Tips for fishing in Tassie
You’d be hard pressed to find anything more Tasmanian than getting out on our beautiful waterways for a few hours of fishing.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty thankful it’s that time of year again, when the weather is warm enough to get the boat wet and drop a line.
It’s a pastime that really engages people of all ages and walks of life – from young families and casual fishers chasing flathead, salmon or squid in shallow inshore waterways. To the more experienced people that tackle offshore fish.
Then you get those that get among some diving. Either for abalone, crayfish, scallops or mussels. This does require a fishing licence through the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE).
Whatever your passion, there’s a fish out there waiting to be caught this summer.
I can safely say flathead are coming onto the bite with the weather warming up. While they can be caught all year round, fishers most commonly catch sand flathead in summer time in shallow waters of around 0-25 metres.
These sandy bottom dwellers can be caught with almost anything, from something as simple as a hook with bait, through to jig rigs or feathered hooks. Disclaimer: they are quite partial to flathead bait.
The best type of rod to use would be around the 6 foot spinning rod, with a thinner tip, 5-10lb monofilament or braided line and a spinning reel with a lower gear ratio for bottom fishing. This is a very common type of rod-reel combo.
Sandies can grow to around 400-500mm, but their deeper water cousins, tiger (or king) flathead, can reach up to 600-700mm. Found in depths of 10-160 metres, this breed requires a larger reel, stronger rod and line. In deeper water, shorter rods with a thicker tip are better, along with 15-25lb braided line. This will assist in bite sensitivity, and cover you if you hook a larger species.
Size limit: 320mm*
Bag limit (per person, per day): 20*
Possession limit (total possession): 30*
*For both sand and tiger flathead. Other limits apply for blue spotted and rock flathead.
Other fish that can quite easily be caught by amateur fishers are squid. For calamari squid, you can fish by boat or off jetties and rocks. On boats, I’d recommend casting around shallow rocky outcrops with weedy seafloors.
Squid jigs are your best bet to land calamari, which can be cast with a spinning rod and reel, with a higher gear ratio for faster retrieval. As you cast, let the jig sink slightly before jigging, winding and then letting it sink.
Repeat this cycle and if you land one, have the net ready and let the squid sit in the net outside the boat for a while so it can release its ink in the water, not on you!
Calamari grow up to 400mm and while they don’t have a size limit, they do have a bag limit of 10 and possession limit of 20.
Size limit: nil
Bag limit (per person, per day): 10
Possession limit (total possession): 20
Australian salmon, better known as blackback salmon as adults and cocky salmon as juveniles, can be caught in shallow coastal waters over sandy seabeds. They’re often found in schools, with birds feeding on baitfish the tell-tale sign the salmon are around.
They can be caught by trolling reflective or baitfish lures, flies, soft plastics and baits with a standard spinning rod and reel with heavier monofilament line. Let a few metres of line out behind the boat and travel at a speed of around 5-6 knots.
Let the drag loose so when a fish hits the lure, it can run and fully hook itself. Then tighten the drag slowly, wind and enjoy the fight! Make sure you have a net ready too. Salmon can also be caught with a surf rod off beaches.
Size limit: 200mm
Bag limit (per person, per day): 15
Possession limit (total possession): 30
Diving is one of the most fascinating forms of fishing out there. Seeing an underwater ecosystem is a wondrous experience. Most people dive for abalone, southern rock lobster (crayfish), mussels and scallops, all of which require a fishing licence available through DPIPWE.
The more common blacklip abalone usually hide in shallow waters on reefs or rocky outcrops, sticking to rocks and crevices shrouded by seaweed.
While blacklip abalone are found all over Tasmania, the larger greenlip abalone are found mainly in the north and the Bass Strait islands on the edge of reefs and boulders near sand or seagrass beds. Both species can be found in waters of 5-10 metres in depth right through to 50 metres.
Crayfish are found in rocky reefs and crevices in waters of 5-10 metres in depth, right through to 200 metres. They require quick reflexes to catch due to their very sensitive antennae that detects predators, allowing them to shoot back into their caves.
Abalone and crayfish sizes and catch limits in Tasmania vary based on species and location. Divers must also carry sizing tools when targeting abalone. Please check the DPIPWE website for information on catch limits, sizing and sizing equipment for crayfish and abalone.
Just a quick bit of advice for those starting out. Make sure you get a good quality hooded dive suit with a thickness of between 5mm and 8mm, a mask, diving regulator and snorkel, flippers and weight belt. Divers must also use an abalone iron to pry abalone away from rocks and only carry a broad bladed knife that meets regulations.
Divers can choose to use a regulator connected to a hose, which is attached to an air compressor, or scuba tanks.
Whatever your selection, make sure you're comfortable and relaxed before and after getting in the water and equalise as you reach the bottom. If you’re at all stressed, or feel a headache coming on, leave the water.
Offshore fishing is a little more complicated than inshore fishing. Blue water fish include southern bluefin, yellowfin, albacore and striped tuna, as well as blue eye trevally.
These fish can primarily be targeted on Tasmania’s east coast. There are also reports each year of marlin and swordfish coming further down the coast on the warming East Australian Current.
For these fish, specialised equipment is required, including larger overhead rods and reels. For tuna, swords and marlin, trolling is your best bet with large skirted lures.
For blue eye, get yourself an electric reel and high quality depth sounder because you’ll be fishing in around 200 metres of water above large reefs.
For other fishing information, see the below links:
The DPIPWE Recreational Fisheries Section, through the Fishcare Tasmania program, also regularly host clinics promoting responsible recreational fishing.
The clinics teach schools, organisations and groups basic fishing skills like setting up a rod, casting, how to measure your catch and to fish responsibly.
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Written by our Policy Officer and part time fishing enthusiast Alex Luttrell. Images also by Alex.
Below tile image credit: Tourism Aus.
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