Fishing the dirty water
  |  First Published: April 2013

The wet weather has made for unpleasant fishing conditions throughout February and early March. It’s hard to determine what weather April will bring, but if the weather persists like it has been, then the local saltwater estuaries will still be quite dirty. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean the fishing will shut down completely, in fact some species become move active in these conditions.

I have been out a few times in Noosa River in the breaks of rain, and have been getting a few fish, including a lot of bream and the odd cod. There have also been reports of trevally and jack as well; both are strong predatory fish always keen to feed on the stirred up prawns being washed throughout the river.

Change of tactics

Bream will often come out of their structure and use the dark, dirty water to their advantage, as they are less cautious due to poor visibility. This can sometimes make it easier for the angler to target them. In clean conditions, they will often hide in or near structure including jetties, bridge pylons, rock walls, and boat moorings. But this is different when the water is ‘coffee-like’.

I have found in dirtier conditions, you will pull fish holding in much shallower water, rather than jetties and moorings that provide good cover. Although it is possible to find fish still dwelling amongst structure, there will be a greater number of fish holding in more uncommon places.

Other species such as jacks and trevally, will keep feeding as long the prawn population continues to wash throughout the river. If you spot prawns flicking on the surface, be ready to cast towards them as trevally are always on their tails.

In cleaner conditions, jacks will usually ambush their prey from their snaggy lair. But, in conditions like the river is at the moment, they will be moving around a lot more hunting for an easy feed on prawns! In saying this, there will be a lot of flow in the rivers, so it is important to look at where the water will be delivering bait. A good example of this is in the run-out tide, where water is flushing out of a small creek into the main river. Cast toward the mouth of the creeks where fresh meets clean water will get you fish.

Another important tip is to fish deep. As the fresh flows into the saltwater, the saltwater will be mostly concentrated towards the lower column of the estuary, as saltwater is more dense than freshwater. Fish will stay in the salt as much as possible; therefore, you’re in the right zone if you fish deep!

Baits and Lures

The main aim when bait fishing is to use baits with a lot of smell, such as prawns and pilchards. This is because fish rely on their sense of smell in these conditions. Dirty water conditions obviously push a lot of freshwater throughout the river; and with the fresh comes the fork-tailed catfish. When using baits, this can sometimes be a pain, although they do put up a great fight!

When using lures, whether you’re using soft plastics or hardbodies, there are a lot of things to think about. There are three important factors: colour, scent, and sound.

Colours have to either be very bright, bright pink is a popular colour, or a full shade dark colour, including black. My favourite lure to use for bream in these conditions is a Z-Man 2.5” Pink Grubz, rigged on a 1/16oz TT jighead. These create a silhouette in the water that fish are able to see out of the murkiness for higher visibility.

Scents, including Squidgies S Factor, or Dizzies garlic scents, can be applied on soft plastics and hardbodies. It is important to keep re-applying every 20 or so casts so you always have the best chance of getting more fish.

Sound, including rattle and vibration, is another important factor to think about. A lot of hardbodies have in-built rattles to attract fish, and in murky water conditions, this is important. Working the lures slowly, sometimes with hard twitches to emit a loud rattle in the water make the fish curious, and they will come to investigate. Vibe, soft vibes (Jackall Mask Vibe and Transams), and blades are made to put out a vibration that attracts many fish from around an area you are fishing.

Fishing dirty water is a lot different to fishing cleaner water conditions. So, as a young angler, it gives you the chance to experiment with your fishing, using the tips to find what works best for you. It’s a good learning curve, fishing to the conditions makes you think a lot and make many different choices, so get out there!


• Use lures deeper and slower;

• Use either very bright coloured, or very dark coloured lures;

• Use smell baits if bait fishing;

• Fish where you think the flow of water is delivering food, where fresh meets cleaner water;

• Fish will be less cautious in murky water due to low visibility, increasing you chances;

• Persistence is a key to fishing.

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