Beach and Surf Fishing

Surf and beach fishing can be an all year round pursuit. Many people stop fishing as Autumn draws to a close, but there is no need. Tasmania's beaches can be superb on those brisk Winter days-especially on the east coast where temperatures are the most mild in the state. It is inexpesive with some excellent value rod, reels and combos available at very low prices. John Orchard and Mike Stevens take a look at this type of fishing that anyone can enjoy.

Tasmania is a relatively small State surrounded by water and has more than its fair share of surf fishing opportunities for the avid angler. Surf fishing doesn't require the cost of a boat and can be enjoyed by the whole family; even some of those family members who don't like fishing can derive much pleasure from a relaxing day at the beach whilst the fishing enthusiasts in the family do their thing.
For those that haven't yet turned their attention to the beaches and surf, lets look at what tactics can help to make a day at the beach rewarding and we will also look at the gear you will need to maximize your success.

Firstly, where to fish?
Although most beaches have fish patrolling the shores looking for an easy feed it is always best to look for beaches that that are either steep, or have good gutters. The deep beaches are those where the depth increases very quickly once you enter the water. As a rule of thumb the deeper the better, as increased wave action on steep beaches helps stir up a greater concentration of food in a confined area for fish to feed on whilst also allowing for a speedy retreat into the relative safety of deep water if need be.
Whether the beach you choose is a "deep" beach or not, there are certain hot-spots called "gutters" to look for. These are areas where the flow of water created by the wave action against the beach cause natural currents that draw out to sea, taking with them loose sand and debris creating deeper channels in the sea bed. These channels, or gutters are in fact a natural funnel that concentrates the food stirred up on the beach into a confined area for fish to feed on. It makes a lot of sense for fish to concentrate on these areas because they expel little or no energy laying in wait for the feed to come to them. These gutters are easily defined. Find the highest vantage point overlooking the beach before you start fishing. The best gutters will show up as darker areas in the water. The other giveaway is to look at where the waves are breaking-look for areas where the only "white water" is close to the beach; this is because the rest of the water behind the "wash" is too deep to break-these are the best spots to start fishing!
Sometimes if you can get a good vantage point you will actually see a school of fish. Watch for dark patches and see if you can mark them against a landmark, rock or reef. It may be the fish you are looking for. Remember "time spent on reconnasaince is rarely wasted'.

What gear do I need?
Surf rod, large reel, surf rod holder, small tackle box, fillet knife, bait bucket, fold-up seat, eski and refreshments. You can make it as basic or as comfortable as you like depending on how many porters you have in your family!!!
The length of rod required will depend to a large extent on where you are fishing, how deep the water drops in and how large the waves are coming in onto the beach you have chosen to fish. Generally speaking the shortest rod you can get away with will be a 10" surf/rock style outfit. Some anglers will go right up to a 15" three piece surf rod that will allow you to fish over the top of all but the largest of waves that are breaking onto the beach without catching your line and dragging your sinker and bait back in towards the shore. If you are unsure of what to buy, play it safe and stick with the most commonly used rods of all, either a 12" two piece medium action one or a 13" three piece (dependent on how small you need it to fold down to so as to fit it into the car), either of these will allow you to quite happily fish most beaches in most weather conditions. You can pick up a reasonable spooled up 12" combo from as little $60, whilst at the other end of the scale you can seriously deplete the bank account.
Because of the sheer size of some of the fish you will encounter off the beach, particularly if you are fishing at night, it pays to match your outfit with a reel that has plenty of line capacity. A minimum of 200 metres of 15-25lb breaking strain line (dependent on how sports minded you are) should be sufficient for all but the biggest of targets-hook into a large skate or shark and you may wish you had added a zero to the spool capacity or the breaking strain!!!! (or both).

Rigs - keep it simple
When it comes to rigs you can either tie your own "paternoster" style or take the easy way out and use one of the many custom designed surf rigs available on the market today, they are cheap, easy to use, and very effective. Most are designed to run a 2-3 oz sinker on the bottom with two hooks above, a largish one on the bottom for sharks/flathead (a stainless or nickel coated O'shaughnessy or long shank style hook in about a size 1/0-3/0 will do the trick), and a smaller one above for salmon/mullet etc (a nickel beak style size 2, 4 or 6).You can also go one step further and leave an extra long tag (6 inches will do) when you tie your rig on and then attach a "popping bug" to the tag. Popping bugs are great value if there are any decent salmon in the area. They simply float around above the bottom and at times the salmon seem to find them irresistible. Red and white seems to be the most popular.
The other two rigs worth having in the tackle box is a bait-chaser (Sabiki) rig or the popular "Catch-em" rigs, both in various styles. These are great on days when the fishing isn't all that flash and "pickers" keep stealing your bait-they are small, flashy and irresistible to small salmon etc and can turn a dismal day into one of great fun.
There are a myriad of baits available on the market today and obtainable from most leading tackle stores throughout the State, the most common ones being prettyfish, bluebait and pilchards however, a nice fresh piece of fish cut off your latest catch will also produce the goods if your bait supply is running low so don't forget to take along a good sharp knife with you.
If you haven't given surf fishing a go before and are unsure of what you will need, ask the guys at your local tackle store, you will find that most of them are keen surf fishermen themselves, have a wealth of knowledge and will only be too happy to point you in the right direction and get you started. Why not give it a try, it's a great way to involve the whole family (even if the younger ones are only building sandcastles!!), its relaxing and its easy-not to mention the fact that you will more than likely finish up with a great feed of fresh fish at the end of the day for your trouble-what more could you ask for?

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