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Australian Salmon are one of the Holy Trinity fish species, along with Barramundi and Mulloway, which makes them a highly prized target. Broad shouldered, chunky, powerful torpedo shaped fish – one of the best sporting fish within reach of the typical amateur land based fisherman. Their mysterious and unpredictable seasonal migration and schooling behavior makes them an elusive target, further adding to the challenge of catching one of these sought after fish. For the land based angler there are basically two ways to catch Australian Salmon. The first is no different to traditional fishing – hang your bait out in the water with a traditional surf rig and wait for a fish to strike. This is great if there’s no visible salmon schools. The other is to actively chase down schools and throw your lure into the school. This article focuses on the second method. Most information I’ve come across address items like what sort of tackle, what sort of rig, what sort of lure, what time of day, what tide, what is the best spot, etc etc. The one thing that always seems to be missing is the most important – finding a school. Find a school within casting range and you’ve got a very good chance of landing a salmon. Throw a lure into the school and it’s highly likely you’ll get a hook up.
Salmon schools change direction, seaweed or reefs are fixed or drifting in one direction. This sounds like a failsafe method to ID a school, but when you are moving around on the shore and the waves are crashing in and there are no other fixed items to gauge movement, it can be difficult to distinguish a true change in direction. I’ve sworn on a direction change only to reel in a huge clump of seaweed. Looking into a wave face gives you a window to view into the water. It will give you your best chance to view colour and colour uniformity. Sometimes, if the school is close enough, you will actually see fish shapes. Short of that, you may see the blotchy texturing that a collection of distant fish shapes appear as. Without a wave you are looking through the flat surface of the water which has lots of glare and provides no depth to your view. You see only a uniform flat looking colour patch. Waves are the answer.Overcast conditions make it difficult for salmon spotting. Same too for choppy conditions. They both make it difficult to see into the water. In fact that is the reason why I could not see the school even when being pointed to it by the fellow salmon fisherman in the anecdote above. It was an overcast day which made it too difficult for a beginner salmon spotter.
That covers finding schools. What about the rest? Schooling of Australian Salmon is seasonal so you need to try at the right time of the year. They school around Autumn, but there is plenty of variation in the timing and speed of their advance up the coast. All that can be said for certain is that during Autumn there will be schools of salmon distributed somewhere along the south coast of Australia. Keep an eye on fishing reports and feedback from other anglers to give you an idea as to where the schools are at. Salmon prefer surf beaches – you are less likely to find them in sheltered bays. What about tackle, moon, tides, time of day, type of lure, retrieval technique, etc? It doesn’t matter much. The main thing to consider is casting distance. Often you find a school that is just out of reach. To maximize casting distance you want to use the longest rod you can find, and with oversized guides which reduce friction as the line spools off the reel.
You want the minimum line weight you can get away with, you want your reel to be filled to capacity with line to minimize the amount of lip that the line has to step over. You want to use large solid metal lures like a large twisty or slicer which provide greatest weight for least air resistance.