Nice-spanish-mackerelWith my annual trip to Broome not far away, I thought I'd share some small boat fishing tips.

While filming Adventure Bound, we’ve been able to travel all over Australia filming fishing shows in a range of environments. Some are hospitable, but in many locations we found ourselves at the mercy of the weather, knowing the fish are out there, but that we just mightn’t be able to get to them!

Dealing with the weather on any fishing trip is enough to drive you mad and when you’re required to plan your trips in advance you can only hope that you get the right part of the weather pattern on your arrival. After a recent trip to Broome in north western WA this winter, we reflected on many of our past experiences and when we looked back we decided that this location is really a true fishing mecca with awesome fishing options for the small trailer boat angler.

Fly or drive, Broome is an excellent stopover for the travelling angler, particularly for those travelling on the road with a small boat on the back in tow. Although hire boats are available in the township, and there is a reasonable sized charter fleet, there is really very little you can’t do with your own trailer boat! On our recent trip we caught a range of pelagics including sailfish, Spanish mackerel, cobia, queenfish, longtail tuna and trevally.


The best months to visit Broome are from April to October and during these months the temperature is hot, sunny and most of the pelagic fish can be caught close to shore. The local environment is very hospitable to the small boat angler, the temperature is usually 30 degrees every day through the dry season and there is little or no swell at all. The wind blows offshore most days from the east varying in strength so the worst weather to deal with is usually wind slop offshore. Having said that, on many of the days we were there this year it just glassed off leaving us reflecting on the inviting turquoise colour of the Indian Ocean.

Gearing up
Depending on how far you are travelling from your home base, you will need to take with you adequate spares for both your boat and trailer. A whole article could be dedicated to this subject alone, but basically, err on the side of caution when preparing for such a trip and deciding what to take.

When it comes to fishing gear, a minimalist approach is all that is needed, certainly in terms of fishing rods and reels. There are few fish caught out of Broome that can’t be stopped with a good quality 4500-5000 size threadline reel with 24kg braid. Another lighter outfit like a small 3000 size threadline with 7-10kg braid is handy for catching live baits or having some fun on the smaller stuff. If you’re keen on saltwater fly fishing, make sure you pack a 9 or 10 weight outfit also because you should be able to give it a run on some of the inshore reefs.


While bait fishing out of Broome from a boat is still popular, most species can be targeted with lures. A good range of hard body lures and poppers ranging from 90mm up to 200mm in a variety of colours, some 20-55 gram metal slice lures and soft plastics in sizes between 3" and 7" will be enough to cover most fishing situations in and around Broome. The best colours for lures seem to be anything with a combination of silver and metallic blue or green for hard bodies and for soft plastics, a solid white colour is the go.

You’ll also need a small selection of skirts and a teaser if you wish to chase billfish. Other items like bridle needles, Dacron and rubber bands are handy for trolling live or dead baits and, of course, plenty of single strand wire. Finally, terminals like hooks from 1/0 up to 8/0, rolling swivels and plenty of shock leader material between 20-100 pound will have just about every situation covered out on the water.


Finding fish
Like anywhere you travel you need to fish smart to capitalize on the fishing action. In the first few days of our last trip to Broome we focused on the inshore reef systems and these fished very well on the spring tide periods, usually a couple of hours either side of the tide change where tidal range picked up to 9 metres. These reef systems are like fish magnets during these times with early morning and late afternoon sessions producing most of the fish. The species you’re likely to encounter along the inshore reefs include all the usual suspects such as queenies, Spanish mackerel, cobia, black jew, different varieties of trevally, even sail fish and small black marlin.

The problem for anglers is that the species you catch on the reefs can vary from day to day. One day there’ll be 8-10kg queenies everywhere then the next day the black jew will have turned up in numbers on the same patch of water. The bottom line is this; be prepared for anything and make sure you’re covering all bases when you're getting your fishing gear organised before you launch the boat.

In this day and age it’s an incredibly obvious thing to say, but a good quality sounder is essential for success when boat fishing these areas. The reason for this is pretty simple. Larger predators, like what anglers target around Broome, follow the bait schools. When the bait schools move on so do the bigger fish. In essence, if you can’t find the bait schools, generally you’ll struggle to find your target species. The sounder is used mainly for finding the baits schools and the edges of the reef systems as opposed to just looking for arches of fish that you’re fishing for. Pelagics like mackerel and long tail tuna are often mixed in amongst the bait and if you were off the mark by only 100m you could miss the action altogether.


