Sussing out structure
  |  First Published: December 2005

Structure can come in many different shapes, sizes and forms and can be natural or made by humans. Whatever it is, it can hold fish.

You will find good structure throughout Botany Bay and Port Hacking. The natural structure, such as reefs, weed beds and sunken trees, is home to many different species of invertebrates, including crustaceans and molluscs, which in turn attract many different fish like yellowtail, slimy mackerel, mullet, garfish, prawns, bream, flathead, snapper, mulloway and luderick.

Human-made structure includes such things as groynes like those at Kurnell and Dolls Point, retaining walls like those at Molineaux Point and the airport runways, navigation markers throughout our waterways, bridge pylons like those in the Cooks River, Captain Cook and Tom Uglys bridges), floating drums like the oil tanker moorings, moored boats, buoys and pontoons. All attract a variety of fish.

So here are a few tips on what to expect around these structures, which hopefully will help you to understand how to fish them more productively.


Bridge pylons come in all shapes and sizes and most help form the current eddies that scour out the bottom to form holes that can range from very deep to a slight depression. The scouring effect that these eddies and big tides can move objects along the river bottom to form a reef that may extend out from the base of the bridge pylon.

Around these depressions or reefs the baitfish will seek shelter from their predators. For example, prawns, crabs and many other small morsels will use the structure of the bridge and what grows on or around it to hide from the likes of bream and luderick, which will feed around the full height of the pylons.

On some of these bridges there are lights that will attract baitfish and squid, which provide good food for predators like mulloway, kingfish and very large flathead.

Because of the many different shapes of bridge pylons you will need to work out which technique is best for each bridge.

The Captain Cook Bridge at the entrance to the Georges River is renowned for its luderick during the Winter and not too many days go past without anglers working the bases of the pylons for luderick.

This bridge is also a great place to chase mulloway during the Summer. Once I have selected the tide I want to fish, such as a tide change an hour or so either side of sunrise or sunset, I anchor my boat about 30 metres up-current of the base of the bridge and lay out a berley trail filtering back towards it.

Then it is just a matter of setting your baits on or near the bottom and waiting for the mulloway to come along. While you are there you can always have another line out for the bream that will also hold up here.


Breakwalls usually extend out into open sea or bay to provide a breaking point for the force of the waves or create a calm, safe harbour. A groyne is a small wall that has been built out into the sea, river or bay to help prevent bankside erosion. Groynes can change the shape of the shoreline by interfering with longshore transport of sand.

Right around Australia you find many different types of breakwalls and groynes. Where the bases of these rocks, boulders or pre-cast concrete blocks meet the bottom you is often a fish highway.

Flathead will bury themselves into the sand or mud to lie in wait for unsuspecting prey. Bream feed and breed around the crevices. The weeds and other organisms that grow on these breakwalls attract hordes of luderick to graze on this smorgasbord.

These breakwalls also give yellowtail, pike, slimy mackerel and other baitfish some protection from their larger predators as well as food drifting by. At the top of the food chain, mulloway and kingfish patrol up and down these walls for their next meals.

To fish these structures you can suspend a live bait under a bobby cork for mulloway or kingfish or run a ball or bean sinker straight down to a set of ganged hooks. Let the float drift down that ‘highway’ or allow the ball sinker to roll along the edge where the bottom meets the wall where those dusky flathead lay in wait.

When you are after luderick you can use polarised sunglasses to locate where the fish are feeding, then pick a spot a little upstream, start berleying and let your float drift down to where the fish are feeding.

For bream try a leader of about a metre or a ball sinker right down on the hook.


Kingfish love to hang around navigation buoys or channel markers, mainly because that is where yellowtail, slimy mackerel and other baitfish hang out. If you are fishing from the shore you could always suspend a live bait under a bobby cork and cast close to the marker. If there is a kingfish around, it won’t take long to find your offering.

If you prefer to use lures, cast a popper or soft plastics beside the marker and retrieve it in a fast, skipping motion. If the kingfish don’t respond to the fast retrieve you could cast your plastic at the base of the pole and allow it to slowly sink.

If a kingfish doesn’t take it on the way down, you should start a slow and erratic retrieve.

When fishing from a boat you could anchor upstream and float your baits back to the marker or you could use a paternoster rig or a running sinker rig with a live bait. Lower this rig to the bottom and then wind it up so that it is suspended just off the bottom near the base of the marker.

Put the outfit in the rod holder with the reel’s drag set for strike and just sit back and let it all happen.


Targeting bream that feed on or beneath pontoons can be done at any part of the tide. The main way that I fish for bream around pontoons is to move up slowly with my electric motor and cast flies, minnows, soft plastics or unweighted baits on the up-current side and work them all around the pontoon.

You could also try anchoring upstream of a line of pontoons and letting your berley trail flow back to them. You could then float baits and/or lures back down to the pontoons and then work them back up-current. Bream will also feed on the marine growth that forms on the sides.


When targeting kingfish or bream with plastics, poppers or minnows around moored boats, the ideal situation is not to have too much wind. This will give you plenty of time to put out a few cast at each of the boats as you drift past.

The boats themselves attract fish and so do the mooring ropes, chains and concrete bases. It is the growth that forms on these that attracts the baitfish and their predators.

You can anchor up near a group of moored boats and lay out a berley trail and feed out lightly weighted baits towards the boats and moorings. The only problem is when the fish bust you off on the moorings.


In the early 1990s I teamed up with Scotty Lyons and we have run many on-water fishing classes. We always talked about putting together a video production and at last we have the DVD A Day on the Bay, which covers how to catch live bait for yellowtail kingfish, soft plastics techniques for flathead, bait fishing for bream and silver trevally and lure fishing for tailor. There are also segments on where to fish on Botany Bay and even how to clean your catch.  

The DVD, which costs $24.99, also covers baits and how to rig them, gear selection we used, plus much more in 55 minutes with another 20 minutes of extras. To get a copy or join a fishing class from February, call me on 0422 994 207 or email me.


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