|article: port augusta kingfish by geoff wilson
Dated: 8 March, 2009
Considering serious anglers need to plan their fishing calendar well ahead, I offer this information to those addressing their fishing commitments for Winter. The events described took place at the end of the first week in August 2008
|Bill with our first kingfish on the Thursday morning.|
I’d passed through Port Augusta a time or two when travelling to the west of South Australia but had never fished there.
I knew of kingfish being caught around the power station in winter so when Mick Kollaris and Bill Athanasslies of “Live Now ! Fish to the Max” suggested we go there and do some filming, I said count me in.
Naturally we sought advice from some of the South Oz guys whom we’d known to have fished there. They included Matt Halls who sent us a Google Earth photo with all of the relevant locations marked, Steve Morris of Top Shot Tackle who has caught some purlers there, and Shane Mensforth who has taken some beauties here as well.
Steve suggested that going during the larger tidal range following the dark of the moon would be the best shot, so that is when we went, and the tides at Port Augusta are very impressive with a range exceeding three metres.
It was unseasonably cold, even for August, and – although we knew what to do, as far as catching bait, and fishing was concerned – Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of that week passed without even sighting a kingfish.
Thursday was a different story entirely and one of the 30 to 33 cm salmon we’d caught in the warm water canal just on daybreak, was slammed within a couple minutes of bridling it up with a rubber band and sending it on its way.
Bill pushed up the lever on the Tiagra 30 and we led the kingie out of harms way and into open water where it was eventually greeted with the Boga grip and hoisted aboard in short order. It weighed 21 kg and fought doggedly before succumbing .
We kept that one; cut it up and refrigerated it for our later consumption.
Interestingly, that fish had a full stomach. It had been feeding on squid during the night, but those squid it had dined on were not the southern calamari we were able to catch in front of the beachfront housing estate known locally as ”The Shacks.” These were small aero squid, or flying squid as they used to be known.
Whether these cephalopods are present at the top of the gulf or whether the kingie had fed on these somewhere else, would be hard to say, but with the water temperature in the gulf steady at around 13 degrees, we assumed they must have been taken nearby: Another mystery that somebody might be able to answer for us.
Back at the Power Station outlet we had another salmon taken but I pulled the hook on that one. And another salmon was smashed amid a huge swirling splash at the back of the boat, but that bait was rejected and retrieved minus a good many of its scales.
|Yours truly with another taken on a small gar.|
Soon after that, a red balloon came skipping past on the northerly breeze, signalling a kingfish strike from a small boat just in front of the power station wall. The angler did a good job on that one and soon held it up for all to see.
Later we learned one of the anglers fishing in front of the old power station had caught a good size kingfish about the same time as we’d caught ours. It took a live squid that he’d caught across the gulf in front of the shacks.
He caught another the following day; two well deserved fish considering he had put in more time than just about anyone. The second of his fish took a 200 gram Raider lure that he’d been casting out and retrieving.
Our excitement for the day was not yet over as a shoal of about five kingfish swam by, showing no interest at all in the live salmon we had out.
Then another shoal of about twelve kingfish came by as Bill was just about to put out a live salmon. He dropped it right among them, but alas, they swam around it a time or two then swam off without further ado.
Now, the thing was that small garfish were gathered under our boat in good numbers. And not only that: At times the small gars would spray out of the water nearby from time to time because something was obviously chasing them.
However, with no surface activity to speak of, not then anyway, we thought the culprits were salmon because some of the salmon we’d caught had vomited up these small garfish.
But then the action went down.
Watching groups of birds, terns mainly, possibly others as well, hovering over sprays of bait some distance out from the power station, we saw the unmistakable surface activity of good size kingfish. Watching these attacks it became obvious that garfish, as small as they were, should become a bait priority.
We got some with a dip net and spotlight after dark but they died overnight.
In the morning, well before daylight, we anchored up in the warm water canal where we knew the salmon would be a good chance come daybreak. We were please to find garfish there also. They were difficult to catch though and we only caught four before the salmon came on and the gars disappeared.
Once again we had plenty of really chunky salmon, but the gars were in short supply and quite small. We put one gar out, the biggest, and a salmon. Eventually the gar died so out went another salmon.
Another boat arrived and anchored up on the tide line nearby with two anglers aboard. They put out a couple of live squid that they’d caught at the shacks earlier on and were soon away with a good kingie that they later weighed at 24 kg. It led them on a merry dance on what seemed fairly light tackle for half an hour or so before they were able to boat the fish and return.
