Sensational Salmon

A group of feeding birds or a surface bust-up can mean some amazing fishing to Al McGlashan, if that is a school of Salmon.


The Aussie Salmon is the unsung hero for southern sportfishers. Found in coastal waters right around the southern half of the country the salmon or sambo as most anglers call it, is widely accessible to a vast majority of anglers. Favouring inshore waters they can be found everywhere from estuaries to surf beaches, harbours to headlands. What makes this species all the more popular is that they are common in suburban waters be it Port Phillip Bay or Sydney Harbour.

What is there not like? Salmon are a tough fighting fish that scream off and leap all over the place when hooked up and better still they are just as easy to catch from the shore as they are from a boat. There are few things as exciting as watching a frenzied school of sambos as they churn the water to foam smashing bait and then you cast a lure in for an instant hook up.

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Found right around the southern half of the country sambos vary in size dramatically depending on the state. Smaller fish (the 1-2 kg) are prolific in Victoria and Tasmania, while South Australia and New South Wales fish double that size are common. Then there is WA, which is home to the mackdaddys of them all with fish to more than 10 kilos. What makes them so popular is the fact that they can be caught from rock, beach, boat or wharf making them accessible to all.

Despite their size they are still best caught on light spin gear in the 1-4kg catagorie, which really allows the fish to perform. Having said that anglers fishing from the rocks sometimes have to beef up their gear just so they can land them. While sambos can be caught with a variety of techniques, casting into feeding schools is by far the most exciting style of fishing. It has to be one of my favourite types of fishing because it is so visual.

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Surface action

Sambos are a surface oriented species, or pelagic in other words, and spend a vast majority of their time feeding on the surface. The key to finding active surface feeding schools is to watch the birds. The common seagull is the best giveaway and at times there are hundreds of seabirds excitedly hovering over the school. The best indication that the birds are on the fish is when they are right down low on the water, constantly dipping. Even a patch of gulls just sitting on the water can be a good sign, indicating the fish have sounded and that they are simply just waiting for the fish to come up again.

Being patient and waiting can pay big dividends, but if you are in a boat then use your fish finder and see if you can mark the school. Sambos show up well on a fish finder and by marking the school you will be right on top of them when they do start blowing up again.

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When the fish are up and feeding don’t just drag lures through them, instead watch the school, work out which way they are heading. Understanding which way the school is heading is the key factor in planning your attack. Always approach from upwind in the boat, which makes it easier to cast with the wind on your back. By positioning the boat correctly the fish will swim straight to you making them easier to catch. A four stroke like my beloved Yamaha is also invaluable and being super quiet means you can sneak right up to the school without spooking them.

Despite being easy to find, salmon can be frustratingly fussy at times refusing everything you throw at them. Personally I have found that soft plastic minnow style patterns rigged on a worm hook or a Halco 10gram Twisty work best in NSW, alternately in Victoria or Western Australia a large metal slice or wobbler will draw a strike every time. Irrespective of what lure you use the trick is to get your offering right into the centre of the action, where the fish are thickest. This is where the competition is greatest and with the water churned up visibility is low making it hard for the fish to see the leader. Accurate casting really is essential for this style of fishing.


Hooking a sambo is only half the fun. For their size they are greater fighters and spend as much time in the air as in the water. Being a lightweight sportfish also makes them ideally suited for kids and a great way to introduce them into fishing. So next time your heading out and you spot a patch of birds on the water pull up and seem if the sambos are biting.

The only downside to salmon is their eating qualities, which is average at the best of times. If bled and iced down immediately they will taste better especially as Thai fish cakes. Sadly the commercial fishermen net them by the ton for nothing more than bait in fish traps or worse still for cat food. To me such a great sporting is killed en masse is such a waste of a resource especially since we can catch them just about anywhere we pull the caravan up that’s on the coast.

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