Fancy a Yellow Fin Whiting

Do you enjoy fishing? So do I!  You don’t have a boat? Neither do I.

Beach fishing can be great fun with usually plenty of space and little or no one else to worry about, unlike many suburban jetties.

Australian Salmon are exciting but there are other fish that I prefer to catch because they are much better table fish. We are talking yellow fin whiting. These are smaller than their more fancied cousins, King George whiting, widely regarded as best eating anywhere but yellow fin are just as good if not better.

During the summer months Yellow fin are spread widely through upper Spencer Gulf and Gulf of St Vincent in South Australia. They usually arrive in late October and can be readily caught until the autumn although the shore of Boston Bay, Port Lincoln is a favoured fishing spot in winter.

These fish feed in the shallows on an incoming tide, scouring the bottom for small marine life. Consequently the preferred bait includes blood worms and seaweed worms. The latter live underneath rotting seaweed just where the seaweed sits on the sand. I’ve had some success too with freeze dried worms readily available from tackle shops. These are very convenient to use and one doesn’t finish up with stinking unused bait.

Light gear with small hooks, size 6 is ideal with a traditional patenoster rig, with as light a sinker as possible, bearing in mind that sometimes it can be windy and rough on the beach. Don’t try to cast too far. The fish follow the tide and can be caught in quite shallow water. On upper St Vincent Gulf where the incoming tide travels quickly, while walking in the shallows, I have even caught yellow fin facing the shore! A lucky bonus might even be a flathead at some locations. Remember too that in SA, the minimum legal size in SA is 24cm but many are close to 30cm (or more).

You don’t need expensive, flash gear to catch yellow fin, they are a delicious table fish and great fun as well.

Good luck.

Snapper – Yours for the catching and eating

The prized snapper has a few different species around the Australian coastline. We see the big ones in Port Phillip Bay and offshore in South Australia. On the east coast they are smaller. In Indonesia and Malaysia, we see the same fish called the ikan merah which literally translated is red fish. Universally it is great to catch and one of the best eating fish around. It goes well steam, baked, grilled or fried.

Where does it get its name? Probably strong jaws and short solid teeth that can give a painful bite if you put your fingers in the wrong place.

What is the snapper known for? Snapper are good fighting fish and don’t give up the battle until it is well over. The signature head shake lets you know there it is a snapper long before you see any colour. It is easy scaling. Watch out for the strong and very sharp pectoral spines. More than one person has caught one in their finger and had it break off below the surface requiring surgery to have it removed.

Snapper habits

Plenty has been written about snapper. Young ones school up into and will follow up a fish that has been caught – right to the surface in some instances. Once they get bigger, they are supposed to be more solitary, so do not expect to see schools of large-sized snapper. This does not preclude another large snapper being close by but it is pretty much folk law that big snapper do not hang around in schools.

Snapper are not renowned for being a reef fish. They are regarded as feeders on gravel beds – sometimes close to reefs. They seem to like some structure but not particularly rugged reefs. Wrecks and artificial reefs seem to make ideal places for snapper. One particular WWII wreck in Malaysia was home to many large snapper. The local fishermen used to take out boulders and drop them on the hull of the wreck in about 30 metres of water. Stones banging on the decks scared the fish out into the open water but did not panic them. The outcome was that the fish would vacate the wreck and find a bait right where they came out and whammo…

One the east coast we are a bit more conventional. First, we do not have many wrecks that we know about in close proximity to snapper grounds. This leaves us with the gravel beds near a bit of structure. This seems to be the right place to fish for snapper.

Baits

Soft plastics work on snapper and are pretty easy to keep on the hook. Natural baits are small shellfish, prawns, crabs and molluscs. These are part of their natural diet, hence the strong jaws and rugged teeth. Squid and fish must also be on their menu because they just go for both as baits. Just like any other fish, snapper will go crazy for particular bait on one day and turn their nose up on it the next. Having a bit of a variety seems to lift the chances of a hook-up.

The favourites are squid and pillies along with the odd soft plastic. As always pilchards are hard to keep on the hook unless they are quite fresh and there are not other niggling tiddlers like leather jackets around. If you are losing lots of pillies, swap baits to squid or soft plastics. More time with viable bait in the water always enhances the chance of a hook-up.

Rigs

We see a long thin sinker sold as a ‘snapper’ sinker. It is ideal for dragging over the sand and is not likely to get snagged on every little thing on the bottom. Most popular for catching snapper is a paternoster rig. That is a sinker on the bottom and a couple of hooks on leaders about a 4-foot rig. It has been used for generations and continues to work pretty well most of the time.

