Back to Basics: Fishing foreshores – you never know what you might find

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A classic spot to catch a flathead – the foreshore.

The need to wet a line is something that most keen anglers struggle with from time to time. But trying to balance work and family commitments often means there is no time left for a much needed “therapy session” of fishing. Like many of you out there I’m always planning the next trip, constantly monitoring the tides and weather forecasts searching for that window to get back out on the water again. To get me through the times I can’t put the boat in the water I’ve found a few places that allow a morning or afternoon sessions on the flats flicking lures. It’s rough terrain that varies from mangroves to oyster covered rocks and muddy grass beds and you have to do a bit of hiking just to get there. Good walking shoes, a shoulder bag, lip grips and the ability to carry the tackle you need gives you the freedom to cover more ground and catch more fish. Being so close to home I can shoot down after work for an hour or two or get up at the crack of dawn, catch a few fish and be home in time for breakfast! I first targeted flathead on plastics and had some mind blowing sessions catching up to 25 fish in a couple of hours. The shear number of fish in the area was amazing and often two fish could be seen competing for the same lure. The flathead fishing was good enough but the absence of bream in text book bream country always amazed me as I predominantly fished with 8cm Berkley Powerbait Power Minnows and had caught plenty of bream on them before. Pumpkin seed was the gun colour for flathead in the shallow sometimes murky water the darker colour was perfect.

Matching the hatch

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This whiting took a popper cast to shallow foreshore water.

I tried fishing bigger plastics to target the bigger fish but never had as much success as using the smaller profiles. It was only when I took a mate with me and he fished small hardbodies that we caught a few bream, the downside of fishing hardbodies is you loose a bit of gear bouncing diving lures over the rocks but the increase in species is usually worth it. I have concentrated on small hardbodies through the winter spawning and over the warmer summer months and have caught bream every time. I’ve raided local tackle shops supply of small shallow hardbodies and my new favorite is the predatek min min and micro min. They have a nice action and run shallow enough to not snag up too often. Colour selection hasn’t been important with both natural and bright patterns all working. Using braid is a must and I recently upgraded to 10 pound to help reduce being cut off on the oysters and being busted off from crocodile sized flathead. The braid is the only way to register a bite from the bottom and many hookups come from feeling the fish take the lure and striking. A rods length of ten pound fluorocarbon connects me to the lure and helps combat the tough terrain I fish. Rod tip positioning makes all the difference when fishing water under a meter. Keep the rod tip low and you plow the bottom, high stick the retrieve and the lure will sit higher in the water and foul less. Usually you only have to high stick till the tide pushes in a bit so you go by feel to get it right. The rocks I fish run in rows parallel to the beach so as the tide pushes in you work each rock ledge back to the shore.

Life everywhere

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Low tide reveals all kinds of hidden gems along the foreshores.

The amount of life around any rocks is amazing and I have to negotiate waist deep water avoiding stingrays, mudcrabs, shovelnosed sharks, turtles and god knows what else and there have been a few tense moments when a big stingray or a dinner table sized turtle takes off next to you in dirty water! The switch to hardbodies has also revealed a healthy population of javelin fish and when you hook these things in shallow water you know your on to something better straight away. It’s often necessary to high stick the rod on better fish to avoid being cut off on the higher ridges of rock between you and the fish and on more than one occasion I’ve had to give chase to land the fish. This flats fishing is not for the faint hearted! Not only do they fight well they are hard to beat on the plate with thick juicy fillets that have made javelin fish a favourite in my house.

A myriad of fish species

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Bream just love small hardbodies twitched over rocky outcrops.

Small trevally, moses perch, whiting and juvenille cod make up the bulk of the bycatch and I finally managed a cod that was just under half a meter on my last trip. True to form the cod had a crab nearly the size of your fist in it’s mouth and still ate my tiny offering. A switch to poppers when the water is too low or too dirty for hardbodies and a little clear prawn patten popped in ankle deep water drives whiting nuts with many casts getting belted a dozen times. Hookup rates can be low especially when the little fish move in but there are usually a few bigger fish and it’s a lot of fun and fills the time till the tide is right. Bream and flathead are also partial to surface lures they just have to beat the whiting for a look in. The more time I spend on the flats the more I learn about where the fish are at certain stages of the tide and by trying different lures at different times I’m slowly getting to the point where I catch fish most of the tide range. High tide is the last challenge because the water is normally too deep on the edge of the mangroves to stand and fish from so the next thing is to drop the kayak in the water and fish back to the mangroves. I haven’t got there yet because after trudging over rocks for a few hours I normally have enough fish for a meal and to be honest I’m usually a little tuckered out by then. Who said exercise can’t be fun!

Stalking the flats

Stalking the flats using lures is how I prefer to fish, it gives the angler the ability to cover plenty of ground to find the fish. Bait fishing would also work but I think using floats or unweighted baits would be the only way to avoid being snagged. Fooling fish into taking a lure is the main appeal for me and I find lures usually produce the better fish. There is nothing I like better then blasting up the bay into the blue yonder chasing pelagics or reef fish but this bread and butter stuff has kept fresh fish on the table and my sanity in tact and become one of my favourite ways to wet a line. The fact it’s just up the road makes it even better. By seeking out your local area for these hidden gems and investing a bit of time to learn the lay of the land you may be amazed what is on offer right on your doorstep.  
Scott Bradley

About Scott Bradley

Scott Bradley was born in Hastings Victoria and grew up fishing for King George whiting, snapper, sharks, Australian salmon and flathead. At 15 years of age his family moved to what he calls ‘God’s own country’ for the fishing and lifestyle that Queensland’s Hervey Bay is famous for. At 19 he bought his first boat and started to properly explore the fish-rich waters adjacent to world-renowned Fraser Island. “I carved my teeth chasing pelagics and to this day find it hard to go past a boiling bait school without firing a slug or popper into the action,” said Scott. “Longtails and spotted mackerel were all I chased until age 20 when I caught my first marlin trolling in 10 meters of water, 500 meters off Fraser Island and I was hooked.” From then on Scott has spent years chasing marlin inside Fraser Island. On the good days he says 5 to 10 shots at marlin are not uncommon. Now 37-years-old, Scott maintains that game fishing is his passion. “But I'd also fish in a bucket of water,” he said. “September to March is when I chase Marlin leaving the rest of the year to stalk the flats for flathead and bream. I also hit the reefs for snapper, reds, cod and coralies plus also throw the net for a feed of prawns or shoot up a creek if the wind is up.”

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