with a hacksaw. A Mooloolaba pick is a better bet, as the welded fins are unlikely to ever bend. Whichever you choose, both need to be rigged to ‘trip’ if the anchor gets stuck in the reef. The chain is shackled to A Mooloolaba reef pick rigged to trip the eyelet at the bottom of the should it get stuck, and a pink bubble shank, with cable ties holding the to bring it all to the surface. chain in place at the top. These then break when sufficient force is placed upon them and the anchor slides out the way it went in — most times… Unless you have an electric winch, a pink bubble attached to the anchor rope (either shackled to a stainless ring running along it, or via an oversize snap clip) is a near effortless way of retrieving the anchor. The boat is driven forward and back up the rope, the float slides along it, then over the chain, and you motor back around and haul it aboard. Simples!

//THE END GAME Gaffing snapper went out with cuttyhunk line. If you plan to let the fish go, use an Environet. Otherwise, a deep pocket mesh net with a wide mouth will suffice. Once it’s in the boat, cut the fish’s throat and let it bleed out in a fish tub of water before burying it in an ice slurry. Brain-spike it too, if you think that makes a difference. I stopped using servo ice years ago, instead making my own saltwater ice in containers scrounged from the local ice cream shop. Be careful not to have the brew too cold though, as it can actually freeze the catch before you get it to the cleaning table. Finally, a vacuum packing machine is a must-have in any serious fisho’s household. Not only does it increase frozen fish’s shelf life by months, it’s a good way of storing bait such as garfish, yellowtail and pilchards. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Profile for Spooled Magazine

Spooled Magazine Winter Issue 2019  

The magazine has been designed and created with the readers interests in mind at all times, we aim to educate readers on fishing techniques...

Spooled Magazine Winter Issue 2019  

The magazine has been designed and created with the readers interests in mind at all times, we aim to educate readers on fishing techniques...

Profile for spooled