Fishing frenzy as run begins along coast

Headshot of Shannon Smith
Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
Scott Coghlan
Camera IconScott Coghlan

An adrenaline-fuelled fishing frenzy is coming soon to a beach near you as schools of salmon start running along the Albany coast.

The fish can weigh up to 10kg and they bring thousands of recreational fishers to the coast in the hopes of casting their line into a school.

The salmon pass the Albany region on a seasonal run from the Great Australian Bight each year and while the peak of the salmon season is yet to hit, punters are being told to ready their rods, with schools starting to appear.

Albany fishing guru Scott Coghlansaid what got people so excited was coming across the massive congregations of fish.

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“For some people it’s the first big fish they’ll ever catch — or the last big fish they’ll ever catch,” he said.

“They’re accessible, they’re within reach and I think that’s why people get so excited.

“I’ve seen (a school) happen in the town marina.

“There were people catching them on handlines. There were people racing up to Jim’s tackle shop to get some gear in the water. Anyone can catch them, pretty much — you just have to have that bit of luck and be where they are at the right time and you have a good chance.”

A school of salmon at Cheyne Beach at the weekend.
Camera IconA school of salmon at Cheyne Beach at the weekend. Credit: Theo van Niekerk.

The season is a boon to the local tourism industry.

Recfishwest has teamed up with the Cheynes Beach Caravan Park and Mr Coghlan’s Western Angler magazine to host The Great Southern Salmon Campout on the last weekend in March.

Events like that, alongside buzzing tackle shops, are some of the benefits the salmon bring with them when they head west.

“At Cheynes, the fish have chased herring up onto the beach and people could basically grab the salmon with bare hands,” Mr Coghlan, who also writes a weekly fishing column in the Sunday Times, said.

“I think on the south coast there’s a lot of unrealised tourism potential as well. We know about it here but I think there’s a lot of untapped potential.

“These days people travel from across the world for great fishing.

“Here we have a 6-8kg fish within 10m offshore in big schools and they’re a lot of fun.”

Commercial bait fisherman Tony Westerberg said the season was cranking up and he could have caught up to 20 to 30 tonnes of Salmon off Cheynes on Saturday.

Albany Rods and Tackle’s Jim Allen said people needed to remember a lot of the hotspots around Albany were not two-wheel-drive friendly. He said anyone was welcome to come to his shop for a map and information on the 4WD tracks.

“Some of the 4WD tracks are very soft and not very assessable if they are not an experienced 4WD driver,” he said.

“These beaches get so chewed up by vehicles during the season, people need to be prepared and not wreck the beach for everyone else by getting bogged,” he said.

“You just don’t know where they are going to be, though. They could turn up anywhere and you never know until the season starts.” The frenzy has spread to Facebook, where the page Salmon School Tracker 2019 and its 35,000 followers are ready to share where the fish are biting along the WA coast.

The salmon typically run along the south coast in March and April.

The best salmon spots along the Albany coast.
Camera IconThe best salmon spots along the Albany coast. Credit: Recfishwest.

Tips from Scott Coghlan

Don’t give up. “The nature of salmon is that they’re constantly moving, so just because you hear there are heaps of salmon at Sandpatch one day, it doesn’t mean they’re going to be there the next day. It’s boom or bust.”

You don’t need expensive gear. “A nine or 10-foot casting rod, 15-20lb line and fresh mulies for bait, or lures of almost any sort. If they’re moving in a big school you could pretty much throw a Barbie doll at them and you’ll catch one. Those big schools can come up to 5m within the beach.”

Bleed the fish for good eating. “They have a bit of a bad reputation but I think they’re better eating than people say. Just make sure you knock it on the head straight away, bleed it and get it on ice.”

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