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Posted 26th January 2024

How to fish from a jetty

How to fish from a jetty
How to fish from a jetty

 

By Robert Thornton

If you don’t own a boat, kayak or any fishing vessel at all, jetty fishing can be the next best thing. At the right time and place setting up on a jetty can put you into some incredible action, but it isn’t always as simple as just turning up and dropping a line in.

Understanding a bit about these structures and the fish that they attract really boosts your chances when fishing from a jetty. Jetties, piers, pontoons and other such platforms can be found around the entire country, and while you can expect different species from certain areas, the principals of jetty fishing are fairly universal.

In this blog we will be discussing the different types of jetties, the species that can be caught from them, and a few productive techniques to get those species to bite.

Jetty nation

Australia is a country that is littered with jetties, ranging from small privately-owned pontoons in small coastal creeks to big loading jetties for commercial use, which can extend hundreds of metres out to sea. In fact, Australia is home to the second longest wooden jetty in the world, with the Busselton Jetty in WA stretching a staggering 1841 metres out into the Indian Ocean! There are even jetties that are built specifically for fishing, with Victoria boasting over 40 piers and jetties that are now used for recreation under government management.

All jetties seem to have their own individual character, and no two jetties ever are the same. If you want to know how to fish from a jetty you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the different types of jetties we commonly see in Australia.

Jetty types

There are many types of jetties in the world, however most of the jetties in Australia fit into one of four main categories.

The first and most common design is the pontoon, also known as a floating dock and various other names. A pontoon typically consists of a floating platform anchored in place with two or more pylons and is designed to rise and fall with the tide. They are commonly used as private docks for boats but are sometimes built by the government for recreation.

The second common design is the pier, sometimes known as a fishing platform. Piers are traditionally made from wood, however concrete and steel is more common for modern piers. They are a fixed structure with pillars and can be used for a variety of purposes. Sometimes piers have arcades, restaurants and other entertainment on them, but many of the piers in Australia are used primarily as fishing platforms.

Another type is the groyne style jetty, typically made from concrete, earth or stone. They extend into the water at a perpendicular angle to the bank and are usually designed to prevent beach erosion, and are often used in this way at the mouths of large rivers.

The final type we will look at is the loading jetty. Loading jetties are designed for loading commercial goods onto large ships, and will sometimes extend a long way out into the ocean where the water is deep enough for ships to dock. While fishing activity from these structures is usually either prohibited or highly restricted, these jetties can attract huge numbers of fish and are often very productive fishing areas. Some anglers even use their boats to get to some of the harder to reach areas of the jetty further out. This is common practise around the sugar loading jetty in Lucinda.

The shape of a jetty and where it’s situated will determine how you attack it, so let’s look at the sort of the fish that you can expect around different jetty types across Australia and some techniques to get them biting!

Pontoons

Pontoons are usually built in sheltered waters, such as rivers, creeks, canals, harbours and sounds. In the southern half of the country anglers can expect yellowfin and black bream, silver trevally, garfish, luderick and estuary perch to be using the pontoon itself as habitat and a source of food, however they can also provide anglers with access to deeper parts of the waterway where flathead, pinkie snapper, tommy ruff, Australian salmon and tailor can be found only a short cast out.

In more tropical environments, species like mangrove jack, estuary cod, barramundi and pikey bream will live around pontoons, while speedsters like tarpon, trevally and queenfish can be lurking out deeper.

Fishing with dead or live baits close to the pontoon can draw interest from the critters hanging out below, bearing in mind that quite often they will be tucked right up under the pontoon rather than near the bottom. 

Lures can also work well around pontoons, with crankbaits like the Rollin’ Crank MR and soft plastics like the BaitJunkie 2.95” Flick and Risky Critter worked just under the surface a good way to prospect around pontoons in the southern states. Further north you may want to try larger lures, with the Steez Current Master, 5” Jerkshad and 4.2” Minnow suitable for a range of tropical pontoon dwellers!

Piers

Piers tend to be found in more open environments, such as in large bays, lakes or on ocean beaches. These structures can give anglers a chance to tangle with species that usually require a boat to get to, and at times can put you in touch with trophy species.

In the southern states where large piers are common, anglers will target species like garfish, tommy ruff, southern calamari, Australian salmon, silver trevally and tailor. In the right conditions, however, species such as snapper, kingfish, samsonfish and tuna can show up within casting range for pier anglers, so it always pays to be prepared.

In the north there are less piers that exist purely for recreation, but the few that there are play host a multitude of estuary, reef and pelagic species. Reefies such as coral trout, various emperors, estuary cod, mangrove jack, fingermark and many more often use the pillars as habitat. Baitfish and small crustaceans will also shelter around the pillars, and this can attract pelagics to the scene. It’s not uncommon to find big trevally, queenfish, various tunas and mackerels, cobia and other large predators lurking nearby, waiting for a chance to devour the hapless baitfsh or prawns using the pier as cover.