Turns out it was the young chap’s first kingie and he was well pleased. We had a bit of a yarn boat to boat, and later, as they were leaving in the early afternoon, offered us their remaining live squid which we graciously accepted.
|Mick also caught his kingfish on a small gar. You can see the tag that was eventually lost, on the bait board. It is covered in a heavy marine growth.|
Well, now we had a live squid out behind the boat, a live salmon a little further out, and a live gar on a modified rig that incorporated a small hook attached to the 6/0 Owner circle that pinned it sideways through the bottom jaw.
At 1.00 pm great spray of water erupted around the gar as a kingie took it and I was on.
An awkward fish, it zoomed straight back toward us, around the front of the boat and across the other side as I backed off the drag letting it take line freely across the front of the boat. Bill soon had the anchor up though, improved the angle of attack for me and led the kingie away from the power station and the underwater obstacles nearby.
Another beaut Port Augusta kingfish was soon aboard and, after a quick snap or two, a bit of surgery to remove the hook from its jaw hinge, and a tiny fin clip we been asked to take for research, it powered away and out of sight, hopefully to recover.
We’d been given two vials of spirit by the chap running Top of the Gulf Marine for that purpose, and we duly returned both with the required samples.
Back on our original mark, one that was given use by Matt Halls, we soon had another live squid out, one of the two remaining live gar, and a salmon.
Again the sea erupted around the gar and Mick was onto what was clearly another good size kingfish. That was around 2.00 pm and close to knock off time for us after the morning’s early start, but being delayed by a fish is something we don’t mind, not at all.
Once again we led the kingie out from the power station and into the deeper water where, after the usual powerful tugging fight, another beautiful Port Augusta kingfish came into view to be greeted by Bill’s sure grasp and was hoisted aboard.
I removed the rather obvious tag in its back and placed it on the bait board along with the fin clip, but unfortunately didn’t tell either Mick or Bill what I had done, and later the tag was lost when a spray from the deck hose took it, and the fin clip over the transom. Fortunately the fin clip was caught on the marlin board but the tag was nowhere to be seen.
This fish soon disappeared after being placed back in the water minus the tag and the circle hook that had taken such a sure hold in its jaw.
Now, please don’t think that I am writing this piece as an authority on fishing for kingfish at Port Augusta. It was our first tip and we were well pleased with the result. No doubt we will go again and hopefully, experience more kingfish action. The following may be helpful:
We stayed at Augusta Westside at 3 Loudon Road, Port Augusta. It’s only about a hundred metres from the boat ramp. Give Aaron a ring on 08 8642 2488 if you’re thinking of making a reservation.
Top of the Gulf Marine is just up the road at 6 Loudon Road. We were able to buy our dip net there and a few lures. You can also get spirit vials there should you care to participate in kingfish research.
Port Augusta boat ramp is suitable for all trailer boats with excellent pontoons for loading and unloading. Parking was tight when we arrived and it become crowded should the word get out that kingfish were on the go. Unfortunately there are no washing or motor flushing facilities, and there are no fish cleaning tables either, but those issues will, no doubt, be addressed in due course.
Bait for kingfish includes squid, salmon and gars. Gars may be taken at night with a spot light and dip net, that’s if the water is not too rough. Failing that they may be caught in the warm water discharge canal close to either wall, the favoured side depending on the wind direction. We only managed to catch them before sun up though.
|The new Port Augusta Power station as seen from the entrance of the warm water discharge canal where we fished.
Before dawn is the best time to catch them here because they become very skittish when the salmon clock on for duty shortly after daybreak, and they are easy to catch, either on bait or lures.
Squid may be caught at the shacks which are clearly visible across the other side of the gulf from the power station, the distance I guess would be three kilometres or so. Squid are the preferred bait by our South Australian friends who use them live.
There are two power stations, I would guess some 7 kilometres downstream from the boat ramp via the winding channel which is marked by port and starboard piles. The old power station is still working, judging by the activity there.
The new power station is approximately 300 metres downstream and is where we fished. The kingfish range quite some distance from either from our observations and could probably be encountered more or less anywhere close by.
Port Augusta is approximately 1000 kilometres from Melbourne and about 300 from Adelaide. Not all that far when you consider the obvious quality of this fishery.
Tides may be important. The largest tidal ranges occur between the new moon and the first quarter, and between the full moon and the last quarter. These are the tides that seem to be preferred by the anglers who fish for kingfish here, particularly the former because kingfish are thought to feed during the night when the moon is up. However, they are also caught at other times so it pays to be flexible.
Lures may take kingfish at Port Augusta at times. Those known to be successful include the Rapala CD 18, various surface poppers, and – as we saw on the Friday – there was one taken on a 200 gram Raider. We also heard of a fish being taken on a large soft plastic lure as well. Hooks and rings on lures should be checked before use because those that some lures are equipped with are not particularly strong.
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