The Australian salmon (Arripis trutta) and (Arripis truttacea) are hugely popular saltwater sportfish found throughout inshore waters across the southern coast, including around Tasmania.
They are caught from New South Wales south to Perth in Western Australia, but are most often targeted in the southern part of their range.
There are eastern and western varieties, with some co-mingling of the two species in the centre of their range around Victoria and Tasmania.
A third species Arripis xylabion is found in the waters around Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands.
Australian salmon often inhabit the surf zone, with juvenile fish abundant in estuaries and sheltered bays.
These fish tend to travel in schools.
Schools of adult fish will at times enter estuaries, but most anglers chase them in the surf.
Surf beaches that have an outer protective reef seem to attract the schools, with the fish coming inside the reef for extended periods.
Juvenile Australian salmon are abundant in estuaries, often being present all year.
Adult fish are more seasonal in their presence, with some areas producing adult fish all year, and others having a definite seasonal pattern.
The timing of their migration varies depending on the region being fished, and may vary each year. Check with local tackle shops about the likely timing of the fish’s arrival.
This species is popular because it is usually abundant and readily caught on a variety of baits and lures. They also fight hard.
Being clean fighters, they can be caught on light tackle, with the ability to cast a lure or bait far enough to reach a school being the main decider when choosing gear.
Paternoster rigs are ideal for salmon fishing. Wire trace is not needed.
The Australian salmon is a safe fish to handle, lacking dangerous spines or teeth, a plus when family fishing.
The maximum recorded weight of Australian salmon (east coast variety) was 9.4kg. The western fish grow slightly larger.
Large fish are common, making for great sport when a school lobs.
Simple chrome lures work well on them, and surface lures can add visual excitment.
Good Australian salmon baits include pilchard, gar and bluebait, but they’ll take almost anything.
The Australian salmon’s downside is that it is not prime table food, and must be bled on capture and iced to achieve reasonable table quality.
The fillets make acceptable fish cakes, and the fresh flesh is great bait for mulloway, kingfish and other predators.
While southern species such as pink snapper have been overfished and are subject to ongoing fishing restrictions, Australian salmon are currently a good news story, having made a huge comeback on Australia’s East Coast after being commercially overharvested.
There is evidence they may have adapted to climate change by changing their diet away from krill and moving to baitfish as warming waters push krill away from their usual distribution.
Australian salmon have different names in different parts of their range – South Australians call small salmon “salmon trout”, Tasmanians call small salmon “cocky salmon” and New Zealanders call these fish “kahawai”.
Big fish are often called “blackbacks”.
Check out this video of a massive salmon school at NSW’s Wapengo in 2023.
Read more about Australian salmon.
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