Trout fishing – where and when to find them

May 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, General Fishing Tips

Trout are an oily fish, and are closely related to salmon. Whilst most trout will live out their lives in freshwater lakes and rivers, some trout will travel out to sea for a couple of years and then return to freshwater to spawn, much like salmon.

Trout are aggressive, opportunistic hunters. But they are smart!

Where

brown troutTrout tend to favour cooler temperatures, so do really well in mountain lakes and clear highland streams. The ideal temperatures range from 50-60 F or 10-16 C.

They are native to North America, Europe and northern Asia. They were introduced to New Zealand and Australia.

Trout like structure in the water, like trees or weed. they like drop-offs, some like shallow flats, and they are even found in deep featureless water. They can be found virtually anywhere in the water column. When temperatures are low, trout will tend to be in 15-20 feet of water. When it is hot, they will go deep. Trout are also known to hunt the surface, especially at night.

Because of their instinct to travel upstream to spawn, when the water temperature drops and days shorten, the hormones in the brood fish are triggered. Shortening days stimulate egg production as well, and their instinct to head to a spawning ground is triggered. Even in landlocked lakes, they will tend to head upstream, and an ideal spawning grounds would include swift following water and loose pebbles or gravel – oxygen must keep running over the eggs, and there must be as little mud as possible so the eggs aren’t suffocated. The female will cover the eggs with gravel after breeding and leave. The male often stays to protect the nest.

When

When the trout are spawning is often the best time to catch them, but you should check your local regulations, as some areas restrict the trout season to non-spawning times of the year. Brown trout spawn in the fall and other trout often wait until the early spring.

Cannon Lake Troll Manual Downrigger

Cannon Lake Troll Manual Downrigger

Spawning season is also usually over the cooler months, when the temperatures are right for the trout to be active and feeding aggressively. It is better to fish for trout in cooler weather than hot weather.

An aggressive trout preparing to breed will usually take a lure or fly – but try not to disturb a fish that is spawning. Alternatively, just downstream from where the trout are spawning, there are usually lots of other fish who are feeding on the loose eggs that have drifted down to them. Trout and other fish will park themselves in a deep pool below the spawning grounds, which is a ripe place to fish.

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Reading the Beach

May 10, 2015 by  
Filed under General Fishing Tips

The most important element in beach fishing is being able to “read” the beach and understand the undersea formations that make fish gather in search of food. Waves on an ocean beach will scour channels and make holes, gutters, sandbars and spits, creating natural paces for feeding and predation.

beach fishingSurf anglers take time to study a beach at low tide to see the patterns of the exposed sands and reefs, and again at high tide to look for the feeding places indicated by changes in colour and the movement of the waves. Swelling, unbroken waves indicate deeper water, while those that curl over and break indicate shallows. Rips or run-outs create gutters, which are detectable by short, choppy waves and the movement of white water out to sea.

Channels are the main arterial roads of the undersea system. They are deep water formations parallel to the beach, often extending well past the shoreline. Gutters are the minor roads, which fish use to travel between channels, into holes or shallow waters near the beach. The banks of the channels are the drop-offs where the predators wait, out of the main wave action, for their food. Sandbars and flats are indicated by breaking waves and foaming water that speak across them, sweeping small fish and food items into the drop-off areas. Holes can be identified by darker green or blue water, and in the way the wave formation is interrupted.

Regulars always check their favourite beach to see the changes that time and weather have wrought since their last visit. In rough weather, tonnes of sand can be moved around in a few hours. A high vantage point, polaroids and binoculars are good aids in reading the beach, as the best time for reconnaissance is when the sun is high and the scene is not distorted by shadows.

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Using Berley Offshore

May 8, 2015 by  
Filed under General Fishing Tips

While you cannot change the water temperature or the weather, much less control the moon, you can time your trips to take advantage of them. Similarly, even though seasonal movements of bait and injections of storm-washed foods are beyond your organisational ability, you can fake such events by the use of berley. Berley is used in all forms of offshore fishing including game and sports fishing as well as fishing over a reef for bottom dwellers. Sending down a cloud of easily gathered food among a bunch of sleepy fish can change their attitude dramatically.

cubing tunaOffshore berley can be made from pieces of fish flesh and various fish oils, either used along, or mixed together and extended with some kind of cereal product such as bread, laying mash or stock-food pellets. It can be dispensed in various ways: through a berley bucket or berley bomb, or simply tossed over the side, a little at a time.

