Part 3: Estuary Fishing Ideas
  |  First Published: November 2007

This month will address alternative methods concerning estuary fishing. This will cover different ways to rig baits, the simple rigs to use and how to make the rigs.

The estuaries are the mainstay of our fishing industry with the so called bread-and-butter varieties, such as bream, flathead and whiting. For most of us, we remember our first catches being whiting and bream, but the rigs we used back then have certainly changed, thanks to better equipment.

The different baits available around the estuary circuit are in abundance and include yabbies, worms, prawns, herring, hardiheads, mullet and a heap of other live bait. The good news is that all of these baits can be caught with the use of a cast or drag net – saving you stacks on purchasing.

Collecting bait can be just as much fun as the end result of fishing. And it is also something that the whole family can enjoy right down to the little ones.


Whiting are generally caught by using a long shank hook, sizes 1 and 2 are normally sufficient. The hook size should match the bait, so if your yabbies or strip bait is a little thick or long you may have to upgrade to around a 1/0. You can cut the bait to the size you want, but that makes it look very unnatural and will affect the end result.

Rigging for whiting is easy when using a long shank hook, red tubing and a swivel connected at the top end of the trace holding the sinker up (Figure C). There are other methods, including a paternoster rig with two hooks, but this is simple to make and it works.

Worms are straightforward to rig, but whiting also enjoy yabbies and live or peeled prawns. Even though you can use the smaller prawns whole, I like to remove their heads and use it for berley in the area.

Rigging yabbies is the same as rigging a prawn with either a bream or long shank whiting hook. Start at the tail and feed the hook right through the bait, bring the hook out just near the bottom of the head. Yabbies are a softer bait so tying the half hitch around the tail is important.


Bream are a hard-hitting predator and many anglers underestimate them. When fishing with hardiheads, you will normally get two massive hits and you should strike on the second one.

The bream will hit the hardihead first to knock it out and then come back to devour it. The same thing happens to dead and live herring with the bigger bream. Remember these fish can smash oyster shells with their head and then crush them in their teeth.

The easiest way to rig for a bream is a suicide hook up to a 1/0, followed by a trace up to the swivel as depicted in Figure C. This is very close to the whiting rig with the hook and sinker position really the only major difference.

Most anglers prefer to have the sinker right on top of the hook when fishing for bream. There are different methods to rig bait.


Demonstrates how to rig a whole or peeled prawn


How to rig a live prawn


How to rig a hardihead

When I use dead hardiheads I always peel away the scales by running my thumb along the body until they fall off. The scales are very hard and make it difficult to get your hook through.

Tie a half hitch on the tail of the fish to hold it on. It is the complete opposite of putting the hook through the eye socket first and then pulling it through (Figure G).


Flathead attack with absolute power and I have witnessed a small 50-60cm flathead just slurp down a whole mullet in one swoop. This mullet was not small by any means and I still find it hard to believe how effective their ambush skills are.

Primarily, flathead will burrow into the dirt so that they are invisible to any passing schools, allowing them to surprise their prey. There are many ways of fishing for flathead including strip baits, live bait and dead baits. Flathead will take all the baits mentioned but I find the best is whitebait, particularly when trolling.

Long before soft plastics, I use to use this rig when trolling and casting from the bank with a slow retrieve and it was very effective. Figure H shows how to use a long shank 1/0 or 2/0 hook and rig a school of whitebait. The flathead sees a school or multiple targets and will attack. Strip bait can be used the same way and tie it off with a half hitch.

Baiting a herring with a treble shows a local version of what to do and flathead love it (Figure E). The line is pulled through leaving the treble pulled up to the mouth of the bait.

Figure A shows how to rig a herring as a live bait for flathead. Take note that very little stress would be caused to the bait using this method.

There are other species that will slam a live herring presented like this and that is what fishing is all about – the anticipation of that big one.

Next time you hit the estuaries try not to complicate your fishing and remember that the simple rigs will catch the fish. If you also have fresh or live bait then you are well on your way to catching a feed and enjoying this great sport.

Figure A

Figure B

Figure C

Figure E

Figure F

Figure G

Figure H

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