Scott’s Spots – Kalgan River, more than just one of WA’s finest bream fishing locations

Albany’s Kalgan River has long had a reputation as one of WA’s finest bream fishing locations, but actually has more to offer than just trophy blacks. Western Angler Editor Scott Coghlan reflects on some of his Kalgan River fishing experiences in his weekly edition of Scott’s Spots.

More than 40cm of Kalgan black bream on a stickbait.

I remember as a kid being gob-smacked by the size of the bream our neighbour used to pull from the Kalgan, which is just east of the south coast town, on a regular basis. They looked more like snapper than bream, such was their size, and he’d have a stack of them jammed into a big bucket. It was quite a sight to see, but in retrospect probably wasn’t great for the Kalgan’s stocks of trophy bream. 

Thankfully, anglers these days are more cautious about removing big breeding fish from their river systems, but there is no doubt those monster bream are not as easy to catch as they were 40 years ago. Nonetheless they are still there in decent numbers and fish over 40cm are regularly caught, and there’s even the chance of the mythical 50cm bream. 

The Kalgan fishes well for bream from the mouth, and the flats around it, all the way up to the upper bridge, where it becomes fresh above the waterfalls. Anglers fish from shore, boat and kayak and all are equally effective approaches, although I personally find it the perfect river to silently fish from a ‘yak. This scenic river offers a great mix of different options, with the shallow flats in the lower reaches firing in the warmer month as the bream move up onto them in big numbers. There can be plagues of small fish at times, but the bigger ones are there and reward the persistent angler. 

Keith Andrews enjoys sunset on the Kalgan.

The drop-offs along the edge of the flats are a staple for serious bream anglers and this is where many tournament-winning bags come fromwhile sometimes they can be found holed up in the deeper water of the river as well. 

The diversity of ways to fish for bream in the Kalgan is what makes it appealing to many serious bream fishos, and there are sections where flicking lures into the snags is a very effective approach. In summer, the surface action for bream can be fantastic and first and last light are great times to flick stickbaits or poppers in the shallows and enjoy this visual style of fishing, with its bloops, swirls and boofs. There are also some little rock bars worth checking out, and at times during the winter months schools of bait ball up around Honeymoon Island. Dropping lures underneath these tightly packed gatherings of bait will produce some good bream, along with juvenile salmon, herring and maybe even mulloway.   

Surface lures can be a lot of fun for Kalgan bream in the warmer months.

The bream will move up and down the river during the year, mainly dropping down into the lower reaches during the wetter months, but pushing right upriver during summer. They are a mobile fish, so it plays to move around until you find them in good numbers. 

A wide range of lures will work, including bibbed minnows, stickbaits, vibes and soft plastics, while small poppers can be awesome fun in summer. Bait is very effective and produces good fish, with river prawns the obvious first choice when available. I’ve got a mate who swears by chunks of herring to catch big Kalgan bream. 

While black bream are what the Kalgan is renowned for, it produces several other species as well.  In the lower reaches it offers a range of common south coast estuarine species, including herring, juvenile salmon (and the odd adult salmon), flounder, yellowtail, small pink snapper, silver bream, whiting and blue swimmer crabs, as well as mulloway. The mulloway in the Kalgan (and nearby King River) are a fast-growing sub-species and can be found in big numbers at times, especially when they school up to spawn after the winter rains. 

Small mulloway are a common catch in the Kalgan River.

Big fish over a metre do get taken in the Kalgan, but smaller fish in the 50-80cm range are much more common, with many of the big croakers moving out of the system. They will often be caught by bream anglers, and will take small lures and baits intended for blackies. 

However those who choose to target mulloway will use large soft plastics and vibes, bibbed minnows and even quite large stickbaits up to 20cm long. Casting from the shore works well, especially around some of the river bends where the deeper holes are. Slow trolling can also be effective, and working sinking lures such as soft plastics and vibes in the deep holes will normally produce. Using a side imaging unit can help find concentrations of mulloway, which like the bream move around in the system and are often thickest in one section.   

Solid Kalgan River mulloway from the kayak.

Bait fishers do very well from shore after dark and this is when some of the bigger fish are caught. A live bait or strip of yellowtail or herring can be very effective in producing big mulloway from the Kalgan. 

