ID – Forked caudal fin, deep nostril grove forward of eyes. Brown colour to the top of the body with deep red flanks, yellow colouration of the eye.
One of the toughest fish on the reef, red bass are a striking looking species and a powerful predator.
Growing to 90cm and around 15 kilos while boasting a serious set of fangs, they are generally found around structure in shallow water, although they are known to travel in depths of over 100m.
They look a lot like mangrove jack and have inherited the same aggressive predatory smash-and-grab characteristics, often charging well up from the bottom to annihilate lures before trying to storm back to structure as quickly as they can.
All my encounters with red bass have been while chasing giant trevally along fringing reefs, and they are a regular bycatch when fishing this way. They are usually found around inshore or offshore coral reefs, with locations like Ningaloo, Monte Bellos and Rowley Shoals known for them.
They are usually distributed from Carnarvon up further north. While they don’t have the power and size of a big GT, they are a strong fish in their own right and put up a great fight on suitable tackle.
They are happy to come to the surface to hit a popper or stickbait, usually accompanied with a vivid red flash that leaves little doubt as the identity of the fish trying to bullock straight back to the bottom. They will also take trolled lures and jigs and are believed to be very active at night. Because they fight ‘dirty,’ strong tackle is needed to catch red bass, with most taken on GT-type spinning gear.
On a recent trip to the Rowley Shoals we were constantly entertained by them while on the mooring inside the lagoon. Groups of big bass would hang around the boat looking for food scraps, especially at night when small baitfish were attracted to the lights. Every now and then there would be a massive splash as a bass took out an unfortunate baitfish on the edge of the light.
They are certainly a prolific species around the Rowley’s and the lagoon had loads of them. I’ve caught them along the Ningaloo Reef, where a mate Glenn Edwards actually got one on fly. I’ve also caught them in Vanuatu and Fiji.
They are good eating by all reports, but in other parts of the world such as the Pacific nations they are not considered an eating fish due to the danger of ciguatera poisoning. However, this is not believed to be an issue in WA.
ID: Elongated body with brown/golden spots. Pointed head.
Bludger trevally aren’t something you generally expect to catch. They are more an occasional capture bobbing up while chasing other species.
However, when they do show up they usually are like the most out-of-control party gate crashers – bringing a heap of enthusiastic friends and causing chaos!
Bludgers often show up in huge schools. I remember veteran Pilbara fisherman Darry Hitchen telling me once that bludgers were the only fish he had seen that would create such water movement the water level seemed to rise around them.
I actually did experience this phenomena at the Mackerel Islands not long after he told me the story. Michael Sammut, Steve Hart and I were at Penguin Bank and it was going off, with surface explosions everywhere. The sharks were bad though, so we decided to take the hooks off poppers and get some video and photos of surface hits. We had been doing this for a while when all of the sudden a huge school of bludgers showed up behind the boat. They just followed us for about 30 minutes and every lure we cast saw dozens of them chasing it down. We got some spectacular footage and shots of the horde and it was great fun as they followed lures right to the rod tip time and again. I could see exactly what Darryl meant, with the pack of fish chasing the lure each time actually pushing up the water above their backs.
It was incredible to witness. Bludgers are easily mistaken for goldspot trevally, especially with their spots on the flanks, but they have a more elongated body and more pointed nose. Their eye is also closer to the level of their mouth. They are more streamlined than most of their trevally cousins, so don’t have quite the pulling power of the other species, but are certainly a willing lure and bait taker and can be a lot of fun to catch.
We have caught most of ours on stickbaits in the 8-14cm range, but they are also quite partial to metal jigs in slightly deeper water. Most of the bludgers I have caught have been relatively small, in the 2-3kg range, but they do grow to almost a metre in length and 11 kilos.
They are largely an inshore species found near structures such as reefs and island, where they hunt fish, prawns and crabs, and we’ve encountered them generally in water from a couple of metres to around 30m. Bludgers are usually found from Shark Bay north.
ID–Blue fins, blue and black speckles on top half.
As someone who is extremely partial to catching various species of trevally, more for the sport they provide than what they offer on the table, I have a real soft spot for bluefin trevally.
Of the many trevally I encounter while casting lures around WA, bluefin are probably the one I have caught the least, but their stunning electric blue colourations means each one is a fantastic angling experience.