One technique used in game fishing for such species as yellowfin tuna is called “cubing”. Small cubes of fresh tune, 2 x 2 cm in size, are dropped into the ocean current from a drifting game boat. This sets up a long “freeway” of enticing tidbits, which after a couple of hours will stretch for a couple of kilometres. Tuna coming across the trail will simply follow it to the back of the boat, where the waiting angler is ready with live bait or a hook impaled cube. More conventional berleying techniques over reefs also produce results when the fish are not on the bite.

The key with berley is to use the right type and just enough to get the job done. A little, in a constant stream, is better than a big slug of it, then nothing. This is especially important offshore, where currents can take the berley away from you, and the fish with it. Remember do not feed the fish! Berley should only stimulate them.

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Fishing Safely

The weather

Weather has a lot of bearing on water safety, so whether you are fishing from a boat or from land, be aware of the weather forecast and watch for changes.

Wind is the single greatest threat to fishing safety. Offshore winds (blowing from land to sea) can occur any time but are most common in winter. They blow up quickly and often violently, and pose most threat to boats, especially those with mechanical problems, inadequate horsepower or marginal sea ability. A disabled boat can be blown kilometres out to sea.

Cool changes, too, can come through with a rush. They can whip up seas in a matter of minutes, threatening boat angels or rock hoppers. Onshore winds also affect rock and boat anglers, but tend to give more notice in that they often blow gently from daybreak and strengthen as the day progresses. However, any wind that increases force perceptibly needs to be treated with respect. Boat anglers should quit early and run home in reasonable conditions, rather than wait until the squall hits and have to battle their way back.

Indications of developing low pressure cells and associated winds show up on weather maps as a lot of lines (isobars) compressed together. Look for dense cloud banks developing on the horizon, or seabirds flying low and fast – and all in the same direction – both of which are natural signs nearly always heralding that strong winds are to follow.

Clothing

Carry adequate clothing. Temperature can drop quickly overnight or even in the middle of the day if there is a sudden change of weather. Being caught in a rainstorm and chilled by wind can lead to hypothermia.

Extra clothing can be stowed in the boat until required and even land-based anglers can roll up a lightweight rain jacket, or keep a jumper on hand for emergencies.

Minimise the discomfort of sunburn and the risk of skin cancer with suitable clothing, a hat and a 15+ sunscreen. Carry an insect repellent too as many good fishing areas attract insects such as mosquitoes.

First Aid

Anyone going fishing needs some first aid training and a basic first-aid kit. When an accident happens, it is likely you will be some distance away from help. First-aid kits should include band-aids, wound dressings, antiseptic, a clean surgical blade or scissors, and a pressure bandage.

Hook removal

fish hook in fingerWhile the most common fishing accident is a cut or graze, the next is the one that the angler most fears: being impaled by a fish hook. If such a misfortune occurs, and the barb is protruding, you can cut it off and withdraw the hook easily. If the barb is embedded in the flesh, seek medical attention if possible. If not, put a line around the throat of the hook and, when downward pressure is placed on the shank, pull the hook straight out. The downward pressure brings the barb out through the whole already in the flesh, enlarging it somewhat, but not making a ragged teat. If two people can perform this service for the sufferer, so much the better. The one pulling on the cord should not be kind, but get the hook out in one swift pull. Once the hook has been removed, follow standard first-aid procedures.

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Tailing Trout

May 5, 2015 by  
Filed under General Fishing Tips

When trout show their backs or tails as they feed, you can “tail” them, or they are said to be “tailing”. The chance to target fish that you can see cruising and feeding is often very interesting and rewarding.

If they don’t have their backs completely out whilst feeding, often trout are given away by ripples and swirls on the surface of the rainbow troutwater. During warmer months, trout often feed at the surface on swarms of flying insects.

Sometimes trout are particularly willing to forage among seedbeds or over newly flooded flats, even where there is scarcely enough water to cover their bodes. Hence the term: these trout cannot avoid periodically sticking their tail-tips and dorsal fins out of the water. At times, when they tilt their nose down, their entire tails wave in the air like a flag in the freeze.

Usually, trailers are best sought at dawn, when the lake shores have been undisturbed all night. But sometimes, sunset produces trailers, particularly on cool evenings.