The fishing is generally a bit slower in the Kalgan in the winter months when the water is cooler and fresher, but it produces bream and mulloway all year, along with herring and juvenile salmon. In summer you tend to get more of the other estuarine species moving into the river, including whiting and crabs. Some years you get a big run of chopper tailor in the Kalgan too, which frustrates anglers who start getting bitten off regularly! In autumn it’s not uncommon for the odd big salmon to find its way into the Kalgan and surprise a lucky angler. Silver bream and pink snapper show up in the lower reaches at times, and the biggest silver I’ve ever caught was below the lower bridge during a kayak bream competition. 

Paul Tuckwell with an early morning bream.

There is a caravan park on the banks of the Kalgan that makes an ideal launching point for those using a kayak or boat, and plenty of other accommodation options in Albany. 

While some of the biggest bream do get caught in winter and the mulloway can be best during spring, I’d personally recommend fishing the Kalgan from March to May, when the local weather is perfect and the fish are generally very active and the variety of species encountered is most varied, making for immaculate days on what is a beautiful south coast waterway.

Tackle Shop Talk – Matt Pullella, Trailblazers Albany

Restrictions are easing, winter is settling in and our tackle stores are open and waiting for you to pay them a visit. Tackle stores play an essential role in our fishing industry and the knowledge of the owner and local staff is invaluable. Recently we’ve been chatting with various tackle store owners across the state to get to know them better on a personal level and help promote their business in order to reboot the recfishing industry post-COVID-19. This week we spoke to Matt from Trailblazers in Albany.

RFW: How and when did you get involved with your tackle store?

MP: I used to shop at Trailblazers a lot in my teenage years. One day, about five years ago, I asked if they had any work going. Two weeks later Paul Lawson (the owner) called me and the rest is history. 

RFW: What do you enjoy about working in the business? 

MP: Like any fishing nut, I love playing with new gear and sharing crazy stories with customers.  

 RFW: What makes your customers keep coming back for more? 

MP: We have a very loyal customer base here at Trailblazers. I think the main thing that keeps people coming back is our massive range of stock, good honest advice and local knowledge. 

RFW: What’s a hot tackle item in your store at the moment?

MP: Without a doubt electric reels are probably the hottest fishing item we have been selling over the last few weeks. We can’t keep enough on the shelf!  

RFW: What must every good fisher’s tackle box include and why?

MP: Every good fishers tackle box must include a good pair of split ring pliers because if you’ve ever tried to open a split ring with your fingernails you’ll know where I’m coming from!  

RFW: What was the fish or fishing experience that got you hooked on fishing?

MP: My dad took me squidding off one of rock walls down here. Second cast in he got a nice squid that then inked him directly in the face! Best day ever and I was hooked from then on!  

RFW: If you were Fisheries Minister for a day and you could change one thing, what would it be?

MP: If I was the Fisheries Minister for the day, I’d be doing everything I could to get more fisheries officers into remote Western Australia. We currently only have three fisheries officers in the Great Southern and only two spend most of their time in the field. In my opinion that is nowhere near enough along this remote section of coast.  

RFW: What’s your favourite fishing destination in WA and why?

MP: My own backyard! I truly think we are spoilt down here on the south coast. Our fishery is so versatile and has something to offer in all weather conditions. 

Fabulous FADs open up a wealth of sport fishing opportunities

Working in conjunction with local fishing clubs, Recfishwest is developing and deploying a network of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) off the coast of the Perth metro and WA regional centres as part of a three-year trial program.

FADs have been used across Australia and off the coasts of places such as Costa Rica and Hawaii to great effect to enhance sport-fishing opportunities for spectacular-fighting pelagic species such as mahi-mahi (dolphin fish), tuna, billfish and mackerel.

Funded by recfishing licence fees through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund, we have developed the trial program working closely with local fishing clubs and have coordinated the production and physical deployment of the FADs.

This is exactly how we believe RFIF funds should be spent – as seed money to test ground-breaking projects such as this, that create great fishing opportunities for which there is high demand and support within the recfishing community.

For those who might not be familiar with the concept, FADs are essentially large floats anchored to the seafloor in open water, where they aggregate schools of baitfish, which in turn draw sizeable aggregations of pelagic species.

This creates spectacular sport-fishing opportunities for boat fishers – to get a flavor of just how good the fishing can be – check out this sensational footage filmed by Luke Ryan of TackleWest on the existing metro FADs.

If you’ve got a medium-size or larger boat (or even a tinnie if you’re in Broome!) sensational fishing like this could be accessible to you in the locations below.