I guess it shows how shallow I am that looks are so important! Although bluefin have been reported south of Perth, they are usually found from Shark Bay north and are much more of a tropical fish. They generally grow to around a metre, although most that are caught in my experience at least, are much smaller than that.
I was lucky enough to catch a big bluefin trevally towards the upper end of their size range at the Rowley Shoals a couple of years ago. We were casting stick baits at a reef edge when I hooked up in a couple of metres of water. I really wasn’t expecting a big bluefin and was absolutely stoked when the unmistakable iridescent blue colours revealed themselves near the boat. The fish hit a Halco Slidog stickbait.
As far as the fight went, it certainly was every bit as strong as its various cousins. Another memorable bluefin capture for me was a 3-4kg fish at Kiritimati in the remote Pacific. I was using light gear and one of my favoured Rolling Baits to catch bonefish, when I hooked up to something much stronger. It was a real battle to subdue the bluefin on that tackle in shallow water. I had to set off after it on foot on several occasions as it simply wouldn’t give in.
Most of the times I have encountered bluefin they are in small groups that can prove frustratingly hard to catch, often buzzing around lures and catching the eye with their lit-up colouration, but failing to hook up. They seem more than willing to chase most lures and flies, it seems to be more about finding them, and then enticing them to commit to the strike.
I’ve never targeted them specifically, they have just been a bycatch when they are encountered, which is usually while casting lures in the shallows. This is because bluefin trevally are largely an inshore fish, found around coral reefs and islands. Bluefin are regarded as reasonable eating, but I’d find it hard to keep one of these great looking trevs.
Permit, aka snub-nosed dart, are sort of on my bucket list, but at the same time aren’t really. Confused? Try being me! We have two species of permit in WA, writes Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan, and they are generally found from Coral Bay north in inshore waters.
Species: Permit, Trachinotus blochii/Trachinotus anak
Eating: 3 stars
ID: Round head, forked tail, yellowish tinge on fins.
A renowned sportfish worldwide, they are not a fish I have ever sought out to catch specifically, although many anglers, especially fly fishers, are obsessed with them.
I don’t usually think about catching them until I see one and I then think it would be cool to cross them off my list.
However, by that time it’s usually way too late as you need to be on the ball to successfully catch permit, well so it appears anyway.
Most of the permit I have seen have been around Exmouth, in fact last year I spotted quite a few around Wilderness Island.
They weren’t feeding at the time, but rather just riding the current out of one creek system.
I also remember seeing huge numbers of permit in one creek on the east side of Exmouth Gulf years ago.
I thought they were golden trevally at first and wondered why they wouldn’t look at my lures, but eventually it dawned on me that this creek was full of permit.
I sometimes wonder about fishing there for them one day but it hasn’t happened yet.
I have been told an outgoing tide Exmouth is a prime spot for permit fishing and they can be caught in the gulf and along the west coast. However, it is the former location that seems to be best for them and there are several sportfishing guides who can expertly put their clients onto permit.
They are able to spot permit on the shallow flats of the gulf to enable their clients to cast to them.
Broome is another spot that is noted for them, and I can recall watching a great video called, from memory, Heads and Tails, which showed shore anglers chasing big schools of them from the beach just north of Broome.
There is also an amazing little fishery near the jetty, where permit will take flies off the surface in summer.
When small crabs are being pulled out of Dampier Creek, the permit will rise to the surface to grab them and a floating crab fly can be used, although I am told this fishery is not as good as it once was.
I have seen permit in other locations around WA, including at the Rowley Shoals and the Cocos Islands, but certainly Broome and Exmouth would be two of the better locations to try if you were dead keen on catching one, with Port Hedland also popular with some anglers.
They are also found in decent numbers around Dampier. Tide is not important for permit as they will move in and out with the current, but the key is to find where they are at any point in time.
Fly fishing is by far the most popular way to target them with an eight-weight outfit ideal.
The lightest leader possible is recommended, and the smaller the fly the better when casting at fish.
Casting accuracy that will enable you to present the fly to the feeding fish is a great advantage.
Permit are usually eating molluscs such as mussels and cockles and offer great sight fishing opportunities, but matching the hatch is usually important.
However, they are also opportunistic feeders and crab flies are a very popular option.
