#NSC19 – The Wrap Up

Last year’s weather certainly made offshore fishing difficult, but as NSC19 weekend drew closer and the long range forecast began to settle in, it started to look like Saturday’s weather might not be just good, but mint for the first session.  Friday saw Melbourne swelter and messages rolled in from entrant on how best to get their kayaks and skis to Portland without melting as the mercury reached 47°C. Luckily by the time we arrived down the coast the cool change had already hit and unloading the trailer was a much easier affair.

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The cool change hitting Portland on Friday afternoon

7pm saw the briefing take place up on the bluff with members of Coast Guard Portland in attendance to outline the use of smoke flares in an emergency situation out on the water. Welcome packs were distributed and this year saw the inclusion of boat number stickers to make admin and emergency procedures much more streamlined as well as making it easier for Cheater to find where he left his kayak.

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Day 1 – (Fishing Window 6.30am – 2pm)

The morning launch saw mint conditions and a fishing window until 2pm gave entrants time to cover plenty of ground in search of pelagics. Early Yippahs over the radio from team Berleypro suggested that the kings had been located with a video coming through moments later showing Shane Elverd’s knots being tested by a solid king while the surrounding yaks couldn’t land any from that school. Rumours that the paddling within 10m of Marto has a similar effect on kings as a shark shield on noahs has yet to be proven, but there is certainly a strong case for it.

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Shane Elverd with a cracking king

There had been a number of reports of kings out of Nunn’s beach on our arrival on Friday and a portion of the field had headed that way from the start. Mozz was glad he wasn’t relying on his bait tube from South West Rocks when he started pulling in 55cm slimies on his Jack Sayoris hard body. The first two were sent back out as livies for a double hookup soon after. The first rod was handed off to his team mate while he battled and landed the first king only for the second, larger model to bust him off once the rod was returned.

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Jayme Morris with the first king to hit the beach on Saturday

The rest of the field were left to sort through undersized pinkies and rat kings in search of legal models in order to get some points on the board. As the session drew to a close at 2pm anglers had a steady following sea sending them back to the beach at Henty with Cheater’s GPS reading 16kph on the Profisha ‘without much effort’. The weigh in had twenty pinkie snapper entered to see thirteen anglers on the board after session one with 7 ½ points separating the top two anglers going into session two.

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Thankful for the points on the board

Tales of bust offs by kings abounded over pizza and beers for lunch while Bill had caught the most unusual catch of the day – a cuttlefish on a smash squid soft plastic lure, that was after a king took a liking to the small soft plastic he was throwing around on a six kilo rod for snapper, which had a more predictable ending than the Titanic movie.

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Day 2 (Fishing window 6.30am – 11am)

Launch on day two saw calm conditions but the wind had swung offshore and was due to steadily increase throughout the morning along with the swell, while the period was dropping. The shorter fishing window on Day 2 meant that Julia Reef was not fished, which was just as well as reports from the guys that had fished it on Day 1 said their sounder would have had similar screens sitting on the beach.

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Day 2 Launch

The launch on Day 2 also saw the beginning of the Day 2 Dash with bonus prize packs for the first two people back to the beach with a snapper.First prize went to Nev Pollock with his Evolution proving it still has some mojo left. Tristan Davies was next to land a snapper but opted to fish on, figuring someone else would hit the beach first for second place as his was already out wide. That someone else arrived on the beach a few minutes later with Wayne Jensz taking out the second spot.

The cool weather on Saturday and rain overnight coupled with a drop in water temperature did not bode well for kings on Day 2. Sure enough the kings were proving hard to find Shane Esmore located a few but struggled to find the size he was after while William Filliponi also managed to tempt one in the 50’s.

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Live update from William during the comp!

There were still some smaller snapper around that were happy to be hooked and Tas Russos managed to tempt a solid salmon, the only one entered in the comp but overall the fishing on day two was tough and the wind was making things a little bumpy out wide. As the 11am cut off drew nearer the field began the slog back to the beach.  The measuring table saw very few wipes with only a couple of snapper upgrades coming in and many a tale of woe.

