Beach Fishing’s Big Four
  |  First Published: September 2007

Spring is beach fishing time and in the following I’ll discuss the four best tips to start landing some quality fish from the surf.

Springtime means the beach fishing starts to come to life and here in Southern Queensland, the springtime gutters are your best chance of a fish. We start to the warmer weather, clearer skies and light winds but forget about all of that, spring is all about the fish that are crowding the beach gutters!

I love chasing tailor but that usually involves cold winter nights with stinky old pillies, so having the warm sun in your face and a fresh pipi or beach worm on the hook is a lot more pleasant. I have stood on the open beach all alone in the dark many a night waiting for the tailor to make an appearance only to head home without even loosing a bait. But if you get the weather, rig, location and bait right, the fish will be a sure thing.


The main factor here is the wind. Anything more than a light breeze and I prefer to head somewhere else for a fish. Springtime sees a lot of westerlies that are ideal for comfort and casting distance but while the tailor seem to like them, most fish prefer a southerly or easterly breeze. I hate fishing the beach during a northerly because the fishing is usually slow and the blue bottles start to get blown into shore, but as long as the winds are light it is still worth heading out. Things like a rising barometer and clear sunny days are also a bonus but not a necessity.

Big swells keep the fish out wide and create a sweep along the open beaches that makes fishing either impossible or at best, darn hard work. Light winds and clear days are normally associated with small swells so it does go hand in hand but just watch those big ground swells that can crop up from time to time and wreck even the nicest day fishing.


I have complicated every other aspect of my fishing so I am not about to do that to my beach fishing. A short trace of about 30cms, with a #4 long shank hook, size 10 swivel and depending on the conditions, a size 3 ball sinker.

I still use mono line, a light 9ft surf rod with a 6.5” Alvey. The trend to go for graphite rods, threadline reels and braided lines has merit and will certainly improve casting and sensitivity but is expensive and prone to being ruined by sand and salt, so while I still use the old style gear, the choice is yours. The rig can remain the same if using braid but the running sinker will have to run on mono leader or it will wear away at the braid.


Just because it is a beach gutter does not mean that it is full of food and therefore full of fish. Some gutters are nothing more than just a deep section of water between two sand bars. While there is no doubt that fish will move in and out of these gutters, it is always best to look for a gutter that will provide a feed for the fish and therefore keep them in the area.

My experience has taught me that there is no substitute for a gutter that is running hard up against the shoreline. Why these gutters work best is because waves will break hard up against the shore, churn all the sand up and expose pipis, worms and crabs that get dragged into the gutter with each receding wave.

It can often take some walking or driving to find such gutters but will always fish very well. There is one golden rule though: never walk right up to the shore or into the water and cast over the top of all the fish that you just scared away. Whiting, dart, flathead and bream will all be feeding just out from the churned up sand and because of that, tailor, jewies and other predators will also be close by. Standing back a good 20m from the waterline will look strange but will see a lot of fish be caught hard up against the shore. After I have made a number of casts from way back, I start to approach the shore but start casting off to the sides so I am still targeting fish that are in close. If you can cast 30m, you can catch a heap of fish from these close gutters. Even my young boys manage a stack of fish on cheap little seven foot combos.


What are the fish feeding on? Work that out and start throwing whatever it is into the water and start catching fish. Is that too complicated? I only ask because so many anglers fail to do just that. I used to work as a fishing guide on South Stradbroke Island and every trip was started by gathering bait from where we were going to fish. I admit that on South Straddie we were spoiled and never had a problem finding bait so in some areas you may have to buy your worms or pipis – but stick with the local stuff when ever you can.

Pillies are perfect for tailor and even in spring when the bait schools are moving up the coast, most of these schools are frog mouth pilchards and resemble a WA Pilchard very closely in both look and smell.

I was once lucky enough to be fishing one of my preferred close-in gutters when tailor started feeding on a school of froggies but didn’t bring any bait with me. I was kicking myself because they looked like good-sized fish and all I had were some beach worms. The tailor continued to feed on the bait fish and bought them so close to the shore that waves were picking up hand-fulls of froggies and dumping them on the sand at my feet. It was simply a case of placing a live pilchard on the hook, sending it back out to the gutter and holding on. You know you’re in for a great morning when that sort of thing is going on.

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