With a variety of hard-fighting fish species on offer, tropical estuaries are an untapped paradise for keen fishos.
The tropics have some of the best fishing in Australia. While much of this fishing is offshore for giant fish such as marlin and reef species such as coral trout, there is still plenty of action to be experienced in the tropical estuaries. These estuaries are teeming with fish such as barramundi and are accessible for smaller boats on any budget.
Some of Australia’s most iconic fish species live in tropical waters. Barramundi, mangrove jack, tarpon, queenfish, trevally permit, threadfin salmon, blue salmon and many more inhabit tropical estuaries. Some areas are more abundant in certain species for different reasons. If you’re new to an area, it might be difficult to determine what estuaries carry what species. The only way to really find out is to go fishing You could also ask locals or visit a local tackle shop, but you may find locals are tight lipped about fishing locations. Sometimes you just have to put the work in and experiment. Barramundi are usually present in areas around big rivers and big tides. They like to sit at river or creek mouths, colour changes in water, and basically anywhere where there’s food for them and they can wait and ambush their prey. Fish such as threadfin salmon, blue salmon and mangrove jack are often found in the same areas and caught as by-catch using the same gear. That all depends on your location, however. If you’re targeting fish such as queenfish, trevally, tarpon and permit, you should look for clearer water. Try the larger estuaries away from the muddy creeks and rivers. Many of these fish will sit on rock bars and take cover from the strong tides while waiting to pounce on prey.
Bait fishing can be very productive. Use fresh bait or live bait if possible. Many of the fish you catch in these tropical estuaries are predatory species and prefer a realistic, fresh option. Many people prefer lures, and all of the above species can be caught readily on these artificial imitations. Fish such as barra and mangrove jack live around structure such as rock bars, fallen timber and areas where they can safely wait for prey. Cast into these areas and thoroughly work your lure slowly. Another alternative for lure fishos is trolling. Barra and mangrove jacks can still be caught trolling and so can so many of the other tropical estuary species.
Your lure is always in the water and you’re covering a lot of ground. It’s a great way to find fish! Fly fishing is another fun way of catching fish in the estuaries. This is casting only, and all of the above species will eat flies with gusto. Tides play a big influence in your fishing in these waters. Typically, depending on your location, tropical tides are larger than down south. They not only affect the feeding habits and movement of fish, they also make it difficult to move between areas at certain tides. You won’t catch fish if you’re stranded on a sand bar during an outgoing tide!
Pay attention to the tide cycles and learn how fish behave and bite. Typically, fish will move into shallow areas and mangrove creeks during a high tide looking for food. They can be difficult to catch when they’re hidden among the mangroves. Often the run out or run in will be a good time to target these fish as they transit through the more accessible water. There’s a lot more to it and each species is different. With time on the water, you will soon discover the productive tide cycles and those where it’s best to stay at home.
If you’re more accustomed to southern estuary fishing, you best up your gear! Tropical fish are typically larger and more powerful. Barra can grow in excess of a metre long, and even smaller fish such as mangrove jacks are very strong. Fish such as trevally are also renowned for their fighting ability. I like to carry a medium-size bait caster outfit loaded with braid and 40-60lb leader. This all depends on where you’re fishing and in some areas you can go much lighter or sometimes heavier. It’s a great outfit for casting to barra and jacks. I also carry a 7 or 7’6” medium/heavy spin rod for casting to trevally, queenfish, mackerel and more. It makes a good all-round outfit to have on hand when fish pop up. Always have some pliers, spare mono or fluorocarbon leader, and a selection of lures. There are many lures for tropical estuary species. It’s best to visit your local tackle shop and ask for the best ones to take.
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