Flood tide on the flats
  |  First Published: May 2013

As the land and the river water cool, it becomes necessary to change strategy to continue to get good estuary catches.

It’s worthwhile fishing on a rising tide as the warmer ocean water makes the fish active and they forage over the warm shallow flats.

A lot can be learnt from walking around the sandy or muddy flats at low tide, where you can observe what has been visiting there at high tide.

Most obvious are the depressions left by flathead or stingrays, while the not so obvious are likely to include small crater-like dimples, crushed oysters or shellfish and legs left behind from a crab that had the misfortune of encountering some scaly predator.

Once you find these areas, go back on a rising tide to hunt for the fish that left the signs.

Places like the Bega River, Nelsons Lagoon or Wapengo Lake, north of Tathra, are prime areas.

Bream, whiting, flathead, flounder, luderick and trevally are just some of the frequent visitors to the flats at high tide in search of food. Anglers making long casts on light gear to place baits like nippers, worms or small crabs over the flats will encounter these species regularly.

Polarised sunglasses can allow you to see the fish before making your cast.

If you like using lures too, place your bait rods in holders waiting for a bite and try sight-casting to fish cruising the flats. Small hardbodies may prove effective but from my experience bait provides most of the catch.


Tathra Wharf and the adjacent rocks remains small pelagic central but bigger pelagics regularly come in range of anglers wielding a spin stick or drifting a live bait. Kingfish, salmon, bonito and sharks may take a bait while striped tuna, frigate mackerel and tailor often react to lures.

Slimy mackerel, trevally, garfish and luderick are available from the wharf and off the rocks groper, drummer and the wrasse are on the chew.

Those lightweight pelagics are a good option for those who wish to cast lures from a boat. Most of the headlands are productive but areas to the north out from Nelsons Headland are prime.

Calm Autumn weather allows bottom anglers access to a host of species.

Flathead are abundant in varying depths and gummy sharks and red gurnard also feature.

Snapper are increasing in size and numbers around most of the reefs along with nannygai, morwong, perch and jackets.

It is also a good time of year for squid and adding a jig to your bottom rig is a good way to drum up some variety for the evening meal or quality bait.

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