Estuary Kayak Trolling

Trolling for estuary species in a Kayak hey. I think Jamie Robley may be onto something. This could be something to try next time the fishing is tough, or why not give it a try first!

Although it’s normal practice to place a rod in a rod holder when trolling, it can be beneficial to hold the rod so you’re able to respond quicker to any bumps or bites transmitted through the rod.

Although it’s normal practice to place a rod in a rod holder when trolling, it can be beneficial to hold the rod so you’re able to respond quicker to any bumps or bites transmitted through the rod.

Although nothing will ever truly replace good old fashioned natural bait, we now live in a world where lure fishing has become incredibly popular for a wide variety of species. Chasing our favourite fish with lures can be challenging, rewarding and a whole lot of fun at times and one of the best places to use lures is around our coastal estuaries.

When we think of lure fishing though, casting the lure is what generally comes to mind. However, we shouldn’t forget another very effective type of lure fishing, which is trolling. Occasionally snubbed or even frowned upon by some anglers, the truth is that trolling is a great way of finding and catching fish when results simply aren’t coming by casting a lure.

It just so happens that kayaks are the perfect vessel when it comes to estuary, lake and river trolling. Kayaks or canoes are very quiet and an average paddling or peddling speed also works out to be spot on when it comes to towing a lure behind. Over my three decades of kayak fishing, I’ve often resorted to trolling and consider it an excellent alternative which can be put to use when chasing most common estuary favourites.

Tailor and Salmon

Tailor are present in most estuaries along the east coast and salmon are frequent visitors as well, particularly through the colder months. Both species are very predatorily, often on the lookout for small baitfish to eat. Although tailor may sometimes hang around snags or other structure, where they can ambush their prey, both tailor and salmon are more inclined to move around in open water, rather than stay in the one spot.

Tailor are quite abundant in most estuaries and coastal lakes. Start trolling and it won’t be long before one takes a swipe at the lure.

Tailor are quite abundant in most estuaries and coastal lakes. Start trolling and it won’t be long before one takes a swipe at the lure.

Due to their habit of roaming around, it’s not always easy to keep track of where they are and we can wear ourselves out, trying to chase them all over the place in order to score a hook up. This is where trolling comes in. It’s simply a great way of covering water and gives the angler a very good chance of running into fish, even when they’re not seen on the surface, attacking bait.

Both species aren’t overly fussy and will pounce on all manner of different lures. Generally though, narrow profile lures that resemble baitfish are in with the best chance. This often means diving hardbody types in the 70 to 120mm range. In most waterways the lure may only need to dive down a metre or two to be effective, but in deeper places like Sydney Harbour or Lake Macquarie lures that swim down to three or four metres can be beneficial.

 1 – This bream snatched a thin profile deep diving lure that was slowly trolled along a weedy drop off in a coastal lake. Bream respond exceptionally well to trolling techniques.


1 – This bream snatched a thin profile deep diving lure that was slowly trolled along a weedy drop off in a coastal lake. Bream respond exceptionally well to trolling techniques.

Over the years I’ve also found light or white coloured soft plastics, with a wiggly sort of tail to work brilliantly on tailor and salmon. As these lures are towed behind, their lifelike tail movements are irresistible. However, being soft rubber means they also get bitten in half a lot, so it’s easy to go through a few when tailor are around. The bright side is they’re relatively cheap!

Wire isn’t necessary for tailor, unless larger fish are expected. At times I’ll use a short single strand wire trace, but mostly a 10 to 12kg fluorocarbon or mono leader provides enough insurance against bite offs.

Bream

Trolling for bream works really well and I’ve experienced many instances over the years when trolling was the only way I could actually catch one, as for one reason or another, casting just didn’t work. I must point out though, it’s a technique more suited to shallow lakes, creeks or semi-tidal waters than larger rivers or harbours where current flow is stronger.

The author with a bream that fell to a small Lucky Craft lure trolled through the shallows at Bemm River.

