Bicheno, Tassies East Coast Mecca

Busy day at The Gulch.
Carl Hyland
Renowned for its picturesque beauty, Bicheno has long been on my must visit list for a long time. I last went here some 25 years ago on a fishing charter and managed a pb yellowfin of 75kg. Not that I expected to do the same this time but with the lobster season reopening after the toxic alga scare, it was an ideal opportunity to get amongst some lobster and fish of the finny kind.

Located smack bang on Tassies East Coast, this place is a real drawcard for tourists and visiting anglers. With an easy drive from Campbell Town on the Midland Highway, towing my 5.3 metre boat was dead easy and no hiccups meant for a smooth trip. I had in tow (besides the boat) my daughter and her partner who are avid divers and members of the Go Dive group in Tassie. Also on board was my wife Jen who also hadn’t been to the area for a few years. In the boat was my craypot, which has only been in the water once this year plus a fair bit of dive gear. As I indicated the drive down from the North Coast took approximately 2.5 hours and was quite pleasurable with many stops on the way. Weather conditions were great with temperatures supposed to be mid-twenties plus light Easterly winds. This proved the case on the day with conditions ideal for what we had planned.

Upon arriving at The Gulch which is a great boat ramp and facilities, we were amazed at the amount of activity, both in human terms and fish life. A mass of sea birds, terns and gulls were wheeling over a school of fish inside the Gulch, plus a pod of dolphins were off the bottom of the ramp, blowing and chasing poddy mullet schools. No wonder the tourists get excited.

Just along from the Gulch I could hear the Blowhole in full noise, this is a rock feature where the tide forces water up through the rock in a great display of nature’s fury and also a drawcard for visitors. It was here that we intended to go as one of our divers had swum here recently and saw quite a few crays in only five metres of water. When we launched the boat after donning gear and getting everything ready, we were amazed at the number of pot buoys located in area adjacent to the Gulch and determined that they were commercial buoys, laid there overnight.

Blowhole at Bicheno.
Carl Hyland

Upon arriving at our chosen spot, our two divers entered the water for a dive that took about 1 hour. In the meantime, the wife and I took in the sights and spent a fair bit of time looking through our underwater viewer, amazed at the amount of sea life in the clear, pristine waters with pure white sand upon the bottom and granite marbled boulders providing lots of hiding spots for scalefish of every variety.

Sara getting ready to enter the water.
Carl Hyland

When our divers arrived back at the boat, the picture was not good, this spot had been decimated and only a couple of small lobster were spotted. It was time for lunch, so back to the ramp and boat back on trailer and up to the one of many little shops located in the Hamlet. Lunch over and after a brief stroll about, we headed back down to the ramp, launched the boat and headed to the left of the Gulch. Here there was a nice little reef with a channel located between the reef and main shore, so only one of the divers went in this time. After a 30 minute dive, he returned to the boat with four nice cray, one of which was undersized and returned to the water. No luck with the pot which only managed a couple of smaller striped crabs(which came home for the pot also).

This is what made the trip worthwhile.
Carl Hyland

By this time the wind was picking up a bit, so we pulled up stumps and headed home. In hindsight and whilst the day was great, we should have headed to St Helens which is where the action was happening in waters that were 20C. Albacore in vast numbers were being taken and a number of Striped marlin were hooked with one landed. Craig managed a great Mako shark which turned up and tried to eat their motor whilst cleaning albacore, so they took him home as well.

Craig with one of his many albacore.
Carl Hyland

Stay tuned for more East Coast action over the coming weeks.

East Coast Rock Lobster Fisheries reopen 7:00am, Saturday 9 February 2013

The east coast commercial and recreational rock lobster fisheries which were closed due to a toxic algal event re-opened at 7:00 am on Saturday 9 February 2013. That is, all the waters closed from St Helens Point south to Marion Bay are now open.

Rock lobster fishers returning to the re-opened waters were able to set pots and rings or take fish by diving from 7am on 9 February.

The latest round of laboratory testing showed levels of paralytic shellfish toxin (PST) have reduced to safe levels for the section of the east coast around Maria Island and Bicheno. On the basis of the results, the Acting Director of Public Health lifted the public health warning on consumption of rock lobster taken from this section of the east coast which allowed the fishery to be re-opened.

The Commonwealth agency responsible for controlling seafood exports (Dept of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries DAFF) has lifted its export control orders for the area in synchrony with re-opening of this part of the fishery.

From the Dpiw&e website.

Google map showing bicheno and the Gulch.
Carl Hyland