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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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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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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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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Landing the Fish

April 25, 2015 by  
Filed under Fishing for Beginners

Landing the fish is not about reeling the fish in and landing it. The reel is not from dragging fish, but for taking up the slack or playing out line while you fight the fish and eventually bring it in.

A fish is never caught until it is in the boat or on the wharf. A last flurry of energy at any time close to retrieval may well dislodge a hook that is not fully set.

landing the fishJetty anglers are at peril of losing the fish if the pier platform is a long way above the water. It is best if the fish is exhausted so that it remains passive at the critical point when it leaves the water and its full weight comes into the line as you bring it in. It is likely to make a list run under the jetty, so you have to be prepared to play out line and begin the process of bringing it back to the point of retrieval.

Fish should not be lifted from the water on the line if it can be avoided. For boat anglers a net or a short gaff can be employed to secure the fish. On a jetty a long gift, flying gaff or grapnel can be used.

If you use a gaff, align the hook with the side of the fish and insert it into the flesh, bringing it in at an angle that easily penetrates the protective scales. Aim for the bulkiest part of the fish but avoid touching the belly.

If your fish is too small, a species that you would prefer to release or one more than you need for the day, slip it back into the water as gently as possible. There are usually pier steps that will get you closer to the water level for this.

Remember that our fisheries are a precious resource. The only reason for killing a fish is for air, for the table or if it is a pest species.

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Reading the Water

April 22, 2015 by  
Filed under General Fishing Tips

Inshore, around shallow reefs, headlands and islands, it is easy to recognise areas where fish might be gathered, but out in open water, it is different when it comes to reading the water. Fish will be spread over wide area and their whereabouts must be gauged by guesswork and intuition. Atmosphere conditions, such as light levels, wind and barometric pressure, and factors such as the clarity, turbulence, temperature and oxygen content of the water – all have an influence on fish presence and behaviour, and all of these can affect the availability of food and the fish’s willingness to bite. It is also important that you consider the prevailing conditions when deciding which baits and lures to use, and how to go about presenting them.

ocean fishingThe colour of the water indicates temperature changes: warm water appears to be bluish, and colder water has a greener tinge. However, just how warm or cold the water is depends on where you are.

General light levels and the angle at which light falls on the water can also affect fish distribution and the willingness of fish to bite. Many species of fish prefer to feed under the cover of darkness, or at least at half light. Some fish that would not go anywhere near shallow water during the day, can be attracted by the half light of dawn or dusk, or the darkness of night to move into water barely deep enough to cover them, provided the pickings are rich enough to warrant the trouble. Others, in particular the pelagic like tuna and marlin, seem not to be affected by light.

The roughness of the sea not only determines your ability to venture offshore, it also affects general fish behaviour. A moderate degree of wind and wave action is beneficial to fishing, as the associated white water and wind chop allows fish to move about with reduced risk from predators.

Turbulence can also stimulate feeding, as there is often more to eat at such times. Wave action tears food loosed from reefs and rock ledges. Prey species are driven by currents and wind into concentrations, providing an easily harvested food supply. Broken water also offers another prompt to fish activity: the ruptured surface film of the water allows higher than normal levels of oxygen from the atmosphere to be absorbed by the water. This boost in oxygen content both encourages and enables fish to maintain higher levels of sustained effort.

Shakespeare Ugly Stick GX2 Spinning Rod Combo

Shakespeare Ugly Stick GX2 Spinning Rod Combo

Fish that have a high metabolic rate feed almost constantly, and have a correspondingly high level of oxygen demand. Many surface-feeding species must roam extensively to find food; they burn up vast amounts of oxygen just to survive. Such species include mackerel, yellowtail kingfish, marlin, tailor and especially those frenetic speed merchants, the tunas.

Other more sedentary species, such as snapper, bream or mulloway, have generally slower metabolic rates, and less continuous periods of activity. They often browse, rest or draft with the moving water, generally cost to cover and always where they are most comfortable. But when the occasion demands, they can move like lightning, either to feed, to drive off intruders or to flee from danger.

A shift of some kind in the surrounding conditions usually triggers localised reef fish to exert themselves and feed vigorously. It might be a tide change, a flush of warm current, the onset of bumpy weather, a different moon phase or the sudden arrival of an attractive, easily harvested food supply.

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Mulloway, Trevally and Whiting

April 21, 2015 by  
Filed under General Fishing Tips

Mulloway

Some of the mulloway (jewfish) found in bays and estuaries are residents, others are only occasional visitors. They frequent areas jewfisharound bridges, points, holes and creek mouths, where they hunt or ambush their favoured foods of small fish, prawns or squid. Live or dead baits of these are effective, as are large minnow-style lures. Mulloway are found in estuaries at any time of the year, heir whereabouts being dependent on the presence of prawns, squid and schools of pilchards, mullet and whitebait on which they feed.

