Some red hot Australian salmon on fly fishing action shot in the picturesque south western corner of Australia.Read more →
Heading down to the South Western corner of Australia in search of hard pulling pelagic’s from the stones is an expedition often fraught with danger. Heavy lines, heavy fish, slippery rock ledges and large crashing swells all play their part in ensuring this hard core style of fishing is definitely not for the faint hearted.
Safety is of main consideration when fishing from dangerous rock locations and certain precautions need to be taken to ensure your expedition is not only enjoyable but also safe. Rock hopper boots enable anglers to securely plant their feet on the slippery stones with their strong, sharp metal spikes penetrating the soft, slimy stuff and offering a good solid hold on most common surfaces. PFD’s or personal floatation devices are also a must and should be checked and maintained to a fail proof level. Never fish alone and make sure someone at home knows where you are and when you are expected back. Respect the ocean and all of her power and never risk rescuers lives!
Trying to stop large, hard pulling pelagic and seriola species from the slippery southern stones is hard enough without having to haul them up onto high rock platforms for filleting or photos. Long, strong rods and large heavy reels full of ridiculously thick line are all the norm down here and totally necessary for any angler who wants to have a serious crack.
Ballooning live baits such as squid and herring is a popular technique for calm conditions when the wind is at your back and is probably the simplest method of feeding live bait to a large rock dwelling predator. (for full large float rig details click here…) Twelve to thirteen foot rods rated at 15 – 24kg coupled with large spin or overhead reels loaded with 30 – 80lb nylon lines are needed as are heavy leaders of 80 – 120lb. Hook sizes vary depending on target species and bait size but average between 7/0 – 12/0 with the number one rule being the stronger and sharper the better. Swivels also need to be super strong and capable of handling the pressure placed on the heavy lines and leaders.
Slide baiting is another popular technique for delivering large dead or live baits out into deep water from shore and is best suited to rougher conditions when ballooning winds are unfavorable. This tricky little technique is one of my old favorites and has accounted for many memorable land based captures for me over the years. (for full slide bait rig details click here…)
Firstly cast a large grapnel styled sinker out and allow it to settle into the sea floor, then you simply attach your live bait and slide bait clip to your main line and slide the lot down and out towards the stopper clip and sinker like a flying fox. A piece of sacrificial 30lb leader of around one meter in length is tied between the sinker and stopper clip, this is designed to snap during a strike leaving the angler to freely battle the fish without the worry or risk of the heavy grapnel sinker snagging.
There are two different styles of slide bait clips generally used, the uni directional clip which as its name suggests will only slide in one direction and eventually end up at the stopper clip. And the dual directional clip which obviously swings both ways and is very handy for suspending baits in mid water and white water strike zones. These clips also need to be heavy duty to cope with the brutal punishment our magnificent southern ocean is capable of delivering at times. The Richter brand of slide bait clips are the best I have found available and are made from high tensile stainless and top quality components to ensure success every time.
This hard core form of rock fishing would have to be one of the most difficult forms of fishing imaginable and it is not hard to see why so many anglers risk life and limb each and every year to do it. The rewards are definitely there for those prepared to put in the effort with species such as tuna, groper, king fish, Samson fish and snapper just to name a few. The lengths an angler generally has to go to in order to achieve such captures is more often than not bordering on insanity, but you know what they say, Who Dares Wins.
For instance this trip I was fishing a brutal 13 foot, 50 – 80lb graphite, low mount 3 piece Loomis and Franklin rod coupled with a Shimano Torium 30 overhead reel and a Shimano 13 foot Revolution Coastal 15 – 24kg rod with Shimano Spheros SW 20,000 spin reel. Both reels were loaded with 200 meters of 30lb nylon line top shotted with 80 meters of 80lb nylon shock leader joined to 25 meters of 120lb wind on leader. Seems excessive I know but believe me if you weren’t rigged this way you weren’t even in with half a chance!
The 30lb nylon main line is thin enough to get plenty of capacity on the reel yet strong enough to put some serious hurt on a big fish when it runs wide and the 80lb nylon shock leader comes in real handy when line starts coming into contact with rocks in close. The 120lb leader comes into its own when big kings and sambos play dirty and also during landing but is a bit of a bitch to cast. It certainly casts easier and further from an overhead reel for those with the skill to do so. The boys and I managed some very nice blue fin tuna, Samson fish, snapper and salmon over the 2 days of fishing before the weather turned and sent us packing.