The logic test for the rig is that snapper cruise around near the bottom but clear of the weed and not on the bottom. Bottom bouncing the sinker means the hooks are in the zone where the snapper is cruising looking for food and might just find delectable bait.

Other rigs are a single hook above a sinker. Running rigs seem to have less success with snapper.

Preparation

Snapper is easy to scale. Ensure any remaining blood against the backbone is scrubbed or hosed out. The blood apart from not looking appetising might add a bitter taste or taint the surrounding meat. If you are cooking the snapper whole, scale the cheeks because the cheeks are a true delicacy and no one wants a mouthful of scales with the fine and delicate cheeks.

Both baking and steaming snapper whole is popular. Fresh snapper is hard to beat. It takes up lemon and other flavours well while maintaining the uniquely snapper flesh consistency. Asian recipes usually steam snapper and this is our preferred method of preparation. With a sauce of ginger, garlic, lemon, chilli, spring onion, coriander, and light soy, you have an Asian dish with an Australia twist. Steamed rice is a must to cut the chilli. If the chilli doesn’t need the rice, there is not enough chilli.

To steam snapper to just right, put it in the steamer with the water warming but not boiling. When the water is boiling vigorously, back off the heat maintain a steady steam stream. The fish is usually cooked enough when the eyes are white. Test with a knife into the flesh to check that the flesh is just coming away from the bones. It should take around 8 minutes with a 35 cm fish – depending on the steam supply. Overcooking is a waste of good fish.

In November and December Westernport Bay in Victoria and the South Coast of NSW are the place to be. In South Australia the snapper fishing closes at midday 1 November to midday 15 December

In WA there are bans in certain areas in January, so check before you go fishing at your particular location.

Snapper – well worth catching and great eating.

New Picture (5)

The Importance of a Good Knot

Fishing line connects the angler to his or her hook or lure, but without a strong knot even the best line will do no good. Learning how to tie knots is critical to successful fishing. Fortunately it is a relatively simple matter to learn how to tie a strong knot, but know that there are steps that need to be taken when tying any knot.

 Important Details

Wet the knot with saliva before drawing tight. This will help the knot to cinch down correctly and avoid damaging the line. When pulling a knot tight, pull evenly from all ends – the tag, the standing part, and any other parts of the knot that may have a loose end.  Lastly, trim the tag end close to the knot with a pair of nail clippers or side cutters – usually within 3-6mm (1/8 – 1/4 inch) is perfect.

While knots come in all shapes, sizes, and complexities know that in most cases a simple and relatively easy to tie knot will work just fine. The smart angler will want to learn at least a handful of useful knots – 1) a knot to  connect line to the spool of the reel such as the arbor knot or improved clinch knot; 2) a knot to connect two lines together like the blood knot or Albright knot; 3) a strong knot that can easily be tied by feel alone such as the Palomar knot; and 4) a knot that is useful when tying a hook or hooks  in the middle of a line like the dropper loop.

The Arbor Knot

This knot is an extremely simple one to tie yet is very useful and easy to learn.  After going around the arbor of the spool (twice is better than once) take the tag or loose end and tie it to the standing part of the line.

With the remaining part of the tag end tie one more overhand knots. Tighten by pulling on both parts of the line and clip off the loose tag end to within 3mm (1/8 inch) of the end of the line.

The Improved Clinch Knot

This is another relatively simple to tie knot that comes in very handy. It is often used to tie line to the arbor of a spool, to a hook, or to a lure. When tied correctly it retains up to 95% of the lines rated breaking strength. The secret of this knot is to make five or more turns of the tag end of the line around the standing end before running the tag end back through the formed loop. Use this knot for lines up to 30 pound test. It is very important for this knot to be wetted before cinching it tight and allow enough of a tag end after the knot is drawn up.  An improperly tied improved cinch knot will result in the angler reeling in a curly-q instead of a fish, hook, or lure.

The Blood Knot

This knot is extremely useful when tying two lines together. It requires five or more turns of line with each tag end wrapping around the overlapped standing end of line. This is easy to do by making one series of turns and tucking the tag end between the two lines and then doing it again with the second line.  It is a good knot only if the lines are close to the same size and rating.

For example, it’s good for tying 15 pound test line to 20 pound test line, but it is not good for tying 15 pound test line to 60 pound test line. As with all knots, make sure this knot is wetted before pulling tight.

The Albright Knot

This knot is used to connect two different sizes of monofilament together, or connecting monofilament to spectra.  While it takes a number of steps, it isn’t a particularly difficult knot if one pays attention to detail.

1)      Form a loop in the tag end of the heavier line and hold it between two fingers. Insert the tag end of the lighter line through the loop from the top.