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The Results

Early Bird Draw:

Winner: Peter Eaton (BerleyPro Orb Light)

Day 2 Dash:

Target Species: Snapper

Winner: Neville Pollock ($200 Dinga Voucher, AO Cooler, Buff, Dinga Shirt & Cap)

Runner Up: Wayne Jensz (Catch Fishing Lure Pack)

Masters (Entrants born in 1969 or earlier):

Winner: Tas Russos 41pts (Buff, Dinga Cap, Set of Easy2Hook Knotless hooks)

Team Challenge:

  Team Points
1 Long Zebra 77
2 The Mega Powers 73.5
3 The Fishas 69.75
4 Shane Plus 1 33
5 FG Not 20.5
6 Cheater & The Apprentice 18.25
7 Jolly Rogers 15
8 GT South 14.5
Glass is Class 14.5
10 Go Fish 14
Team BerleyPro 14
12 The Mud Brothers 0
The Westies 0
The Portlanders 0

Individual Competition:

  Angler Points
1 Shane Elverd 139.5
2 Jayme Morris 132
3 Tas Roussos 41
4 Nathan Wooldridge 36.5
5 Shane Esmore 34.5
6 Peter Ritchie 31.5
7 William Filliponi 31
8 Tristan Davies 30
9 Neville Pollock 29
Jeremie Steedan 29

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A massive thank you once again to all of the entrants that made the trip down the coast in the sweltering heat to support our comp, it was a great weekend away with a top bunch of blokes. To the offshore first timers, well done on surviving the weekend, I hope you gained some useful experience and built up your confidence to keep giving it a crack. Thanks again to all of our event sponsors, please keep them in mind when making your purchases.

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See you all at #NSC20!

Sea Sherpa

Victorian Kayak Snapper for beginners

They say there is a reason why the footy finishes in September… and in yards all over Victoria, the frustration of teams getting knocked out of finals is taken out on kayaks and boats as winter tarps are lifted and pressure washers are put to good use. Richmond yaks are usually cleaned in August, but this year the dust gathers a little longer…

As with most things, every yak fisho will have a preferred technique, bait, lure, spot etc for chasing snapper, and there are plenty more seasoned snapper whisperers out there than myself, but this might give kayak fishos chasing reds for the first time a starting point for the upcoming season. The main run of reds occurs when the waster temperature in the bays reaches parity with the water temperature offshore. This generally occurs in October, but can vary depending on the weather conditions. You can get an updated version of the graph below, here. As you can see, currently the bays are still a little cold so the big influx has not yet occurred and fish being caught this time of year will most likely be fish resident to bay that can be caught right through the winter.

Gearing Up:

I have two sets of snapper gear – one for each bay, mainly because in Western Port the tides run harder and snapper use them to their advantage but also because in Port Philip Bay I normally use plastics and hard bodies, whereas in Western Port I usually bait fish due to the water clarity in the top end.

Port Phillip (plastics) – 4-6kg Graphite rod, 12lb braid mainline, 2500 to 4000 size reel

Western Port (bait) – 6-10kg Glass rod, 20lb mono mainline, Penn 460 Slammer

You can run braid on your bait set-up too if you like, especially for deeper water as it will lessen the bow in the line up through the water column, but when using braided lines its really important to back your drag off as the fish nears the kayak. If they go for that last ditch run to the deep you can often pull hooks as the braid has no stretch and loose your fish yakside. In the braid vs mono debate, I think braid has a better hook up rate and is my preferred for Port Phillip Bay, for Western Port however I prefer mono because for the fact that most of the places I fish for snapper there have a good chance of a gummy or a big ray as by-catch, both of which will collect all of your lines causing you to bust off leaders on your other braided line. The resultant tangle is also easier to undo with mono, getting your lines back in the water and fishing quicker.

Lures:

Soft Plastics – There are three types of plastics I tend to use on snapper, but I’m sure others will work just as well when there is a hot bite.

  1. Worms – check out Munroe’s caramel eclair or Gulp turtlebacks in camo
  2. Jerk shads – smelt or nuke chicken or motor oil Zman’s are good starting points
  3. Squid types – check out zip- zits if you can find them (hard to get these days), I’ll be checking out the new smash squid this season as a replacement.

In terms of jig heads, go as light as possible to get your plastic to waft down through the bite zone. Snapper are more likely to take it on the drop than dragging along the bottom like a flattie would. Most of the yak spots are not that deep – 15m or less and without much current you can get away with a 1/8 or 1/6 jig head and then match the hook size to the size of the plastic.

Hard Bodies- These range in size and therefore in the size fish they can handle, the Frenzies (after the humble Tassie devil) have to be one of the best bang for buck lures around.  They generally attract pinkies rather than monsters, which is just aw well as a monster would chew through one, but are a handy lure to have in the tackle box for trolling on the way out to a mark. I’ve listed the red head below but the silver with red belly models are good too. Make sure you upgrade your hooks on them a) because trebles on a yak hook everything once you bring a fish on board and b) I think singles do a better job of penetrating the hard snapper mouths.

For a heavier fish  you’ll probably need to run a slightly larger lure, like a Sebille Koolie Minnow or a classic Rapala taildancer.

