River Fishing Basics – Your Guide To Catching More Estuary Fish

Every time I hit a new town with a river system in it, I’ve got to fish it no matter how big or how small it is. If it looks fishy, I’m in. If I don’t have my boat with me I will drive around and pick out spots that look fishy for land based fishers.  First thing I look for is this, has the system got rock walls, boat ramps, mangrove lined banks, downed timber, old boats, jetty’s, pontoons or bridges?

Tips For Reading A New System

Next is a trip to the local tackle store for more info what baits work best but for me what plastic or lure is the go. Back when I was a bait fisher my main baits were yabbies, prawns, white pillies and worms for river systems most fish eats yabbies and prawns flathead love white pillies with whiting worms the thing most get wrong is bait presentation so say you went to a restaurant for a meal and the presentation of the meal was all over the shop.
The more realistic you present your bait the ore chance of catching quality fish like this nice bream.

The more realistic you present your bait the ore chance of catching quality fish like this nice bream.

Making Your Bait Look Realistic

Would you eat a messy pile of worms pinned to a hook? Probably not and same goes for fish. A prawn on a hook needs to look like it does in the wild. So use a long shank hook, thread the hook along the tail then bring it out at the head. Make sure you tie a loop knot at back of tail to hold prawn in place.  

Presentation Is Key

Make sure the hook is big enough and the prawn lies completely flat along the shank. The same goes with all the other baits – don’t have them bent or twisted as they don’t look that way when they swim in water alive. I can’t stress how important presentation is. Another thing about bait is you need to move it. My advice is this – cast out and slow wind in with occasional pauses.

‘Think Like A Fish’

Think like a fish flathead lay in ambush so if you cast out and leave it lay you might cast over flathead it’s not going to move not unless you have landed right next to him or right on his head. Bream are the same, they school and move a bit but they are chasing bait fish or prawn schools so once again, if you are not near them and getting no bites if you are a weekend fisher that likes to have a folding chair and a beer cast out and wait you are more than likely going home empty handed and visiting the Co-Op for a feed mind you nothing wrong with chair and beer great way to unwind and just take in the scenery but normally no fish.
Fish smart, fish wisely and think like a fish - that's the advice from article author Gary 'Squidgie' Palmer.

Fish smart, fish wisely and think like a fish – that’s the advice from article author Gary ‘Squidgie’ Palmer.

Rockwall Fishing Tips

When fishing rock walls get in a close as you dare. I like to fish from rock walls on a run in tide. I cast up stream and let bait come to me, but remember you need to stay in contact with the bait otherwise you will end up snagged. Once I feel the bait or lure on the bottom I lift rod tip high and slowly take up the slack. When I fish boat ramps I mainly go at night and on the better tides such as 1.6 and above. My chosen time is one hour before the top of tide. One of my tricks is to turn on one tap at the cleaning bay. Yes I’m serious! To fish, this is a dinner bell. The tid bits get washed out and fish feed on whatever is washed out.

A Unique Way To Burley

If I’m using yabbies I’ll break up a few and slowly drop them on the cleaning table to be washed down. Give it five minutes or so. Then, with a bait keeper hook with 8lb fluro leader and no lead, cast out about a meter or more then leave bail arm open. Wait for fish to pull away then bail arm over then hold on! I have caught some monster flathead and bream this way just remember don’t waste to much water just have it running slowly.

Squidgies Tips For Fishing Bridges

I love fishing bridges, they are very easy to read and productive zones. When fishing local bridges I cast right along pylons and let the current do the work. Yabbies are my bait of choice for bridges. I’m usually after flathead and they love pylons. If there are lights on the bridge then you’re in for a great night’s fishing.

Keep In Contact With The Bait

After casting along any bridge always try to stay in contact with the bait. Flathead will pick up bait anywhere from the base of the bridge pylon to three meters away from bridge. You will just feel a pull (but no great bite). Bream will bite, whiting will bite, but flathead will just lazily pick up bait and swim away. There’s no need for a great strike – just lift the rod and it’s ‘fish on’. All you need to do now is fight then land the fish and this is often easier said than done. A lot of us guys use an old crab dilly as a type of net. Turn it upside down and run the fish into it. Lift the net and the fish is yours!
Jewies are another estuary species that can be caught on soft plastics or well presented baits.

Jewies are another estuary species that can be caught on soft plastics or well presented baits.

 Boat-Based Fishing Walls And Structure

Fishing from my boat is where I’m in my element – it’s got to be the best place to fish. The first thing I look for is structure – be it walls, pontoons, any runoff areas and of cause timber. I love fishing freshly fallen trees – this is one hell of a spot for big bream and flathead. I recently fished one tree that was in the middle of river, stuck on a weed bed, in about four-foot of water. I was doing a radio interview to a Brisbane station on what was happening on the Northern Rivers and had an ear plug in and giving a full-on talk about flathead. Then bang! Live on air I was on to a big flatty! I was fishing a Squidgy 70mm Black and Gold Fish on a 1/8 TT jig head. Fishing the run-up tide, this lure has landed me so many flathead it’s not funny.

The Sounder Is Your Best Friend

I like to drift most of the time finding small reefs with my sounder or sand that looks like waves on your sounder I never use my sounder to locate fish just structure this is everything to me when fishing for flathead. Breaks in walls on a run-out tide will always hold fish. Cast right up into or next to opening and fish with minimal weight hidden weights. You can also fish a Cranka Crab. These are also brilliant for bait fishers. Hard body lures are another personal favourite – the best lures for me are Atomic Hardz Crank 38s.

A Slow Retrieve Works Best

  These lures rock! They are best cast up as far as possible then slowly rolled back, and I mean slowly. As for colour, I’ll leave that up to you. When fishing bridges I like to use Squidgy Blood Worm Wrigglers. These lures bring so many bream and flathead undone that  it’s not funny. They are best fished with a 1/8 jig head. Cast as close as you can to pylon have bail arm open let lure hit bottom.  Then slowly lift and drop it all the way back to boat and repeat.

Drifting Along Walls

  If you drift along a wall stay about ten feet away and cast in front of your drift. Again, slowly lift and drop the plastic. If the wind is playing havoc with your drift – say you are run-up tide heading west but wind is holding you in one place – still cast out same way but you will have to stay in contact with the lure. Each time it hits the bottom lift rod tip and just lift and drop. The same goes when fishing baits. White pillies are best for this with small two hooks ganged together.

With so many aspects to fishing rivers and locating great places to fish, this article will be continued next month. We will focus on bobbing for flathead and locating the ever- elusive big bream and jew fish.

Squidgie

About Gary Palmer

My name's Gary Palmer, I live on the North Coast of NSW and most fishers up this way know me simply as Squidgie. I have been fish since I was a kid growing up down the South Coast of NSW and cut my teeth on bream and flathead in Lake Illawarra. I've been living up here for over 30 years and have not used bait for many years. Soft plastics and hard body lures are my drug - well they say once you use these rubber bands it's welcome to the dark side. I write for fishing mags and had my own radio show on fishing for a long time until I became ill and couldn’t continue, but still do small reports on radio. I love bass and estuary perch fishing but bream and flathead are still up there for me. I also love blackfish don’t think there is anything better than watching a float go down with fish on. I am a river rat I love fishing rivers but I do fish beaches and occasionally go out in the deep blue.

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