Small soft plastics will work on them, as will Cranka Crabs with upgraded trebles, and you could also try one of the new mussel lures that are taking the bream world by storm!
Permit caught in WA are generally in the 5-7kg range and anything bigger than that is a very worthy capture indeed.
I have never really caught the marlin bug, but I do have an undoubted soft spot for sailfish as the billfish of the people, writes Western Angler’s Scott Coghlan in this week’s Scott’s Species.
Fish: Sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus
Eating: Three stars
ID: Long bill and large fan-like dorsal fin that looks like a sail. Blue colouration on body gives way to white underneath, with vertical blue stripes.
Considered to be possibly the fastest fish in the ocean, sailfish were believed to be capable of speeds to more than 100km/h.
However, recent studies found they were more likely to hit top speeds of around 60km/h.
Easily identified by their huge dorsal fin, they are just that little bit more accessible to the average angler than marlin as they quite often show up in shallow inshore waters, even though they do swim down to depths of around 350m.
Removing sailfish from the water for photos can cause damage to their organs and skeletal structure, use a ‘selfie stick’ for great photos, while keeping the fish in the water and minimizing the stress on the fish.
I have a fond recollection of catching my first sailie off Ningaloo while at anchor.
I had put a floating bait out and called it for a shark when line started peeling off the reel, only to watch a sailfish launch out behind the boat.
It almost spooled me but we were able to get it to the boat and I was able to tick off another angling first.
From memory we were only fishing in around 45m of water, but it is not uncommon for sails to venture in close to shore.
I have even caught one from the rocks near Steep Point while spinning for Spanish mackerel.
I had cast out a 100g metal and it was hit on the drop. When I saw the fish jump well out from the rocks I thought it was a Spaniard with a shark on its tail.
It was only when it kept jumping in that greyhounding fashion across the surface typical of sails that I realised what it was.
It took me to my last few metres of line but I was able to eventually bring it to the rocks, where I snapped the line to allow it to swim off.
I couldn’t bring myself to drop down the flying gaff, even though they are certainly edible.
I have caught a few sails, but never really targeted them and they’ve usually been an incidental capture.
We’ve often encountered them after seeing them greyhounding at the Mackerel Islands, usually in 15m or so of water.
I’ve also had them pop up next to the boat and we got a big one when that happened off Tantabiddi just as we were about to head in.
A bluewater roamer by nature, sailfish mainly feed on small baitfish and squid, and are often caught while trolling for marlin as they will take the same skirts being towed in the blue water.
However, sailfish will often show up in packs and that can make for some very exciting action as multiple fish are hooked.
Many sails are caught the same way as my first, on unweighted baits and I’ve hooked a few trolling surface lures such as stickbaits or poppers, which seem to excite them.
They are also often hooked on trolled bibbed minnows meant for other species like mackerel.
While sails are usually caught from Shark Bay north, there are definite hot spots for them.
Good numbers of sails are caught off Tantabiddi and Exmouth also has unique run of fish in the Gulf late each year.
The sails follow bait into the Gulf and offer great sportfishing action, as anglers look for working birds that indicate sails are onto some bait.
It can be mayhem when the fish are found!
Karratha also boats an excellent sailfish fishery out around where the ships anchor, while Broome is famous for its annual run of sails, where they turn up in huge numbers although they aren’t generally big fish.
This fishery is celebrated by the Broome Fishing Club’s annual Broome Billfish Classic.
As mentioned earlier, we often see sails around the Mackerel Islands.
The most memorable sailfish capture I can remember at the Mackies was by former Australian cricketing legend, Merv Hughes, who cast a Halco Roosta popper into a school of working tuna and somehow hooked a sail!
He was very happy with himself then, and still is now.
Because they are very mobile, finding them can be tricky but working current lines in the blue water would be a good start, and they’ll often be found around bait.
Watch for them free jumping, or sometimes you will see them cruising with just their large ‘sail’ showing above the surface.
Casting at cruising sailfish is a very exciting angling experience, especially when they zero in on your offering.
Indeed, there is much to love about sails from my perspective.
They often show up when least expected, are a lot more manageable on traditional tackle than their bigger billfish cousins, are capable of thrilling aerobatics and boast an almost unmatched burst of speed, making them an ideal sportfishing opponent with a side helping of the spectacular.
