Tips to Catch Demersal Fish in W.A.

January 10, 2017

Luke Ryan explains how sounding up structure, bait, and predators before dropping a jig is a surefire way to increase your catch rate.

With the seasonal demersal fish ban finally being lifted, it is time to chase some tasty bottom fish. The demersal fish ban is in place from the 15th of October to the 15th of December each year in the west coast Bioregion of W.A. The ban puts a halt on a lot of the local fishing during these months but gives the fishery a good break from recreational pressure.

Since the ban has lifted, I have been eager to put my Simrad gear back to use. However, we have had a very limited number of days to go out due to the weather. The weather has been average for W.A. this past year, limiting the amount of times I have been able to fish.

I have managed to snag a couple good days and land a few nice fish. A lot of the local fishing I do close to Perth is jigging for demersal species like Dhufish, Snapper, Breaksea cod etc. My electronics play a huge part in the fishing that I do because I am looking for specific “fish holding” structures. A coral bottom with enough structure to hold fish is generally what I am looking for, baitfish seeking shelter on the side of a coral ledge also normally hold good fish. The lumps don’t need to be anything too big either, I have found we tend to get more fish off the smaller less exciting spots. Possibly because they receive less fishing pressure.

One way to find fish effectively is using the scroll back function on the NSS. Being able to drive over a spot and scroll back on your sounder screen to put an exact mark on a fish or piece of structure makes marking spots so much easier. This is one function that has increased my catch rate enormously.

I hardly ever fish with bait anymore these days and almost exclusively use lures. Soft plastics and metal jigs are what you will find in my tackle bag. The only issue being I find it hard to stop buying more lures, I find myself having to limit the amount of gear I take out every time I go fishing.

I tend to use relatively light tackle for most of my demersal fish jigging, normally the outfits we use are rated PE2/3 capable of jigging up to 200g lures. Leader size varies from 40-100lb. I have found myself leaning more towards the heavier stuff lately to limit the amount of fish that win their freedom.  

My electronics play such a big role in the fishing I do. Without good quality units like the NSS evo2, I doubt I would be able to find as many fish as I have in the past. The evo2 range is so simple to use and it integrates into my whole boat.

With regards to sounder setting, I find that once I have found the readings I like, I don’t tend to muck around with all of the different settings too much. I generally run the gain on auto, this setting allows you to do some tweaking in the auto function if need be. I hardly ever need to adjust it. The colourline setting doesn’t need too much adjustment, I find I hover the setting between 38-43 depending on the bottom and how much definition I need in the image.

One tip with the gain and colourline settings is that once you have found the structure you are looking for and you are catching fish, adjust your sounder over the structure until you are happy and confident with the image that it is relaying back to you. Try running your gain a little higher. By putting up with some clutter on the screen, it is unlikely a target will pass the screen without you noticing it.

Another point to consider when drift fishing is making sure you are dropping your lures at the right part of the drift. Missing a mark on a drift from not dropping your lure at the right time is quite easy to do. When I am drift fishing, I have my eyes constantly on the screen, timing the precise moment to drop my lure.

Light tackle jigging is extremely good fun. With the right electronics and tackle setup, it is accessible to most boat owners in WA. The more time you spend on the water learning how to use your electronics, the more fish you are going to catch.

Luke Ryan, Australia