Special Feature: Scoop’s Guide To Fishing Tasmania

   

There was a time, not so long ago, when the only anglers who went to Tasmania did so in a quest for trout. Most were fly fishers. Nowadays this has changed as anglers came to realise what Tasmania has to offer, and all of it in a pristine environment unlike the mainland.

FRESHWATER

Freshwater anglers can choose from lakes and rivers, or even private waters. The Apple Isle boasts the best trout fishing in Australia, which is how it should be given that Tasmania is the birthplace of Antipodean trout fishing. Most Australian trout anglers regard Tasmania as the nation’s premier trout destination. It’s like Tasmania was purpose-designed for trout with its hundreds of lakes and a cooler climate. Mother Nature forgot to seed the waters but the early settlers saw to this. Every brown trout caught in Australia – and New Zealand for that matter – can trace its roots back to Tasmania.

Rich History

If you have an interest in the history of trout fishing in the antipodes and have a visit to Tasmania in mind, spare half a day and go to the Salmon Ponds. This, the oldest trout hatchery in the Southern Hemisphere, has been operating since 1864. The facility is located 10 minutes from New Norfolk and less than an hour’s drive from Hobart and includes a Museum of Trout Fishing and an Anglers Hall of Fame.
Tom Vaness with a good trout caught at Bronte Lagoon.

Tom Vaness with a good trout caught at Bronte Lagoon.

If you prefer to go fishing, then the Central Highlands is the place to begin. Many of the lakes offer fly fishers an opportunity to sight fish for tailing trout around the lake margins, and fly fishing doesn’t get any better than that.

The Bronte System

There is the Bronte system of four main lakes: Bronte Lagoon, Bradys Lake, Lake Binney and Tungatinah Lagoon. One of the most famous Highlands’ waters is Little Pine Lagoon, a few kilometres south of Miena on the Marlborough Highway that runs from Bronte Lagoon to Great Lake. Great Lake is one of Tasmania’s best-known trout waters.

Year-Round

A year round trout fishery, brown trout were first released here in 1870 and still dominate the fishery with an average weight of about 1.5kg. Rainbow trout are fewer and account for less than 25 per cent of the trout catch. A major claim by Tasmanians is that “even novices can catch trout in Arthurs Lake.” This probably explains why this waterway is Tasmania’s most popular trout fishery, receiving more anglers and more angler effort than any other water in the State.

Fishing Arthurs Lake

Arthurs Lake is a brown trout fishery and all methods are employed. Every year trout in excess of 4kg and up to 7.5kg are reported being caught. The above are some of the trout waters available. There are many more like Woods Lake, Lake River and even the Derwent River. Private fisheries are also available but if you want to pay to fish then places like Twin Lakes, less than an hour’s drive east of Hobart may suit.

SALTWATER

Brendan Wing caught this bluefin fishing out of Eaglehawk Neck.

Brendan Wing caught this bluefin fishing out of Eaglehawk Neck.

The saltwater scene has opened up in recent years with the advent of estuary tournament fishing for bream. Mind you, bream isn’t the only species available; it’s just that they are consistently bigger than their mainland counterparts.

Mixed Bag

As well as estuary, there is plenty of bay fishing for flathead and snapper, offshore for marlin, southern bluefin tuna, mako sharks and, this year, even broadbill swordfish came to the weigh master.

If You’re Game

Most game fishing takes place on the east coast from ports like St Helens from January to April where marlin, tuna and sharks are caught. Eaglehawk Neck, near Port Arthur, notable for its run of southern bluefin tuna from April and through to July. However, the saltwater scene has more than game fish on offer. The growth in light tackle lure fishing, in particular soft plastics, in recent years has seen Georges Bay at St Helens become a hot spot for smaller species including bream, trevally, salmon, flathead, yellowtail kingfish and mullet.

Fishing The Freycinet

A sample of trout broodstock held at the Salmon Ponds.

A sample of trout broodstock held at the Salmon Ponds.

Coles Bay at the northern edge of the Freycinet National Park, is a popular fishing area, producing flathead, silver trevally, Australian salmon, mackerel, cod, gummy sharks, squid and barracouta. Stanley on the northwest coast of Tasmania is best known for its run of blue warehou or trevalla, also known as snotty trevalla from the Stanley Wharf.

West Coast Wanderings

Drive down the west coast and you come across Arthur River, a small, coastal holiday village on the banks of the Arthur River, about 61km from Smithton. The area is pristine wilderness, surrounded by dense forests with giant tree ferns, blackwood, myrtles, and celery top pine. Arthur River is famous for producing big, sea-run brown trout. South of Hobart, the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, which encompasses the waters between Bruny Island and the southeast Tasmanian mainland, is regarded as a hot spot. The channel extends between the estuaries of the Derwent, and the Huon Rivers.

Southern Hotspots

As a “recreational only” fishery, there is no commercial fishing pressure, as a result reliable catches are almost assured. Anglers can expect to catch flathead, cod, and gummy sharks in the channel all year. Species that visit these waters on a seasonal basis include Australian salmon, barracouta, mackerel, warehou and squid. Access to the Channel is good with many areas accessible from the shore. Plenty of small boat ramps are scattered along its length.

Land-Based Options

Shore-based anglers do well at places like Port Esperance, which features deep shelving waters accessible at Dover from headlands and jetties. Flathead is the dominant species, but anglers also hook into Australian salmon, barracouta, silver trevally and sometimes sea-run brown trout.
Jim Xyga  with a couple of solid Derwent bream.

Jim Xyga with a couple of solid Derwent bream.

Southport jetty produces barracouta, squid, flathead, mackerel and leatherjackets. The Lune River is popular, and this water can produce brown trout to 6kg, flathead, Australian salmon and bream. Three places that suit shore based angling are Gordon, Woodbridge and Kettering, as they offer good structure. Gordon is noted for its squid runs.

Plenty Of Squid

Woodbridge jetty fishes in similar vein for squid and other species mentioned. Bruny Island ferry departs from Kettering, but the bay fishes well. Atlantic salmon are farmed along the southeast coast and anglers often catch escapees. What are called “break-outs” of Atlantic salmon are common, and are caused by damage to the nets by seals, storms and even human error. The salmon average about 3-4kg.

Atlantic Salmon? You Bet!

Top spots for Atlantic salmon include the open water adjacent to the sea pens in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, and in sheltered areas such as Port Esperance, where these fish can be caught from shore. Tasmania has much to offer the angler. It’s just a matter of going there and spending some quality time on the water.
Little Pine Lagoon, a great place to wet a line.

Little Pine Lagoon, a great place to wet a line.

Steve Cooper

About Steve Cooper

Cooper is now a freelance travel and fishing writer with no fixed abode - his home being his cleverly appointed Jayco caravan which is packed to the pop-top with fishing gear. He has has towed the rig the length and breadth of Australia behind his diesel-powered Toyota Landcruiser which of course is topped with a small, flexible fishing boat.

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