City Fishing Hints and Tips
  |  First Published: June 2008

As our population grows and cities continue to expand, anglers need to be able to find fish in urban settings.

While we would all love to be able to head off to exotic fishing destinations, sadly the reality is that most of our fishing is undertaken in local waters. And as many anglers are forced to live and work in cities and larger regional centres, that means we need to be able to track down our quarry amid the hustle and bustle of increasingly urbanised waterways. For anglers, this type of artificially altered marine environment calls for a whole new range of fish finding skills and a whole new way of looking at the sorts of places which are likely to attract and hold fish.

City fishing is all about being able to find fish in suburban rivers, creeks and canals and then meeting the challenge of extracting them from their chosen stretch of waterfront real estate. To do this, you need to first critically look at the ‘structure’ and then decide on the best method of attack.

Finesse fishing

Let’s start on the front foot and point out that successful urban anglers understand the need for finesse tactics, particularly when chasing cagey fish like the humble bream. Lures of choice include soft plastics and tiny hardbodies. Most of these are small, lightweight offerings and need to be fished on suitably light tackle.

In many ways, this makes city fishing one of the most challenging forms of angling there is. The fish are highly pressured and well educated, the currents are often gentle, allowing the fish plenty of time to inspect your offering and when the fish do decide to bite, they rarely have far to go to get back into their lair. When you factor in the need to use light tackle in order to get a hit in the first place, there is a lot of skill involved in the whole process, especially when there is always the chance of accidentally running into a mean old mangrove jack or tenacious trevally.

So how do you go about tapping into this readily available and often overlooked form of fishing? Well, as they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so rather than run through a dry ‘how to’ type article, I thought it might be worth providing you with a few pics from our local bit of city water in the town reach of the Burnett River. Of course, the actual features may differ slightly from your local urban waters, but the principles should still be the same. Have a look at the following and see if there is anything you might be able to adapt to suit your home turf.

City Lurks

1.City fishing is not just all about jetties and pontoons. In larger rivers like the Burnett, which flows through the middle of Bundaberg, the mooring area within the town reach is home to a virtual armada of yachts and larger pleasure craft. Floating structure like this can harbour bream and other foragers that congregate to feed on the marine organisms growing on the hulls. As the fish are likely to be sitting quite high in the water column, a lightly weighted soft plastic allowed to wash in underneath is a good choice in this situation. The trick of course is to know exactly which hull the fish are under.

2.Artificial structure can provide fish with better shelter than natural structure does. Horizontal surfaces like the bottom platform in this shot give the fish a roof over their head and provide shade and protection from predators. Fishing these sorts of places is all about getting your lure in under the structure. You may need to skip cast to get your lure right back in there and the further under it goes, the more likely it is to get hit.

Additionally, when the structure is made of ‘hard’ materials like concrete, it can attract predators like estuary cod, which would otherwise not be found in the area. It’s no coincidence that estuary cod often get labelled as rock cod as they love that hard structure.

3.Commercial fishing boats, like recreational boats, can provide the same opportunities, with the added advantage of sometimes providing their own built in ‘berley trail’. Fishing just down current of trawlers can be productive, especially if the deck hose is running, however do the right thing and don’t get in the way when they are trying to make a living.

4.Nice view? Often with city fishing it’s all about finding and fishing corners. Locate a spot where the general shape of the structure is interrupted and get a lure in there. This little corner provided by the rear of the trawler and the floating pontoon is an ideal place to lob a lure. If you plan your approach, you can let the current wash your lure in under the structure. Again, a lightly weighed soft plastic would be a good lure choice.

5.City fishing might not be as aesthetically pleasing as fishing wilderness areas, but it can offer the advantage of providing more casting options than natural features would. Take away all the man-made structure and this would be a fairly featureless stretch of water. As it is, there are enough possibilities to keep a dedicated lure caster busy for a week.

6.While all those pylons might look like potential targets, it’s important to watch what you are doing. Casting over ropes and leaving lures and hooks stuck in them can pose a danger for the owners. Then there’s the issue of trespassing. I’m not sure where the law sits on this one but it’s best to play it safe and keep your distance if in doubt.

7.City fishing can offer convenience. If you run out of fuel or food, why not pull up alongside and top up. A short break can have you refreshed and back fishing again. If you look closely, you might even be able to get your washing done while you wait!

8.Bridges are a well-known part of city fishing and pylons should always be worth a cast. These vertical structures disrupt the current flow and provide little pockets of shelter that the fish can hold in and use as a home base from which to launch feeding forays. Shellfish like mussels and oysters as well as algae growing on the pylons can also attract foraging species so you can never be sure what you are going to hook next. Sinking a Prawnstar alongside the pylons can get you into all sorts of fishy trouble.

9.Here’s a pocket to pick. Just like corners, any little gap that allows you to get your lure further back in under the structure should be exploited.

10.Even with all that man made structure around, you have to keep your eyes open. This might be the middle of town but if you look closely at this shot, you will notice a school of baitfish getting chased by bream in tight along the mud bank.

Hitting the streets

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about the sorts of places that might be worth exploring in your local waters. Sure, city fishing might not be anywhere near as glamorous as jetting off to some tropical island, but it’s far more convenient and regularly available. So why not try swapping your marine charts for a street directory and give it a go.


Potential Target Species

The exact target species will vary from place to place, depending on where you live, but the following are regularly encountered on lures in urban waterways along the east coast.



Estuary cod

Mangrove jacks




Lure selection

Soft plastics

3 and 5 inch Eyeball Tails

Berkely bass minnows, sandworms and shrimp

Atomic Fat Grubs

Squidgy Wrigglers

Prawnstar Juniors/Shrimps


Predatek Min Mins

Halco 35mm Scorpions

Baby Merlins

Trollcraft Crawdads (size 0)

Viking Lancasters

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