Fishing your environment
Welcome to another in the Learn to Fish Soft Plastics Series.
15 Tips for Fishing your Environment
This weeks topic inspiration came from Daniel Ingram from the Soft Plastics Anonymous page
One of the great things about fishing in general is that it takes us away from what many of us consider as an ordinary environment (such as work) and gets us back to nature, sometimes a little more than others, depending on how remote you want to go. This weeks blog focuses on the environment in which we fish. Whether it be an urban creek, the beach, reef or ocean. Each environment is different and needs, most of the time, to be fished a little different.
The most important factor to consider when working out how to fish your environment is what species you are targeting. For instance, chasing tuna at the same location you can target flathead in the open ocean requires two very different techniques for the same environment. Bearing this in mind, you need to consider this when discussing the points below.
When you talk about different environments, you need to take into consideration weather also. Fishing a beach in 40kt onshore wind may not be optimal, simarily rock fishing may be a Darwinian lifestyle choice in those conditions. So perhaps we should consider weather also in our deliberations on different techniques for different environments.
Estuary and riverBy far the most accessible and most often fished areas are your local creeks for most people. Estuary systems can be as simple as a small remote freeder creek to a major river system. Most estuaries are similar, although local terrain might mean different approaches, such as rocky bottoms, sandy bottoms, deep holes etc. we will have a look at a few to see what differences they may make on our approach to fishing them.
A rocky bottom presents a real challenge for bait fisherman, especially using sinkers. This is one area where Soft Plastics excel over most other types of fishing. The lure is on the move, so less likely to be on the bottom and snagged up, you can keep it off the bottom with varying your retrieve and rod tip height.
Tip 1: If you have rocky environment, you can fish lighter using a countdown method and this will ensure that you are close but not right on the bottom.
I like to use a high rod tip ( keep the tip right up during the retrieve) action when fishing these areas, this simply keeps the angle to the soft plastic at a greater angle, meaning that during a lift and drop, the plastic may pop off the bottom or structure a little more cleanly rather than foul or hook rocks, which I am most adept at hooking, but not landing.
Tip 2: Keeping a high rod tip action during these retrieves will minimize your aqua gratis hook up rate.
So it is enevitable that you are going to contact the rocks at some point, it makes sense to safe guard about that as best you can.
Tip 3: Always use a high abrasion resistant leader, like a fluorocarbon. Yes, while it is expensive, so is your time and your lures and losing that once in a lifetime fish costs more than you care to imagine.
The beauty of soft plastics is that if you get bricked and lose your lure, it is far less of a financial issue then losing that freshly bought $30 brand name wizz banger that you had to mortgage the house for.
The beautiful thing about the flats is that there is a lot less obstacles and obstructions and sometimes less run. This lets you lighten your jighead, fish slower, right on the bottom and pause whenever you like.
Tip 4: If you are wading, ensure you are carrying a decent wading net and a way to store your rod when you are unhooking your catch.
This will prevent sand ingress into your reel or accidentally dropping it into the water. It gets enough water exposure as it is without baptizing it several times a trip.
Tip 5: Semi exposed weed beds make great places to conceal your feet when chasing fish from the bank.
Fish are perfectly adaptable to their environment, because their life depends on it, hiding the majority of what they can see of you can only work for you in the long run.
If you are boating and covering the sand banks, then consider your drift. If you have a selection of target areas then consider the following.
Tip 6: Use wind against tide to slow your drift. By setting yourself up to drift along slowly, the least motor noise or electric motor noise the better.
This will ensure you do not spook your targets in shallower water and give you the best chance of fully working the area as you slowly and quietly saunter on by.
So how do you find them, well using a fish finder is the easiest way to do this, but what if you are shore based or don’t have one, well it can’t be done ‘old school’ by observation. If you check out the bank contours of your fishing environment these can sometimes be dead give away. Deeper holes will normally align with washed out banks on a hard corner of a river. They normally form where a water course try’s to make a hard turn and the water turbulates as it pushes through hard, scouring out a deeper hole than the surrounding area. Obviously, softer bottom structure like mud or sand makes this more likely to occur. Look for areas where your tidal run slows down, this will normally indicate a deeper section of the river, the old adage that ‘still waters run deep’ is an apt description.
So how to fish this with an soft plastic?
Tip 7: Well if you are boat/ kayak based, then we would suggest begining upstream and drifting back into the hole. Fish will normally sit close to the bottom or as close to the upstream lip of the hole as possible.
If you think of it as a place where all the nutrients and river fodder is collected, a lot like water going down a drain, it flows into and settles in the deeper holes, which attracts baitfish there. Predatory and scavenger species of fish will sit just inside the lip of the hole, or at the bottom of upstream edge waiting for the bait or delicious morsels to waft over the edge into the hole. They expend far less effort by siting in the eddy, below the tidal run across the top of the hole.
With this in mind drifting back over the lip into the hole with either your plastic fished directly down in a jigging style can be productive. Slow hops and gentle lifts can seal the deal, however make sure that you allow for enough slack when enter the hole or you are jigging in mid water. Watch your line and let it sink right down right down to the bottom.
Tip 8: If you are from the bank, position yourself on the edge about abeam the drop off and cast upstream as far as you can. Allow your plastic to be on the bottom well before the drop off and then jig back into it with the tide. Progressively fan your casts out to cover the water effectively.
