Southland Reel Life November 2018

It's time to target tidal trout

From now, right through summer, is a great time to target those trout which inhabit the estuaries and tidal reaches of Southland’s main rivers.

The great thing about these tidal reaches is not only are they full of trout, but they're  very dynamic fisheries.

Above right: The tides are constantly changing, winds can be gale force or non-existent and all the fish, insect and bird life can make for an interesting day on the water. 

At the mouth of the river, there's surf and a heavy saltwater influence.

This means that saltwater food items are readily available to trout – the likes of crabs, triple fins, stargazers, juvenile flounder, smelt and shrimps.

These food items are very calorie dense and as a result, trout caught in these semi-saline areas are typically in great condition and fight hard.

Paul with sea runner

Southland Fish and Game Councillor Paul Stenning with a large estuarine brown trout.

If you're fortunate enough to catch an estuarine or sea-run trout it will be well worth keeping for the table.

Because estuarine trout can feed on large crustaceans (crabs and shrimps) their flesh is often dark orange or pink in colour.

This colouration comes from a carotenoid pigment found in crustaceans.  

When targeting trout in estuaries, there are a few things to keep in mind which can boost your catch rate.

Firstly, the tides are important, very important!

Fish and invertebrates living in estuarine systems set their body clocks by the tides.

Ideally, you should be fishing estuaries when the tide is dead low and incoming.

There are two important reasons for this:

An incoming tide spurs the movement of baitfish from the ocean into the estuary and  encourages crabs to venture out of their burrows to feed.

Trout instinctively know that an incoming tide means food is on its way, so will often begin actively foraging.

Additionally, tides are important because estuaries can become a very big water body to fish when the tide is high.

Fishing at low tide is much more manageable, the trout are concentrated into a smaller area and it's far easier to cover the water thoroughly.

When fishing estuaries, keep an eye out for deep channels and fish a lure or soft bait close to the bottom.

But don’t neglect to fish the shallow areas as trout can often be found chasing bait fish or seeking out crabs and juvenile flounder in surprisingly shallow water.   

When it comes to lure selection, silver wedges, silver Tobys and smelt imitation soft baits are highly effective.

If you're keen on streamer fishing, have a crack with Jack sprat, grey ghost or rabbit patterns.

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