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 →
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
Well after arriving home from a week of solid fishing at Harvey Dam I am sorry to report nothing but bad news. It seems there has been a stocking incident resulting in the loss of the prestigious and highly sought after Brown Trout the area has been so famous for over previous years. Apparently they all went belly up in the release tanks during a hot spell before they could be released into Harvey Dam. Oops! Western Australian fisheries did manage to release around 1100 brood stock, rainbow trout into the dam successfully however these fish seem to be extremely difficult to find and catch this season?
Opening day of the 2015 fresh water season saw Harvey Dam literally covered with competent fresh water anglers of all shapes and sizes, shore based anglers lined every likely location as deep water sections were scanned and searched by all manner of water craft imaginable. With opening day this year falling on a Monday it was extremely surprising to see so many lucky anglers venturing away from their work places to target trout. It seems half of Perth managed to chuck a sickie? It just goes to show you how popular a decent fresh water fishery would be received here in the west. Dare I say it again AUSTRALIAN NATIVES!!!
With many seasoned and competent fresh water anglers now scouring every nook and cranny of the dam it soon became evident that this year’s fishing was going to be poor compared to the previous? After speaking with many seasoned anglers and hearing the same disappointing results it soon became clear that this year’s season was shaping up to be a real dud. Like most other anglers I managed around a dozen yearling rainbow trout from 26 – 30cm and a heap of redfin perch around the same size range during each trolling session but alas no decent sized trout. Although these smaller fish were quite plentiful and moderately entertaining the satisfaction of hooking and landing that one good fish unfortunately eluded me for this trip.
There were however plenty of good trout to be found around the local feeder streams and rivers leading to and from the dam itself but unfortunately I was there to film a trolling for trout segment and these fish were not going to help my cause. Stand out lures for the trip included Halco RMG Scorpion 35 and 52 in classic rainbow trout and gravy train patterns. These two lures out fished anything else I put in the water during the week long period by far and are now my go to trolling lures for Harvey Dam, thanks again Halco.
These lures were fished over short, ultra-light graphite rods coupled with 1000 – 2500 class SHIMANO spin reels loaded with 4 – 6lb braided lines attached to around 1 – 2 rod lengths of 6 – 10lb fluoro carbon leader material. With local fresh water anglers restricted to trolling with one rod per person it helps to also have a mate in the boat to allow the use of two separate outfits. One is usually set back at around 30 – 40 meters with a small, shallow running lure (HALCO – RMG Scorpion 35, 1.6m sneaky suspending diver in classic rainbow trout pattern) and another closer to the boat at around 20 – 25 meters with a larger, deeper running lure (HALCO RMG Scorpion 52, 2.5m diver in gravy train pattern). Staggering lure distances not only avoids tangles during strikes and turns but also allows anglers to cover much more of the water column in search of their prey. This technique has worked extremely well for most fresh water anglers over the years with most rainbow trout taken on the smaller, shallow running lures and larger brown trout and red fin perch preferring the deeper running lures closer to the boat.
Harvey Dam is strictly an electric motor only option and does not allow the use of petrol engines at all! Most electric motors have around 5 speeds with the most popular speed for trout trolling proving to be the number four setting which produces a boat speed of around 2-3 knots depending on the vessel to which it is fitted. It does sometimes help to vary your boat speed to induce strikes when fish become lazy due to extremely calm or warm conditions.Gel cell batteries are a key factor in maintaining motor power for a good days trolling and need to be charged with a specified gel cell battery charger run by a decent 1 – 3 KVA generator system.
Echo sounders also help in locating fish and structure; once you have located good showings of fish in a certain area simply troll your lures around and through them until you start achieving results. Echo sounders with temperature readings are also handy for finding thermoclines; trout will often sit in a certain temperature of water rather than hanging around structure. Once the favoured temperature of water is located simply attach a lure capable of swimming at this desired depth/temperature range. Landing nets are also handy when fishing for trout from a boat and not only aid anglers in the landing of their fish but also prevent hooks in fingers, a fairly common occurrence when trying to hand lift lively trout attached to treble hooks.
Barometric pressure plays a very important role in fresh water angling and generally determines whether fish will be feeding of not. High, steady barometers are preferred for most fresh water angling situations, this generally occurs during warm, sunny conditions. Fish will often sit deeper in the water column or in shaded areas during these conditions. However calm, overcast conditions are also ideal for tempting trout into shallow cooler waters.
I’ve been fishing Harvey Dam for quite a number of years now and have enjoyed watching the fishing steadily improve to the point it was at a couple of years ago. Large, healthy brown trout to the magical 10lb mark used to be a real possibility back then and after having released so many of those beautiful fish over the years I am now left to wonder what became of the fish I was once so hopeful would remain there thrilling anglers for many more years to come? Now I do fully understand that Harvey Dam like most of our south western fresh water impoundments is stocked with brood stock trout and that it is respectively a put and take fishery system only. But it still to this day leaves me wondering where do all those trout go each year? Surely some must survive the angling onslaught and remain, grow and become semi wild? Why would this ever improving fishery suddenly take such a downward spiral? These are the questions that need to be addressed to ensure our Western Australian freshwater fisheries remain protected and improve. Perhaps some funds invested into building fish ladders to retain our trout in the dams to which they are released would be a good start? Rather than having them take off up the cooler, oxygenated feeder streams running into and out of the stocked dams to end up in areas totally inaccessible to most anglers paying good money for a freshwater fishing licence.
Trolling for trout is a relaxing and enjoyable form of fishing that is slowly growing more and more popular with the fresh water angling community, fingers crossed our fishery here in the west improves with age offering Western Australian anglers the diversity of fishing for some of Australia’s most popular and iconic fresh water species. Fingers crossed!
Calm seas, clear skies
Nick HockingRead more →