The Complete Guide to Southern Estuary Fishing

by Brent Hodges

The Complete Guide to Southern Estuary Fishing

Exploring southern estuary environments, and in particular, prospecting wide-open shallow flats (comprising areas of sand, mud and/or weed) with lures is a highly intriguing and incredibly exciting form of fishing. Observing fish behaviour and the changes in body language when hunting and feeding is interesting enough. Watching a take unfold in water barely deep enough to cover our knees is truly captivating. Of course, this is not to say it's easy... Some days, spotting a school of fickle, fussy and flighty bream that simply won't eat a lure is downright frustrating! When all the elements align, however, and everything clicks in terms of our approach and lure presentation, there's some incredible fish-a-cast action on offer.


So, are you hooked yet? Perhaps you're wondering where, when and how to get started? Let's get into it.


Where to find estuary fish

The more time spent drifting over shallow flats from a kayak or wading on foot, the more details are exposed. At an initial glance, some areas may seem devoid of life. Closer observation, aided by a pair of quality polarised sunglasses to block out glare, can be telling. Try to look through the surface and watch for shadows and signs of movement, as opposed to actual fish shapes. It's generally quite easy to see fish darting away in fright once disturbed. The challenge is to spot them up well before they're spooked by our presence. Sunlight reflecting off the flanks of a bream, for example, stands out like a beacon to the trained eye.

Likewise, surface disturbances caused by, say, a fleeing prawn or nervous baitfish become more obvious to the skilled observer. Listening for the sounds of bait skipping hurriedly across the top or indeed a predator rising to engage prey at the surface also helps to identify targets outside of our immediate line of sight. Over time, experienced eyes and ears soon become trained to recognise more of these subtleties. Indicators vary from one day to the next according to the local conditions. It's a matter of absorbing as much detail as possible and quickly processing the information to develop a stealthy plan of attack.


Common estuary species

During the warmer months, bream can often be spotted working ultra-shallow environments in the lower to middle reaches of most southern estuaries. Likewise, dusky flathead are a common by-catch in these environments. Here, prawns, shrimp, crabs, yabbies, marine worms and small baitfish each become fair game, bringing shallow diving minnows into play. Running to a depth of 0.5 to 1m, the NEW Berkley Pro-Tech Twitcher (45mm) is an ideal choice when prospecting the flats. At 3.4 grams in weight, long wind-assisted casts are easily achievable, providing greater access to those wary larger fish, which are so often stationed just out of range. With eight striking colours to choose from, there's a pattern to suit a variety of bream fishing conditions in terms of overhead light and water clarity.

Finally, the application of specifically formulated fish-attractant or scent, such as Gulp Gel, to the underside of the lure provides the best possible chance of enticing a strike from a shy or wary follower, tilting the odds in our favour. A light spin outfit comprising a 1-3kg blank of up to say 7'2" in length, coupled with a 2000-2500 size threadline reel loaded with 4lb braid is a proven combination for this style of fishing. About two to four rod lengths of 4lb fluorocarbon is preferable when pitching shallow diving minnows at cagey bream, i.e. the clearer and shallower the water, the longer the leader required.

Southern black bream respond well to an erratic 'twitchy' retrieve. With the breeze at my back, I like to cast as long as possible before engaging the reel to swim the lure down to its optimum running depth. A couple of short flicks of the rod tip, followed by a deliberate and defined pause, has the Twitcher darting about left and right, much the same as a wounded baitfish on its last legs. Take up any slack line and repeat. Hits generally occur when the retrieve is momentarily paused and the lure stationary or suspended below the surface.

Conversely, eastern yellow-fin bream tend to prefer a more continuous steady paced roll, but will at times also react to a twitch-and-pause retrieve. When an enquiry transfers through the rod tip (usually by way of a subtle pluck or tapping sensation), simply continue winding until the sticky Owner trebles take hold. Once connected, apply some pressure to ensure the hooks are set securely and hang on! Whereas big blacks initially tend to shake their head (in an effort to dislodge the lure) before realising what's happened and attempting to flee, yellow-fin bream usually bolt for the horizon upon hook set. Indeed, most fish seem to find another gear on the flats, running further and pulling harder all the way to the net, which really gets the adrenaline flowing.


In conclusion

To my mind, the ability to visually locate bream in clear, shallow water and execute a plan to deceive and coerce one into eating an artificial (and then repeating this process over and over) is about as good as it gets for light tackle estuary anglers. Next month, we'll take a closer look at wading the shallows and adventuring on foot.

Had some success while fishing lately? Make sure you tag @anacondastores in your post so we can feature your catch on our Facebook and Instagram pages!


Find your local Anaconda store or browse online to check out our extensive range of fishing gear for your next estuary fishing session.

Whether you're into bream fishing, catching some flathead or any other type of fish, make sure you check out our range of fishing guides for all the helpful information you need.




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