by Jarrod Day
Many fishing methods have changed or adapted over the years but when it comes to bottom bouncing, the old methods are still as productive as they have ever been.
Big flathead are highly prized and fit for the table.
Right around the country, offshore fishing is a popular affair for many anglers. Whether it be a holiday maker just looking for a days fishing or a local angler heading out to stock the freezer, bottom bouncing is a proven technique in its simplicity.
Some areas around Victoria, anglers can catch the very tasty nannygai.
While my bottom bouncing exploits revolve around snapper, nannygai, gummy shark and flathead making up the bulk of the catch, other species including sand whiting, silver trevally, sweep, King George whiting, and leather jacket are also a welcomed catch by anglers. The further north or south you travel, the more exotic the species can be caught including morwong, Tasmanian trumpeter, golden snapper, mulloway, coral trout, red emperor, tuskfish, pearl perch, and various species of cod in which anglers pride themselves on targeting. All of these species are fair table fish and highly prized in the states in which they are caught. Amongst the more highly sought, there are a fair number of unwanted species and though they maybe flicked back over the side, still offer a fair battle when hooked.
To get offshore you do need a reliable vessel such as this one owned by Lakes Entrance Charters.
Bottom dwellers can be found at different depths and your limits will be reached depending on the size of the boat and its fuel range.
Year round, pinkie snapper are a viable catch, especially offshore from Lakes Entrance.
In my home town, Bass Strait offers some good fishing opportunities but we are limited to a small variety of species including flathead, snapper and gummy shark. All of these are caught in depths ranging from 30 meters to 50 meters. Five hundred kilometers west of the state at Portland, the depth can exceed 2000 meters within 70 kilometres of the Portland boat ramp. For those able to travel this distance, blue eye cod, gemfish, and knife jaw are the target at around 400 meters with Tasmanian trumpeter found in 100 meters or so. In shallower, it is snapper, flathead and queen snapper that are highly sought. To the East of the state at Lakes Entrance, similar fishing depths are reached but they are quite a distance further at about 100 kilometres before it begins to drop significantly. Reaching this far out is all whether dependent but worth it if you have the range.
Similar depths fished off the Queensland, West Australian, South Australian, Northern Territory and New South Wales coasts will yield catches of extremely tasty fish but you will only find out what lives below once you release the bail arm and let your baits hit the bottom.
Snapper are plentiful on offshore reefs.
WHERE TO FIND FISH
Successful anglers know their local offshore reefs well and where there is reef, there is fish. The first most important part of offshore bottom bouncing is knowing where the reefs area located. Offshore reefs can be difficult to find at times purely because they can be just a pile of rubble or shell grit lining the bottom, a ledge or a lump rising just a few meters off the sea floor. Trying to find such features at depth may not be the easiest thing to do but providing you have a good depth sounder, you should be able to pick up the difference between hard/rock bottom and sand/mud.
A good sounder can tell you a lot about the bottom and will also enable you to find fish. Sounder technology these days is so high tech that some brands have the ability to produce a picture of the bottom that is referred to as the closest thing to having an actual video camera on the bottom. Lowrance’s HDS range with added downscan/sidescan imaging shows even the most intricate detail such as sand divots from wave action even boulders and individual rocks and weed growth. It is this quality of sounder that will enable you to distinguish different bottom features to better pick up areas which can and will hold fish. Better yet, when a school of fish are found, the sounder can show up individual fish in a school unlike other sounders which will show the entire mass as a red blob. Having the ability to distinguish the difference between a school of fish and the bottom can be the difference between catching fish and not.
Once you do find fish, make sure you work the area.
GET THE DRIFT
When you do sound fish, it is best to work out in which direction the boat is going to drift. There is no use in dropping the bait straight away only to find you have drifted off where the fish are. Ideally, take into consideration the direction of the wind and current to better set yourself up so you can cover the ground in which the fish are holding on.
There are many factors that come into play when fishing offshore such as wind strength, swell and current which can impede the desired drift speed.
While drifting is the most successful technique used to cover ground, wind conditions can increase the drift speed making getting to the bottom difficult. In this case, anglers may wish to upsize their sinker weight and though this will slightly work, you will still have to let more line out every few minutes as the sinker will lift higher off the bottom due to the angle of the line and the speed of the drift.
If the wind is strong, you may also have ocean swell to contend with which can also make reaching the bottom difficult. Each time the boat rises up with the swell the baits will be lifted off the bottom.
In this situation, it may be a good idea to use a drogue or sea anchor which when put into the water, will fill and slow the drift.
Another factor is the speed of the current that maybe pushing down the coast. Once again, both upsizing the sinker weight and using a sea anchor can aid in reducing the drift speed. Depending on the depth being fished, some anglers may prefer to anchor. While this is safe to do so in shallow water, it is impossible in depths of anything greater than 70 meters. Firstly you won’t have enough rope to get the anchor to the bottom and secondly if you do anchor in shallower depths offshore you will have ocean swell to contend with which can be dangerous.
Paternoster rigs work a treat for offshore fishing.
Next week we will look at the more specifics of bottom bouncing with relevance to the specific gear required, ideal rigs, bait presentation and using lures to catch fish in the deep.
No complaints here, the perfect catch for dinner.