2)      Slip the tag end of lighter line under your thumb and pinch it tightly against the heavier strands of the loop. Wrap the first turn of the lighter line over itself and continue wrapping toward the loop. Take at least 12 turns with the lighter line around all three strands.

3)      Insert the tag end of the lighter line through end of the loop from the bottom. It must enter and leave the loop on the same side.

4)      After wetting the line slide the coils of the lighter line toward the end of the loop, stopping 3mm (1/8 inch) from the end of the loop. Using pliers, pull the tag end of the lighter line tight to keep the coils from the slipping off the loop.

5)      With your hand still holding the heavier line, pull on the standing part of the lighter line. Pull the tag end of the lighter line and the standing part again making sure it is cinched up tight.

6)      Cut both tag ends within 3mm (1/8 inch) of the knot.

The Palomar Knot

This extremely simple to tie knot should be learned by all anglers. It is good for line up to 27 kilos (60 lbs.) and is extremely strong. It is one of the few knots that retains up to 95% of the strength of the line.

Since it is basically an overhand knot that is formed with a loop of line it can easily be tied in the dark making it a very useful addition to any angler’s arsenal. Be sure and wet it before drawing it up tight and cut the tag end within 3mm (1/8 inch) from the knot.

The Dropper Loop

This allows you to make a loop in the middle of your line to attach a hook, sinker, or lure.  Fold the line back over itself to make a loop, and then twist the two overlapping line sections at least four or five times. Pull the loop through this center twist. After wetting the line draw the dropper loop tight by pulling the standing, tag, and loop sections tight at the same time. This knot takes some practice, but after a little while you will be able to tie it like an expert and make the loop section as long or short as you want.

I hope you have enjoyed this short article about knots. May your line and your knots both stay tight!

Written by Greg Douglas for Cheapfishinggear.com.au

Ika, Egi, Squid and Calamari

What on earth is ika? Squid if you are an Aussie; Calamari if you are Aussie or Greek. Egi is, according to the Japanese, how you catch ika. Egi is the Japanese work used to describe a squid jig.

We used to regard squid as bait and only bait. We didn’t even dream of eating the stuff. It was something that if you were a really keen fisherman, you had a funny circular jig that you jammed through a tailor or tommy ruff and chucked in the water hoping to find a squid that would be bait. But there is one thing about squid for bait; it stays on the hook and needs the most razor sharp teeth fish to peel it off without getting caught. It was the equivalent of soft plastics before there were soft plastics. But enough about bait. What about catching it?

Squid picture

Squid prey on fish. The squid lurk in the weeds or just above them and stalk the unwary fish. They take to opportunity to grab anything passing and with a couple of long tentacles and heap of short ones, they can hope bite it to perform the coup de grace. It we know how they hunt, we know how catch them. Put simply, we wave a lure or squid jig to imitate a fish in the same zone as the squid is waiting.

The squid is not extraordinarily equipped with speed and agility, hence the ability to put up an ink cloud and disappear in the fog while any predator gropes around for what they saw as a quick meal and in the meantime the squid makes a hasty retreat. But the squid has to have somewhere to retreat to, so it doesn’t venture far from the cover of weed. With this in mind we know we have to put the squid jig just above the weed and make it look like something the squid can easily grab without any real danger.

That gives us our first technique. Have a squid jig that sinks and know how fast it sinks so we can wait and jig to hold the lure just above the weed, in the squid hunt zone and hopefully an unwary squid will grab the jig and it is all over bar the recovery. This technique is probably the most commonly used and yields plenty of egi. Pick the right squid jig and you are in business. But what is the correct squid jig?

Squid jigs come in many colours. Fishermen can see colour but apparently squid are not up to speed on colours. However, they do have some pretty sophisticated eyes that detect the amount of light absorbed by a particular body and as a result make to predatory decisions based on brightness. As a general rule and dull lure is good for a dull day and a bright lure is good for a bright day. All the patterns and shades in between are good for selling squid jigs to fishermen but are probably unappreciated for their artwork by squid.

A second method of catching squid is as a by-catch when targeting something else like whiting or flathead. A squid jig is put on a short leader above the target species rig. The thing is that where the target species like whiting hang out the squid probably do too. This method yields a few squid without taking the fishing time away from having a crack at the King George.

In the Eastern States squid don’t seem to be as numerous as is South Australia. We haven’t been to Tassie recently so we don’t have an opinion of what the chances are there. Spencer Gulf is SA is renown for its supply of squid. Despite the alarmist dog whistling5 of a few greenies a couple of years ago that industry decimated the squid population, they are around in their millions. Hopefully we can catch some to eat and leave what we don’t need to feed the snapper and other brilliant table fish available for the catching in SA.

