BEACH FISHINGAustralia is fortunate in possessing some of the finest beaches in the world, and with them, excellent fishing. The ever changing formation of our beaches due to natural forces provides both shelter and food for a variety of fish. By learning to "read a beach, you can locate all the popular angling species such as Tailor, Salmon, Flathead, Mulloway, Trevally, Dart, Bream and Whiting.
THE GEAR SUCCESSFUL SURF FISHERMAN USES:
As in all fishing, the correct rod and reel combination will dictate the degree of your success. The golden rule is to fish as lightly as possible. The lightest line, sinker, and rod/reel as the conditions dictate. Try not to anchor your bait to the bottom with a big sinker. A bait that is moving with the surge of the wave and tide action helps find a lot more fish.
A beach rod must have an action that lets you cast a heavy sinker or lure if the conditions demand it. by the same token the action in the tip section should be light enough to cast lightly weighted baits, and to "feel" the bite. The tip action will also enable you to hook and play a fish without placing too much pressure on the line. The range of Aussie made Snyder Glas rods is made with these very features.
The rod can be made of either hollow fibreglass or carbon composite and must be from 3.5 to 4 metres long and preferably one piece. (New glass to glass ferrules have improved the action of two piece rods) For an Alvey reel the design of the rod is all important. The reel should sit about 20 cm up from the butt and the first or stripping runner should be approximately half way along the rod Any closer will restrict the cast. To bring the line closer to the finger guiding the line on to the reel, and Alvey open runner serves the same purpose as an ordinary runner by controlling the line when fishing, and also prevents the line cutting your fingers when playing a fish. When you are ready to cast, simply slip the line out of the open runner. Place it back in for the retrieve or fighting a fish.
Why are anglers who use an Alvey Reel more successful? It's not just luck, they are using the right reel and an Alvey makes all the difference.
If you are casting a bait with a heavy sinker, spinning with a lure, or more importantly, bait spinning with little or no lead, the versatility of an Alvey reel can't be bettered. The fast, direct line recovery lets you keep up with a fish if it runs towards you and the controlled winding will keep the line tight. The minimum of moving parts in an Alvey, and their simple design compared to other reel types, make them almost maintenance and trouble free, especially with the corrosive wear from sand and salt.
There are a number of advantages in using as light a line as possible that the conditions allow. You can cast further, feel a bite a lot better and it is less noticeable to fish. An excellent line for beach fishing is the Platypus brand in breaking strains from 4 to 8 kg. The lighter line for Bream, whiting etc. and the heavier sizes for Tailor and the larger fish such as Mulloway.
RIGGING AND BAITING:
The surface feeding fish that move into surf gutters such as Tailor and salmon feed mainly on small baitfish. Baits such as WA and Blue Pilchards, Gar, White and Frogmouth Pilchards are the best bait for these fish, Strips of fish flesh can be used in the same manner.
The most efficient way to use these baits is on a chain or gang of linked hooks. The number and size of the hooks used depends on the type and size of your bait. For Gar you can use up to a 5 hook rig in #4/0 or #5/0, WA Pilchards usually require a 3 hook rig in the same hook sizes. Small White Pilchards or similar baitfish need smaller hooks, from #3 to #1/0. You can purchase rigs already made to suit, or make your own. They are made by using a hook that you can open the eye on (mustad 4200, 7766, 8260 or 3407A. Eagle Claw 6041T). The shank on all the hooks must be bent upwards slightly. this is to allow the bait to sit straight on the rig. Hooks with the eyes opened and bent are available (Mustad 4202, Eagle Claw 6043T). The correct way to bait your rig is to place it alongside the bait and align the point of the first hook with eye of the bait. Note the spot on the side of the bait where the last hook rests. Insert this hook first and continue with the others in sequence. The first hook should now go through the bait's eye socket.
The fish that take a fish bait usually have sharp teeth that can cut through line, so some trace is needed. Wire traces are not needed and do tend to scare fish. A simple trace of heavier nylon is all you need. About 1 metre of 15 to 20 kg line is sufficient. platypus make a special clear trace line that is excellent for this purpose.
The smaller fish such as whiting, Bream and Dart, that feed in the shallower surf zone naturally need smaller hooks. A #3 to #4 for Whiting and Dart, a #1 to #2/0 for Bream, preferable in a French or Beak pattern which tend to be finer and sharper. If you want a super sharp hood, use any of the chemically or laser sharpened models that are now available.
The bait to use for these fish can vary, pipis and worms can be obtained right on the spot. Bream and Flathead can't resist a White or Frogmouth Pilchard rigged on a small gang of hooks.
