Big Fish from the Shore

LAnd Based banner The immense Western Australian coastline holds almost endless opportunity for land-based fishos. In this article, Kaydo Fishing World contributor Ben Knaggs runs us through a short sample of some of the land-based fishing highlights.
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The biggest Aussie salmon in the country make their annul run around the south-west WA coast from late summer through early autumn. At this time, fish like this are commonplace.

I guess when most of us think about land-based fishing, the expectation is generally for smaller fish or fish species making up most of the catch. Obviously there are many exceptions to this perception, but on the whole, successfully chasing monster fish from the shore is the domain of super committed and often highly skilled anglers. However, things are a bit different in the fish filled state of Western Australia. Your average land-based fisho of the west has it easy in comparison to his friends over east. You don’t have to be any sort of hard-nosed guru fisho to realistically expect serious fish from the shoreline, almost regardless of where you cast a line from the WA coast. So with this in mind, let’s have a quick look at just a few of the highlights of West Aussie land-based fishing.

Quobba and Steep Point

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The rock ledges of Steep Point and the Quobba Coast offer some of the finest land-based game fishing in the world. Big Spanish mackerel like this fish caught by LBG expert Goshie, are the key target species from these rocks. Image courtesy of Goshie.

If you’ve had any exposure whatsoever to land-based game fishing, you would have heard of these two quite separate but similar stretches of rugged sandstone coast. Many who’ve experienced the land-based game fishing from these rock ledges call them the best in the world. The Quobba Coast is easily accessed by driving north from the township of Carnarvon, while Steep Point is more of a mission to reach, located as it is at the very end of a fairly rough 4WD track that follows Shark Bay’s western shore and eventually leads you to the westernmost point of the Australian mainland. At either destination you’ll find cliffs and ledges made of cheese grater rock, lashed by the wild waters of the Indian Ocean. Big Spanish mackerel are the key target species, but a whole host of other pelagics including longtail tuna, shark mackerel, yellowfin tuna, various trevallies, cobia, kingfish and even sailfish and small black marlin can also be caught from both locations. Spinning with large metal lures or diving minnows will score fish here when conditions allow, but the most popular technique for fishing these harsh rock ledges is to skip dead baits out with the aid of large helium filled balloons – an unusual but deadly effective technique that owes its genesis to these ledges and the fishos that pioneered them.

One Mile Jetty, Carnarvon

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Find baitballs anywhere along the north-west coastline of WA and you’ll likely find queenfish in attendance.

How many of us grew up pestering tiddlers down at the local wharf, pier or jetty? Well if you grew up fishing this jetty, tiddlers would never have been part of the equation! Carnarvon’s One Mile Jetty is most famous for its biblical runs of nice sized mulloway. Although mulloway in the 10-40lb size range are caught here year-round, when the One Mile Jetty goes off, unbelievable numbers of quality jewies are pulled onto these planks by fishos lucky enough to be on the spot.
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Big giant trevally are available to land-based anglers fishing the tip of Exmouth’s North West Cape. Casting poppers or surface stickbaits after dark from the reef edges here will score you booming GTs like this fish caught by musician, James Abberley.

Carnarvon’s One Mile Jetty often turns on crazy fishing for nice sized mulloway.

Carnarvon’s One Mile Jetty often turns on crazy fishing for nice sized mulloway.

As its name suggests, One Mile Jetty is a massive structure; as dictated by Carnarvon’s shallow seafront. Most of the jetty stretches over dry sand or super shallow flats, so it’s really only the last few hundred metres of planks that are worth fishing. When the mulloway are schooled up beneath this structure, dropping a fresh jigged live bait or even a frozen pilchard (mulie here in the west) or bottle squid down is as near a guarantee to success as exists in the world of mulloway fishing. Despite its position over water barely four metres deep at its very end, the One Mile Jetty gives land-based access to an incredible range of quality fish. Aside from the main event mulloway, Spanish mackerel, cobia, yellowtail kingfish, golden and giant trevally and some horse tailor are regulars here. More than enough to warrant packing the big guns when fishing these planks!

