Down South, Down Under E-mail
Written by Damian Bowman   
Saturday, 17 November 2012 00:03

When Australia is looked at from an outside angler’s perspective, most think of the northern region, where warm tropical waters host fishing similar to the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. These warmer waters host species such as marlin, sailfish and Spanish or “King” mackerel- the "usual suspects" of sport fishing pelagics. But, warmer waters only account for the top third of our nation. The bottom third has cooler waters and host completely different species of fish, whilst in the middle is a mix of the two. Little is published overseas about the DSDU 3 quality fishing in cooler water down south down under.

In this article I would like to describe the way we kayak fish, as I am sure the technique and tactics would differ from what is used elsewhere. Also, I would like to explain what`s on offer for a potential visitor. With Australia being such a big country we can fish cold water one day then warm water the next. Well almost- as it is at least a 600-1000 mile drive. Down under, driving long distances is the usual thing, especially if you live down south. I load my Hobie Outbacks on the 4WD and make the 700-mile journey north about four times a year.

The kayak offers so many advantages for our favorite bread and butter species. The reasons are obvious when comparing kayaks to shore-based fishing, as anywhere is accessible by kayak.

Powerboats are the most popular fishing vessel, yet it is hardly worth the high costs for fuel and maintenance. In the South West of Australia boat ramps are far between. The further from the boat ramps the better, as these areas see much less fishing pressure. A kayak that can be launched easily anywhere gives an edge over the boaties.

Since buying my kayak I have hardly touched my boat. One thing I have noticed since relying on my plastic vessel is the increase of catch rates in shallow water. A kayak is the ultimate for stealth, and allows you to sneak up on timid fish in rivers and estuaries. It not hard to see why our sport is growing so fast worldwide!

I reside in Margaret River, which is a coastal town at the bottom of Western Australia, pretty much at Australia`s most southwestern point. The Margaret River and its tributary systems don’t offer too much action in the way of fishing so we particularly stick to off shore fishing. The population of kayak fisherman in the area is next to none, although many will come down from the Perth which is the nearest city. In Perth, the sport is beginning to take off in a big way. Margaret River is more famous for its surfing and big waves, which can make offshore kayak fishing a potentially dangerous venture for the newcomer. There are also many “safe havens” and protected bays, and friendly locals are always willing to point you in the right direction. I know most won`t bother to travel half way around the world to go kayak fishing but if you do do, be sure to look me up at: www.theaverageanglerfishingadventures.com.au.

DSDU 1 I really enjoy kayak fishing in the pristine conditions of our estuaries, casting hard body lures and plastics. This is what attracted me to kayak fishing in the first place. These days, I am also becoming addicted to catching anything that will give me a tow, the longer and faster the better. Most popular for offshore kayak fishing in the bottom half of Australia is undoubtedly the snapper. These fish are powerful fighters that are normally found in large schools around structure.

Catching snapper on soft plastics is the “in” thing on the southern parts of Australia, and in most cases snapper are well within paddle or peddle range. Offshore deep sea kayak fishing seems the true test of one`s endurance fitness as the unpredictable wind and swell can turn a half hour paddle/peddle into a 3 hour battle at the drop of a hat.

In the deep sea, travelling 5-6kms in a kayak will normally get you in depths of 30-50 meters which is the zone to search for species such as bottom feeders like Dhufish, snappers and nannygai or sporting greats like samsonfish, yellowtail kingfish and amberjack. The bottom feeders are normally targeted with bait, although they will take soft plastics and various jigs. The sporting greats will also favour baits but are more often targeted with live baits or larger butterfly knife jigs. DSDU 4

The typical style of fishing down south is bottom bait fishing with a basic “paternoster” rig, consisting of two hooks above a sinker. This basic rig is commonly the first thing learnt when discovering deep-sea fishing, and works a treat for kayaking in deeper offshore situations. This rig has caught more snapper and bottom dwellers than any other method, and is successful from either an anchored or a drifting vessel. As I referred to earlier, soft plastics are all the craze and I personally prefer to avoid using bait. Bottom fishing in deep water with plastics all comes down to your technique and selecting the correct weight rather than the colour of your plastic. The best bet is to get the lightest weight possible to get your artificial in the strike zone, which in this case is the ocean floor.

I use a quick clip off technique when using an anchor this gives me open ocean to work with when something big is hooked, and it gets the anchor rope out of the way. It is an easy method and leaves your anchor and anchor rope on a buoy while you’re off getting towed by that monster fish of a lifetime. This technique is great as you can take off and come back to your original spot where you have been berleying (chumming). Leaving a berley bag on the rope or anchor is also an option. I tend to fish bait and berley when my kayak is on anchor, and occasionally go for a drift and work some lures along the bottom around the buoy which acts as a marker for your anchor and berley trail.

DSDU 2 I know it is unlikely that many kayakers from the U.S will go to the trouble of going to the other side of the world to see what is available especially when you have to hire gear when you get here. But, it is always interesting to see how different countries discover new techniques which can be used elsewhere. I travel the world to catch fish and the hardest thing I find is a place to hire a kayak similar to my own In most third world countries you are lucky to find one that’s not carved from a tree.

Of late I have been hooked on catching samsonfish, which are arguably the toughest fighters in the south. Western Australia is famous for its samsonfish jigging, a popular catch and release sporting fishery. These fish are commonly around the 30-50lb mark and they can grow much much bigger. Even smaller ones will peel line from your reel at lightning speed and are great challenge from a kayak, particularly on light gear. Big sambos are normally targeted using pe8 (100lb) jigging combos which are hard to use while seated in a kayak. I find a medium pe3 (50lb) combo much easier for kayak jigging, but  60lb-plus sambos tend to bust you off on the nearest bottom structure.

You can view some of our kayak sambo jigging footage on you tube under The Average Angler Fishing Adventures Channel. Plastics and DSDU 5 metal jigs worked vertically at high speed are irresistible for samsonfish, and also for their close cousins the yellowtail kingfish. The rigs for jigging are pretty simple. We normally use 3m of mono leader, 20-40lb heavier than the braid on the reel, and connected with an Albright knot. I like to use a perfection loop to my terminal tackle (lure), which allows it to move more freely. High end spinning reels such as Daiwa Saltiga and Shimano Stella are most commonly used, although some prefer to use overhead reels which I know are the primary choice for anglers from the states.

 

PHOTOS courtesy of Damien Bowman

1. Damian Bowman is happy with this personal best snapper at 20lb.

2. Bowman with a solid bronze whaler, released after an hour-long battle from the kayak. 

3. Down under samsonfish are suckers for fast vertically jigged soft plastics.

4. Jordan shows off a 50lb samsonfish.

5. This kingfish couldn't resist a popper worked through the feeding school.

 

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