In this week’s Scott’s Species, Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan turns his attention to one of the most eye-catching fish off the WA coast — harlequin fish.
Species: Harlequin fish, Othos dentex
Eating: 4 stars
ID: Red or orange colouration, with yellow and blue spots.
One of the most striking fish in WA waters, many people joke harlies are the coral trout of the south because of their amazing colouration.
They have blue, yellow, red-orange and brown colours and can’t be mistaken for any other fish in the areas they are found.
They also have some serious teeth, indicating the sort of serious predator they are.
Harlies are normally caught by boat fishers, but are also caught from the rocks along the south coast.
They are found as far north as Jurien Bay and are regularly caught in Perth waters, but are very much a south coast staple, where they are a common offshore catch off Augusta, Albany and Esperance.
However, I caught my first one along the Five Fathom Bank as a youngster and remember wondering what this amazingly colourful fish was.
Although harlequin fish can grow to almost 5kg, most caught will be 2kg to 3kg.
Harlies are hard to target specifically and are usually an opportunistic catch as they don’t tend to venture far from their underwater lairs, but are caught with all the usual techniques employed by fishers chasing demersals and fishing the bottom.
Usually found around reefy areas or broken ground, they are best caught in depths from 10m to 50m.
They are happy to take jigs and baits of all the usual varieties including squid, fish pieces/fillets or mulies.
In recent years most of the ones I have caught have been on jigs in shallowish water.
Large soft plastics of 10cm to 15cm in length are also very effective on harlies.
Simple paternoster rigs with appropriate weight for the area being fished are all that is needed when bait fishing.
They have a large mouth and big hooks work well on them.
Harlies are aggressive hunters but aren’t particularly strong fighters. There is a bag limit of two fish on the west coast, and three on the south coast.
Really, if there is a species I probably shouldn’t write about, it would be wahoo, writes Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan in this week’s edition of Scott’s Species! For many years I failed to catch even one of these magnificent looking ocean speedsters.
Species: Wahoo, Acanthocybium solandri
Eating: 4 stars
ID: Similar to a Spanish mackerel, but more elongated body with silver bottom half and dark blue across back, with light blue vertical stripes down side. Sharp, pointed jaw with many small teeth.
It became known as my fishing curse (that and bad weather). I hooked a few though, but it always ended in tears.
I even hooked a good one on an unweighted chunk of fresh fish on a single hook at the Mackerel Islands and played it right to the boat with only mono leader, only for the hook to pop out just a few metres shy of success.
I hooked another one at the Mackies while casting a metal, and it ran under a nearby boat and cut my line on the hull.
I was starting to think I’d never catch one. But then the venerable Craig White of Evolution Charters put me onto one during GAMEX a few years ago.
He saw the wahoo hit the skirted lure meant for a marlin and demanded I take the rod.
It wasn’t really a true capture in my eyes, but I appreciated the thought and Whitey reckoned it was pretty funny!
Since then I have actually managed to catch a handful of wahoo, but haven’t ever had one of those hot sessions they can be known for.
Nonetheless, I will try to shed some light on one of the fastest and tastiest fish in the ocean, which grow rapidly and usually live less than a decade.
A bluewater species mainly, usually found in depths of 100m-plus, wahoo do come in closer and we have encountered them in around 10m of water at the Mackerel Islands.
They are generally a pelagic roamer, but there are spots that do seem to hold numbers of them consistently, such as certain locations off the west coast of the Carnarvon islands.
The waters off Ningaloo are renowned for producing wahoo, as are the Rowley Shoals, Cocos Islands and Christmas Island.
They turn up off Rottnest Island each summer, often around FADs deployed as part of the State-wide FADs program, and have occasionally been known to roam as far as the south coast, but are generally found from the Abrolhos Islands north.
The biggest wahoo I’ve seen was caught at Wreck Point at the Abrolhos, by a bloke who’d only ever caught a trout before and dragged it in backwards.
Most wahoo caught will be between 10kg to 20kg kilos, but bigger ones are taken in WA waters.
As a bluewater species, they are mainly caught by offshore anglers, but the odd one has been caught from shore at locations like Steep Point and Quobba.
Trolling in deep water is definitely the best approach for wahoo and they are happy to hit skirted or minnow lures.