The ledge we fished this year was around 10 – 15 meters above sea level; it was sloping, steep and extremely dangerous. All safety precautions were in place and everyone there had plenty of experience when it comes to this sort of thing. Seriously do not attempt this style of fishing unless you are totally confident and prepared to do so as this is generally how most anglers are killed each year. Mind you it is also one of the most exhilarating yet exhausting forms of fishing I have ever experienced and certainly one I look forward to experiencing again very soon.
Calm seas, clear skies
Nick HockingRead more →
The 2017 west coast salmon run is shaping up to be an absolute cracker once again with smaller, fast moving schools of between 10 and 100 fish starting to make their way gradually north to spawn already. The salmon over here are notoriously fussy at the beginning of their run and the locals down in the SW were very surprised to see me catching fish on plastics when they were apparently not taking any lures. They were giving me heaps about my squidgy lure choices to begin with remarking that only certain lures were working, smiling jacks hard bodies, Richter plugs, 40 – 55g gold Halco twisties and white McArthy plastics.
The 1st school of around 100 fish slowly made its way up the coast hugging the shore line to avoid predation giving me and the 20 or so waiting anglers a nice shot as they passed. An array of metal, plastic and baits were cast at these wary looking fish with only 3 anglers eventually hooking up, two on live baits and mine on the squidgy 140mm slimey that I’d earlier coated in S factor.
The style of fishing down that way is to all hang out in the likely locations like a pack of hoodlums waiting and scanning the shore line and horizon for approaching schools whilst constantly sledging shit on everyone for everything. The boys were all eventually impressed by the squidgy wrigglers and my confidence in using them, there were no more smart remarks about the plastics they had never considered before but I am sure certainly will now.
Very interesting how even the faster moving, smaller schools were still falling victim to well presented casts and S factor. Once the salmon were cast to the scent and slick left in the water was enticing the super spooky salmon into feeding and were even circling around in the slick for a minute or so whilst I was fighting my fish before moving on again. The squidgies also gave me the flexibility to chase the schools as they moved and saved me the hassle of gathering and storing live baits.
My outfit of choice was Shimano’s Revolution Coastal rod, 9’ two piece rated at 6 – 10kg matched with a Shimano Stella SW 5000 spooled with Shimano 20lb power pro braided line. This outfit was not only ideal for pitching well presented casts to very spooky fish but also extremely handy when it came to controlling the big salmon around difficult landing zones.
Squidgy soft plastics were coated in S factor catch scent and fished on ½ ounce jig heads with 6/0 hooks attached to 40lb fluoro carbon leaders of around one meter in length. A loop knot was used to connect the squidgies to the leader allowing them greater movement and delivering a more natural swimming action and overall presentation. Shimano 20lb Power pro braid was joined to leader via Bimmini twist double and improved Albrite knots.
Shimano’s power pro braid is smooth and supple allowing for long casts and sensitive feel with the added bonus of not slicing through fingers during long casting sessions! The Revolution Coastal rod is sensitive enough for fishing lightly weighted plastics yet also beefy enough to pitch metal slices and weighty surface lures out of sight. Its solid carbon graphite design produces amazing strength throughout the entire blank allowing anglers to control hefty fish during difficult landing situations with ease.
The performance of Shimano’s Stella SW5000 was again flawless with its silky smooth drag system and various high tech features proving it to still be the number one anglers’ choice in reel for many applications and for very good reason! Flagship model reels such as Shimano’s Stella SW really come into their own when it comes to superior quality, performance and reliability.
For instance, try casting lightly weighted soft plastics around in windy conditions before changing to heavier metals or stick baits and watch the wind knots created by cheaper or inferior reel and spool designs. This annoying problem and many frustrating others can be eliminated by simply fishing with superior quality tackle making reels such as the Shimano Stella well worth every cent.