  1. Frenzy – QANTAS red head (trebles swapped out for better quality singles)
  2. Koolie Minnow – 76mm in BRB
  3. Rapala Taildancer (~10m of water)
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Koolie Minnow

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Berkley Redhead

Rigs:

When the snapper enter the bays at the start of the season, they have quite sharp teeth that get worn back as a result of gorging on the shellfish the bays provide. As a result early in the season I tend to run slightly heavier leaders, dropping down as the season progresses. You can also have finicky biters early on so I start the season with thin gauge 4/0 or 5/0 suicide hooks, switching to circles when the season is in full swing in late October and the snapper tend to hit the bait and run. I run a standard running sinker rig in Western Port with and Ezy-rig with a 20- 30cm dropper to the sinker. If you are chasing the bigger models, a twin hook set-up on 30 or 40lb leader will do the job you can match the spacing of the hooks to the size baits you want to use. For Port Phillip Bay however, I try to use the least amount of lead possible if any at all. I use the same two hook rig but instead of the ezi-rig, I just use a small pea sinker running to the hook with a lumo bead to protect the knot or at the top of the bay just some splitshot. This YouTube video by SpedzaGoFishTv outlines how to make a twin hook rig pretty similar to how I do it.

If you are chasing pinkies, then you can use a simple paternoster rig over the shallow reefs, similar to what you would use chasing whiting just a little heavier (~15lb). If you are snagging up a lot you are probably anchored right on the reef. You can anchor just behind the reef edge and draw the fish to you with the berley or try a lighter line class to attach the sinker,  which will break in the event of a snag. You could also use an enviroweight attached with an elastic band. Also make sure your anchor has a break-away cable tie fitted, to prevent it getting stuck in the reef, more info here.

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Image credit: jazclass

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A pair of pan-size pinkies; perfect size for cooking whole.

Baits:

When it comes to bait, you’ll often hear the saying that fresh is best, but sometimes the snapper are just fussy and will take a three time defrosted old pilchard over a fresh squid head, so it’s probably better to say a range is best. I also try to offer up things that are local to the area on the rods if possible and will have frozen stuff as a backup. If I have time in advance I’ll try to do a bait collecting session prior to my trip to give me un-frozen bait. In WP it can be easy to do some bait collecting in the time leading up to the tide change to have fresh baits out at the right time. You can bait up a small hook rig to nab a small salmon to cut up into strip baits. You can also go crab hunting before you launch in some areas. In Port Phillip I try to squid hunt the day before allowing me to save time on the day and get lines and a berley trail going well before the sun comes up. I’ll normally run two or three bait rods on the yak – a combination of pilchard, squid, salmon, crab, pipi or saurie. I used to use banana prawn too but unfortunately outbreaks of white spot disease have now made this unsuitable for use as bait to prevent contamination of our waterways.

Berley:

My berley making is an all year job, which involves having a small bait freezer in the shed. If you are lucky enough to have this set-up you can keep your fish carcasses, off-cuts and old thawed bait in the freezer until you have built up enough stock to make a batch of berley. This ensures nothing goes to waste while helping your catch rate in snapper season.

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The first thing you’ll need to do is pick yourself up an old-school meat grinder. You can get them at op-shops or on eBay for not much cash – it is probably best to have one dedicated for the job!  To make a berley mix I grind up the carcassases, offcuts and bait that has got freezer burn, or have been thawed and re-frozen too many times. To this I add something that will expand in the water and slow down the berley flow rate. You can use the crushed up Weetbix from the bottom of the box, stale bread, or chook pellets. To finish up add some tuna oil – enough to make the mixture wet enough to mould, but dry enough to stay in a ball once formed. Freeze it down in sandwich bags and you are good to go.

Fishing Spots:

Port Phillip Bay Pinkies – Depending on your level of experience there are plenty of spots in PPB to chase some fish. If you are chasing pinkies, you can get them most of the year at Altona in the West, or Half Moon Bay on the East side. At Altona,  the parking is free at Miller’s Rd launch and you only have to paddle a short distance. You can anchor up behind the shallow reef (line up with the Pier and the rock groyne) and use squid or pipi on the paternoster rig. You’ll feed a lot of hungry piranhas to get the size models, but you’ll have lots of fun. Over at Half Moon Bay there are a number of good spots within 2km of launching at Blackrock ramp. The Anonyma Shoal and the 15m contour are within easy paddling distance for suitable bay craft.

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Chasing Bigger Reds – The snapper or pinkie debate depends on the angler, for me its fish above the half meter mark qualify as snapper. In Port Phillip Bay, catching bigger fish is about timing. You need to be up early. They raid the reefs under cover and once the sun comes up they move out to deeper waters. If you are launching at first light onto a shallow reef like Altona, you have already missed the boat. I prefer the deeper water off Willamstown or out behind the Cardinal at Altona. Get out on the water at 3am and have your berley trail going and baits in the water long before the sun is thinking of coming up.