Because they are so fast, capable of speeds of up to 80km/h, lures that can be trolled at a good pace, such as skirts or Halco Maxs, work well, with speeds of up to 18 knots working on wahoo.
Lures than can maintain some depth are usually most effective, with some people using troll weights to keep their lures down. Having said that, I have hooked them on trolled surface lures as well.
If wahoo are around or the target, then some single strand wire is recommended to prevent bite-offs. They can also make a mess of skirts.
Finding wahoo can be tricky and they are often just where you find them, However, working current lines or steep drop-offs in deep water would be good start.
Concentrations of bait should be investigated and finding numbers of wahoo offers the option of lure casting for them.
Aside from that first wahoo with Whitey, all the ones I have caught have been on spin gear and wahoo are great fun that way, as they have blistering runs that makes the line rip through the water and they fight clean. Many are caught on heavier gear suited for marlin, which blunts their sporting capabilities significantly.
ID: Colour can vary from brown to translucent. Diamond-shaped wings along length of tube.
Squid fishing has grown massively in the past decade and the accessibility of southern calamari has been a big part of the egi (as squidding is called in Japan) revolution in WA, as they can be caught from shore and boat, and taste incredible!
Our southern squid might only live for around 18 months, but they are prolific spawners and there are no stock concerns — indeed a study around a decade ago predicted the global biomass of squid would overtake that of humans before too long.
The biggest southern calamari will have hoods around 40cm long, but most caught will be a fair bit smaller than that.
These squid are found as far north at Exmouth, but are most prolific in the southern half of WA.
Squid are opportunistic predators who will eat crustaceans and fish and can easily be targeted by line anglers in likely locations.
These are usually found around broken bottom and weed beds (particularly ribbon weed) in less than 10m of water, although they will also move into the shallows along sandy beaches at times.
Some anglers like to target them in 10m to 20m and they will show up in much deeper water as a bycatch.
Squid are found in inshore waters and some of the more reliable locations include Geographe Bay, especially in the portion of the bay off Busselton, Cockburn Sound and King George Sound.
Drifting around the sort of locations mentioned earlier is a good way to find squid, which will often be encountered in small groups.
It’s not unusual to have two or three lines go off at once, and then have other squid follow in their hooked mates.
The gear used doesn’t have to be expensive and I’ve caught many squid on handlines, as well as rods.
Simply drifting with the jigs out is usually effective when fishing from a boat, but sometimes casting and using an exaggerated lift and drop, a Japanese technique, can be deadly.
The key to jigs is to get them close to the bottom, where the squid will usually be holding.
While boat fishing is most productive, squid fishing from shore can be great too.
Busselton Jetty is a renowned squid spot and both the Fremantle moles can produce, along with other metro rockwalls.
I have caught heaps from shore at Rottnest Island and in Princess Royal Harbour in Albany. They are also caught from the rocks around King George Sound in Albany.
While squid can be caught all day, when shore fishing I have done best late afternoon as the light begins to fade and they start hunting more actively in the shallows.
If you can find a spot with a bright light, such as a jetty, then you’re in business after dark. Squid love to hunt under these sorts of artificial lights.
Back when I was a kid cutting my teeth on squid fishing, it was baits such as whole herring threaded on a pencil jig and suspended under a blob.
There were small oval-shaped squid jigs as well. These methods still work, but the influence of Japanese methods on WA fishing since the mid-80s has been huge.
The arrival of Yo-Zuri prawn-style jigs revolutionised local squidding and they are now easily the most popular way of catching them.
There is a mind-boggling array of different jigs now available, with many popular brands featuring a bewildering range of colour and size combinations. Some have rattles built into them.
My favourite jig in recent years has been the Shimano Sephia Egixile in white with a rattle.
But the success of various colours can vary from day to day and it pays to have a range to choose from, and rotate through them until you hit the spot for their mood on that day.
A clip will allow you to change lures quickly and easily and won’t deter squid.
There are jigs to suit all budgets and all will catch squid, although the most popular brands are usually more reliable over the long run.
Squid sinkers are a useful piece of tackle to have, as they enable you to get lures down even on windy days.
These days there is also a wide range of specialised tackle such as egi rods, with soft tips to avoid pulling the jig out when the squid propels itself away.