The most important step when rigging, is to use 2 swivels (as small a possible) and run the sinker on a short section of line between them. The top swivel, the one closest to the rod tip is the major eliminator of line twist.
READING THE BEACH:
As the weather changes, so do the beach formations. A successful surf fisherman knows this and with experience learns to read the beach and surf conditions and fishes accordingly.
There are high and low tide gutters. A gutter that produces good fishing on high water can be almost dry on the low. Conversely, a gutter than can be fished at low tide can be increasingly difficult to fish as the tide makes. The surf fisherman must be able to select a likely spot be assessing the conditions, state of the tide, and the existing structure of the beach formation.
DEFINING SURF GUTTERS:
A surf gutter is formed by an outer submerged sand bank running parallel to the beach. Variable in length, the channel in between can have an outlet at one or both of the ends. Long featureless gutters are not as productive as smaller, shorter or narrower ones. Holes are formed at the gutter's outlet to the sea. Waves breaking on the outer bank, spread a layer of foam and broken water across the inner channel. Referred to by fishermen as white water, this disturbed water offers cover to fish and stirs up the bottom exposing food.
The ideal gutter is one that is narrow enough to allow the angler to cast to the outer bank and bring his bait back through the deeper water of the channel. This is known as bait spinning and is best done with a fish bait and as little lead as possible. A sand spit forming inwards from the outer bank. This creates pockets in which fish congregate to feed. If you have to use extra weight to reach these spots, keep it to a minimum.
Fish will often be found where a gutter empties to the sea. The surge of water in and out, stirs up the sand and with it food. Position yourself near the mouth and allow the bait to drift with the run from the gutter. Potholes are the small indentations which form in the shallower water, often near the edge of the beach. Anglers often wade through them, not knowing that they can offer some geed fishing. Whiting, Dart and Flathead actively feed in this shallow water, so it often pays to try these areas before disturbing them.
Dawn and dusk are usually considered the best times to fish the beach, but often good fishing can occur during the day if the conditions and gutter formation are right. Fishing at night can be done during moonlight conditions when it is easier to read the water. Often good gutters can be picked during the day and returned to at night, when the conditions are more suitable for fishing.
Now you have equipped yourself with a balanced rod and reel outfit, and have selected the right spot to start fishing, how do you go about catching some fish? As mentioned before, the species of fish you are chasing will dictate the tackle and bait to use and where to cast.
Fishing for Tailor needs a long cast to the white water breaking into a gutter. As the bait lands and you turn your reel around to the retrieve position, give the bait a short, sharp flick to make it break the surface before it sinks. This often attracts feeding fish and provokes a strike. Keep the line tight with a slow and steady retrieve, occasionally lifting the rod to impart an action to the bait. When a fish hits, you will feel distinct bite. Sometimes the fish will take the bait and move toward you. A sudden slackening of line will be the sign of this happening. In this case, lean back on the rod to increase the retrieve rate to set the hook. Keep the rod high to take the weight of the fish, but always be ready to let the fish take line if it decides to make a dash seaward.
Fishing for other species on the shallower water of pot holes and gutters requires the same slow rewind to keep the line tight.
The use of the lure to catch fish on the beach is an exciting method. Tailor, Salmon, Flathead and even the occasional Dart or Bream will take lures. Tailor and other fish which feed out wide need a lure that will carry the distance. In these conditions a metal lure weighing anywhere from, 25 to 90 gms is needed. They take the form of chrome spoons such as the Toby design, the Wilson Big T and stainless flashback Spoons. Lead bodied lures such as Juro Lasers, have a strip of prism tape to add flash, and give you a lure with maximum weight with minimum bulk to help you attain a distance. Another popular design is the sliced chromed metal type, one of the original lure patterns.
To get the best results when spinning , you need a fast retrieve. the Alvey 700C and 650GRC models have the best line recovery for spinning the surf and a drag to handle the heavier strike you will get on a lure. The smaller you go in spool size the slower the retrieve and the less effective. You do not need a sinker when using lures, however the addition of an extra swivel in the form of a snap swivel to connect the lure to the line will help alleviate the increased line twist that comes with spinning.
Try to cast to the edges of Tailor schools. Often the lure continually being pulled through the school can alarm it. Give the lure an erratic action by working the tip of the rod as you retrieve. The fish of the shallower water such as Flathead will take a lure. A smaller spoon or minnow pattern lure is ideal. You don't need the fast retrieve you use on Tailor. A steady but still erratic retrieve is all you need. Again move carefully when wading, so you don't frighten the fish. Start at one end of the gutter and cover the water in a series of casts before moving on a short distance and doing the same.
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