In terms of conditions, you can put in lots of hours trying to get your first big red, and while they can be caught randomly in all sorts of conditions, researching the weather will see you spend your time more productively. You’ll hear plenty about barometer readings, wind direction and tides making it hard to know when to go. Obviously, spending more hours on the water will result in more fish, you can’t catch them sitting on the couch, but if you are limited on time here’s what I look for: I reckon the bigger snapper prefer bumpy water so chasing them in PPB you’ll need a kayak and experience suitable for these conditions. I like fishing the day after a big southerly blow as it stirs up the food supply and brings the fish in. Ideally I want a high tide change. If you get a tide change at first light, rising barometer and a southerly the day before that’s when you take a sickie at work! Look for combinations of the above when deciding whether or not to use your leave pass.

Western Port is a bit easier in that the murky waters give snapper more confidence and good fish can be caught throughout the day. In Western Port the tide changes still play an important role in both the fish biting and the conditions you will be fishing in. Try to fish around the tide changes and starting out its best to fish in all-tide launches like Coronet Bay to give an extra margin of safety. Lang Lang and the top end can see some great fish too but you need to know how the tide effects the area to avoid the mud. Its best to fish these areas with someone with local knowledge the first time. Down the bottom of Western Port sees great fish come from the Corals but the tide down here runs hard. You need to understand the 50/90 rule and gain experience anchoring in tide flows to fish these areas. It is also recommended to have quick release anchor setups to avoid getting side-on to current and potentially capsizing.

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Spots to try:

Williamstown – Launch from the Angling Club ramp (with permisson) or from the rock circles at the bottom of Coles street and paddle out to the left in front of the footy oval. Sound around for arches before anchoring and setting up your trail.

Altona – Launch from the end of Miller’s Road and paddle out to behind the Cardinal. There will inevitably be boats in the area already so sound around and try to find a spot to yourself. If the fish are on and word is out it will be a carpark but good fish come through the area.

Rickett’s – is probably one of the best known snapper spots in Melbourne and often one of the busiest. Paddle out behind the marine park (marked with buoys or use the Can I fish here? feature of the Vic fishing app if you are not sure)

Lang Lang/Jam Jerrup – Fishing the banks over a high tide is the safest move for beginners, you’ll need at least 1m of water in the tide curve for Jam Jerrup to have enough water to launch and retrieve safely. You can use the tide charts to find out your fishing window, but leave some leeway as they are not always accurate.

Tide Curve

Willyweather Tide Curve

You can also fish the forks in the channels over a low as the fish will retreat into the channels as the water drops. You can easily pickup flake as a by-catch through here which isn’t a bad consolation prize!

Coronet Bay – This area is essentially a large grazing ground that all sorts of fish come through. There are no real set ‘marks’ its more a case of paddling out a bit and setting up your offering and settling in to see what comes by. The friendlier water is closer to the launch, the tide rips over at Elizabeth Island and the area between Pelican Island and Snapper Rock is not recommended for beginners – its known as the washing machine for good reason!

Lighting:

One last thing you’ll need to sort out to chase snapper is a proper light. It is a legal requirement (Under the Colregs) to be able to display a white lantern in sufficient time to prevent an accident when underway in a non-powered vessel. For snapper fishing, it is best to aim for being as visible as possible on the water. A headlight generally won’t cut it. There is a lot more boat traffic on the water this time of year, a portion of which are once-a-year boaters that only fish a couple of trips during snapper season. Another consideration is that kayaks are comparatively, very low to the water and a larger boat up on a plane while moving between spots simply won’t see your kayak but has a chance of seeing a light up higher.

In terms of rigging your light, I’d recommend mounting it behind your seat and high enough to be seen over your head. Keeping the light behind you helps prevent it blinding you and makes it easier to paddle along. You can buy suitable lights lights like the BerleyPro Orb or Railbalza navilight ready made, or if you are handy with a soldering iron, you can make your own using LED strips wrapped around PVC pipe. All will do the job better than none and help stop you becoming a speed bump out on the water!

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BerleyPro Orb

I’m sure there is plenty more that could be added, but that’s probably enough to get you started. I’ll add some more photos of my tied rigs during the week.

Tight lines!

Sea Sherpa

Coffs Harbour Stealth Comp

A few of us Mexicans decided to put our annual South West Rocks trip back a few weeks this year to coincide with the Coffs Harbour round of the Stealth offshore kayak fishing competitions. Thursday around midnight the westie half of the convoy assembled and headed to the servo for last minute checks before heading off for the meeting point at Glenrowan, two and a half hours closer to the NSW border.