*Once the FADs for each location are deployed, the exact GPS coordinates will be updated on our website.

UPDATE June 2020

All Metro, Albany and Cape Naturaliste FADs have now been brought back in for the winter and will be redeployed in late November 2020. Exmouth and Broome FADs will remain in place.

Perth

Expected time of re-deployment: Currently pulled in for winter, expected to be re-deployed in late November 2020.

Number of FAD’s/strategy: Two additional FADs going in West of Rottnest in addition to existing Perth Game Fishing Club FADs as well as four FADs for to be deployed further north, which can be accessed by boats launching out of northern metro ramps.

Perth FAD Coords with map

Albany

Expected time of re-deployment: Currently pulled in for winter, expected to be re-deployed in late November 2020
Number of FAD’s/strategy: Trialing four FADs in the more temperate waters off Albany, they could potentially draw species like yellowtail kingfish. First time recreational fishing FADS have ever been deployed off Albany.

Albany FAD Coords with maps

Cape Naturaliste

Expected time of re-deployment: Currently pulled in for winter, expected to be re-deployed in late November 2020
Number of FAD’s/strategy: Trialing four FADs for the first time off the cape in an area where the Leeuwen current flows – we’re expecting to see good aggregations of mahi-mahi here.

Cape Naturaliste FAD Coords with map

Geraldton

Expected time of deployment: Late November 2020
Number of FAD’s/strategy: Trialing three FADs West of the Abrolhos and one in closer to shore. Out-wide you can expect mahi-mahi, wahoo, tuna and marlin, while mahi-mahi and mackerel could be the go along the FAD that is closer to shore.

Geraldton FAD Coords with map

Exmouth

Expected time of deployment: Deployed March 2020 (GPS coordinates up to date)
Number of FAD’s/strategy: Trialing four FADs west of Ningaloo Reef. We are expecting good numbers of mahi-mahi, along with the possibility of wahoo and various species of tuna and billfish. FAD 1 yet to be deployed.

Exmouth FAD Coords with map

Broome

Expected time of deployment: Deployed June 2020 (GPS coordinates up to date)
Number of FAD’s/strategy: Fishing for mackerel and big trevallies could be accessible to even small boat owners.

BROOME FAD Coords with maps

FADtastic fishing for the future

It’s been a long journey and we’ve had to wade through a mess of red tape and push hard uphill all the way, but finally we’re here.

We’re really excited to be able to deliver this trial program, build our understanding and expertise in this space and be in a stronger position to source future investment in FADs from recfishing licence money and potentially industry sponsors.

So once they’re in, get out there and have a crack – we’re sure you’ll quickly become a FAD fanatic if you’re not already!

Check out what Recfishwest CEO Andrew Rowland had to say about the FAD rollout here:

 

FAD Coords all locations

Things to consider when fishing on FADs

Recfishwest’s top lure picks for beach fishing for salmon

Catching salmon from world class beaches is one of the most iconic WA fishing activities you and your family can have. Launching a lure into a huge school of salmon only 30 metres from the beach gives every fisher, novice or pro, a tremendous thrill and one which never seems to gets old.

A salmon spotted swimming through a wave well within casting range from the beach. (Photo courtesy of Tony Tropiano).

Check out how easy it is to catch a salmon from the beach, click here.

Lure fishing for salmon on world class West Australian beaches has many great benefits:

  • No need for stinky bait and cheaper than buying bait all the time
  • You can cast further and be amongst the action by putting your lure in the zone
  • Adds to the ‘sportfishing’ element
  • Great way to get the kids into lure fishing
  • No skill needed in regards to lure movement or techniques
  • Great method for catch and release fishing

So with that in mind, we’ve come up with the top salmon lures you and your family must have this season.

Salmon Lure Criteria:

  • Castability: (beach casting only)
  • Price: Affordable for everyone
  • Catchability: Does it actually catch fish

Halco Twisty

Photo credit: Halco Tackle

The curved ends of the famous Twisty create an enticing action like no other metal lure. From a slow wobbling retrieve to a high-speed splashing retrieve, this lure is truly versatile. The Twisty Chrome has an incredibly realistic baitfish profile that has proven itself in both salt and freshwater.