Trevally

trevallyTrivially frequent many estuaries, the silver variety being common in temperate zone, and species such as giant, older, gold-spotted and bigeye usually found in warmer areas. Most really will take lures; all will take baits of small fish. Silvers will also take various worms, crustaceans and shellfish. Larger trivially are usually caught offshore.

Whiting

There are some eight common species of whiting; of these the best known are the trumpeter and sand whiting, the yellow-finned whitingwhitening, and the King George whiting. Whiting are a warm weather fish and leave estuaries in the winter.

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Bream, Flathead and Snapper

April 21, 2015 by  
Filed under General Fishing Tips

Bream

Bream are likely to be found almost anywhere in an estuary or bay, but prefer areas offering a structure and shelter. The three main species breamare black bream, yellowfin bream and pikey bream. Unlike most other species, bream stay in the estuary over winter and, rather than migrating offshore, they move up the estuary to where fresh water meets salt and spawn there.

Flathead

flatheadFlathead come in more than a dozen forms, but three commonly encountered species are sand flathead, a widespread inshore species; dusky flathead, the most common species in temperate estuaries; and tiger flathead, a heavily built version common in cooler areas. In estuaries, flathead favour the edges of sandbanks, scattered patches of weed and any place where the current is deflected into eddies. In bays, they congregate where tidal flows meet, and offshore, they father in depths around 40m – wherever currents combine to form food lanes.

Snapper

Juvenile snapper live in bays and estuaries, while adult fish spend much of their time around offshore reefs. Periodically, however, big Snapperfish do move into sheltered waters, usually in spring and summer, and are reasonably easy to catch.

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Offshore Fishing

April 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Fishing Information

Broadly, offshore fishing encompasses trolling for game and sport fish, bottom fishing with bait, jigging lures for reef-dwelling species or lure casting for sport fish around structures such as reefs and washes.

Most offshore fishing is done in proximity to land, near reefs, islands or the mainland shore itself. However, there is also good fishing to be had in more open water, where the influence of the structure of the seabed may not be so evident, but where the food-rosh ocean currents play the major role in attracting offshore pelagic fish.

Game fishing

Large game fish are likely to be where there are warm, blue, ocean currents pushing from the tropics. Other indicators are surface-feeding schools of intermediate predators such as striped tuna or frigate mackerel. These gather where currents and wind concentrate dense schools of tiny bait fish, juvenile squid or other planktonic larvae, such as those of crabs or lobsters. In turn, big fish, such as yellowfin tuna, marlin or shark, move in to feed and these smaller predators then become the prey.

offshore fishingFeeding schools of fish are often signposted by wheeling flocks of sea birds, but you can also stumble across them by trolling along current lines. Generally, the more current lines and the warmer and bluer the water, the better. When such oceanic streams converge, they create ideal conditions, attracting whole food chains into specific areas.

Game fishing methods include trolling lures, trolling dead “skip” baits, trolling live baits, fishing live or dead baits form a drifting boat and at times (although rarely) fishing baits from an anchored boat. Trolling lures or bait is by far the most popular method.

Reef fishing

Not everyone who fishes offshore will set their sights on game fish, nor do they need to. Many other species of offshore fish cost less to catch, provide plenty of fishing fun and supply good seafood for the family table into the bargain. Fish, such as emperor, snapper, yellowtail kingfish, cob, mackerel, tailor and mulloway, inhabit inshore reefs, headland and island areas, and can be pursued with smaller boats and less sophisticated tackle.

While fishing offshore reefs for a variety of species on the bottom, there is often an opportunity to pursue many sport fish that come past. Small mackerel tuna, snook, queenfish, trivially and barracouta are some of the sport fish found around offshore reefs.

Locating the fish

Regardless of the sale of offshore fishing you pursue, it is important to fish in the right place, where all the hungry fish are congregated. Finding hungry fish in all that water relies on knowing the kinds of places fish frequent and how those places can be located.

A depth sounder can be a big advantage offshore and not only to tell the angler the depth of the water. Good sounders can easily pinpoint offshore reefs in 20m of water and often locate fish over that structure as well. Used in conjunction with hydrographic charts, sounds enable anglers to return to the same location, particularly when out of sight of identifiable landmarks.

Having found your fish, all that is required is to determine the best rig and approach. While the “right” tackle and baits remain fairly constant for certain species, the way you rig and go about presenting them will vary according to location and conditions. You do not need a rod and rig for every fish in the ocean, but you do need to take into account that fish differ in size, aggression and eating habits, and have a range of tackle on board to be adequately prepared. With much offshore fishing one needs a fair bit of lead to get down to the bottom.

At the simple end of things, you could get away with a set of light and heavy landlines, but by rod fishing you give yourself added versatility, being able to cast, troll, drift or bottom fish with a variety of baits or lures, or fish in a number of places for a range of species, from those that are small and slow to big fast deepwater game fish.

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