Catching it is one thing. Cooking it is another. The Greeks have been doing it for centuries so we can probably learn a bit from them so if you can find an old Greek method or better still find a Greek raised Australian, you can probably cut straight to the source of calamari cooking history.

Our solution is to clean your squid and depending how you like it, either slice it into rings or open it out to a flat piece and score it in a cross hatched pattern. I prefer this method because it is easier to eat. Cut it into square about 4 cm on each edge.

You have prepared your squid for what ever to want to do next. Salt a pepper squid is popular right now. To prepare this quickly, I put about two tablespoon of cornflour and flour in a plastic bag, add a good teaspoon of salt and a good dose of pepper and a little chilli followed by some Chinese five spice. Add the squid squares to the mix and shake like blazes. Once all the squid is covered in the mix, deep fry for about 2 minutes with really hot oil. Drain and eat.

With squid just caught, clean, slice and shallow fry in good frying oil. Some people like to use olive oil but personally I don’t because olive oil has a low smoke temperature where the nature of the oil begins to change. Olive oil is great for dressings because it has flavour. Vegetable oil is better for deep frying. Back to fast cooking. Slice and fry in very hot oil for a very short time – about 25-30 seconds with plenty of heat. Drain on paper, a fresh squeeze of lemon and a little salt, some pepper and eat. Rocket salad with a little shaved parmesan makes it feel like a million dollars.

Enjoy.

 

 

Size counts when it comes to hooks

Fishing hook size has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Why would you have a hook getting smaller with a larger number? So far I haven’t found a satisfactory answer to this question. The closest I’ve come to something is on a forum which said we can think of hooks from 32-1 as freshwater hooks and hooks from 1/0- 20/0 as saltwater hooks. I’m not convinced the scale applies directly to fresh or saltwater.

The scale for small hooks goes from the smallest at 32 back to 1 which is the largest, then to 0 then from 1/03 – 20/0 as the hooks get larger. It is probably easiest to describe it on a constant scale as set out in Figure 1 below. Note that a number 0 or 0/0 does not exist.

Figure 1: Hook size scale from smallest to largest

hook diagram

 

There is no good explanation about why  hook sizes are  the way they are. Apart from an infinite number of sizes, hooks come in a variety of shapes for  targeting different fish. Check out the size of the mouth on the fish you are targeting. Some fish have very small mouths compared to  the size of the fish. Others have a disproportionately large mouth compared to the size of the fish. One of the prerequisites to catching a fish is that the fish can get the hook in its mouth.

Beyond the size of the fishes mouth, the size of the bait also determines what type of hook is most suitable. But there again, hook size doesn’t necessarily equate to fish size. When you think of a 2 kg trout being caught on a number 24 size hook attached to fly compared to a 2/0 hook for a flathead from 0.3 – 2 kg you wonder about the variation. The difference in this case is what you have to do with the hook. A fine fly is not going to look like a fine fly if it carrying a 2/0 hook. Sometimes you just have to go with what works.

Generally speaking a fine shanked hook will work better than a thick shank. Gamakatsu make finer hooks for the same strength as some other brands do in much thicker shanked hooks. This is why so many fishermen prefer Gamakatsu hooks.

There is plenty of discussion about what type and size of hook to use. In the last few years there has been a move towards circle hooks. Circle hooks have been shown to increase the survival of released fish and many anglers are using circle hooks on flathead, bream, whiting and kingfish very successfully. Personally, I have found I get more hook ups and land more fish using circle hooks which is a pretty good reason to stay with them.

The circle hook is manufactured so the point is turned at 90° to the hook shank to form a generally circular or oval shape. This is illustrated at Figure 3. The principle advantage of the circle hook is that it generally hooks fish in the mouth and reduces the number of deep hook ups. The reduced deep hooking means that released fish have a significantly increased chance of survival. There is another benefit that is not commonly written about and that is  because the fish get hooked in the mouth they are not biting or wearing the leader while they are reeled in. This means that you land more fish. It also means that you can use lighter leaders traces because the line is generally away from the abrasive mouth surfaces of the fish. A conventional J pattern hook is illustrated at Figure 2.

Figure 2.  Conventional J pattern Hook

J hook

Figure 3: Circle Hook

circle hook

The technique for fishing with circle hooks is slightly different from straight hooks. Firstly leave the point and barb of the hook exposed. That is, don’t bury the hook in the bait. When the fish bites resist the temptation to strike. Allow the fish time to take the bait in its mouth and then apply slow steady pressure to set the hook in the mouth area. Very often fish hook themselves.

