The Australian herring (Arripis georgianus), also known as tommy ruff or WA herring, is a hugely popular small marine fish found across southern Australia.
Here we will use the South Australian name, being simply tommy or tommies.
The tommy resembles the Australian salmon, but grows to a much smaller size.
They have rough scales and larger eyes than Australian salmon, but similar distinctive faint yellow markings over their silvery sides.
Tommies can be found from Western Australia’s’s Shark Bay along the southern coast to as far north as Forster, New South Wales.
They are most common from WA’s Swan River to Victoria.
They are found off Tasmania but are not commonly reported there.
Tommies are most popular in South Australia, where the fish is caught from the state’s many jetties, and in Western Australia, where they are one of the state’s most popular recreational fish.
Tommies are widely distributed through the coastal environment, forming schools over seagrass, off beaches, around reefs, rock walls, in bays and estuaries.
They are usually caught near the surface or around midwater, but bottom baits often pick up tommies.
They feed on smaller fish and invertebrates and will take most flesh baits.
Maggots have long been valued as a bait for tommies and garfish in South Australia, with the two species often caught together.
Tommies often bite furiously at night and can be caught two or three at a time on paternoster rigs.
Sabiki bait jigs work really well when the fish are on but keep in mind you may have to remove some droppers to comply with state dropper limits. Try cutting a complete jig rig in half to make two sets.
Try fishing under jetty lights and use berley to bring the fish around. They may come on and off the bite with the tide.
Despite their small size, being rarely over 35cm long, they fight well and are great fish for kids to catch.
They shake violently and sometimes jump when hooked, so keep your line tight or they may throw the hook.
Tommies have a soft, slightly oily flesh that is good for the table, and also makes great bait as fillets or whole fish.
The flesh smokes well.
Fishing tackle for tommy ruffs
See Sabiki bait jigs on eBay here.
Tommies can be caught by casting small chrome lures and soft plastics, but bait fishing is the usual method.
A 3kg to 4kg spin outfit is ideal. See eBay listings for light spin combos here.
Use a 6kg nylon leader to help prevent line abrasion when multiple larger fish are being caught.
Fine gauge long shank hooks of around Size 6 on paternoster droppers are ideal for the bait fishing. See eBay hook listings here.
Use the smallest sinker possible under the conditions, or even just a split shot pinched onto the line.
Floats are useful for suspending a bait as tommies often feed near the surface. Polystyrene floats are slid or clipped onto the line and a stopper is placed above the float to set the depth a bait is fished. See eBay float listings here.
Small quill style floats are useful when fish are shy. Clear bubble floats also work.
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