This allows for interesting fly fishing or casting. Cast a couple of metres in front of the tail and twitch the lure back towards you, and see if the surface boils!

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All About Bait

May 3, 2015 by  
Filed under General Fishing Tips

Fish will response best to bait that is presented as naturally and attractively as possible. It should be a bait that offers no reason for the fish to become suspicious or alarmed and, preferably, one that is a naturally occurring food item in the habitat of the target fish

Saltwater baits

A fussy fish, and there are many of these, will often baulk at something that seems unnatural in the water, is unfamiliar or stale. A well presented bait freshly procured from the bait grounds where one is fishing works almost every time.

saltwater baitA fish’s attraction to bait is partly visual, but mostly has to do with taste, smell and touch. For this reason, contaminants such as sun cream, insect repellant and some kinds of food, such as bananas, onion and oranges, can turn fish off. Even some human odours can have a detrimental effect. There is good reason to use masking substances such as various fish attractant solutions, or simply “washing” your hands with bait, much like you would with soap.

Fresh and live baits work best because they secrete various chemical signals that stimulate fish to feed. These natural chemicals, however, can be dispersed and destroyed on contact with air and water. Dead or cut baits lose their attraction very rapidly, while live baits continue to exclude chemical strike triggers for a short time but, as fatigue and stress mount, the production of these attractants slows down. This is why you can often get a result by pulling in a bait that has lain untouched for some time and replacing it with a fresh one.

The key to bait fishing is to realise that you are talking about food. Fish food, it is true, but food nonetheless. To understand the importance of top grade bait, look no further than your own preference for fresh and attractively presented food.

Freshwater baits

As with saltwater baits, the best freshwater baits are those that are gathered fresh from the area where you are fishing. They should be presented live if practical and as natural as possible.

bait wormsThere are some universal baits that “travel” well, and they will work just about anywhere. This does not, however, invalidate the principle of selecting baits that the fish might expect to see in their habitat.

The traditional trout fishing ploy of examining the stomach contents of captured fish is wonderfully enlightening, once you wash and sift through the contents to identify what it is that the fish have been eating. Such examinations will often reveal that much of the diet of freshwater fish is insects and, because it is so difficult to mount all but the largest of insects on a hook, you can see why artificial fly fishing came into being.

Rapala Rattlin 05 Fishing Lure

Rapala Rattlin 05 Fishing Lure

Large insects, like grasshoppers, muddies, beetles cicadas, and various larvae of moths, beetles and so on, are all prime candidates for freshwater baits. So are small foragers, such as galaxies, gudgeons and many others. Crustaceans are important too. Various forms of shrimp and yabbies work on everything from barramundi to trout. Worms and grubs are dynamite on a range of freshwater fish. There are even various shellfish found inside captured fish, but these present rigging difficulties which mean they are seldom used.

As with saltwater bait fishing, bait selection, rigging and methods of presentation are of paramount importance. The same rules apply: show the fish something it likes to eat and expects to see, and put it where it can be eaten without risk to the fish.

When bait fishing in either fresh or salt water, care should be taken to prevent the escape of live baits not taken from the same water you are fishing. Leftover live baits should be returned to the water from whence they came.

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Cooking Methods

Fish fall into several categories, each suiting particular cooking methods. The light white-fleshed fish, such as bream, flounder, whiting, john dory, mulloway and ling are all best suited to frying or gentle baking. The darker, oiler fish with a strong flavour, including kingfish, mullet, tuna, gem fish and tailor, are better grilled, poached or braised.

Fresh fish flesh is reasonably translucent, becoming opaque or whitish when cooked. At this stage the flesh will flake along the muscle and cooking fishrelease a clear juice. Once cooked the fish should be served immediately. remember, the flesh will continue to cook a little when removed from the heat, so always serve fish firm and juicy, not firm and dry.

The following cooking methods are suggestions only. It is up to the individual palate. Why not experience; you will discover that most fish can be cooked by any method. Just remember, it takes great chefs and even greater recipes to make something out of a second-rate fish. Really fresh fish only needs a simple recipe.

Frying

Frying fish can be carried out by either of two methods: panfrying, also known as shallow frying, and deep-frying, which is the style used in fish and chip shops. Both frying techniques are suited to most fish species. However, in panfrying, the fish only needs a light dusting of flour before being placed gently into the hot cooking agent. In the case of deep-frying, the fish needs to be coated in batter or breadcrumbs to benefit from the oil saturation.

