The West Australian Salmon
The West Australian salmon are a highly sought after fish that are targeted along the south west coast of Australia. Crowds of fishermen from all over WA flock south around March and April in hopes to experience the power and the thrilling fight these salmon have to offer. Many people will class these fish as ‘poor eating’ but if you have experience with handling the meat and know how to cook them properly, they can be very nice on the plate.
Closely related to the Australian herring, the salmon start spawning on the South coast and can be found in Esperance towards the end of summer. From there, they make their way west along the coast and head north in massive schools. The majority of the salmon will stop and congregate around Rottnest Island by mid-late April providing fantastic fishing for the Perth metro area. Salmon have been known to be caught in small numbers from as far North as Guilderton. The red area on the map above shows the path the salmon take to get to the Perth.
- Stay safe! This is the most important rule of all. Many anglers travel to unfamiliar territory in search of salmon. Not knowing your surroundings and environment can be very unsafe. Take note of any warning signs around your locations alerting you to potential hazards, for example unstable rocks or unpredictable tides. The danger is often overlooked and underestimated in many areas, including the notorious location Salmon Holes, in Albany (pictured, photo from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-11/fears-some-anglers-ignoring-safety-anchor-points/6303540).
- Look for birds! The birds are a dead give-away as to where the salmon schools are. You can identify schools of salmon by seeing large dark patches moving along the coast. As they move, birds will often be seen following the school waiting for the salmon feeding on baitfish, forcing the bait to the surface of the water where the birds can take advantage and dive for an easy meal. Find the birds and you will find the fish.
- Pack light! Don’t forget – Salmon move and they move fast! Unless you have the patience to stay in place on the beach and wait for the school to return, pack light and follow them down the beach. Pack a small bag that you can have on your waist or throw over your shoulder. Try to minimize your gear and keep the weight down by only packing the necessary tackle i.e. leader, swivels, hooks, lures, sinkers and floats. They don’t only move parallel to the beach, be prepared with various weights of sinkers or lures to allow yourself to cast further when the school goes further out to sea and for when they come back in. A snap clip or running sinker clip is perfect for a fast changeover of your sinkers or lures.
- Sunnies! Having a good set of polarised sun glasses will not only offer the best protection for your eyes but will also allow you to see the school of salmon much easier.
- Look after your catch! Salmon are best eaten fresh as they do not freeze well. It is best to bleed and gut them straight away and chill immediately on ice. For this reason, please be mindful to only keep what you will use and handle all fish with care to make sure the fish you release are healthy and fit. You can refer to page 50 of the WA Recreational Fishing Guide 2015 (link below) for the best information on how to look after your catch. http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Documents/recreational_fishing/rec_fishing_guide/rules_guide_statewide.pdf
There are many different variations of rigs that you can use to catch salmon and these will vary depending on conditions and the surrounding environment. Here are 3 of the most common and simplest rigs that can get you started:
- 3 Way Swivel Rig: This is the most common surf rig to be used in general surf conditions, not only for salmon, this is also used for tailor and other common surf species. This rig is ideal when you are fishing in sandy areas that are relatively snag free.
- Float Rig: This rig is best used when fishing over reef or fishing off rocks. The float will keep your line away from any potential snags. Adjust the length of the line between the float and hook to suit the water depth. A single hook is a perfect substitute for gang hooks if you are using live bait.
- Line set up for lures: There is no better time to start lure fishing that when the salmon are running Lure fishing is versatile and allows you to cover ground and cast further which is an advantage when landbased. Here is a simple set up to attach your lures to your main line. If you are using braid, make sure you attach leader first and secure it with a strong braid/mono knot i.e. double uni, FG or PR. Attach a high quality clip to your leader, this will allow you to quickly change your lures without having to retie knots. NOTE: You can also add a swivel between your braid/mono knot and the clip if you are finding your line is twisting, this is recommended for metal lures or any lure that will roll on the retrieve.
- Beach and Bait: Fishing from a beach will require at least a 10 foot rod to cast over and also hold the line above the wave breaks. This can be matched with a 6000-8000 reel loaded with 30-40lb. Braided line will cast further, be more sensitive to bites and it is less resistant to the current. I you choose to use braided line, ensure you use appropriate length of leader when surrounded by any submerged structure. The most popular bait for salmon are mulies, scalies and yellowtail. If you prefer to use live bait, herring works very well. If you can, catch your live bait from the area that you are fishing, that way you will match the bait to what the salmon are naturally feeding on.
- Casting Rods and Lures: For casting lures (more suitable for a boat or off rocks) a 7-8 foot rod is ideal, matched with a 3000-5000 reel loaded with 20-30lb line. A stiffer tip is best for controlling your lures and working them to the best of their ability. Be mindful when choosing a rod that you know what casting weight capabilities it has and don’t overdo it. A snapped rod is the last thing you want when the fish are busting up! There are many different types of lures that salmon will go for and the are certainly not picky. Here are some of the most popular lures: metal lures, hard body lures (both bibbed and stick baits), jigs, soft plastics and surface poppers.
Hopefully this article has given you the basic knowledge and the inspiration to get out and catch some salmon this season. Stay safe and good luck!