The 2016 west coast salmon run was certainly one that will be remembered for many years to come with fish making their way up and into Perth’s Swan River and even as far north as Learmonth jetty in Exmouth. The larger schools of Australian salmon will begin to show during the next couple of weeks with the quality of the run being totally dependent on the Leeuwin current. Hopefully we will have a slight Leeuwin current pushing well out to sea allowing the salmon to lazily make their way to where ever they please.
Calm seas, clear skies
Nick HockingRead more →
This is the story of one very large Black Marlin I encountered off the coast of Exmouth, Western Australia back in 2008. A fish that will remain entrenched in my memory forever!
Our story begins in Fremantle as two game boats prepare for one of W.A’s most daring blue water adventures ever attempted. The plan was to travel up the coast from Fremantle to Exmouth where we would attempt to film the tag and release of Western Australia’s first 1000lb marlin.
The vessels we had been kindly allocated by Dr Lindsay Adams were the Orca, a 46’ Cresta with an impressive sparkling, stainless tuna tower and the Wave Rider, a Black Watch 40 and one of my personal all-time favourite boats. Both these vessels were very familiar to me after encountering them and their crews in many east coast game fishing tournaments from Port Stevens to The Great Barrier Reef in my younger years fishing with my father and the crew of Born Free.
We headed out of Fremantle and pointed our bows north in search of warmer, bluer waters. Both vessels were fully loaded with tackle and fuel but only two crew members aboard each. Once we had arrived safely in Exmouth we would collect the film crew and head out to the Exmouth Plate, a notorious sea mount located around 150 miles west of Exmouth. This is a place that is rarely visited and it and other areas like it could quite possibly be the key to giant Black and Blue marlin breeding cycles here in our west.
After birthing overnight in Carnarvon, Shark Bay and Coral Bay we had now well and truly had enough of travelling and sightseeing, Exmouth was only a few hours away so we figured it was time to wet a few lines and try out all these fancy new toys we had to play with. I ran out a standard billfish spread of five medium to large sized Richter lures attached to 80 and 130lb chair outfits with a flashing witch doctor teaser to boot before reclining on Orca’s impressive tuna tower deck.
Conditions were absolutely superb as we cruised along the Ningaloo coastline crisscrossing our way along the 100 – 300 meter lines working bait schools, bottom contours and current lines. The view from our magnificent vantage point was incredible and I can clearly recall commenting to Skipper Steve Tucker about what we were going to do when we actually hooked up. Having this much gear in the water with only two people on board is seriously not recommended and generally results in chaos and shear pandemonium upon hook up.
We figured the boys next to us on Wave Rider were having similar thoughts and decided to check out their spread. I glanced over to notice they were much more sensible than us and were only running two lures and no teaser. Ha, we thought. Being so close together and us having such a fantastic looking spread compared to theirs surely we will get all the strikes.
It was around lunch time when we moved over a very promising looking bottom contour wide of Ningaloo Reef, the area was alive with bait schools and as I watched the lures splash and bubble their way through the warm, cobalt blue water I knew it would only be a matter of time before we had our first billfish strike. The only thing I didn’t realize was it wouldn’t be ours.
Tuck’s and I were having a good old chat up on the tower enjoying the view when I noticed out of the corner of my eye what looked to be another large vessel tearing up wave Riders lure spread. Upon closer inspection I soon realised that this was no mysterious vigilante at all but a massive marlin doing its best to rid itself of whatever the Wave Rider boys had stuck into it.
I quickly raced down to the fly bridge and was confronted with the rather panic stricken voice of one Skipper Steve Pavlovich booming across the radio. “Were gunna need a hand over here Nicko!” After clearing all our gear I then returned to the fly bridge where the two skippers had decided on a plan of action.
Wave Rider didn’t have a chair harness on board or anybody to handle the fish at boat side so it was decided that I would be transported from Orca to Wave Rider with the chair harness in an attempt to land this beast of a fish. Great theory but think about it, a risky bow to bow transfer in mid ocean while hooked up to an enormous rampaging billfish? I had my doubts but was also confident in both skippers abilities not to get me killed.
I clipped the large and extremely awkward chair harness around my chest and shoulders, put on my leader gloves and made my way to Orca’s massively high bow sprit. Tuck’s and Pav moved the boats into their final positions and there it was, a 10 – 15’ leap of faith required by yours truly. Orca’s bow is considerably higher than Wave Rider’s so there was definitely going to be a bit of free fall action going on before landing.