Grilling

This is a method of cooking where the fish is either placed on a grill over a fire or placed under a griller. In the latter case, the heat source is above the food, and the heat is generally very severe. It is an ideal cooking method for people requiring a diet with no added fat. Alternatively, grilling can be done on a barbecue. Generally, the severe form of heat of the barbecue is ideal for all fish. Delicate-fleshed fish benefit from a little basting with butter or oil. Darker, fattier types of fish grill well without added fats, but a squeeze of lemon and some greater peppercorns will enhance the flavour.

When grilling fish, care must be taken not to overcook or dry out the fish and constant attention and basting with a little oil or butter will help. Leaving the skin on can also protect the flesh from drying out too quickly.

Baking

This is one of the simplest ways to cook a whole fish, particularly a large specimen. The fish should be buttered on the outside, laid on a baking tray with a little liquid in the bottom, and moist baked.

Poaching

Thi is not a commonly used cooking method but it is suited to delicate-fleshed fish. In poaching, the cooking liquid is generally water, with an onion, bay-leaf and clove added. The water should only just simmer. Poaching is a great way to cook a whole fish, which can be served hot or cold. Served with a sauce, it is ideal for lunch.

Steaming

This is the easiest way of cooking without the addition of any fats. The fish are laid out on a rack over water that must be boiled to maintain a constant temperature above 100degrees Celsius. Bamboo steamers are ideal or a colander sitting over a saucepan of water will do. A tight-fitting lid is required or enough aluminium foil to seal in the steam. This method of cooking is quite quick, and a fillet only takes a few minutes.

Braising

Braising is a cooking method generally done in a large pot or casserole dish with a lid, or a baking tray, which is later covered with foil. The fish should be placed in the casserole, on a bed of vegetables, and barely covered with fish stock or wine, covered with a lid, and slowly simmered in the oven or over a very gentle heat on a stove, or on the hot coals of an open fire. In the over, most fish will require slow cooking for at least 1 hour. This method of cooking is best for fish that will improve with the addition of the subtle flavours of vegetables and wine.

Shakespeare Navigator Spinning Combo

Sharespeare Navigator Spinning Combo

The bed of vegetables is often referred to as a mirepoix, and comprises coarsely chopped vegetables and herbs cooked in butter. Shark and nannygai lend themselves to braised dishes with tomato and fennel. Large mulloway and eel can also be braised.

Smoking

There are two forms of smoking: hot smoke and cold smoke. Recent research has shown that cold smoking can form perfect conditions for the incubation of harmful bacteria. Hot smoking, however, is safe. This method was first employed to preserve fish, but the flavours imparted by the wood and smoke make fish cooked this way worth trying.

Marinating

This is another form of preserving fish, but is also a way of imparting additional flavours to the flesh of what might normally be a fairly bland-tasting fish. You can use either a liquid marinade (a mixture of oil, acid – vinegar, wine or citrus juice – and spices), in which the fish will soak for several hours prior to cooking, or a dry marinade, made up of salts, sugar and spices. The dry marinade mix is sprinkled heavily over the fish flesh, which needs to be trend regularly over a period of 48 hours. The result will be a fish ready for eating, which has required no cooking. The Cajun style of marinating uses chilli, cumin and coriander, before cooking the fish over a very high heat. The “blackened” result is attractive and particularly flavoursome.

Soups, stocks, patties and pies

Good stock is made from good bones and fish offcuts, which must always be fresh. Pies and patties can be made from fresh uncooked fish pieces or from cooked leftovers. By adding herbs and spices, and eggs and flour, you can make crumbed patties or pastry-topped pies, all great hot or cold for picnics or that next fishing trip.

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Limit Your Catch

April 29, 2015 by  
Filed under General Fishing Tips

A welcome trend has appeared over the last decade or two: anglers are starting to release fish, even where no limits apply or bag limits have not been met. Many anglers now realise that most legal limits are extremely generous. In some countries, limits of just one or two fish per angler per day are now commonplace.

limit your catchWhile a few pest species need heavy culling by anglers, for the vast majority of species there is a growing realisation that overloaded bags of fish are a loss that waters can no longer withstand. Keeping a couple of fish for dinner is usually okay, but otherwise, fish should be carefully released.