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The next stop was Yass where Cheater and Kieran nursed their whiplash injuries from Leejo’s driving over breakfast. It seems Cheater’s car doesn’t have cruise control and Leejo isn’t much of a fan of constant throttle pressure. A good run of traffic through Sydney saw us arrive in Coffs Harbour in time to visit Mo Tackle before closing much to the relief of the aforementioned Leejo, the offshore newbie of the group, who had packed rods and reels but not lures or rigging tackle for the trip. With his wallet suitably lightened, we punched the address of the campsite into the GPS and made the five minute trip down the road to our home for the weekend. Cabins 226 and 227 at Park Beach Holiday park became base camp.

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A very recognisable carbon fibre ProFisha with orange tip on the roof of the car next door, identified Rokkitkit and Ant as our new neighbours, and with quick stroll around, it quickly became apparent that we had chosen the right campground with a number of Stealths to be seen on the roofs of passing vehicles.  There was a great buzz about the place (it may have been residual buzz from Chenski’s snoring during the car trip) and talk moved to tactics for the comp ahead. The forecast was looking pretty good and due to some networking on Cheater’s part, we had some GPS marks in our sounders courtesy of Tommo one of the locals, so even though we hadn’t fished that far up the coast before at least we had an idea where to head once out through the surf.

Rigging

Mozza and I made the decision to target tuna on livies for the comp, we made the call to leave off the wire traces going on the theory that more bites was a better prospect even if we got the occasional bite-off. Mozz went with two 10-15kg  rods with penn 560’s running 30lb braid to 40lb leader with a dusta and 7/0 live bait gammas. My gear was similar with an identical 10-15kg setup and also a 6-10kg snapper stick given the call-up opting to run two spin setups over my other 10-15kg overhead rig. We both also had a lighter 2-4kg setup to run our sabiki rigs.

Comp Day 1

A 5am start saw the trailer loaded and we were off to Digger’s beach for a quick briefing and a run down on the lay of the land from the local crew. Paperwork completed and setup done on the beach, we awaited first light for the launch.

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Small surf and the assistance of a rip made for an easy launch and we were on our way to McAuley’s in search of livebait. My first string of livies was stolen and with the obvious presence of mackerel or hoo I was beginning to second guess my choice of tactics. A re-tied sabiki resulted in two lonely yakkas in the bait tube, not the slimeys I was after but a start so on one went on my 6-10kg setup. With livies bridled, Mozz and I decided to paddle from McAuley’s close out towards the second mark out wide. We hadn’t gone far when a rod on both of our skis screamed off. Mine spat the hook  during the initial run while Jayme came up tight on his and not long after a solid mack tuna was yakside. It had inhaled the rig and couldn’t be released.

Cheater came on the VHF not long after enquiring on the minimum length for the brown ugly thing he had just caught, making things hard for Dennis without a positive ID. It was settled as being a cod of some sort and was sent back after some happy snaps. Kieran made friends with a blacktip reefie, and not to be outdone Cheater did the same soon after, announcing via VHF that Coffs Harbour gummies have a nice set of teeth. One of the locals got spooled by what was assumed to be a wahoo and Mozz and myself made the call to paddle north towards Karora. About a k from the mark we stopped and drifted while I adjusted views on the new sounder. As is usually the case, when you are not ready for it, both of us at this point had a rod scream off. My light rod again was the target and Mozz was clearly onto a nice fish. Yet again my fish skipped the noose while Mozz settled in for a good fight. Ten minutes later a much larger tuna was circling the yak and much to Mozza’s delight, this one had no ‘leopard print’on its side. I paddled along side to identify his first longtail and Jayme’s new kage gaff got its first use soon after.

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Leejo found the fishing tough on day 1 but did manage to catch his rudder (twice). Chenski managed to snag a quality flathead on his sabiki to add to the Vic tally.  Back on the beach the photo evidence identified Cheater’s ‘brown thing’ as a point scoring Maori Cod.

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We began to refill the trailers and were gifted a nice spottie mackerel by Paul Pallett which was gladly accepted. A Coles run and some re-rigging in the afternoon followed by some filleting and some sesame tuna steaks back at the holiday park. Reflection on the days events made me ditch the snapper rod, the theory being that the rod had too much flex, absorbing some of the impact and preventing the thicker livebait hooks from penetrating the tuna despite having a solid drag setting. Mozz was sitting in a competitive 5th spot after day 1 and was in the best position of the Vics heading into day two.

