Surf Salmon

By Brett Mensforth

There are few things more enjoyable than pinging a well designed metal lure way out into the surf, cranking the reel handle a few times and having the rod load up to the weight of a big, angry salmon. It’s a fishing scenario that’s on tap in many locations around the South Oz coast, and there are literally thousands of anglers around Australia who love it as much as I do.

When you want to add fun to casting lures at salmon on surf beaches, there’s no doubt that a lightly weighted spinning reel set up is the answer. The Sustain and Stradic CI4 model reels spooled with 15lb PowerPro braid and matched with the Shimano Raider Shore Spin 904 are my choice. Having a 4-piece rod enables me to pack it in the car or on the plane really easily. I can even fit it in my backpack with out too much drama. I’m always off exploring new coastline and I really like to try and keep my hands free for when I come across a fishy spot that’s a little tricky to access. Having the rod packed away neatly is a huge advantage in these scenarios.

Another thing to bear in mind if you’re looking to explore unfamiliar coastline is bait versus lures. Bait often requires a bucket or a separate bag, whereas lures can be stored neatly in the backpack and often weigh much less. It’s a huge appeal, particularly if you’ve experienced a long walk in soft sand with a few blocks of pilchards in tow. Compact plastic tackle trays zipped up in a comfortable backpack are a much better option in my eyes.

On one recent expedition to Almonta Beach in Coffin Bay National Park we managed to come across some of the biggest surf salmon we’ve seen. There were genuine 12 pounders among them (not the standard seven and eight pound fish many anglers elevate to double figures!), and each pulled like a freight train in near perfect conditions. These guys could really tear some braid off the spool, and to say I was impressed with the Raider Shore Spin would surely be an understatement.

The salmon were swimming through in small pods of around a dozen or so fish, and they were generally around 50 to 60 meters out from the shoreline, which was well within range. The swell was down, thankfully, and the tide was slow, which enabled me to stand shin deep without getting swamped by waves and heavy whitewash. As soon as the fish were visible, I would cast a lure about 20 metres in front of their path, flick the bail arm over and crank the handle at a steady to fast pace. Salmon are a fit fish and can chase down baitfish at really high speeds, but retrieving flat out often results in a lot of missed hits. It’s OK to retrieve flat out if you are lobbing into a jumbo patch of fish, but when small schools are the target, make the lure catchable! Salmon often hit lures really hard and the metal profile lures, retrieved at a fast rate, will often skim the surface, which makes for some pretty specky hook ups! Cartwheels and back flips are standard practice for hungry salmon!

Once the hook is set, it’s time to hang on. I’ve caught plenty of 6 to 8lb salmon and they pull really hard, but when they reach the 10lb and up, it’s a totally different ball game. They run much harder and for much longer, which is great in calm water because it means a lot of airtime. The rod is fully loaded and line screams from the reel, which is something that makes every angler’s skin tingle.

To be honest, I’ve never been huge fan of multi-section spin rods, but the Shimano Raider Shore Spin 904 really is one out of the box. Its action is medium-fast and there’s heaps of power in the mid section to enable long, accurate casts of lures up to 40gm.

It pays to take note of the metal lures that most people use these days, as some definitely cast better than others, and this can be a huge benefit if you have any head on wind. With a breeze at your back, lure selection isn’t super important, but to save from having a million different types I stick to the Raiders and the Halcos. They have strong trebles out of the packet, but I prefer to swap them straight over with a good single hook. Single hooks help with the release of the fish, as they often snag in or around the hinge of the jaw. This often allows for a better fight too. I rarely keep salmon for the table so there’s no real need to be concerned if I lose the odd fish.

Next time you hit the coast for a salmon session why not pack a lightly weighted spinning outfit with a handful of good metal lures. I can assure you that it’s a pleasant change from the bulky and heavy surf set up that we’ve all been brought up with over the years.