Tackle fish while the surf's up

Why wouldn't you be smiling with your first whiting coming in at 38cm.
Why wouldn't you be smiling with your first whiting coming in at 38cm. Contributed


IT'S that time of the year when things start to warm up and anglers get keen to hit the surf beaches chasing those species of fish that start schooling along the coast.

It's predominantly tailor and whiting but there are a few other species such as dart, bream, tarwhine and jew that can add to the catch.

Like any sport there are a few key factors that lend a hand in the taking of that catch. It's not just a matter of turning up for training and hoping for the best.

To start with you need the right gear for the job. It's not the best option to be looking for a rod and reel that you can catch tailor on and expect the same rod to catch much smaller whiting.

If you are serious about your beach fishing then you can pretty well narrow it down to three rods.

A nice light whippy rod around 10'6” to 11'4” suited for lines around 4kg is ideal for your whiting and can overlap into your bream and dart in some of the small shallow gutters.

When it comes to getting baits further out and in bigger surf conditions you will need to move up a step to a rod of 12' suited to lines around 6kg. The light whippy rods for whiting just don't have the power to cast further out.

For some serious tailor and jew fishing a rod of 13'6” in length is perfect loaded up with a 6-10kg line. Rods of this calibre are capable of casting decent flesh baits or ailchards out further into the surf and of course have the strength to turn some of those big tailor and jew around so you can get them in.

As far as the right reel goes, I'm an Alvey side cast man and you will struggle to get me using much else. The direct feel of the fish and the durability of these reels is hard to surpass.

Your local tackle shop will point you in the right direct to match either an Alvey or spinning reel to match and balance the rod you chose.

You might have all the good gear you need to find the fish but, while the big crowd of anglers throwing pilchards into a gutter for tailor is a pretty obvious sign, it doesn't help you much when it comes to reading the beach and finding gutters.

Once darkness falls the bigger greenback tailor start feeding.
Once darkness falls the bigger greenback tailor start feeding. Contributed

If you are reasonably new to beach fishing this is one of the key factors I find that will help get you onto fish of various species.

Once you know what to look for and start to put it into practice, the game of putting a smile on the face and a feed on the table becomes a bit easier.

Nothing beats practice and the more time you can spend on the water fishing various locations and stages of the tide the better your appreciation becomes.

This is one of the key areas I will be focusing on at the surf fishing seminar at Jones's Tackle this Friday night.

There are a lot of variables when it comes to finding gutters along the beach as they form different shapes and drain and fill at different stages of the tide.

You may have a long narrow gutter filling on the first of the run in tide at one location which fishes well for whiting for an hour or two but then the fish go off the bite.

A few kilometres down the beach however is another gutter of similar shape but, being higher on the beach, it doesn't start to fill until half tide with a similar result then occurring for a whiting bite.

This is why you will often see keen anglers cruising the length of the beach looking for likely gutters long before they wet a line.

Whiting are a classic example of a fish species that likes to move into a gutter and feed on the rising tide. I don't know how many times I have fished the one spot to no avail over most stages of the tide and then the fish move in as even the smallest of gutters begin to fill.

The main surf beach at Bribie is a typical spot where the whiting don't come on until such gutters begin to fill. There have been plenty of times when I've been standing on a sand bank fishing for not too many fish only to find as I turn around to walk back up to the car I've spooked the whiting in the sometimes very shallow gutter behind me.

You should always stand back and fish a gutter before you go wading into it.

If you have a look at the picture of the nice 38cm whiting Fiona Lacey has (see photo at top of page) you will see one of the gutters we are talking about right behind where she is fishing.

The reason why this whiting and a few others were caught here was the fish were just in front over a shallow bank waiting to move into the gutter.

Mixed bags are the result for a more casual fish during the day.
Mixed bags are the result for a more casual fish during the day. Contributed

We sighted the flash of the whiting rolling in the clear shallows, which is a good sign that they are feeding.

Unfortunately the small group I was fishing with at the time all thought it was a good idea to walk over and fish the same spot ... bye bye whiting.

To have a look at the other end of the scale, school size tailor predominately locate in a gutter and hold there for a period of time, with peak feeding times dawn and dusk.

Once the light of the day gets going the fish go off the bite and will move to the back of the gutter where they will hide under the cover of the white water.

In the low light hours they do come in quite close feeding, which is why the traditional method of casting pilchards on gang hooks works pretty well.

Once they move out to the back of the gutter you will find that changing to a metal lure may still take a few fish around mid-morning when the baits are failing.

A lure around 70 grams can be casting further than a bait so you get it well out there, with the flashing shine of the lure and a bit of speed enticing a strike out of otherwise lethargic mid-morning fish.

On the other hand big tailor like to travel and they will move into a gutter for a quick feed before moving onto the next.

Hence, finding a gutter where the big tailor can move in and out through an entry in relatively clear water is better than a gutter that has limited access or one where the fish have to move through stirred up sandy water.

Without a doubt the bigger fish, along with jewfish, are caught at night and you can use the same rig for both.

Instead of winding and retrieving a pilchard through the water, use a heavier sinker to get the bait out there and hold it in position waiting for the tailor to come in and feed.

A flesh bait of bonito or mullet is preferable and don't use too big a bait or you are likely to end up with a few sharks grabbing the bait. A piece about the size of the palm on your hand is about right, though a strip rather than a big round piece.

This next month is peak time to hit the beaches so get your gear together and, if you want to come along to the seminar on Surf Fishing secrets this Friday night at Jones's Tackle, 692 Gympie Road, Chermside you'll need to book quickly on 3350 2054.

Topics:  fishing gary howard gutters

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