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Comp Day 2

 

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Day 2 saw similar conditions out front, with a little extra wind early on but it died out quickly. Fishing was tougher on the second day with even livies proving hard to find for most on team Vic (expect Cheater who somehow managed to pull a whole string of slimies first up). Chenski and Leejo had hooked some pike and after spending an hour at McAuley’s in search of live bait Mozz and I had only managed two yakkas between us, (along with some more flatties and a few whiting).  We rigged one each we opted to follow a similar track to yesterday to see if any more longtails could be found over at Karora. They couldn’t, it turns out, but I did have a brief run  on the way out to Marsh Shoal that resulted in my livie becoming a deadie with post mortem revealing the cause of death to be a severely compressed head. The only legitimate catch of the day for me was a solid flattie (late 40’s) coming in on the sabiki. Team Vic came third in the state of origin behind both the yanks and the canadians, Mozza was the highest placer of the Vics with 6th spot. After a BBQ and a chat with some of the blokes we hit the road for South West Rocks where we would spend the rest of the week. A big thank you to Australian Kayak Specialists for organising another great event and to the crew of fisho’s for the hospitality.

Tight lines,

Sea Sherpa

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Dressing for Victorian conditions

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Image credit: AlpinePro.com

I tend to fish all months of the year, in order to do this comfortably it is important to be sun smart and immersion smart when considering your choice of clothing. A range of suitable clothing is available from most kayaking stores or online at affordable prices. Unfortunately there is a myriad of options out there making it hard to know where to spend your money, so I’ve put together a collection of some of the options I think are worth considering. The following is just a quick guide of some of the gear I tend to use and not an exhaustive list by any means, but you can follow the links to find stockists and outlets to source the gear for yourself. Contact us if assistance/advice is required.

Summer Clothing

During warmer weather, the more you can cover up, the less sunscreen you have to apply! You should also consider moisture-wicking and drying-times when kayak fishing and as a result do not use any cotton clothing or rash vests as they dry slowly and are cold when wet. Wet suits are great in the water, but out of it they act like a Coolgardie fridge with the wind carrying away your body heat in much the same way as an evaporative cooler does in your home.

Head wear:

There are a couple of options for head wear during summer. You can either go with a hat & buff combo or an all in one flap hat. Buff offer a wide range of face scarves that fit the bill, and an official Buff® buff  can be purchased from Technical Headwear  or most outdoor sports stores. If you go down the road of an all in one unit, you can get the Adapta-cap from Sun Protection Clothing Australia.

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Upper Body:

Up top long sleeves help cover the skin to protect from the elements. This can be in the form of a light thermal such as the 2P Thermo from Adrenalin or a lightweight UPF50 polo from Sun Protection Clothing Australia. In the height of summer a UPF fishing shirt can also fit the bill. Avoid the cotton t-shirts and rashies and on colder days you can layer up with a spray top or cag jacket from Lovig’s or Kokotat.

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Lower Body:

On sit-on-top kayaks and skis we don’t have the luxury of leg protection from the deck of our boats so again coverage is key. A pair of lightweight UPF paddling pants or cargo pants can do the trick on warmer days such as those available from SPCA or if there is a breeze about a pair of  light thermal pants can do the job nicely again the Adrenalin 2P thermos fit the bill.

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Due to sharps on the beach as well as landing on slippery rocks and reefs, some protection for your feet is very important and often overlooked. So pop a pair of old runners on or pick up a pair of dive boots and you are ready to go!

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Winter Clothing

Winter can be a little harder with a lot of paddlers opting to put their kayaks away until the sun comes out again. There is plenty of great fishing to be had down south over winter, with monster whiting and squid in Western Port as well as the usual quality flake. There are always some solid flatties available in North PPB until June not to mention trout in the fresh and not forgetting the tuna down at Portland. Water temperatures plummet however and hypothermia is a real threat if you do go for an unplanned swim.

Head Wear:

I normally go for a thermal beanie (polypro not neoprene) to keep the heat in, again Adrenalin have one on offer and I wear my buff and sunnies all year round.

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Upper Body

Up top during winter in milder conditions you can again roll out the Adrenalin thermals and if you really feel the cold you can also add merino layers or something heavier like a Lavacore long sleeve. Essentially you are looking for clothing that dries quickly and stays warm even when wet. You can then add a protection layer over the top to keep out the wind and rain. Hoods are a welcome addition on your cag to stop the rain running down your neck and stop the wind whistling in your ears. Check out the Lovig dry top or the kokotat tropos range as suitable outer layers.

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A pair of gloves will help keep the circulation in your hands, especially on windy days or after a cold launch in sloppy conditions. I prefer finger-less gloves to allow me to cast easily when fishing. SPCA offer these fingerless gloves in a good range of sizes, you can also get Sea to Summit versions in Anaconda stores. When just out for a paddle a set of pogies are also an excellent option.

Lower Body:

On my lower half I usually have a pair of thermals (Adrenalin or Lavacore) with a warm pair of socks (merino or thermal not cotton) under a pair of dry pants. Depending on how much you want to spend there are a couple of options out there again both Lovig and Kokotat have good offerings, pants with incorporated socks make winter launches a breeze! Again footwear is a must, not only to protect your feet but also to protect the socks on your drypants from accidental perforation.

