Beach flatties the go
  |  First Published: June 2012

Beach anglers along the South East Queensland coastline would be mightily relieved that another summer and autumn of solid onshore winds and ground swells are finally behind us.

As most of us are aware, having suitable conditions to fish in, irrespective of location, is half the battle when seeking fish of any variety and at last we can now focus on all those other little things that make for successful angling.

The most important thing to start with is which equipment to use for the target species. For instance, it's common knowledge that smaller flexible rods with small reels and light poundage line is used to target whiting. To use tailor gear for whiting is bound to fail and most people have discovered this at some point.

Heavy gear doesn't work as well for the smaller species because the heavier line is more visible in the clear shallow water where these species tend to hold. Heavier line also requires a heavier sinker to counteract the extra drag, which prevents bait being presented in a natural looking fashion. Heavier sinkers require stronger rods to cast, which have minimal flex for smaller species, which causes the fish to immediately detect the resistance from the rod.

Therefore, when targeting the bread and butter species in the surf, we need equipment that allows for the presentation of baits, or lures, in a way that differs as little as possible to how the fish would normally encounter their prey. As a rule, using the lightest gear possible for any species in the surf allows for the best presentation, providing that some tension can be maintained on the line and the bait is not simply being swept away by the current.

For whiting that inhabit shallow surf gutters that are close to the beach, a rod between 6ft to 9ft that is relatively flexible with an Alvey or spinning reel with no more than 6lb line will generally do the trick. The sinker should be as light as possible so that the worm or pipi bait can move freely. If the sinker is burying in the sand then it is too heavy.

Bream, tarwhine and dart inhabit gutters that tend to be a bit deeper than for whiting and are usually set back from the beach a little further than are the whiting gutters. A rod of 8ft to 11ft with a fast taper that still has sufficient strength to throw a no 7 ball sinker that may be required for tension and distance casting, would mostly do the trick. Line can again be 6lb or less, but as high as 9lb on an Alvey or spinning reel. Again the sinker should be as light as possible to allow a worm, pipi, yabbie, mullet flesh bait to move freely.

Ideally for tailor, a longer rod of 11ft or more is needed to cast as large as a number 10 ball sinker that is sometimes required to prevent sweeping with the stronger currents that generally occur in the deeper gutters and holes where tailor search for prey. Added to the large sinker is usually a pilchard or flesh bait of bonito, mac tuna, mullet or tailor, so the rod should have sufficient strength to handle this weight, but still have some flexibility to play a hooked fish. This same rod should be suitable for casting metal lures.

Of course, there are no set rules for the equipment an angler uses and many would choose to adapt their equipment in ways that enable greater chances of success with gear that is not ideal for a given target. Such an adaption might be to use a rod and reel that is ideally suited for dart and bream, but with no more than 6lb line, can also be fine for whiting. Or, a rod and reel set up for bream and dart can be used for tailor in calm conditions with some assistance to be had from a casting leader of 15lb line and smaller bait size.

Selecting a suitable gutter or hole for the species being targeted is extremely important. Whiting gutters are easy to identify as ones that children would enjoy splashing around in safety from large waves and rips. But identifying the section of gutter where the whiting are most likely to be is not so easy. Look for small drop-offs within the gutter or areas of white water on the water's surface at the rear of the gutter where the whiting will scrounge for food.

Dart are not terribly fussy about the type of water they inhabit and can be found in most gutters and holes that have reasonable depth. White water on the surface is an added attraction for dart, as are drop-offs.

Bream like structure such as rocks, the edges of sand banks, or areas where water is running out from a shallow gutter into deeper water. Tarwhine and bream can often be found together and dart are often an incidental catch when fishing for the other two species.

Tailor are usually to be found in the deeper gutters and holes, but this is not always the case. Good structure such as rocks, the edges of sand banks or where water is running from shallow gutters into deeper water can hold tailor. White water on the surface can be very useful in seeking out this species.

One thing that I consistently see on the beach is anglers fishing the middle sections of gutters where there is no white water, structure or water running from shallow to deep. Usually there will be one of these assets very nearby where these anglers are fishing and a shift to the north or south would provide far better opportunities. If you are unsure about where would be the best section of a gutter to fish, move around and try all the sections of the gutter rather than just plant yourself in a spot. Patience and experimentation is critical and especially in this day and age.

Angling prospects for the month ahead are always a bit of an unknown these days. June is a month that can deliver bream, tarwhine, whiting, dart, tailor and jewfish. Longtail, mac tuna and school mackerel can also still be around. But netting is also in full swing and this can throw one great big spanner in the works that prevents recreational anglers of any skill level of finding fish on this beach and all the others of SEQ where netting occurs.

Worryingly, reports over the past few months when there has been very little if any netting occurring have been very poor. Some dart and flathead, the odd bream or tarwhine and a few whiting have made up the only reports of fish that I have received. Mostly, people are reporting that they haven't caught anything at all. Not that I am surprised by this as it would be unrealistic to expect that the fish have miraculously returned since the consistently poor reports of the last few years.

However, there is one species that is totally unaffected by the netting and whose numbers would appear to be on the increase. Flathead are being increasingly caught on Teewah Beach and are now well worth targeting. The best results that I have seen have been on plastics and half pilchards in the shallow gutters adjacent to the beach. Those achieving the best results are finding that moving from gutter to gutter and working the full extent of the gutters until the fish are found is the go.

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