Sharp hooks catch more fish. To check the sharpness of a hook, drag the point slowly across your fingernail.  If a hook scratches your fingernail, the hook is sharp. If not, replace the hook or sharpen it. Most of its produce nowadays are chemically sharpened. There is absolutely no point in trying to sharpen these hooks further before you use them. For fly fishermen who are bouncing their flies across the rocks, shouting may be good thing occasionally. It’s worth remembering that all sharpening produces heat and too much heat will reduce the temper on the metal which will soften the point. There is a very fine line between taking off too much metal from the point and produce sharp. In many instances when you hook a fish, the pull is not perpendicular to the point and if the point has been weakened by sharpening, it may bend or break off.

Personally, when the hooks get blunt, I change them.

It is worth looking at the anatomy of a hook. Courtesy of bishfish.co.nz, we have inserted the diagram at Figure 4.

Figure 4: Illustrated Anatomy of a fishing hook

hook geometry

The last confusing thing about hook sizes is that different companies have different sizes for their hooks. That is, a Mustard hook might be different dimensions from Gamakatsu hook in the same size. It’s a bit like European, US and Australian shoes sizes really. The only real way to work out what physical science a certain hook is going to have is to have a look at the manufacturers’ charts. Most manufacturers produce charts are published on the Web and can be printed in actual size for each hook.

 

Kingfish – the fish that fights to the end

Yellow Tail Kingfish they used to be called. Now they are just Kingfish or Kingies. Fight for size they are one of the best around. Better than an Australian Salmon and better eating as well. Kingfish are strange creatures in the piscatorial realm of things. Sometimes they hang out in the deep water. Other times they front up on the surface. One day they are prolific in a particular location. The next they are gone. So why do we chase them?

Simply put, Kingies come in close and in the event that you catch one, it makes your day. Well it makes mine if  I catch one. They strike and they fight. First the hit, smooth and hard as they race for cover to rub out the hook or break you off.  If you manage to hang on before they get to the cover and break you off ,the battle begins. Grab some line back if you can. Two lifts and the Kingie make another run. Then grab some line back. This time three lifts before another run and so it goes until something breaks or we get the fish to the surface.

Kingfish hang around rocky seabeds. They love drop-offs and clefts. They don’t mind a bit of current or disturbed water as long as there is some food floating or swimming by. Warm water seems to work well for Kings with them being frequent visitors to the water around Sydney Heads. They also turn up around the power station at Port Augusta in South Australia. Less frequently they are found at Coffin Bay in South Australia. Montague Island is Kingfish heaven and they pop up in places all the way up the coast between there and Sydney.

Opinions vary about the best way to catch Kingfish. Fortunately, there are a few different ways. Jigging is the choice of some. Lots of brute force which is a great way to warm up for the event when one grabs the lure and makes a mad dash for somewhere else. The technique is to let out a big lure on a jigging rig until it hits the bottom and then lift fast and wind the rod down again, lift again  until the lure comes to the surface or some kingie hits it on the way up and you are on for reel.

Live bait is claimed by some as being the only sure-fire way to catch Kingfish. The problem here is that you have to catch the livies first. When there are plenty around there is no major problem and like all bait, fresh is best. Tailor survive better than Slimy Mackerel but they all work as long as they can swim. One of the nice things about Kingfish is that there is never any mistaking when you have one on. Live bait is less work when the fishing is on and it works amazingly well if the fish are around.

Working nearly as well is dead bait in the form of squid or octopus. A staple of Kingfish, dead but fresh approximates the live product well enough for Kingfish to have a go. Bait sized squid have provided some of my best Kingfish catches. Easy to handle and keep on the hook, squid is also palatable to a heap of other fish as well so if the Kings  shoot through to some unknown climes you might just pick up something else good to eat.

Once on board, bleed the Kingfish, preferably without spreading the offering all over the boat. Ice slurry is magnificent for preserving the freshness. To cook, slice the fish into cutlets and bake, fry or BBQ. Like all good fish, overcooking means it loses flavour, texture and colour so slightly rare is better than overdone.

Kingfish is a relatively oily fish and hot or cold smokes well and can be eaten hot or cold.

Kingfish, great catching and great eating.

www.cheapfishinggear.com.au

Bored with boat fishing? Try fishing out of a kayak.

A couple of years ago I bought a Hobie Outback. It has a Mirage drive (i.e. you pedal) and it is built for fishing. The main advantage of this kayak is that Mirage drive is far more efficient than paddling and leaves your hands free for fishing. It does require some steering with a small tiller on the left-hand side. The tiller is in handy reach and reasonably responsive if you have a little boat speed.