Castability: 4/5
Price: 5/5 (approx. $5 – $10)
Catchability: 5/5

Other Species: Tailor, herring, bonito, tuna, trevally, Queenfish, freshwater trout, mackerel

How to fish them: For best results, vary speed and angle of retrieve, and choose different colours to match the available baitfish in the area. The Twisty Chrome comes in a range of weights.  Constructed with a shiny chrome body, anglers have the choice of either a chrome, gold, green, or red holographic variety in a weight from 1.5g up to 70g.

Richter Plug

Photo credit: Richter Lures

The Richter Plug is a simple yet effective lure that is nearly indestructible. Favoured among anglers for its great action on the retrieve this lure is the go to in any condition. With their slim profile and weight, they make a great long-distance casting lure that can be fired out like a torpedo and this can be crucial when trying to reach distant schools of cruising salmon on southern beaches. Whether you’re casting into open clear water or around rocky reef structures, this is one lure you can’t do without this salmon season.

 

 

Castability: 5/5
Price: 5/5 (approx. $5-$10)
Catchability: 5/5

Other Species: Tailor, herring, bonito, tuna, trevally, Queenfish, Kingfish, ,ackerel

How to fish them: They can be fished as either a sinking stickbait or a surface lure or both during the same retrieve! Retrieve them fast to create a frantic baitfish surface splash action or slow the retrieve down and watch it dart around just under the surface.

Available in White, Red Head, Chartreuse, Pink and Yellow, and in five sizes from 28 grams through to 140 grams – sized from 138mm to 78mm.

Spanyid Raider

Photo credit: Spanyid

Along with the Halco Twisty, Raider metal lures are one of the most versatile fishing products ever designed and are useful for many fishing applications. Not only do these lures work in all water depths, they are effective in all aspects of lure use. The range of sizes match most baitfish profiles. Their range of weights means they have multiple fishing applications but do their best work being cast off a beach at a hungry waiting school of salmon.

Castability: 5/5
Price: 5/5 (approx. $5 – $10)
Catchability: 5/5

Other Species: Tailor, herring, bonito, tuna, trevally, Queenfish, Kingfish, mackerel

How to fish them: For best results, vary speed and angle of retrieve, and choose different colours to match the available baitfish in the area. The angled design allows for maximum casting distance, a ‘dart and weave’ motion on the retrieve at all but slow speeds for spinning.

Constructed with a shiny chrome body, anglers have the choice of nine sizes ranging from 10g upto 200g.

 

FREE SALMON HOTSPOT MAPS

Yes that’s right, we’re giving you all the tools and advice you need to catch one of these awesome sportsfish from your local beach by providing free beach fishing for salmon maps available for download here, alternatively pick one up from a local tackle store and speak to the experts on the ground.

Also why not be involved in all the excitement by checking out the Awesome Autumn of Salmon celebrations we’re having! More info here.

So what salmon lure is the best? What do you buy?

The answer is obvious,  you can never have enough lures for all forms of fishing.  Recfishwest’s suggestion is to buy one of each and try for yourself. Different lures will work best with different rod and reel setups. With the lures we’ve reviewed being so affordable and proven to catch salmon, it won’t break the bank if you buy one of each and make up your own mind!

Have you caught a salmon on one of the lures above? Send us your pics! Email them to info@recfishwest.org.au

The Great Southern Salmon Campout

THIS EVENT IS NOW CLOSED FOR 2018. PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR THE 2019 SALMON CAMPOUT.

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Recfishwest has teamed up with WA’s iconic fishing magazine Western Angler and Cheynes Beach Caravan Park to celebrate all things Salmon at the 1st ever Great Southern Salmon Campout! The weekend will take place on the Friday afternoon of the 23rd March through to lunchtime on Sunday the 25th March.

Image: The Tropiano family on their annual Salmon fishing trip. Photo courtesy of Tony Tropiano.

The Great Southern Salmon Campout is designed for education, appreciation and loads of fun with your friends and family!

The entire weekend only costs $116pp, including accommodation and has plenty of activities to keep you busy and your mind on fishing the whole weekend.

 The weekend will include the following:

  • Complimentary BBQ Dinner on the Friday Night – meet and greet
  • Accommodation fees included in package price
  • Demo and ‘How To’ workshops
  • Beach casting competitions
  • Fish filleting demos
  • Fishing Q&A night with Recfishwest CEO, Western Angler’s Scott Coghlan and other fishing experts
  • Fishing competitions – let’s catch some salmon!
  • Making new friends (who love fishing)
  • All packaged together with accommodation at Cheynes Beach Caravan Park
  • Plus much more!