With any deep hole your lead head weight will be critical, not enough lead and the plastic will be subject to the line drag through the water and not make it to the bottom.
Sometimes you can experience some of the most exciting fishing from break walls. They are often at the mouth of rivers and estuaries. Most are man made to stop erroision or provide a safe harbour. You will find they routinely made of rocks and concrete.Tthe crevices provide shelter and security to many bait and predatory species. They are, in themselves, a self contained reef. Fishing them can be tricky, as let’s face it, they are mostly lure magnets. So be prepared to rig up a few times. However running a large bait profile soft plastic along the wall can lead to some pretty exciting strikes. If you are fishing from the wall, it will be harder to extract fish like jacks and bream as they tend to fight dirty and head back towards you from open water to the structure, so get up them early.
Tip 9: A slow roll along the wall will work well, using the lift and drop technique close in will probably yield you getting acquainted at re-rigging a new plastic.
From a boat you at least stand a chance to extract dirty fighting target species away from the structure. Drift along the rock wall and cast into the wall and upstream from you position, work your lure back in either a lift and drop or slow roll depending on depth and species targeted.
Marinas are a lot like break walls, plenty of structure and most are along private property and therefore much easier to approach by boat or yak. However please be mindful that may marinas have people living right on the water, so be mindful of their quiet and privacy. Lest you be harassed, and nobody wants that. They can be a haven for jacks, bream, trevally and many other species.
Casting you plastic into the jetty or marina berth and letting it sink slightly (depending on your weight) and retrieving back out from the structure is a good method for calling out all those species that use these floating platforms as a ambush point.
Tip 10: Approach the pontoon from a down stream position, cast your plastic upstream of the pontoon and run the lure with a slow roll retrieve along the edge of the structure back towards you.
This will imitate a baitfish going about it’s business and tracking along with the current, past the likely vegetated and very scary structure. If there are predators there, they will ambush from out under the structure into the open water, and hopefully spray there while you show them the net.
Tip 11: be prepared to drive the boat/yak into open water away from the structure when you hook up.
Some of these predators will go straight back to structure and it’s best you pull them away out into the open water and keep them there... if you can.
While great sport, be mindful of other people’s property, I am sure you would not like other fishos firing lead slugs at your expensive boat moored to your jetty. This would rightly upset just about all boaties.
A last word on Estuaries
Looking to where fish hold in any river system, especially if you are new to the system, can be challenging. So start with the easy areas to get some wins on the table and this will increase your confidence and knowledge of the river system.
Tip :12 Target small feeder creeks where they empty out into the main river system, predatory species often sit close to the mouth ready to hammer anything coming out of them.
These areas are like a ringing dinner bell on a falling tide. Bait species, which are feeding on the outflow, are pushed out into the main system and deeper water, which makes them easy targets. Normally the predators will sit in the eddy of the outflow, where the water runs less. These can be identifed by swirling bubbles and debris. This allows them to holding station without expending large amounts of energy.
This is a difficult one to quantify, but I will attempt to clarify a few areas. The open ocean can sometimes be surreal, calm and flat. This tranquility may underlie chaos and a hot bite down deep that’s not clearly visible on the surface. Sometimes it is however and this should be like music to your ears/eyes.
Tip 13: Keep your eye on the circling sky. Birds aloft and feeding are a sure fire indicator of fish movement.
Targets species in this mode of fishing are mostly pelagic fish, such as mackerel, tuna, kingfish, Aussie salmon and even the humble tailor. These species get more exotic the further out you go.
Keeping an eye out for these winged eyes in the sky will sure set you up for some exciting fishing. At times it can also be downright chaotic, but if you see the birds high in the sky the bait is normally down deeper. With their birds eye view, they will track the bait and so will your quarry, but from underneath. Most of the time the bait will explode at the surface because the predators have pushed them up from underneath and trapped them against the surface and then the feeding begins.
Tip 14: Don’t use high engine power settings to approach the school, engine noise can make them sound (dive) , get ahead of them if you can and wait for them to come to you.
While notoriously difficult to do so, getting ahead of your quarry will mean that you can kill the motor and watch the enduring mayhem pass through your position, hopefully signaled by screaming drags.
Tip 15: Match the hatch and be ready to throw down.
Having a similar lure to the bait profile the predators are chasing is essential, so is being rigged and ready to go when the school passes you by. Pelagics move like greased lightning, so be ready to throw down, rather than being caught with you pants in the same manner.
If you are the skipper, your job is paramount to pick the direction they are headed, diving birds mean the bait is on the top and fish underneath, birds high and following indicates the general direction. If you are the rod man, your job is to imitate the fleeing bait, make long accurate casts and to try to stay in the boat.
Different environments and your safety
All in all, fishing has many facets to it but we should all be mindful of the risks of our favorite pastime. These environments as discussed have a wealth of risk, to each of them. From oyster covered rocks, the state of the water, to the creatures that live in it ( biteys and stingys). So first and foremost, remember that the environments carry their own risk and you should be aware of them before you enter into that environment. Life is dangerous and no one gets out alive, but it would be nice to stick around a while longer. After all, exposing ourselves to the environment and doing things that others dare not is part of the fun. For all you kids, be warned, you may just experience things you can’t get from the comfort of your couch and Netflix.
Till next time Skulldraggers, have fun, fish responsibly and remember take only what you need and post the rest to social media.
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