The Outback model that I have comes with four standard fishing rod holders. These are moulded holes in the deck of the boat, two forward and two aft but unfortunately they are symmetrically aligned. This means that you can only fish out of the aft ones if you have four rods on board or you risk snagging the lines. The simple solution is to only take two rods. However, if I’m going out in the ocean, I want to troll while I’m pedalling out to where the fish are with my larger rod. It seems a pity to only troll one line. I often end up with at least three rods in the kayak with me.

My solution has been to add some outriggers and rod holders to my Hobie so that I can hang the rods out at 90° to the boat and suspend them at easy eye level while I’m trolling. This leaves me with my hands free to steer the boat and pick up any rod that has a strike.

Fishing near Mossy Point and paddling out of the Tomakin River around the rocks, I often pick up a salmon if there is no weed about. Salmon are a great sport on light tackle in the canoe. With a few waves running around the rocks, the first thing you need to do is head out to sea to get clear of any waves and be in a position to land a fish when you get it to the boat. Australian salmon are a good fighting fish and when you catch one in the canoe, you really know you’re fishing.

Once out in the fishing ground, I swap the lures over for a bait rig, either rigged with soft plastics or bait. This is where the rod outriggers really come into their own. I can pull them in closer to the boat in easy reach and rest one rod in them while I bait the other rod. I cast one line well away from the boat and drop the other one in close. As I drift I can sit and select either rod as the bites happen.

When I hook a fish, I reel it in and look at it in the water. If it’s obviously too small or a fish I don’t want, I use my fish flick hook remover to put it back in the water even before it comes on board. This is particularly relevant with scorpion fish or undersize flathead. If the fish looks like a decent size and something I want to eat, I land it just aft of the pedals and remove it from the hook. I have a measure running across the hull that is marked with the various legal lengths for different species. I then put the fish forward of the pedals.

Hook remover http://www.cheapfishinggear.com.au/accessories-21/fish-hook-removers.html

Given that most fish hang around in schools, you often get two hook ups in close succession. This means that often while you are hauling in one fish the other rod is going off. For me the choices are simple. I land one fish, remove it from the hook and rebait the line and get it back in the water if it is not going to tangle with the other line. Then I deal with the other rod.

If the fish start piling up, I stop fishing and put them in the tub under the forward hatch.

There are some major advantages in fishing out of a kayak. The principal one is that you can put it in nearly anywhere where there is a beach and not too many waves. Another major advantage is that you don’t need any assistance to get the kayak off your car and into the water. If your kayak is really heavy, there are a range of devices to elevate it from the ground onto your car and vice versa.

The Hobie is a good stealth machine. It is ideal for running along the river bank and casting where fish might be. There are a whole bunch of accessories that can be fitted. I have a Garmin sounder and a battery which will run for about 10 hours between recharges. The sounder gives good information when I am in more than about 4 feet of water.

Sitting close to the water and having the Mirage drive means that you can always wash your hands and clean up inside the Hobie as you are fishing. There is no leaning over the side to drop your glasses and mobile phone. I put my glasses on a string around my neck and put my mobile phone in a dry bag. I take my mobile phone in the unlikely event that I need to use it in an emergency.

One of the downsides is that unless you have the largest fishing Hobie, you cannot really stand up safely. This means that your fishing expedition is probably limited to about three hours before you get really uncomfortable from sitting down. If you can go ashore at some stage, life becomes a lot more comfortable.

I also like the Hobie because I can store it in the roof of my shed. At around $3000 fully equipped, it offers an exciting fishing solution which is pretty flexible. Admittedly, only a few people go out into the open ocean and there is pretty strong likelihood of getting wet. Good safety gear is mandatory.

My ambition is to catch 65 cm plus Kingfish and land it in my Hobie. In the meantime, the kayak on the lake with Stratodog will have to do…

Dog Kayak

www.cheapfishinggear.com.au

 

Flathead – Catch, Cook and Eat

Flathead are not the best looking fish in the ocean. They are not called lizards for nothing. Varying in colour, they slither along the bottom as opportunity feeders. When flathead opportunity feed, we stand a good chance of catching one. Unlike many other species, they don’t have a local hang out. They are equally happy in deep water, on gravel beds, over weed or on sand flats where they can bury themselves and hide waiting for their prey to swim past. Less likely to be found around the rocks means that they are not mixed up with other fish like wrasse and scorpion fish. This and the fact that they taste pretty good, makes them an ideal target for recreational anglers.

Targeting Flathead

So how do we target flathead? A good flathead rig is a hook on the bottom line with a sinker above and a second hook above the sinker. I generally fish with a rod. In the kayak I use a very short rod which is easy to handle. From a boat or the shore, I use a reasonably stiff rod. The key is to have a rod that is light enough to feel the bites but heavy enough to remember that the flathead has a pretty hard mouth. For years I tried to catch flathead with the same rod as I target Kingfish with. The result was that I caught the odd big flathead but missed 90% of the opportunities. Changing to a slightly more sensitive rod yielded great results.