The author with a bream that fell to a small Lucky Craft lure trolled through the shallows at Bemm River.

The type of lure chosen may depend on personal preferences, but some models that have been highly successful for me include the Daiwa Silver Wolf Shad, 50mm Maria Jerkbait (deep and shallow versions), Lucky Craft Bevy Minnow and Lucky Craft Pointer 48DD. These are all narrow profile types, as opposed to those fat body crankbaits that many bream specialists like so much. I just find the narrower lures are better for trolling.

Whilst trolling a lure around for bream, it’s possible to score a hook up almost anywhere at any time and they can be quite common out in open water, away from structure during the depths of winter or after a flood. Generally though, it’s best to try and troll a lure parallel to structure like a snag lined creek bank, weedy drop off or manmade rockwall.

Weaving in and out, around bridges, marinas and oyster leases is another good option, but it’s important to keep the lure only a short distance behind the kayak and be mindful of where the lure is swimming, so as to avoid snagging up on the structure. If possible, I like to hold the rod when trolling for bream, rather than leave it in a rod holder, so I can respond accordingly when a bite or bump is felt through the rod.

File 4-07-2016, 2 04 22 PM

Flathead

Towing a lure around for flathead is a similar operation and the same lures I’ve listed above for bream will also do well when it comes to flathead. Having said that, most of the time the deeper divers are better than shallow runners, simply because flathead are more inclined to be laying on the bottom. Consequently, a key here is to try and make sure the lure occasionally bumps the bottom, so you know it’s in the flathead strike zone.

Weed lined edges, rockwalls and channel drop offs are prime trolling territory. If such areas are adjacent to an estuary or creek mouth with some sort of current flow so much the better. Prominent rocky and weedy points are also good places to try. Channels between sand flats are also good, but the presence or weed or rock definitely helps.

Deep divers in the 45 to 55mm range work exceptionally well on bream and flathead in estuaries, lakes and creeks. Of course, tailor and other species will also latch onto lures like these.

Deep divers in the 45 to 55mm range work exceptionally well on bream and flathead in estuaries, lakes and creeks. Of course, tailor and other species will also latch onto lures like these.

In systems that house larger flathead it may be a better idea to troll larger lures in the 80 to 150mm range. Still though, thin profile lures that resemble baitfish like whitebait, herring or small mullet are the best bet, regardless of the exact model or running depth.

Plenty of other fish are likely to be encountered when trolling around estuaries, lakes and creeks. The list includes trevally, barra, tarpon, mangrove jacks, estuary perch, estuary cod, queenfish, long toms, bass and flounder. Any or all of these species are likely to respond well to the same or similar lures to what I’ve already mentioned.

So if things aren’t going your way, don’t be afraid to cast the lure out behind and tow it around for a while. Trolling has saved the day for me many times, so it should do the same for anyone else who loves their kayak fishing.

Small narrow profile lures like these are ideal when trolling estuary shallows for bream.

Small narrow profile lures like these are ideal when trolling estuary shallows for bream.

Tips

*An average paddling or peddling speed works well most of the time. However, it may be an idea to speed up a bit for predatory species like tailor and salmon or slow down for bream and flathead.

*There’s generally no need to troll a lure too far back from the kayak. The truth is a lot of fish may be attracted to the paddling or peddling and come to investigate and then they’ll spot the lure. In most cases about 15 metres behind is best, but let more line out if you want the lure to dive deeper.

*Sometimes it may be a good idea to troll two different lures behind, at different depths, to see what works best on the day. Quiet often though just the one lure will do the trick and makes things a lot easier overall.

Jamie Robley

About Jamie Robley

Based on the New South Wales Central Coast, less than two hour’s drive north of Sydney, Jamie Robley started fishing around his local lakes at an early age. Bream, flathead and tailor were the main source of entertainment for a young Jamie but of course, like many other kids who’ve been bitten by the bug, he quickly became interested in other species and more advanced styles of fishing.

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