Sunset beach fishing
  |  First Published: November 2003

ONE OF the best things about living here is knocking off from work and heading down for a fish on the beach, watching the sunset from under the swaying coconut trees. This is a great option now that the days are balmy, the weather is calmer and the fish have come on the chew. November and December can turn up all sorts of goodies on our beaches.

The best time to fish the wonderful beaches in the Douglas Shire is around the approach of the new or full moon as the tides rise in the late afternoon. If you can manage a turning ebb tide just after dark as well, that’s even better.

My friends and I like to get down on the beach early and set up camp. Then, with our cast nets, we carefully scour the gutters and flats for the first signs of bait rolling in with the tide. Look for any 'against the grain' effect on the water, because that’s the sign of a bait school. You need to look carefully, particularly if there is a little chop on the water. Mullet, sardines and garfish are the best baits to capture and keep alive in a oxygenated bucket. We prefer big baits as they mean big fish.

If the live bait is scarce we bring down a frozen bag of bait captured recently at the same location. There's no doubt local baits work better if you have to resort to dead baits. It’s your next best bait back-up.

We stick to moderate lines of 4-6kg on a spinning outfit with a running sinker rig. I opt for 30lb leader whilst others use ultra-thin wire trace leaders which they make up at home. Often we encounter a lot of smaller sharks and my friends claim they don't lose as much tackle when using wire. On the other hand, I claim they'd catch more fish on mono, especially the preferred species such as blue salmon and barramundi. It's all about preference though. I upsize my hooks for big baits such as garfish and bigger mullet and use 3/0 to 5/0 hooks. A hook this size gives plenty of opportunity for the point to make good contact with the fish’s mouth. I've tried all sorts of hooks and the straight shank has produced the best results for me.

Be sure to get yourself some PC plumbing tubes as rod holders – they’re invaluable. Make them around 75-00cm, as the extra height can often keep your line clear of the wave breaks and any seaweed which may be around. Lastly, angle cut the bottom of the tubes for easier insertion into the sand. A good torch or lantern is also imperative for this type of twilight fishing.

The best action occurs right on dark and for an hour afterwards. To make the session more enjoyable, make sure you are set up well beforehand and enjoy the moment of dusk. The fish tend to come in waves or patches so be alert around the very low light period. You may only get two or three shots as the target fish pass by as they run the beach.

Lately we’ve nailed tarpon, barramundi, blue salmon and trevally in handsome proportions using this tactic. Naturally, we have encountered sharks and shovelnose rays as well, but when using relatively light line these big species are a lot of fun to beach and release.

Jeez we do it tough, but someone has to do it!

1) Blue salmon are a sure bet in early summer with the right bait.

2) A bit of local knowledge can land you a bag of fresh bait.

3) ‘Sharky’ Shane, skipper of MV Doreen Too with a welcome by-catch on the beach using light line.

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