There are various schools of thought about why a hook, sinker, hook rig works well with flathead. One is that the sinker dragging over the bottom stirs the flathead just before a bait goes past. This works if you’re drifting from the boat or slowly retrieving a line. Another idea is that the sinker sits on the bottom and dangles the bait right next the flathead. Yet another concept is that the flathead swim around and pick bits off the bottom, one of which is your bait. In any scenario, the rig works.

For bait, out of the kayak I use soft plastics, just because they are easy to handle. The Squidgy grasshopper pattern seems to be the killer bait for flathead and it works on snapper as well. Other good baits for flathead are any fish including flathead. Yep, they’re cannibals. Frozen bait like pilchards work and work better if it is reasonably fresh. Holding pilchards on the hook can be problematic when there are small flathead around or leather jackets. Slimy mackerel is also good and it seems to attract flathead from further away than many other baits. I’ve used beach worms pretty successfully but you have to be able to catch beach worms which I can only do in ideal conditions.

Flathead have raspy teeth and fairly hard mouths. They don’t have big teeth. Once they are caught, they are easy to keep on the hook until they are in the boat or on land. With the raspy mouth, it is important to have a monofilament leader because they will wear through braid in no time.

Lake Macquarie Flathead caught by local fisherman Tony
Lake Macquarie Flathead caught by local fisherman Tony

Remember flathead have spines on the back of the gills and head. Use a fish flick hook remover if you’ve got one. If you haven’t got one, go to www.cheapfishinggear.com.au and buy one. Failing that put a thick cloth that the spines don’t penetrate over the fish before removing the hook. Getting spiked by flathead won’t do any lasting damage but it will be uncomfortable for a few hours.

Preparing Flathead

Some people who have not eaten fresh King George whiting think flathead is an absolute delicacy. It is pretty good eating provided that it isn’t overcooked. Most people fillet flathead. Around the ramps I’ve seen a bunch of different ways people deal with them. Starting behind the gills, some people leave a fin on the front of the fillet so that they can use that as a purchase to hold the skin while they skin the fillet by gently separating the skin from the fillet by hand. Other people scale the Flathead before filleting and cook it with the skin on. Personally, I take the fillet down to the tail and flip the fillet out behind the fish leaving a small bit of skin attached. This allows me to hold the end of the skin and run the knife along between the skin and the fillet to make a skinless fillet quickly and easily.

Any of the above filleting methods will leave rib bones in the fillet. Wasteful as it is, it’s a real luxury to cut out the rib cages and have absolutely boneless flathead tails. Of course, the cat will love you if you feed them the fillet leftovers.

Cooking Flathead

When it comes to cooking, flathead is one of the few fish that taste great battered and deep fried. Given that fishing is often associated with beer drinking, I make a beer batter with about three quarters of a cup of self raising flour, an egg and beer to make it up into a reasonably thin batter. As a final step I add some extra bicarb soda so the batter comes out crispy. If you dip the fish in egg and flour before dipping in the batter, the batter will stick a whole lot better. Deep fry the fish at about 160° C. The key is not to cook it too long. I run a test bit. As soon as it breaks easily, all the fish should come out. Eat as soon as possible.

Enjoy.

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Back Camera

Lake Jindabyne Fishing and the tricky trout

The challenge of catching the wily trout attracts a wide variety of anglers. There are those that live for the challenge of fly fishing and perfecting the art of making the magical fly that will fool the monster trout. These people spend hours perfecting their cast to lob the fly in exactly the right spot to catch the tricky trout. The hours fishing as distinct from catching fish is what counts for the fly fishermen.

Then there is another group who are out to catch fish. Trout don’t feed like tuna unless they are in a trout farm where they have to compete for their next morsel.  There must be plenty of trout food occurring naturally. I draw this conclusion because there are about two days a year when they are hungry – Christmas and your partner’s birthday when fishing is banned anyway.

Wild trout are picky eaters or at least they seem to be. Finding the right bait on any given day is a challenge. They will attack a certain colour of lure but with the next cast they won’t even give it a passing thought. Do trout think? The message is that local knowledge is important and finding this out is gold if you want to catch these elusive fish.

There are many ways to try to fool the evasive trout. We mentioned the fly and all that goes with fly fishing, including but not limited to tweed caps and jackets, waders and a moustache. This lot stalk around trying to be incognito, dropping a fly in an idyllic quiet pool to the rising trout. The game is trudging around and casting a fly. I have never worked out what you actually do with the gear that you carry when you go fishing?