We’ve established that the inshore reefs fish best when the bait schools are on them. The problem is, they’re not always there and their presence seems to be highly affected by the tides. Generally, on the spring tides, there is more tidal movement and the bait schools are found on the reefs. When the neap tides start, even though they are still 4 meters, there is less tidal movement, water clarity improves and the bait schools move off the reefs. So all this points to one thing, if you want to hit the inshore reefs, do it on the spring tides.

When the neap tide periods start it’s time to head out further from shore, look for birds working schools of bait and go trolling for sail fish and other pelagics. Broome is recognized as one of the best fisheries for sails anywhere in the country. On top of this, because sail fish can be found in relatively shallow water (generally less than 20 meters) and they are at their most prevalent during the calmest months of the year, they are a realistic option for anglers fishing out of even small tinnies.


Like anywhere, there is always going to be fishing spots, particularly on the inshore reefs, that are local secrets and it’s unlikely they’ll be given up easily to people visiting the area and that’s understandable. The great thing about Broome is that there are so many options and well known marks that produce fish regularly; you don’t necessarily need a heap of GPS co-ordinates from local anglers to have a successful day out on the water. Most visiting fisho’s to Broome get a copy of the North Australian Fish Finder from one of the local tackle stores, which has GPS marks and maps and provides enough information for visiting anglers to find where the fish might be. There are a few friendly local tackles stores in town, but we found the one with the best range of gear, bait and local knowledge is Tackleworld, which is located on in the middle of main township.

If you only have a small roof top tinnie or if the weather is unfavorable and you want to stay in close to shore there are plenty of fish just around the Broome jetty and harbour. Queenfish and trevally can be found around the moorings and on most of the channel markers only a few hundred metres out from shore and schools of longtail and mack tuna in the 2-8kg range can usually be found by looking for diving birds out in the bay, usually within a kilometre of the boat ramps. The deeper holes on the edges of the channel also hold black jewfish during the dry season months. Further west around the coast towards Gantheume Point you can follow the current line on the edge of the tide and look for schools of baitfish and diving birds to find longtail tuna, mack tuna, Spanish mackerel and queenfish.


If you prefer a little more adventure and your vessel is up to it try making a trip to Disaster Rock which is located about 15km offshore to southwest of Broome. This submerged reef system produces all kinds of pelagic species of fish including queenfish, trevally, mackerel and occasionally small black marlin and sailfish on the edges. Just ensure that you are well prepared with the correct navigational equipment and plenty of fuel. Further north up the coast towards Manari there are plenty of bommies in close to shore to target pelagics and these can easily be seen from the top of the red cliffs at low tide.


Billfish can turn up anywhere and in the past we have seen sailfish free jumping as close as a kilometre from shore. Most of the best billfish grounds are located to the northwest of Broome over the sandy shoals in 10-25metres of water. These fish really tend to follow the baitfish aggregations so find the bait and you’ll be in with the chance of finding a pod of sails or marlin.


Fish handling
Before heading ensure there is as much open space as possible to allow you to move around your boat freely and make sure there are no hooks or unsecured items lying around on the floor. You really need to optimise the working space you have available in a small boat.

Most of the fish up this way also have teeth or spikes so handling fish can be a safety issue. We always carry gloves and also a large environet for landing fish that are to be released. A few good quality pairs of plies are also important for removing hooks. In particular be careful when bringing fish into the boat that have been caught on bibbed minnows lures as treble hooks can be dangerous weapons when attached to a thrashing fish!!! For this purpose big fish that are to be released are best unhooked in the water if practical. Finally, fish that are to be kept for the table need to be quickly dispatched and a good sized esky with ice is particularly important for keeping your catch fresh, without one your catch will spoil quickly in the hot sun.

Launching facilities
For most of our fishing we used beach launching with a 4WD, however, there is plenty of launching facilities around the Broome Township. There are three concrete ramps near the harbour area, two to the east of the pier and one just inside the western edge of the pier, where you can launch boats using a two wheel drive vehicle, but only at mid to high tide. The lower edges of all of these ramps are very sandy and suited only to 4WD vehicles, so if you intend to be returning at mid to low tide be prepared. Beach launching at Cable Beach on the north side of Gantheume Point is also popular, just ensure that you park you vehicle well up the beach above the high tide line. The beach is long and flat and regularly 6 metre boats launch from here. Remember there are 9 metre tides in this part of the world and the tide comes in fast!! If you plan on doing some beach launches further north or south of Broome ensure that you check the tides and make sure you have all the required retrieval equipment should you become bogged. We’ve done plenty of trips to this part of the world and we still manage to get bogged somehow every trip!

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