Estuary Fishing Tips
Almost all anglers begin their fishing career at their local creek, jetty or impoundment chasing bread and butter fish such as bream, whiting, flathead, trout, bass or barramundi. It is the ideal way to start out and learn the basic fundamentals of fishing such as tackle, technique, location, rigs, knots and baits.
Good fishing can be had with or without a boat. A boat gives you more options and allows you to cover a bigger area whereas land-based anglers are limited by foot. On several occasions, I have out fished anglers with boats that were anchored within casting distance from my location. For me, the most important factor when it comes to fishing the estuaries is local knowledge. If your new to an area, seek advice from at least two or three local tackle stores about where and when to fish and the best baits. Estuary fishing is a nice and relaxing way to spend the day or night. With careful planning, a feed of fish can be achieved every time. It is also relatively inexpensive where everyone can afford to participate without breaking the bank.
When I fish the estuaries, I almost always source live bait. A cast net or drag net is very effective for catching mullet, herring, whiting and hardy heads. Jewfish, threadfin salmon and big bream often cannot resist a live baitfish pinned once through the back or the mouth. A bait pump is essential if you want to use yabbies on the sand flats. Bream and whiting absolutely love bass yabbies. Because they are quite soft, they can come off the hook when making the cast so you will need to pay attention when rigging making sure the hook protrudes out through the harder section of the yabby A garden fork is required if you want a supply of worms. Worms are probably the best bait for whiting and bream. They are very hardy and one bait will usually account for two or more fish. Depending on where your fishing, dead frozen baits can be just as effective as live bait. When I fish one of my local creeks, I use the old faithful pilchard on one rod set in the holder while I wade the banks and flick plastics on the other rod. This technique is deadly on flathead and tailor in my area. Other effective frozen baits include chicken gut, mullet gut, prawns, whitebait and squid.
The tackle I use depends on where I’m fishing and what I’m targeting. I always have one bait and one soft plastics combo. For bait fishing, I use an ugly stik fibreglass rod about 6-7ft in length and rated at about 2-5kg. Select a rod that is whippy in the tip with a bit of power in the butt section. Reels should be in the 2500 size range. These reels are light and will hold about 200m of approximately 10lb mono or much more if using braid. I use a Shimano Sedona and it has never let me down. The line I use is 9lb Schneider.
You do not need top shelf gear. A decent combo should only set you back about $100-150.
The soft plastics outfit is a bit more expensive being a more specialised form of fishing. I use a 7ft Shimano t-curve 2-4kg rod matched to a 2500 Shimano Symetre loaded with 4lb fireline and 12lb Vanish fluorocarbon leader. A good soft plastics outfit will cost you about $150-200. These two outfits can also double as a spinning or popping combo if tailor or other surface fish are around which can be very useful at times. If you intend on targeting bigger fish, you will need to upgrade your gear to maybe a 10kg rod matched to a 6000 size reel. If using live or big baits, a lot of the time you will get smashed by something big whether it’s a jewfish or a threadfin salmon so it certainly pays to have a heavier outfit on reserve. This is more often than not fishing at night as bigger fish seem to be more scarce during daylight hours.
The way I rig up for bait fishing is by using a running sinker rig. There are two versions of this rig. The first is simply a ball sinker rigged to run directly on top of the hook. This is one of my favourite rigs not only in the estuaries but also offshore. Its simple and effective and you can be back in business in seconds. It is so simple, you can tie this rig in the dark. I use this rig when chasing bream and flathead in the estuaries. If I’m chasing whiting, I’ll use the second version of the running sinker rig. This rig involves a 30-60cm trace and is connected to a swivel. The sinker sits above the swivel and runs freely up and down the mainline. Above your hook, add a piece of red or pink plastic tubing as this seems to attract the whiting.
Rigging the soft plastics outfit starts with a short bimini double on the braided mainline. The doubled line is then joined to the leader using an albright knot. The jighead is then tied directly to the end of the leader using a loop knot.
There are lots of different areas to try out when estuary fishing. I like to fish the sandbanks in my local creek on a falling tide. I have caught all sorts of fish in this area depending on the bait I’m using. You can also gather a good supply of fresh bait such as bass yabbies, soldier crabs, bloodworms and baitfish. I also like to fish pontoons particularly where sand meets rock with oyster leases. These areas are home to big bream and other species such as jewfish, tailor and trevally. You will lose a lot more gear fishing these spots but the rewards can be phenomenal at times. If you have a boat, try areas that are not accessible by foot such as mangrove and canal living areas. Other popular areas to fish include the local jetty and rock walls.
The best time to fish the estuaries is at night or early morning. Daylight hours are very recreational and can be very loud which will spook the fish. Plan your trip to coincide with the turn of the tide whether it’s a high or a low tide. This is what has worked for me but as mentioned in an earlier juncture, every location is different and the best tip when fishing a new area is to seek local advice.
Berleying is absolutely critical when fishing the estuaries. Once you arrive at your selected spot, berley heavily to try and attract as much fish as you can. After that, its just a matter of throwing in a bit of berley every so often to keep the fish in the area. You can choose to make your own berley or buy them pre-packaged from the service station. I use aniseed pre-packaged berley and find that this has worked well. I also cut up and throw in some of the bait I use to try and match the hatch.
Another technique to try out when fishing the estuaries is to keep your bait moving. Whiting and flathead in particular love a moving bait. Don’t wind too fast as they are not active fish that like to chase their food. With flathead, include two or three sharp lifts of the rod every few seconds as you wind in especially when flicking soft plastics. Flathead like to hit the bait as it makes its way back down to the bottom. And if things are really quiet, try moving around instead of staying at a stationery position.
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