Bait fishermen are a very different breed. To them, the right bait is the right stuff. Be it bardi grubs, powerbait or worms there is belief that what they have trout want and will travel to get it. But do trout travel for food? For a trout to travel for food would require an active thought process, so we return to the question. Do trout think?

Trout seek food and hang around where there is plenty of food. A steady wind from one direction in the spring and summer will bring bugs attractive to trout off the land and into the water. This might mean that the travelling trout will hang around on the shore closest to where the wind is blowing off the land. It might be good to fish there. This scenario might even work without a trout having a conscious thought process.

Then there are the higher cost players in trout fishing. These are the guys and girls with boats who launch at daylight and put ‘slow down’ devices on their boats to make the boat speed around one knot. Apparently this is the speed for catching trout with a lure. The trick is to find lures that swim with a ‘trout attractive action’ at a very slow boat speed. There doesn’t seem to be a bunch of racing trout because if you go much more than one knot you won’t catch any.

The $64,000 question for the trolling set is which lure will work today?  If I ran a tackle shop, I would ask what lures they had in their tackle box and suggest something close but not quite the same. There are many lures and they probably all work on something.  Celtas have always worked a bit for me. The old rule of thumb is that bright lures work on bright days and dull ones for overcast days. The jury is out on coloured wings and how much leader you need.

The major advantage of trolling is that there is some chance of dragging something past a trout rather than waiting for the trout to find your bait or strike at a nicely presented fly. Fly fishing may be stylish and ‘pure’ but trolling very often brings home the goods.

 

Catching and Eating Tommy Ruff or Herring

In South Australia they are called Tommy Ruff while in Western Australia they are known as Herring, although not actually a member of the herring family.  Arripis Georgianus is the scientific name of the fish and it is one of four of the Arripis genus within the Australasian fish species. Resembling its close cousin the Australian salmon, a big one is about 25cm in length. The Tommy is good eating fresh or as a beer snack, smoked. People have been known to freeze them and eat them later but usually it is a disappointing experience.

Figure 1: Tommy Ruff or Australian Herring

Tommies are found in the cooler Australian waters around the southern coast and in WA. They are not found on the east coast of Australia east of Bass Strait. Distinct yellow markings on the side make this little guy easy to identify. They are easy to catch and can be found from jetties and the shoreline any time with peak times morning and evening. For their size, they are pretty good fighting fish but at only 300g, light gear is needed to make the job interesting.

Quite happy to hang around in shallow water, these guys will take a variety of baits. Their favourites are ‘gents’ or blood worms. They’ll also bite on mincemeat, fish bits, squid, pipis or cockles or anything else you can get to hang on a hook. They like to feed near the surface and generally don’t feed on the bottom. An ideal rig for this guy is a burly cage and a couple of hooks underneath with no weight dangled over the side of a jetty or, if you are casting from the shore, a float with about 2m leader underneath on the hook or two on the end.

Figure 2: Commonly used float for catching Tommies

It doesn’t look like a highly inspiring float. Most of these have a hole through the middle that can be packed with berly consisting of bran and pollen. A nice dry mix to make it solid enough to stay in the hole for about a minute is ideal. It will bring the Tommies up to the surface to eat the pollen and hopefully snap the bait on their way back down. While they sometimes turn up on the surf, they are not actually real surfer dudes like their larger cousins the Australian Salmon. A beach with a very gentle break is often an ideal fit for catching Tommies. A cast of about 25-30m is good to get just on the edge of the weed line. Once the float is out, it is just a matter of waiting. Usually they will strike reasonably quickly after the berly starts to release. If after about five minutes there has been no bite, reel everything in, repack the berly and start the process again.

Like the Australian salmon, when they are caught it is good to bleed the fish straight away. Storing them in salt water is also a good idea to keep them nice and fresh. After I have caught Tommies I always like to take a bucket of sea water to put the fillets in. Tommies are pretty easy to fillet after you have scaled them. A good scaler makes life easy because they have harder scales than some other fish. Fortunately the ribs are close to the surface and can be removed without losing too much flesh. Typically you end up with fillets about 10-15cm long and about 10cm wide at the widest part so they are not huge fillets.

To cook, I usually roll them in flour and fry them in reasonably hot oil. Like all fish, overcooking ruins the taste so about 30 seconds aside in hot oil is about the maximum. I like them with mashed potato and green salad. This is not really a fish and chips fish.

By catch when targeting Tommies is often garfish, juvenile Australian salmon and if you’re fishing off the jetty, Trevally around the jetty piles – all good eating fish.

Enjoy fishing for Tommies.