Exmouth Again

As we’ve seen in previous Kaydo Fishing World features, Exmouth is right up there amongst the hottest fishing destinations in both the state and country, and its land-based fishing options don’t tarnish this hefty reputation one iota. Although there’s a wide range of fish available from the shore of Exmouth’s North West Cape, the headline species is giant trevally … we are talking real big ones. The tip of North West Cape near the wreck of the SS Mildura is the hot spot, and working big poppers or surface stickbaits from the shallow reef edges here can result in a crashing strike that sees you connected to a steam train of a trevally well in excess of 20 kilos. Now Exmouth is WA’s most popular fishing destination as has been for decades, so don’t expect the land-based fishing for big GTs or most other species to always be ultra-easy. However, with just a modicum of perseverance and half an idea of what you’re doing, the results can be memorable.

Flicking the Ningaloo Flats

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The aqua-clear flats of the Ningaloo lagoon are a dream to fish. A huge range of fish patrol these waters, but spangled emperor are one of the mainstays.

The coastline from Exmouth to Red Bluff near Carnarvon is fringed by Australia’s ‘other’ great reef – the Ningaloo Reef. In many respect the Ningaloo Reef is superior to Queensland’s Barrier Reef, not the least in terms of access and pristine state. The fishing inside the reef – the ‘Ningaloo Lagoon’ as it’s known – is likewise easy to access and all but untouched. There’s 300 odd kilometres of this paradisiacal coral lagoon for land-based fishos to explore (save for the regular no fishing sanctuary zones), and while wading the stunning aqua-clear waters or walking the bone white beaches flicking lures the list of likely targets includes spangled emperor, golden and gold-spot trevally, queenfish, bluebone (tuskfish), coral trout, mangrove jacks and even bonefish and permit. The stuff angling dreams are made of.

South-West Salmon

Shining the spotlight down to the south of the state, an extraordinary annual event triggers some equally extraordinary land-based fishing action. Late summer/autumn each year sees a run of Australian salmon through the south-west corner of the state from Esperance in the south-east right around to roughly Lancelin, a hundred or so kilometres north of Perth. These are no ordinary salmon. In fact, they’re easily the biggest salmon in the country; fish over the old fashioned 10lb mark are pretty much a yawn. These corpulent but fighting fit sambos form massive schools on this breeding run, sweeping along the beaches and inshore reefs of the south-west and delighting the legions of anglers there to meet them. Although these salmon can be caught using the full spectrum of land-based techniques, the most exciting way to go about it is to scan likely stretches of coastline for the big, black schools of these fish and sight cast to them with poppers or surface stickbaits. What a brilliant sportfish they are when targeted in this manner.

Forgotten Freshwaters

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WA has freshwater options too. The sweetwaters of the south-west are loaded with redfin and also hold some nice trout.

Just for a bit of a wildcard, I’ll nominate WA as having some handy freshwater options for land-based fishos too. The south-west corner of WA boats a surprising number of superbly scenic streams, rivers and dams, most of which offer high quality sweetwater spin or fly fishing. Redfin swarm in many of these rivers, and the average size is pretty damned good too. Hooter reddies up to and well over two kilos are common, and some trophy trout are also present in these same waterways. More than enough reason to break out the hiking boots, strap on a backpack and head into the bush. If you’re specifically looking for trout down this way, a good rule of thumb to base your search around is that the more redfin a waterway holds, the fewer and smaller the trout it will usually hold and vice versa. Also remember that trout love flowing water, whereas redfin prefer the slow moving stuff, so smaller streams with fast flow tend to hold the most trout.

Just a Taste

This is a mere sample based on my own experiences of what this great state has to offer land-based fishos. There are thousands more opportunities for land-based fishos in the west, chasing everything from samsonfish and thumping tailor to big barra and billfish. To check it all out would take lifetimes none of us have spare, but we’ll be sure to bring you more in future features in Kaydo Fishing World.
 The massive Western Australian coastline offers endless opportunities and some unbelievable fish for land-based anglers.

The massive Western Australian coastline offers endless opportunities and some unbelievable fish for land-based anglers.

 
Ben Knaggs

About Ben Knaggs

Born and bred in South Australia, Ben’s love of fishing developed from a very early age and evolved to become an obsession which would ultimately shape his life. Actively involved in fishing related journalism from his mid teens, Ben has written articles for most Australian fishing titles and served as editor of Saltwater Fishing magazine for eight years.

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