SALMON, AUSTRALIAN
Sci: Arripis trutta

Common Names: Unrelated to the true salmon of the Northern Hemisphere, the Australian salmon is nicknamed "sambo" by some anglers, and known in its juvenile stages in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia as a "salmon trout" or "bay trout". Very large examples are sometimes called "black backs". In New Zealand this abundant species is called kahawai.

Description: The salmon or kahawai is a medium-sized, elongate marine fish with a nearly cylindrical body and a large, forked tail. Australian salmon are almost always bluish-green to black on the upper back, silver to greenish-silver or purplish-silver on the flanks and silvery-white on the belly. The back is patterned with darker green spots which extend down onto the flanks. They eye is yellowish around the dark pupil. The salmon's fins are light-coloured, except that the dusky tail often has a dark trailing edge and a light leading margin to the lower lobe. The pectoral fins may be tinged with yellow.

Size: Most Australian salmon taken by anglers weigh between 0.2 and 3.5 kg. The eastern sub-species may very occasionally reach 6 kg, while the western fish has been reported at weights of up to 10 kg or slightly more. The strain found in New Zealand may grow even larger on very rare occasions.

Distribution: A migratory, pelagic or semi-pelagic species of our cool and temperate waters, salmon are found right around the southern seaboard, up the east coast at least as far as Port Macquarie and sometimes northwards along the west coast to about Geraldton. The fish is also prolific around much of the New Zealand coastline. The Australian salmon is a near-shore species, found in largely in estuaries, bays, harbours, along beaches and rocky shorelines and also out on deeper reefs, particularly in the south. Salmon frequently hunt in areas of strong wave or current action with a covering of aerated white water.

Fishing Techniques: Salmon are commonly taken on baits of cut fish flesh, whole pilchards and garfish on ganged hooks, bottle squid or squid pieces, prawns, beach worms and pipis. They will also occasionally take crabs, cunjevoi or even bread, particularly in a berley trail. Larger specimens will take live yellowtail or mullet baits. They prefer lightly-weighted or moving baits rather than those anchored to the bottom. Salmon are also avid lure and fly takers. They succumb to cast and retrieved or trolled metal slices, lead slugs, spoons, spinners, jigs, minnows, plugs, poppers, and streamer flies. Because of their habit of jumping and shaking their heads when hooked, many salmon hooked on lures are lost.

Eating Qualities: The Australian salmon or kahawai provides reasonable table fare. It is a dark-fleshed, strongly flavoured fish suitable for smoking, baking or being made into fish cakes. It is popular in Tasmania, Victoria and parts of South Australia and Western Australia, but not highly regarded as a table fish in New South Wales. In areas where salmon are unpopular table fare, this fine sporting fish should always be carefully released to fight again.

By Steve Starling