North Queensland Fishing Personality
Tony is an Airlie Beach based angler who has been fishing “lure-only” for fifteen years. Tony loves his giant trevally and reef flats fishing but is also one of a handful of dedicated anglers who are making inroads into fishing for red emperor on lures. In this episode Tony shares some closely held secrets about finding, catching and releasing tuskfish on the flats.
Tony’s Top Tips For Targeting Tuskfish
- Tuskfish are a trophy target and are not only beautiful, but also very charismatic fish. There are easier fish to catch that are just as tasty, so please return tuskfish to the water unharmed.
- This style of fishing is 100% visual, good polarised sunglasses are recommended.
- Look for tuskfish where there are fringing reefs adjacent to a broken bottom of coral, sand, weed and shell, with mangroves along the edge that dry out at low tide. Tuskies will hang on the reef at low tide, moving up onto the flats as the tide comes in and into the mangroves towards the top of the tide. The will do the reverse when as the tide recedes.
- Feeding tuskfish will often be in shallow water, tail sticking straight up as they grub the bottom picking up crabs. They can be very hard to catch on lures, but a little easier on the fly. Cruising fish are more predictable and easier to target. You’ll get more cruising fish as the tide falls than on the rising tide.
- Water depth is critical. 1 to 1.5m is ideal as the fish are visible and easier to present a lure to. You’ll need to get closer to fish to see them in deeper water, which usually ends in a spooked fish.
- When you spot a tuskfish, avoid the temptation to rush in and make a cast. It’s better to sit back for a while and figure out what the fish is doing and which way it’s moving. Tuskfish are very skittish on the flats, so taking some time helps to ensure every cast counts and spooked fish are minimised.
- As with most flats fishing, clear, sunny days offer the best opportunity to see fish. A little bit of breeze rippling the surface doesn’t hurt either, as long as it’s not enough to make it hard to see the fish.
- Use the wind to your advantage, you need to cast well ahead of the fish so as not to spook it, but even the shadow of the braid can be enough to spook them, so position your boat to avoid this happening.
- Hold tuskfish in an environet boatside to recover from lactic acidosis before you release them. Minimise the time out of the water, get a quick photo and then make the release, or get in the water with them and avoid taking them out of the water.
Tony’s Tuskfish Fishing Tackle
- These fish can get quite large, are powerful and are very fast in their initial run. Choosing tackle is a balancing act between selecting gear that will stop a rampaging tuskfish and ensuring it’s light enough to cast rubber crab lures a long way and present them nicely.
- Tony uses a Loomis spin rod of around 7’1”, 6-12lb with a 3000 size Shimano Stella reel, 20lb braid and a 20lb fluorocarbon leader for casting the smaller crabs in shallow water.
- A 4000 size Shimano Stella reel on a 7’3” Millerod LTM rod, 30lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leader is perfect when the fish are in slightly deeper and he needs to use a bigger, heavier crab lure.
Tony’s Lures For Catching Tuskies
- Tuskfish feed almost exclusively on crabs, so crab style rubber lures are the best bet. Most decent quality crabs, such as those made by River To Sea, Savage Gear, Coolabung, Chasebaits and Cranka Lures are all good options. You’re going to get dusted by tuskfish from time to time, so the cheaper options can often be the best.
- It is critical that your lures gets to the bottom and stays there, regardless of wind, currents and so on. It’s also important that they stay on the bottom as you work them. Tony bashes small pea sinkers flat and super glues them to the underside of his lures to help achieve this. However, tuskfish are easily spooked by the splash of a lure, so the weighting necessitates lures being placed well away from the fish and slowly worked along the bottom into the fish’s path.
- Tony prefers natural colours (usually dark) and prefers unrigged lures that he can put his own hooks in. Tuskfish have super strong crushing jaws and can destroy light hooks, so solid terminals are critical. Rig the lure so it gets worked backwards or sideways, either way is fine.
Catching tuskfish on flies has some advantages and some disadvantages over targeting them on lures. For anyone interested in putting a crab fly in front of a tuskfish, Ranga Flies is Tony’s brother’s fly tying business. Hit him up to purchase incredibly lifelike crab flies or for some tips on using them to target tuskfish.