MIXED SPECIES ANGLING IN THE WASH ZONE…
Spring can be a tricky time of year for the touring fisho. Sure, the days are starting to warm up, but the warm currents that predictably deliver the influx of baitfish and pelagic predators to southern waters are still a few months away.
You’ve no doubt got a few cards up your sleeve that can be played when fishing your local waters. Certain spots that reliably turn up a few fish in specific conditions.
Of course, you can’t rely on a home court advantage when you’re on the road. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to reliably snare solid hauls of quality table fish up and down the coast at this time of year.
Many of the most popular species are right at home in cool water and are viable targets for shore-based fishos. Just about any rocky headland fronting the open ocean will hold a number of species worthy of a cast.
All you need to get started is to scope out a relatively flat ledge that’s safe and comfortable to fish from, with a foamy wash at your feet and access to deeper water.
School jewfish pulled from the washzone fronting a NSW mid-north coast ledge in January.
Washzones are created when swell and wind chop start to break over reef and crash into a rocky shoreline. Swell is often refracted and bounced back off the rocks, creating a foamy washing machine like area of broken, aerated water.
These areas are full of fish for a few reasons. Firstly, the constant wave energy creates a sort of natural burley trail. Cunje, crabs and seaweed are knocked loose from the rocks, drawing fish like drummer, snapper, trevally, groper and luderick into the area.
Omnivorous species like luderick, black and silver drummer will frequent these spots on a rising tide when they can access beds of seaweed above the low tide mark.
The broken whitewater also provides a level of cover that’s utilised by both predator and prey. Schools of tiny baitfish like whitebait and hardyheads will sometimes hold tight against the rocks in hopes of evading marauding predators.
Roving schools of tailor and jewfish are onto the ploy and will stake out likely looking spots in search of a feed. Both species will use whitewater as a shield while staking out spots in order to ambush baitfish schools.
While the natural burley trail created by wave energy helps to attract fish to washzones, adding your own additional burley is a sure fire way of attracting fish to the area you want to target.
A couple of loaves of white bread, torn up and mixed with half a bucket of water is a perfect starting point. A handful or two thrown into the water every couple of minutes will have drummer, trevally, bream and more feeding at your feet in no time.
Mixing the bread thoroughly with water helps it to sink deeper into the water column so that it doesn’t float away. Chicken pellets are another alternative that work well to attract a range of species.
If you’re specifically targeting snapper, it can be worth adding a dash of tuna oil to your burley mix as an additional attractant. If you don’t mind the mess, chopping up a bunch of pilchards and throwing out regular handfuls can have schools of trevally and pan-sized snapper feeding just a few metres from shore.
Chopper tailor are a washzone staple. Find the aerated water and you’ll find the fish.
If you’re targeting snapper or trevally, strips of salted fish flesh baits like bonito, tuna and mullet work particularly well. You’ll want to catch these on a prior session and salt down for a few days so that they’re tougher and stay on the hook better.
The snapper don’t seem to mind whether the bait’s fresh or not – in fact the older and tougher the better a lot of the time.
Fresh sourced cunje baits are perfect for targeting black drummer. You can cut these from the rocks at low tide and keep some of the shells to add to your burley.
Groper, silver drummer, bream and tarwhine will all happily gorge themselves on chunks of fresh cunje, so it’s absolutely worth putting in the time to gather a heap at the beginning of your session.
If groper or bream are your primary target, it’s worth making up a crab spear from a length of fencing wire and gathering up a bucket of fresh crustaceans before you wet a line.
The red crabs that lurk around the waterline are best, and these things are like candy to big blue groper when fished whole and unweighted in the wash. Cut them up into quarters if targeting bream.
The best thing about wash fishing is its simplicity. All you need to get started is a 10-12ft surf rod matched with a medium sized threadline or Alvey reel. Monofilament line is cheap and perfect for this style of fishing due to its superior abrasion resistance.
5-8kg line is ideal for bream, luderick and trevally, while 10-15kg mono is better suited for snapper and black drummer. Big blue groper pull phenomenally hard and a lot of fishos choose to beef up their gear with 24kg line in order to stand a chance against the bigger fish.
A handful of pea sized sinkers, suicide pattern hooks in 1/0, 2/0 and 3/0 sizes should have you covered when it comes to terminal tackle.
Fishing the wash is easy and effective. It’s a top option to get a few runs on the board when fishing unfamiliar territory and one of the best ways to secure a mixed bag of tasty fillets to cook on the campfire.