Scott’s Species – Australian salmon, a scintillating southern sportfish

Australian salmon, a scintillating southern sportfish sometimes dubbed “barra of the south”. With autumn and the annual salmon run fast-approaching, Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan takes a closer look at the hard-fighting sportfish,which have an important economical and social benefit to WA, in the latest edition of Scott’s Species.

One of Australia’s, if not the world’s, great sportfish, Australian salmon are an iconic species along the south coast of the country and drive a mammoth recreational fishery.

Scott Coghlan loves chasing salmon in the South West.

The species’ annual spawning run in WA, which actually saw fish reach as far north as Exmouth a couple of years, attracts huge recreational fishing interest and has been valued at more than $331 million to the WA economy.

When the salmon are running in autumn they draw people from across the State, and even the country, to target them from the pristine beaches of the South West, offering a massive boost to local economies as anglers spend up just for the chance of tangling with one of these great fish.

This year, Recfishwest will run the exciting Salmon Slam fishing competition over three months, with great prizes and the chance to catch tagged fish. Anglers simply need to download the free app to compete.

It is little wonder salmon are so popular as they are a largely inshore species accessible to all anglers, shore and boat, and grow to more than 10kg although most fish encountered will be from 2kg to 5kg.

They often travel in huge schools of thousands of fish, sometimes turning the water black when they arrive en masse.

These schools often hug the shoreline, which can make for incredible fishing action from shore or a small boat, or even kayak.

There are some renowned salmon fishing beaches in WA that regularly produce fish, but the trick is often just to be in the right place at the right time.

The movements of salmon schools can be unpredictable and sometimes you just need to wait for them to arrive.

Acrobatic salmon put on a spectacular show when hooked!

While they don’t hit lures and baits with the veracity of tailor, with a much slower and more cautious take, salmon are willing lure and bait takers. Mulies are clearly the top bait for adult salmon, and if they are being cautious they will also respond to live herring.

Surf anglers will often use a weighted bait on a set of ganged hooks, but baitcasting is a great option if conditions allow it and salmon rarely refuse an unweighted mulie.

There are a wide range of lures that will tempt salmon including minnows, stickbaits, casting metals, plugs, poppers, large soft plastics and even flies.

Poppers and stickbaits offer a great visual experience when the fish are in numbers and aggressive, minnow lures are usually productive (especially when trolling likely spots) and casting metals or plugs are great when schools are sitting on the edge of casting range.

Salmon put on a stunning fight when hooked, often leaping spectacularly in an attempt to throw the hooks and then showing great strength and determination during the battle. They are not everyone’s taste on the plate, but luckily salmon are a very tough fish that survive release well so that is always an option.

A wide range of outfits will work on salmon, including typical 3-4m beach outfits for surf fishing with bait, or short boat rods when trolling.

These days though, more and more anglers are making the most of their sporting qualities by using specialised distance casting rods to chase the schools from shore, walking the beaches while casting lures on lightish lines.

When it comes to line, 7kg is usually more than sufficient, with a heavier shock leader to cope with the usual knocks that come with this sort of fishing.

There have been some stellar metro salmon runs over the last decade, but the prediction of a La Nina weather pattern this summer is expected to bring a strong Leeuwin Current.

This could mean the fish don’t push up the west coast in big numbers, and the south coast could be the place to target them in 2021!

Ashley Prescott has hooked into previous season’s metro salmon action.