Line-caught fish can usually be released with a high change of survival if the following recommendations are observed:

  • handle the fish as gently and as little as possible, with wet hands,
  • keep it out of the water from a minimal time. If the hook is too deep to easily wriggle free, cut it off with clippers as close to the hook eye as possible.

So let’s limit your catch, and practice catch and release to ensure our fish stocks last for generations to come.

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Fishing the Tides

April 28, 2015 by  
Filed under General Fishing Tips

Estuary anglers must allow for the reversal every six hours of tidal flow, and alter their fishing spots accordingly. The most productive ends of reefs, structures, channels and gutters reverse with the tide. The sea entrance to an estuary is a good place to fish on a running tide, as fish passing from the estuary to the sea, or vice versa, must use this corridor.

fishing the tidesAs the tide falls, small fish, prawns and crabs leave the shelter of sand flats, weed areas and mangrove roots, and return to the channels, where the larger fish are waiting for them. A selected bait, cast into a channel at the right time, is likely to be grabbed by a fish expecting to feed. The main areas to fish at low tide are around structures, gutters and drop-offs, with the deepest holes carrying the best fish. Predatory fish such as flathead face the run of the tide, lurking around the edges of sandbars, gutters and channels waiting for smaller fish, prawns and food scraps to be drawn towards them.

At high tide the small fish, prawns and shellfish spread out, and the larger fish go after them and also the worms, crabs and other types of food that live around the flats and mangrove banks. This expands the range of fishing but makes it harder to pinpoint the spots where the fish are feeding. Structures, holes and gutters still exist and should remain the target.

Some fish break the rules and stay close to shelter behind structures and often close to overhanging banks or mangrove stands. Mangrove jacks, for example, has to be sought in these sheltered spots.

Tides has less effect in the middle of an estuary or bay as the movement of water is not so strong.

Make sure you have a current tide chart for your area. The chart times relate to certain major points such as a port or headland. Work out the time variation of high and low tides between the places you normally fish and those named on the chart, and plan your trips around the tides.

One strategy is to gather bait at low tide and begin to fish along the channel edges and drop-offs as the tide rises and the water floods out of the channels. Equally, you could time your fishing to just before high tide, and fish the edges of the channels and drop-offs as the water receded and the small creatures begin to be drawn back into the channels. In very shallow estuaries you must time your departure to avoid being left high and dry on a sandbank!

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Handling Fish

April 27, 2015 by  
Filed under General Fishing Tips

If you plan to return your catch to the water, handle it as little as possible because the slime coating of the fish protects it from disease. If you are intending to eat your catch, your first task is to kill the fish immediately, either by a sharp blow with a blunt instrument (the heel of your knife or a small hammer) between or above the eyes, a knife-stab in the same spot, or by breaking the bridge across the throat and bending the head back. The last process helps to bleed the fish, which improves the final eating quality of some species.

holding fishIt is advisable to have an old towel to hold a landed fish, and a pair of pliers to remove the hook. This is a tricky process, as some fish such as flathead have protective spines and spurs that can inflect a wound. Many tropical fish, such as stonefish, red rock cod, butterfly cod and fortescue, have poisonous spines that can cause severe illness.

You should immediately remove the gut and the gills of the fish, but leave the scales on to keep the flesh moist. Gutting is simply done by making a shallow cut from the throat to the anus and scooping out the entrails with your knife. Fun the knife along each side of the backbone to remove any remaining pockets of blood. Don’t cut into the gut. The fish should be washed to remove external slime and placed on ice; within 5 to 15 minutes of capture in the tropics, where fish flesh denigrates rapidly.

Shakespeare Crusader Spinning Combo

Shakespeare Crusader Medium Spinning Combo

At the end of the day you must complete the job of cleaning the fish and preparing it for the table. You need a scaling tool, a strong working knife and a fine, sharp scaling knife. Once you have scaled the fish the easiest way to fillet it is to cut the fish behind the head down to the backbone and then flatter the knife and cut along the bone towards the tail with a sawing motion, taking the fillet and the skin at the same time. Next you can remove the skin by making a cut at the tail and, while holding the skin with one hand, cut along the skin with a flattened knife. Many fish have oily skins that affect the taste of the flesh.

Finally, wash and dry the fillet thoroughly and, if refrigeration is not at hand, roll it in plastic to keep it airtight.

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