Indeed, it is a very wise idea to go a bit gentle on hooked squid otherwise you will lose them quite regularly.
A simple spin outfit, with 4kg-5kg line and slightly heavier fluorocarbon leader, is all that is needed for squid, with a longer rod around 2.7m helping with casting, especially for shore anglers.
There are even squid gaffs on the market.
When it comes to cleaning squid, if you are fishing from a boat the best method is to remove the heads and innards, and cut open the end of the tubes, and tow them behind the boat for a few minutes in a scaler bag.
This avoids much of the mess that can go with cleaning squid.
Wearing some horrible, smelly, black squid ink is just part of the squid fishing experience, so don’t wear your best clothes if you’re planning on chasing southern calamari!
It’s funny when it happens to someone else though! But even if you do cop a jet of ink, don’t get too upset, as you can nevertheless look forward to one of the best seafood meals on the planet.
In recent years, writes Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan, there has been a massive surge in interest in yellowfin whiting fishing in the bottom half of WA.
Species: Yellowfin whiting, Sillago schombergkii
Eating: 4 stars
There have always been people who like catching these chunky whiting, but the development of lure fishing for them, and particularly with surface lures, has seen an incredible boost in popularity over the last decade.
More and more anglers have discovered the joys of wading the shallows casting tiny lures for what are a surprisingly aggressive fish, and which show up in big numbers in many locations over the warmer months as they prepare to spawn.
The epicentre of this rise in popularity has been the Peel-Harvey Estuary, which is home to a big population of yellowfin that become very active in summer.
Metro fishers have become very partial to a quick run down the freeway to fish the Peel-Harvey once the annual run starts.
I can recall seeing these whiting when fishing the estuary many years ago, and wondering how they might be caught given the fact that blowies quickly pounced on any baits thrown in the water.
Yunderup local Steve Anderson was one of the first to crack the code, having picked up on a similar fishery over east that had been around for a few years.
Mark Davis also wrote a timely article on surface fishing for yellowfin in the Swan River that inspired many anglers to give this style of fishing a try.
Fishing for yellowfin is great fun and they are a strong fish for their size, growing to around 43cm.
Most yellowfin caught will be 25cm to 30cm, and any fish of 35cm and above is worth bragging about.
Some anglers call them mini-bonefish and it is easy to understand why given they are usually caught in very skinny water and are, like bonefish, ghosts of the flats.
Sometimes they can be easily spotted when conditions are perfect as they mooch across the flats, perhaps little flashes of silver giving them away, but if the water is a bit dirty or the surface is ruffled they can prove impossible to see.
Often you won’t know they are there until you see them chasing the lure in a frenzied pack.
For an apparent bottom feeder, with a mouth designed to do that, it has turned out yellowfin are very partial to a lure being skipped along the surface.
They will indeed chase down lures in packs, hitting with gusto.
An erratic retrieve is good but unlike bream long pauses are not needed as yellowfin actually respond better to a constantly moving target. It is quite clear they think the lure is a fleeing prawn, which is part of their diet.
Small surface poppers from 5cm to 8cm long work very well on them at times, as do floating and sinking stickbaits.
Poppers offer the most visual, and fun, way of catching them.
However, if they are wary of hitting surface lures, then a sinking stickbait or small bibbed minnow might work. Lures that imitate a prawn are a great option.
Soft plastics such as Z-Man Grubz on light jigheads will work, as will the range of scented soft plastic worms.
Vibes have also proven to be very successful on yellowfin.
In areas where blowies aren’t an issue, small pieces of coral prawn, squid or bloodworms are an effective bait, and can be used on a basic running sinker rig with around 30cm of light leader and a long shank hook.
Whiting love shallow water, so the bottom half of a rising tide can be very effective in the South West, as they start exploring the flats as the water level creeps up.
Hot weather is important as they become more active in warm water, so a nice sunny day is normally ideal and fishing during the heat of the day is fine.
Interestingly, when we’ve chased yellowfin farther north, such as Shark Bay and Exmouth Gulf, we’ve found the opposite for tides.
Found as far north as Onslow, the northern yellowfin turn up in huge numbers in the shallows as the tide drops right out.
I assume this is because they can feed without having to worry about larger predators, which can’t access the rapidly shallowing water.