Anyway I made it no dramas at all and as I stepped down into the cockpit I couldn’t believe my eyes, here was this big, burly looking bloke with a bright red face and a 60kg chair outfit jammed in his crutch. I quickly positioned him into the chair and clipped up the harness, his face began to regain colour and I’m pretty sure he also started breathing again at this stage. The man’s name was Tim from memory; he was Steve Pavlovich’s cousin and a shearer from down south.
Pav chased the big marlin down with all the skill and expertise of a Cairns marlin fleet skipper and big Tim handled the heavy tackle like he’d done it all before. There are two different fighting styles of most billfish species, the sprinters and the sluggers. The sprinters tear across the surface leaping and carving up the water which tires the fish fairly quickly whereas sluggers head deep and conserve energy by swimming along deep thermoclines and currents. These sluggers use everything they can to their advantage and are generally much more difficult to land than sprinters.
Fortunately for us this fish was a sprinter and a magnificent one at that, after around half an hour or so of her going absolutely nuts all over the ocean it looked like we were going to get our first shot at the leader. Now this is where things go pear shaped, just as I was about to place my hand on the leader Pav informed me to be very careful as it was only 300lb! “How big is the hook?” I quickly enquired. “It’s only a 9/0!” Was Pav’s reply.
This fish was probably close to 800lb plus and all I had to hold onto it with was a 300lb leader and a 9/0 hook? I took the leader gently into my gloves and began to work on the fish as best I could, I can remember thinking “This fish might die if I take too long” I gingerly kept pinching away on the leader pulling the massive marlin closer inch by agonising inch.
The marlin was still very strong and continued changing direction making things very difficult for me on the leader and Pav on the wheel. After what felt like an eternity but was probably only 5 minutes or so the beautiful, big marlin suffered a massive heart attack and died. One second I was staring into her beautiful, big brown eye and the next she was gone. Her colour began to fade as she simply rolled over and floated to the surface, her huge bill extending from the ocean in her final salute. Fare well my old friend fare well.
All big marlin over 150kg are female and considered to be an ocean treasure that are truly respected by all who encounter them. This fish was no exception and will remain with me for many years to come. There was no celebrating for me or for her, just a lasting memory and a great old story.
We eventually made it to the Exmouth Plate with the film crew by the way but only managed marlin to around half the size of the fish encountered on the way up. Like most fish giant Marlin also seem to know when the cameras are out. Here is some amateur footage taken towards the end of the battle.
Calm seas, clear skies
Jigging has certainly come a long way over the years from the good old days of cranking slim, fast action metal jigs for seriola species like yellow tail kings, samson fish and the mighty amberjack. To these days where they now catch everything from pelagics such as mackerel, tuna and wahoo to demersal species such as our beloved Western Australian Dhu fish and Bald chin groper. This has led to a proverbial tsunami of jigs flooding today’s market leaving anglers with the ponderous task of what jigs to use and when?
Not only are there many different styles of jigs available but as to be expected they also come in a range of different qualities. These qualities are generally gauged by price although some manufacturers with greater buying power are capable of producing top quality jigs at a more reasonable cost than most. Cheaper jigs will catch fish, just not as many as the top notch models will.
Shimano has always had a name for producing top quality products and is still to this day the only tackle manufacturer confident enough in their products to offer an unbeatable 10 year warranty. Their range of Stella reels are still the pick of the bunch and when coupled with the Grappler range of jig rods make an absolutely sensational jigging set up. Shimano Stella 5000 and 6000 reels loaded with PE 3 braided lines attached to Shimano Grappler jig rods rated to PE 2 – 3 are my preferred jig outfits for targeting demersal, seriola and pelagic species in 25 – 60 meters of water.
Not only do Shimano produce top quality rods and reels but they also have a killer lure range including some of the best jigs available. Their Bottom Ship 2 range of jigs has proven themselves to be a winner with anglers all over the world as have the new Ocea Wing jigs. With their full name, Ocea Stinger Butterfly Wing offering a hint as to the kind of action they produce these Japanese styled butterfly jigs allow anglers to fish the entire time their jig is in the water. The heavy rear end of the jig is designed for rapid decent with the multi-faceted side creating a fluttering wobble during both free fall and when being worked at depth. Ocea Wing jigs can be worked either fast or slow and will account for a large variety of species no matter where you are. Fish will eat them on the decent, when being worked at depth and also on their rapid retrieval, a privilege certainly not available to those who fish with bait rigs.
