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Spinning the surf for salmon
  |  First Published: July 2017



Catching Australian salmon might not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially when they are predominantly caught in winter along the surf beaches of Victoria. Each year before the onset of winter, huge schools of salmon make their way into our bays and inlets before heading out to infiltrate the surf zones.

During this time, anglers begin to arm themselves with the necessary fishing gear to hit the surf. While most are content with casting baits out into the deep gutters, the younger generation have taken to lure fishing and are certainly reaping the rewards.

Spinning for salmon brings a sort of hunting quality to the technique. Spinning the surf allows you to cover a greater area of the surf beach, and while one angler might stand and fish the one gutter for the best part of the day, an angler spinning can fish a dozen or more gutters and locate where the fish are holding.

THE LOCATIONS

Salmon are not known for holding in one location on any given day and they really do love to move around a lot. Take Venus Bay and its encompassing beaches for example; one day they can be caught at beach number one, the next beach number four and then somewhere else on the third day. This is just a characteristic of the species. For anglers, locating them is half the battle.

Throughout Victoria we have a good hundred or more beaches, all with plenty of salmon at one point or another throughout the winter period. The best part is that all the beaches are quite similar in their physical attributes. The most commonly fished beaches throughout the state are Logans Beach at Warnambool, Johanna Beach, Apollo Bay, Wye River, Bells Beach, Jan Juc, Thirteenth Beach, Ocean Grove, Portsea Back Beach, St Andrews, Gunnamatta Back Beach, Anzacs, Woolamai, Kilcunda, Cemetery Beach, Williamsons Beach, Baxters Beach, Inverloch, Venus Bay (all five beaches), Waratah Bay, McLoughlins, Manns Beach, Loch Sport, Lakes Entrance, Marlo and the rest of the coastline to the New South Wales border.

Despite the long list of beaches, these are the more known ones. Between them is a host of other nooks and crannies that produce salmon throughout the season. All it takes is a few dozen casts to find where the fish are.

FISHING THE TIDES

Most anglers know the importance of fishing the prime times, especially those around a tide change. This is no different when spinning a surf beach. Low tide will only see the fish move back out into deeper water where at some beaches they become unreachable.

When the tide begins to push in, the continual crashing of the waves pounding the shoreline digs out the soft sand creating the gutters. This also exposes any potential foods that the salmon may find when swimming around in these areas. The higher the tide, the closer the fish will come to the shoreline. This is almost like a natural berley and brings the fish into the surf zones.

THE TACKLE

While spinning does warrant the use of specialised tackle to get the most of the technique, there are always exceptions to the rule. Of course, we all know there are no set rules in fishing, but the more you adapt your gear to suit the style of fishing you do, the better and easier the fishing will be.

Some anglers prefer to stick to what they already have. If it’s a 12ft fibreglass 8-12kg rod, then you’re definitely in for some back and shoulder pain at the end of the day. Alternatively, you might just give up entirely after a few casts. Casting small lures with such a heavy rod won’t just hurt your body, it will also prevent the lure from gaining greater distances. It will also be dragged across the surface rather than retrieved with a finesse approach.

Ideally, spinning outfits should consist of a specific 9ft graphite lure casting rod, which you can comfortably pick up for the best part of $50, a 4000 series reel and 10lb braid. While you might be out of pocket around $100, you’ll be happy for it after catching a few fish.

I’m certainly not one for lavish gear when it comes to spinning the surf, mainly due to the impact the salt has on gear. My outfit consists of a Wilson Magnum 9’ Spin 8-15lb rod coupled with an ATC Valiant SW 4000 reel. This is loaded with Mustad Thor 10lb line and a good length of 8lb fluorocarbon leader for abrasion resistance against the seaweed you might encounter.

THE LURES

The word ‘spinning’ can mean many different things, but at the end of the day it simply means casting with a thread line reel.

Throughout Victoria most of the salmon caught realistically weigh in at 1-2kg with the rare 3kg model in the mix. Unlike northern species – tuna, kingfish and the like – taking metal lures of 60g and heavier, Australian salmon tend to be more content with smaller sized bait. The casting weights on most 9’ rods range from 20-60g. For salmon, lures in the 25-40g weight range are ideal.

Of course, there is a myriad of metal lures available that can be used to cast for salmon. It can be a daunting task when choosing which one is going hook you a fish. As with many species, the saying ‘match the hatch’ still applies when fishing saltwater. Colours can vary a lot, but you really can’t go wrong with silvers, whites, blues and greens.

When casting for salmon, gaining distance is very important, as this allows you to cover more of the water on the retrieve. Lures come in different weights and the ones with more of their weight on the rear, will go further.

TECHNIQUES

To find salmon in any numbers, an angler needs to do the research and find the gutter in which they’re holding. The only way to do this is to begin casting in a gutter. Before doing this, always make sure you know where the gutters are along the stretch of beach you’re fishing. You can do this by picking a high vantage point on top of a sand dune and peering along the length of the coast, or look for pockets of coloured water where the waves are not breaking.

These are the deepest sections of the beach and are commonly referred to as a ‘rip’ if you’re a swimmer or surfer. It is these sections where the salmon will school up and hold, providing there is a food source to hold them there. Although bait anglers can set a berley trail and attract fish to their location, spinning anglers need to do the hard work and walk the beach, concentrating on casting into the gutters to find them. Although it is a little hard work, it’s certainly very rewarding.

When casting into a gutter, don’t just make a dozen casts and head off to the next one. Put in a good 30-50 casts before making the decision to move. Vary the retrieve, too. Don’t just cast and wind flat out, cast and wind at a moderate pace, then change to a fast wind or cast and let the lure sink then retrieve it at a moderate speed. Doing this, you’ll find that the fish prefer a certain retrieval speed before they strike. If you can remember the retrieve for the next cast, you may well find continual success.

With the surf season upon us and some days too windy to head out into our waterways by boat, hitting the surf is a lot more fun than sitting back on the couch on a frosty morning flicking through Facebook. Now is the time to be flicking a lure, so get your gear ready and start casting.

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