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The majority of winter gear for kayaking is very much a case of function over fashion so a change of clothes is always a good idea in remote areas in case of an emergency landing where you might require a lift to town. A waterlogged yakker in full garb might have a hard time thumbing a lift!

The main goal is to be able to layer up properly to allow you to fish right through the colder months, after all there is no such thing as a season too cold for kayaking , just the wrong gear for the conditions! Don’t forget to practise deep water re-entries in your new gear as it can often be much harder in full winter gear than in the lighter layers you would wear in the height of summer. Also if you have found more gear worthy of a mention add it in the comments below.

Tight lines!

Sea Sherpa

A three-day week at Lake Tyers…

A conversation with a mate over a beer quickly turned into a solid plan and accommodation was booked for a three-day stint up at Tyers. Having never been before, I was keen to chase a big dusky and with reports of 90cm+ fish being caught at the previous weekend’s flathead challenge, excitement was high.

We left Wednesday morning driving through to Bairnsdale where a quick stop was made at the bakery and then on to Lakes Entrance. We stayed at the Lake Tyers Camp & Caravan Park with easy access to the boat ramp, but you could easily stay in one of the many spots on the main strip in Lakes Entrance.

Lake Tyers Map

Good to knows

  • Phone coverage is pretty sporadic (on Optus at least) we took vhf radios to keep in contact on the water.
  • Google maps won’t load in much of the area so load the maps in town and take photos to refer to in the state park and out on the water.
  • Most of the tracks are passable in a 2wd but check if there’s been rain before hand. There are a couple of big potholes on the Trident track that require careful navigation.
  • Lots of wildlife on the trails in the Tyers State park, watch out for crossing wallabies!
  • The fork on the Trident track- the campground is on a cliff with no water access, take the right hand trail to get to the water.
  • If you need to top-up during the trip, The General Store up from the Waterwheel Tavern stocks both Munroe’s soft plastics and Jigman jigheads.
  • The boat ramp isn’t signposted from Lake Tyers Beach Road, so look for Gully Rd instead, it is right across the road from the caravan park.

Gear selection

I opted for a 2000 reel on a 2-4kg graphite spooled with 8lb braid and an 8lb fluro leader (two rod-lengths).

Mozza my offsider went with a 2500 reel on a 2-5kg graphite again spooled with 8lb braid and 8lb fluro leader.

I elected to fish the trip exclusively on sp’s. I visited Munroe’s Soft Plastics to stock up. (No affiliation, just supporting another local small business) I bought three new types of plastics from to add to the collection in the tackle box and have play with for the trip:

  • ‘fools gold’ 76mm c-tail minnow
  • ‘black gold’ 3.75 inch paddle tail aka the Wokka special
  • ‘smelt’ 3.75 inch paddle tail

Mozza brought a mixed  collection of vibes, prawnstar hardbodies, keitech plastics as well as the same collection I had from Munroe’s.

In terms of jig heads we ran 1/8oz with 3/0 and 1/16oz with 2/0 hooks

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Day 1 – Long Point

It was lunchtime by the time we reached the caravan park and unloaded the gear. We opted to hit the water for an afternoon session with a plan to fish up to dark. We decided to try the Upper Reaches first, with the theory that the main lake areas might have had more fishing pressure over the competition weekend just gone. For the first session we made our way in the Long Point Track. It was passable with the two skis on the roof of the wagon, but a kayak trailer might have been hard work. A couple of the bigger holes required careful wheel placement at an angle across the road and you would be doing well to get three sets of wheels to follow the same path with trees tight to the edge of the track. Near the end of the track we found a steady slope down to the water making for an easy launch. Easy in a 4wd, but doable in the wagon with dry ground underfoot.

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There was soft mud at the waters edge but luckily it doesn’t take much water to float a Stealth so launching was pretty straightforward. A stroll along the shore before launching revealed an abundance of small mullet in the shallows so the ‘wokka special’ and ‘smelt’  paddletails were rigged to give the same dark top, light bottom silhouette in an attempt to match the hatch.

We had left the sounder back at the cabin so we covered a bit of ground around here trying to find out the depths and setting up suitable drifts with the wind picking up at times.  It proved slow on the fishing front with only two duskies each for the tally in the 30’s range for 3 hours fishing, despite various retrieves and many, many casts. On our return another vehicle had joined ours on the bank with a tent set up behind and two kids fishing land based on the shore. Our enquiry if anything was biting was met with the response that they had caught one trout, a claim quickly corrected to a bream by their father. We packed everything inside the skis ready to go in the morning and made our way back out the track in the fading light. On our return to camp, we left the wagon and strolled down the road to the Waterwheel Tavern for dinner and a frothy with an aim to form a plan for the morning. Unfortunately the data coverage put paid to those plans but the food hit the spot.