Butterfly jigging is by no means a new or cutting edge technique and has been steadily mastered by the Japanese over the years to the point of perfection. This finesse style of slow action jigging has produced incredible results all over the world and is now set to revolutionize the way many of us go fishing. The idea is to drop the jig to the sea floor and begin a slow lift and drop/flutter style of action similar to the motion of a slow rocking boat. Lift the jig slowly as the boat rises over a swell and simply allow it to flutter as you drop back down the other side keeping the jig as close to the sea floor as possible. Once the jig is 4 or 5 meters off the bottom drop it and begin the retrieve again until your line angle becomes too shallow effecting the jigs natural action. Sometimes it helps to add a little flick at the end of the lift depending on the mood of the fish. Most jigs will only work to their full effect when they are fished directly under the angler.
This style of jig and retrieve is designed to imitate the majority of a reef fish diet and mimics 100% of all demersal species prey items including Crustacean (Prawns, crabs, crays ), Cephalopod ( Squid, Octopus, Cuttlefish ) and even small fish. To say that it is extremely effective is an enormous understatement and it wouldn’t surprise me to see this finesse style of jigging replacing the old days of dragging large lumps of lead around the sea floor attached to heavy Paternoster styled rigs loaded with chunky baits. Not only is slow action butterfly or demersal jigging more effective but it is also a lot more enjoyable allowing anglers the luxury of fishing with lighter and more comfortable outfits. Jigging is not only kinder to the angler but also the fish as 99% of all jig hook ups are ideally in the mouth allowing anglers to release unwanted or undersized fish with a much greater success rate than with bait rigs.
Gone are the days of cumbersome, multi tray tackle boxes, buckets of lead and heavy 50 – 80lb bottom bashing outfits that weigh a tonne. Now we can go fishing with merely two light jig outfits, some leader and a wallet full of jigs. Taking jigs home ready to use over and over again is also an added bonus and saves refreezing or throwing away all that smelly left over bait at the end of a day’s fishing, such a waste. As with the old style of bait fishing for bream and snapper has given way to the new, highly effective finesse style of artificial luring so will bottom bashing be slowly transformed into the wonderful world of artificial.
Light fluoro carbon leaders of 40 – 60lb are practically impossible for fish to see and cope exceptionally well with the rugged punishment most reef environments provide. Longer lighter leaders are more necessary in very calm, clear conditions and heavier leaders are generally used around rough terrain such as caves and pinnacles. Bimmini twist knots are still preferred to double and strengthen braided lines before connection to leader with an improved Albrite knot.
Ocea Wing jigs come unrigged to offer anglers a custom rigging option of either single, double or even wire assist hook set ups depending on their own individual preferences and requirements. Double assist hooks with coloured or lumo rubber squid are most popular here. If you can’t find them in local tackle stores yet you can order them online from Shimano’s excellent website http://www.shimanofish.com.au/
These jigs come in sizes 110 – 350 grams in an assortment of proven fish catching colours that are sure to impress. A rule of 1 gram per foot of water is generally a good gauge as to what jigs to use at certain depths. Example calm to moderate conditions with little current, 80 – 90 gram jig in 30 meters of water. As for colours everyone seems to have their own preference but for here around metropolitan W.A orang/gold in morning and afternoon and silver/blue/pink for the middle of the day are most popular. Gold/lumo is also a great colour combo on a dull cloudy day or early morning/late afternoon.
For anyone wanting to learn more about demersal jigging techniques? Fish-On does provide an exclusive, professionally guided jig charter out of Lancelin W.A. with yours truly on board, For more information please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Calm seas, clear skies
Yesterday’s charter aboard Reel Force out of Lancelin proved to be an awesome experience thoroughly enjoyed by all. Not only was it an enormous pleasure to have the opportunity to fish alongside AFL legend Glen Jakovich but also fish with the new Bottom Ship 2 jigs manufactured by Shimano. The idea whilst filming episode 6 of Perth Fishing TV was to fish baits versus metal jigs and see what the results would prove?
