Fishing hits the top
  |  First Published: December 2011

The fish just seem like they’re lining up to smash anything that hits the water.

Surface fishing is something I look forward to every Summer.

It’s certainly one of the most enjoyable ways of catching fish in the estuaries and if you haven’t given surface lures a go, then this is certainly the time.

In our local estuaries there are plenty of fish that will attack your surface lures. The key is to find the structure and you’ll find the fish.

Bream are excellent fish to start on. They were the first to give me a taste of the surface strike adrenaline and they are generally easy to find.

They also respond well to all kinds of surface lures and are excellent sport fish.

I started out just throwing things like Stiffy Poppers around seagrass beds and twitching them out of snags. Poppers are still among my favourites but many other surface lures will earn that distinctive ‘kiss’ of a surface-feeding bream.

Walk-the-dog surface lures have been very effective recently, especially when hunting spooky bream in the shallows.

And the cicada patterns are favourites when it comes to chasing fish under the mangroves and further upstream in the snags.

It’s a sure bet that at this time of year you can hear the constant background drone of cicadas in the gum trees. When that is the case, it’s also a sure bet that they’re on the fishes’ minds, too.

Bass love them, bream love them, even flatties will take a cicada lure, so it’s well worth throwing them wherever trees overhang or come close to the water.

Get your lure in close to structure and keep it there as long as possible. Just small twitches and big pauses make for even more excitement.

Nothing will pull you out of that daydream faster than a bass or a bream smashing your lure after you’ve had it sitting still for 30 seconds.


Farther up the estuaries there is also plenty there for those throwing surface lures. Bream, flathead and whiting are all now competing with the mangrove jacks and trevally that really heat up at this time of year.

The local trevally (GTs and bigeyes) inhabit all the local estuaries and will very readily take surface lures as well as many other lures.

The jacks can be harder to tempt out of their snags to hit a surface lure but it can be done.

As with most snag fishing, the key is to get your lure right in there and keep it in the stroke zone as long as possible.

Try to get the lure to be quite active but not come out from the snag too far. This is easiest with dog walkers and fizzers. If you’re willing to put in the time, a surface strike from a jack is definitely worth the effort.

The other Summer surface target for me, and many others, is the whiting. There are plenty around in the estuaries willing to hit all kinds of surface lures.

The most popular whiting lures are clear cup-faced poppers but many have been having great success on pencil poppers and walkers like the Lucky Craft Sammy 65, Lucky Craft Bevy Pencil and Bassday Sugapen.

Generally the more transparent patterns are best and whiting tend to like a more active retrieve than bream.

They can be very aggressive when it comes to surface lures, often competing with each other to hit a lure and will even nudge away larger trevally to hit your lure first.

Straight and fast retrieves get the best results for me, especially with the poppers.

Whiting have always had a reputation as being slow bottom dwellers so anglers often fish slowly so that the whiting can ‘catch’ their lure – there’s no need.

I’ve seen five or six whiting fight over my popper while I’ve been winding as fast as I could on my bream gear.

Someone once told me to pretend you’re trying to catch a tailor on a metal. It was after this I realised how slowly I was winding my popper for whiting.

As soon as I sped up the retrieve, I started having far more success.

One bonus with this style of fishing is that you cover far more ground than when working soft plastics or using baits.

On a quick weekday-arvo session, it works a treat. I’m quite happy flicking my surface lure around in anticipation of that strike and all the while covering a lot of ground just hunting out active fish. And you shouldn’t get any snags when surface luring.


For the offshore fishos at this time of year the majority of effort will also be very surface-oriented.

With the mackerel running and the current flowing, there will be all manner of angling paraphernalia thrown, trolled and floated in the top few metres of water.

With the East Australian Current moving in and out, the best bet is finding those bait reefs with warmer water flowing past.

Trolling shallow-diving minnows or swimming dead baits around the edges of those reefs is probably your best bet of getting something fast and toothy on the end of your line.

For those who can get their minds past those first few metres of water, there will still be plenty of snapper around to keep the mixed bags full, although it may be hard to get your bait past the rat kingies at times.

Whether you’re frothing up the surface or ploughing the depths this Summer, I hope you’re getting out and putting all those great Christmas presents to good use and catching some fish while you’re at it.

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