Day 2- Main Lake

After breakfast on day two we headed back towards Lakes Entrance to get some phone coverage to load new maps for the days adventure. The plan was to launch from one of the boat ramps in the main lake and do some exploring. When we got close enough to town to load google maps we discovered that access to the boat ramp was down Gully Rd, across the street from the campsite we had left 10 minutes earlier!

Once we found the boat ramp we saw that you can drive right to the waters edge 100m up the shore and unload and launch there. Immediately at the launch there is a short trough followed by a sandbar to cross to get to the channel.

We made our way up the channel towards the point at the end of Hendries Lane. I hopped out of the Stealth and parked it on the point to wade back in and cast into the drop off at the channel. Mozza followed suit and this proved a good idea with the first of the day coming from there again on the wokka special. Not quite the big girl we were after but definitely a start!

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We proceeded into the inlet to explore over towards Fisherman’s Landing setting up long drifts to the far shore before resetting and going again. There were a few boats fishing the same area but we all seemed to be managing fish in the 30-40cm bracket. A few more were caught here on a mix of caramel eclair minnows, worms and the good old wokka special. Lunch was beckoning so we headed back to the ramp and packed up for a trip back into Lakes Entrance to load more maps, find a bakery and make a plan for the afternoon session.

After recharging the batteries, and re-applying the sunscreen, we hit the water again launching from the boat ramp area but this time pushing further up towards Mill Point. It didn’t take long to get onto more fish but again we were struggling to get size. Mozza tested out a few scents and pulled in a few fish in the late 30’s and early 40’s.

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The best I managed was a 50cm model. We set up on a drift on a very fishy looking drop off when splashes could be heard in the shallows. Small bait fish were jumping clear of the water and skitting along the surface. We figured they had to of been chased by something so we headed that way and began casting into the action. It wasn’t long before the tailor made themselves known with spectacular ariel displays and fighting hard on light gear. Tailor are spiteful buggers -one of them managed to bite a nice hole in Mozza’s environet, but then refused to open his mouth for the lip grips.

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We chased the tailor for a little while before pushing up to Mill Point and also trying a few drifts past a very fishy looking snag on the point opposite but it had again gone quiet. We were running out of daylight at this stage so made our way back down towards Hendrie’s picking up another couple of fish on the way. One last stop off on the point where I got my fish early in the morning, but the channel was devoid of life this time round. Last casts were made in the fading light and then we proceeded to track our way back to launch in the dark trying to navigate around the sand bar in the process. We packed up in the headlights of the car and made our way back to the campsite for a quick shower before hitting Lakes Entrance for dinner at the Sports Club  Good coverage meant plans were made for the upper reaches with maps sorted for a crack at the Trident Arm the next morning. The wagon was packed for morning checkout with Sam Newman & Co providing a soundtrack then it was a welcome kip after a long day on the water.

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Day 3 -Trident Arm

Day three saw a half hour hike around the lake to the other side to explore the Trident Arm and upper reaches. Again the tracks were navigable in a 2wd with only a couple of larger potholes to navigate. Plenty of wildlife on this side of the lake with large reptiles and frequent wallabies crossing the tracks. The waterside is busy too with pelicans, black swans and crimson rosella making their presence known. I’m not much of a bird watcher, but a few days in a spot like this is good for the soul!

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After a fair drive we hit a fork in the trident arm track. We elected to hang the left following the sign for the campground assuming it would be on the water’s edge, but a few minutes later we found out that it is in fact on a cliff with a very steep track down to the water – not doable with a kayak. We tracked back and took the right-hander which turned out to be a trail right down to the waters edge with a where a nice easy launch awaited us.

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A change in the water clarity from the other launches led us to a change in tactics pulling out the ‘fools gold’ and ‘smelt’ plastics from the tackle box. The opposite shore from the launch got a few duskies on the board early but again we couldn’t find the big ones. The bream were around in good numbers in the shallows in the inlets with silhouettes scarpering forwards with every stroke of the paddle. Some were hungry though not deterred by 8 and 10lb leaders and they were more than happy to have a crack at 3/0 hooks as they passed, even if they couldn’t grab hold. This one did manage to hook up on a 2/0 jig head.

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We explored further afield with Mozza out-fishing me on the duskies. Same lures, same leader, jig head and retrieve so it must have been his wasabi scent that made the difference. The smelt paddletail was his go-to lure for the day while I managed to land both duskies and bream on the fools gold. Overall it made a nice change to explore a new spot and it is safe to say we’ll be back to explore again as we only covered a tiny portion of the whole system.

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Tight lines!

Sea Sherpa