We were targeting demersal species such as Dhu fish, pink snapper, break sea cod and bald chin groper in water depths of around 25 – 45 meters. The sea conditions were absolutely perfect with a gentle 5 – 10 knot s/w breeze drifting us along nicely over the low swell. Out came the Bottom Ship 2 jigs and after a couple of drops it soon became obvious to all how effective these sensational new jigs really were.
The Reel Force Charter crew of Skipper Brendon and crewman Jeff were exceptional and not only put us on the largest number of Dhufish I have ever experienced but also took an enormous amount of care when releasing undersized or unwanted fish. These boys certainly have their local areas fish stocks in mind and are doing a fantastic job of maintaining them for future generations to also enjoy. I would highly recommend Reel Force Charters to anyone wanting to experience a professional and productive fishing charter.
I found the 90 – 110 gram bottom ship II jigs in orange gold to be the jig of the day accounting for 6 Dhu fish, 4 samson fish, a very nice Harlequin fish and a variety of other assorted species for me. Fished from Shimano’s Stella 5000 SWXG loaded with 20lb power pro braid and coupled with a Grappler GRAPS603 PE3 jig rod these jigs are an absolute pleasure to fish with. The combination of these jigs and this quality Shimano fishing outfit not only ensure an extremely enjoyable fishing experience but also a highly effective one. Fluoro carbon leaders of 40 – 60lb are ideally suited.
This super relaxed yet highly effective form of jigging is by no means a recently developed technique and is something myself and probably many other anglers around the country have been slowly developing over the last 7 years or so. Finally anglers are now starting to realize the full potential this style of jigging offers providing them access to a technique that has now proven to be unbeatable. Believe it or not this technique is far less taxing on the angler than most and is far more economical and effective than bait fishing. It simply requires dropping the jig to the sea floor engaging the bail and slowly lifting and dropping the jig allowing it to flutter around close to the bottom. Once the jig is around 2 – 3 meters up drop it and begin the super slow retrieve again until the line angle becomes too shallow and effects the jigs true action. Try to imitate the slow rocking motion of a boat and allow the jig to flutter up and down seductively.
My theory is that jig styles including the Bottom ship II which are rigged with plastic squid coated assist hook set ups offer demersal species an unprecedented artificial option. When you speak with a lot of local divers they will often tell you of the Dhu fish they encounter gathered around their anchor chains upon their accents. These fish are drawn by the sound of the anchor chain rattling on the reef. I feel that most if not all demersal and semi pelagic species are in fact attracted by small, soft, metallic sounds similar to the ones produced by a metal jig clunking down on a reef or wreck. Most bottom jigging hook ups occur within seconds of the jig hitting the bottom and this theory would possibly explain why? The combination of the plastic squid coated assist hook and metal jig could also possibly imitate a small reef fish attacking a small squid, cuttlefish or octopus. It seems too much of a coincidence that these jigs catch everything from small unwanted reef dwellers similar in size to the jig to real monsters.
The smaller fish see the squid trying to flee from the slightly larger predator and nip in to grab the squid before they miss out and the larger fish just want the lot. Even when bites are slow or shut down this technique will generally produce results and has certainly replaced the need for purchasing smelly bait. These jigs do in fact represent 99.9% of a reef fish diet and are capable of imitating everything from small bait fish to prawns and even cray fish. Fishing with jigs also enables anglers to fish the entire water column from top to bottom, as soon as the jig hits the water you are fishing.
Jigs are effective on their way down, whilst they are worked on the bottom and also when being retrieved back to the boat allowing anglers to target an enormous variety of species at from bottom dwelling demersals to line burning pelagics. You can take your jigs home at the end of a day’s fishing and use them over and over again instead of throwing old, smelly bait away and having to scrub it off your boat and clothing. Jigs are more enjoyable to fish with, less taxing on the angler and much more effective than any other form of bottom fishing. Shimano Bottom Ship 2 the jig for all occasions.
Ps. Keep visiting our Perth Fishing TV Facebook page for new episodes, including a fully detailed and instructional segment dedicated to not only the above mentioned jigs and technique but also the result of our controversial baits versus jigs competition.Read more →