You will have the opportunity to learn new skills, fish from world class beaches and make memories that will last forever.

If this sounds like your kind of adventure make sure you get in quick and register as places are limited!

Click HERE to Register for The Great Southern Salmon Campout

Please note: When you register your total cost will include your accommodation and event fee in one transaction. Please disregard the shipping cost message on the PayPal page, as it only applies to payments for a Recfishwest membership.

FADs to be Deployed in Regional Fishing Hotspots

Regional fishing hotspots are set to get a boost in 2018 as fish aggregating devices (FADs) are deployed in WA regional centres including Exmouth, Geraldton and Albany.

With funding from the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund, local communities are working with Recfishwest to deliver FADs. This will diversify fishing opportunities for locals and visiting fishers alike. FADs will provide fishers an opportunity to catch fast growing, highly migratory pelagic species.

Designed to aggregate fish such as Mahi Mahi, Tuna and Billfish, the regional FAD project will see the first FAD installed in 2018. FADs have been used successfully throughout Australia, including off the coast of Perth, where the Perth Game Fishing Club deploys FADs in November each year.

These are accessed regularly by metropolitan fishers and provide high quality fishing for Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Wahoo and Marlin.

Some of these FAD’s will be in reach for regular trailer boat fishers with boats of less than 5m to enable them the opportunity to catch highly sought after sportfish.

Recfishwest looks forward to implementing this program and will keep subscribers up to date with progress reported through our Broad Cast and social media platforms.

This project was made possible by the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund.

Recfishwest Fishing Development Officer Matt Gillett with a dolphinfish caught off Jurien Bay.

Fishers Want Better Habitat & Better Fishing

What’s your best session fishing for black bream? Can you imagine a session catching over 100 fish, where the bream averaged over 1 kg each…with some up to 2 kg’s?

Local fishers from Albany and surrounds wanting to learn more about why fishing has changed in the area and what can be done to bring back the glory days came down to the Fishers for Fish Habitat Forum held in Albany earlier this month. The forum, which was run by a partnership between Ozfish Unlimited and Recfishwest, provided a unique opportunity for fishers and habitat experts to come together and combine their knowledge to try and work out the key drivers for changes in the quality of local fishing and what could be done to bring back lost fish habitat and better fishing.

The knowledge local fishers have about changes in the quality of fishing in the area provided a rare insight into how big an impact changes in fish habitat have actually had on fishing. An important part of discussions was led by Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan who talked with local veteran Jim Allan and bream young gun Callum Dowell on their perspectives on changes in the area. Both Jim and Callum had noticed significant changes in the quality of fishing and fish habitat over the years. Jim told tales about some epic bream fishing that used to be available around Albany in years gone by including bream that averaged over 1 kg each, with some pushing 2 kg’s while Callum said at its best it wasn’t unusual to catch over 100 fish in a session! Jim suggested that in terms of habitat loss, one of the key changes that had led to a reduction in the quality of fishing was the huge loss of seagrass in Oyster Harbour, while decreases in rainfall were also hurting the system. Callum had noticed similar changes and noted that on some of the flats he fished the sand had changed over the years from being hard and course to soft mud.

It was amazing to see how close the changes seen by fishers matched with what had been seen by the habitat experts, who further discussed how these changes fit in with the changes in fish habitat. Local seagrass expert, Geoff Bastyan, reinforced the changes seen by Jim to seagrass in the harbour and showed how with the right support, it was possible to bring back much of this lost habitat. There was also some great discussion about the import role bringing back oyster reefs will have on the harbour with Black Bream, Skippy and Yakka’s already seen investigating the developing reefs.

Karen McKeogh from the Department of Water also led a great discussion about how modifications to the Torbay lakes meant that a highly productive system went from producing Murray Cod up to 1.3m to now having health warnings. This forum highlighted the importance of sharing the knowledge fishers have about the changes they have seen in their local systems and their eagerness to bring back some of the lost crucial fish habitat, and better fishing. If you know a fish habitat in your local waterway that needs to be restored, talk to locals in your community and get in contact with the Recfishwest Habitat Officer Michael Tropiano to see what can be done in to bring back fish habitat and better fishing.

Everyone at the forum was hugely appreciative of the members of the Albany Boating and Offshore Fishing Club for hosting the event and all their assistance in running the forum and for support for the event from The Nature Conservancy and the Fisheries Research and Development Commission.