Scott’s Species – Samson fish, a powerful sportfishing opponent

Once the bane of anglers chasing better quality eating fish for the table, Samson fish became the basis of a thriving sportfishery here in WA, writes Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan in this week’s edition of Scott’s Species.

As their name suggests, they are a most powerful opponent on the end of a line and jigging for Samson fish off Rottnest Island became huge business, drawing anglers from across the globe.

Western Angler’s Scott Coghlan with a solid Sambo, but it wasn’t close to the biggest he caught this session, which was sadly never photographed.

Fish would gather in their thousands around deepwater structure during their spawning aggregations.

Using metal jigs that the Sambos loved, even inexperienced anglers could hook fish up to 50kg and then had to work overtime to bring them up from depths of around 100m.

Aching muscles meant a good day on the Samsons and one fish was enough for some people.

This was a catch and release fishery as Samsons generally release well when handled correctly. They were great times and then the sharks moved in and all but shut down the fishery.

Nowadays, few people bother to target them in these areas because of the sharks.

They can grow to more than 50kg and are found off many regional fishing areas across the State.

Samson fish are an occasional shore capture, especially from the rocks along the south coast, but are more often taken offshore across a wide variety of depths from a just few metres to 100m or more.

Double hook-up! Jigging for Sambos is action-packed. Picture: Western Angler

They are often found in schools and this can be annoying for demersal fishers looking for tastier captures.

They like to hang around structure and will respond well to burley at times, sometimes turning up in packs.

When they are close to the surface, they can be targeted with surface lures and even fly. They will take just about any bait when they are in the mood, including mulies, squid and mullet.

Rigs do not have to be complicated and paternosters, running sinkers and unweighted baits will all work.

How’s this for a cool Sambo story: On 4 August 2015, mad-keen fisher Dylan Picken caught and tagged a Samson fish off Dawesville which weighed 7.3kg and measured 81cm.

Earlier this year, almost six years later, Julie Ramm recaptured the same Samson fish, also off Dawesville!

With a time at liberty of 2,098 Days — five years and eight months — the recaptured Sambo now weighs about 25kg and is 125cm long!

Tackle World Miami’s Julie Ramm with a recaptured Samson fish off Dawesville.

Small Samson fish often show up in the lower reaches of the Swan River and the odd big one gets hooked around the Fremantle Traffic Bridge.

Though Sambos are indeed a reasonable eating proposition most of the time, some fish have a parasite in their flesh that makes them inedible.

Most anglers targeting big Sambos offshore use specialised gear, including large reels with powerful drags.

Short jigging rods around 1.5-1.8m long are matched to these reels, which are spooled with 27-45kg line.

The biggest Samson fish I ever caught was in around 40m near Rottnest and it must have been over 50 kilos, hitting a Halco Max after I decided on a change of tactics having caught several 30kg fish on jigs!

The fight was brutal and for a while it seemed to be a stalemate but eventually a monster Sambo popped up next to the boat to the relief of an exhausted angler.

The saddest part of the whole episode is that we never got a picture of the fish due to the ineptitude of the other crew!

It was a hard-fought battle that Albany fisher Brody Ogle eventually won with this Great Southern beast.