Dropping baits can be a very effective technique on piers, as there will be fish sitting tight to the pillars near the bottom on most piers. Each pillar will have its own marine growth and a small ecosystem that has formed around it, so if you’re not having luck nearby one pillar, try another one! Berleying is a good trick to employ on any jetty, but on particularly piers where ample currents and wind will help send out an appetising trail.

Lures that can be sunk down alongside pillars are also very appealing to predatory fish, with the Steez Metal Vibe suitable for smaller estuary fish like bream, flathead and whiting and the Steez Soft Shell 90 and Kohga Bay Rubber better for larger tropical species.

Casting lures from different vantages on the pier is another good way to find fish, particularly if any pelagics are nearby, and this can be effective from both northern and southern piers. The 2.95” Flick and Double Clutch 60 are ideal for smaller speedsters, however in the tropics where big trevally, queenfish and other tackle-destroying monsters roam you will need more serious tools. The OT Jig and Infeet Slippery Dog 97 work well on medium-sized pelagics, with the Saltiga Rough Ride and Dive Star tailor-made for punching out long, exploratory casts and will attract the attention of any large high-speed predators in the area!

Squid jigs like the Emeraldas Nude, Peak and Dart II series should always be part of the kit when fishing off a pier, with piers acting as awesome habitat for both northern and southern squid species.

Groynes

Groyne style jetties are solid structures and are usually lined with large rocks, so fishing vertically from them is not an option. Even bottom fishing can be fraught with danger, as the structural rocks may extend well out into the water. It’s for this reason that bottom fishing is usually discouraged from groynes unless the lure or bait is cast well away from the groyne itself, or if using a lure designed for heavy structure.

These jetties can be built just about anywhere, and they therefore can host a huge variety of species, with quite literally all the species mentioned above liable to show up on groynes throughout the country. Additionally, given that they are often built at the mouth of major rivers they can be top places to target large mulloway.  

What they generally lack in length they make up for with the sheer amount of habitat they provide. The rocks that line the edges can harbour an incredible diversity of fish, crustaceans and molluscs, and if you can avoid getting your lure or bait snagged on these obstacles you could be in for some action.

Large live baits are popular presentations from groynes, especially with the use of balloons to keep them off the bottom and so they drift out into deeper water. Standard running sinker rigs can be used off groynes, but they will need to be cast clear of any structural rocks or slabs to avoid snagging.

Crankbaits are very effective around any groynes and bumping a Rollin’ Crank DR or RPM Crank Mid-10 over the edges of a groyne will get any bream, estuary cod or small reef fish in the mood. Just like with piers, sending out long casts with a search bait can be rewarding, with the OT Jig easily the most versatile lure for this job. Other search baits include, but are not limited to, the Sawarash and BaitJunkie 3” Wave Minnow.

Once again squid are drawn in by these structures, so having a range of jigs at the ready is a good idea. Squid will often be sitting only a few metres out, however if there is any surrounding rubble, weed or rock you may find them out further.

Loading jetties

While generally not built for fishing these long structures can attract large ocean-going predators, but will also hold a variety of reef and estuary fish as well. The pillars and pylons near the shore tend to be home to smaller estuary species like bream, whiting and flathead. As you head out into deeper water, fish such as mulloway, snapper, silver trevally, kingfish and samson fish can start to appear. In the tropics anglers often find coral trout, various emperors, nannygai, fingermark and estuary cod sitting around some of the pylons in deeper water. At the same time a plethora of pelagics species can be expected to cruise by periodically, sometimes even taking up residence along the jetty for long periods.

Most operational loading jetties can’t be fished from legally, however some local authorities will allow boats to get close enough to fish. Decommissioned loaders like the ones at Busselton in WA and Urangan in Queensland do allow foot traffic and can offer some of the best land-based fishing anywhere in the country.

Large jetties like this can be fished utilising all the methods mentioned above, and anglers can even be selective about what they target depending on how far out along the jetty they walk.

Be aware that because they are such large structures they attract a huge amount of life, including apex predators like large groper, sharks and crocodiles, so be careful when landing, handling or cleaning fish near the water’s edge.

Fishing off a loading jetty can mean you have lots of fishing options, so it makes sense to bring a range of tackle so you’re ready for anything. Daiwa’s Tackle Backpack is ideal for the avid jetty fisher who wants to be prepared for any situation, and will fit four tackle trays as well as other accessories and personal belongings.

Goin’ down the jetty

Jetties can be incredibly fruitful places to wet a line, so don’t knock them back as an option next time you want to go for a fish but are bound to the shoreline. With a bit of research and appropriate tackle preparation, there’s no reason why you can’t get stuck into trophy fish from one of these marvels of human engineering.

Please note that some jetties are closed off to all forms of fishing, so make sure you check with your local authorities if your local jetty is fair game. If it is, get out there and start discovering what lives around your local jetty!

           

 

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