I am never quite sure if the northern whiting we catch are yellowfin or actually gold-lined and the exact species seems to be a matter of some conjecture, but both species are almost identical anyway.
While calm conditions are great for spotting whiting, they can also make them very spooky, and a little breeze will probably produce better fishing.
When it comes to gear required for yellowfin, a light spin rod around 2m long rated at 2kg-3kg and matching small reel spooled with braid (use light leader) or fluorocarbon is all that is needed and will maximise the fun they provide.
Whiting hit hard and fight well, but they are generally hooked in clear water and aren’t going to pose too many problems on even the lightest gear.
Most keen whiting anglers replace the trebles on their lures with a single set assist hooks, believing that this maximises hookups, and I have found yellowfin are quite adept at throwing trebles.
Many anglers like to keep a feed of yellowfin, as they taste great.
It is great idea to have a floating basket you can tow behind you while wading, into which you can put fish (and maybe even blue swimmer crabs) as you catch them, keeping them alive until you are finished.
You might then just choose to keep the biggest fish and release the others.
Because they live in the shallows, yellowfin whiting are one of our most accessible recreational fishing species.
They are fun to catch, taste great and inspire us to wade some magical locations while enjoying the summer sunshine. No wonder so many people love to chase them nowadays!
‘Tis the season to be jolly… especially if you live in the metro area and love catching a feed of crabs, writes Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan in this week’s edition of Scott’s Species.
Eating: 5 stars
The start of December marked the opening of the new crab season for Perth through to near Bunbury, under rules brought in a couple of years ago to improve the quality of this crucial recreational fishery.
Catching blue swimmers, also known as blue mannas, is an iconic WA fishing pastime beloved by West Australians for many years.
Indeed, it is one of the most popular fisheries in WA these days in terms of participation, with blue swimmers found along almost the entire WA coastline, with Shark Bay and Geographe Bay also popular locations for catching them.
But when it comes to catching crabs there are plenty of people who reckon the Swan River blueys are definitely the cream of the crop.
While the Peel-Harvey Estuary has been the biggest WA blue swimmer fishery for decades, metro crabbers reckon the Swan specimens put others to shame, both with size and eating quality.
There are two main ways to catch crabs for recreational fishers, crab nets and scoops.
For many people nets are the way to go for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is ease of use.
They bring the crabs to you, just bait the nets with a suitable bait (fish heads, lamb necks) and check them every so often, which is great for fishing off a jetty or from a boat.
It also means you can chase them in deeper water, which can often be important to success.
And it makes for a fun day, checking the nets regularly while enjoying your time on the water and experiencing the anticipation of each pull and seeing if any crabs materialise as the net nears the surface. Kids love to watch the net come up.
It’s very effective and probably the main way of catching blue swimmers for most people, especially in the Swan.
The other method is using a crab scoop while wading the shallows.
There are spots in the Swan where this can be done, while Mandurah is ideal for it.
There are other estuaries where we’ve done it in the South West. Personally, I love this hunting way of catching them.
A nice still warm night wading the shallows with a bright headlamp is a fantastic way catch a feed.
You also see all the other life in the night shallows, such as bream, whiting, blowies, cobbler, prawns and stingrays.
Obviously you need shallow water and clear conditions for scooping, and it can certainly also be done during the day, but it is easier to spot them at night with a bright light, plus there are often more crabs in the shallows after dark.
Spotting a crab is not always easy, but it’s very satisfying when you see one and sneak up on it with a scoop.
Sometimes they see you coming and get moving, making for fun as you try to chase them with the scoop.
If you stir up the bottom it can become impossible to see them, and then you might get a nasty shock if one bites back with those sharp claws!
For that reason it pays to have some sort of footwear as protection from crabs, and other sharp objects.
While many crabs will be easily spotted sitting over the sand, sometimes they are well concealed and many anglers have been surprised by an angry bluey while walking a sand flat in South West estuaries.
If wading the flats you also need something like a floating basket to put the crabs in, so you don’t need to return to shore each time you catch one.
Don’t forget the measuring gauge, so you can check they are all legal size.
Crabs are fast maturing, and for that reason they will get bigger in average size as the season progresses.
Catching them is a lot of fun and I don’t need to tell anyone about the eating qualities of blue swimmers, no matter which way you cook them they taste absolutely fantastic!