101 surf fishing salmon fast actionPresented from Issue 101
For as long as people have been coming to the East Coast of Tasmania, surf fishing its beaches has been one of the most popular pastimes. Whilst not always the most productive form of fishing it certainly is one of the most relaxing. Its something that the whole family can be involved in and I have to say its quite something to see a group of families on the beach, dads with a couple of surf rods out, wives sunbaking on the white sand in the sun and the kids either playing happily, building sandcastles or trying their hand at a bit of light surf fishing.

The chance to have a holiday on the beach, put a smile on the children’s face and wet a line at the same just can’t be overrated. Add to that the chance of putting a fresh feed of fish on the dinner table and you have wonder whether heaven could be better than this

All that is need is a basic range of gear, some comfy camp chairs , an esky full of ice, drinks and food — and of course a separate esky for the bait, sunscreen, hat and sunnies and plenty of time to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Many of the East Coasts beaches offer very easy access and often some great free camping facilities right on the beach as well as some light rock fishing in some areas.


Surf fishing is certainly a style of fishing that doesn’t necessarily require you to purchase the most expensive gear that’s out there. As a matter of fact if you were to drop both a $500 reel and a $50 reel in the sand you pretty much end up with the same result for both, they are both full of reel destroying sand and salt except one causes a shrug of the shoulders and ‘I will need to clean that up quickly’ and the other causes a state of hysteria, despair and often a tear or two.

In saying that though always try and purchase the best gear you can afford and in the case of surf fishing choose wisely and listen to the advice of the tackle store owner.


Generally surf rods in the 12 foot, 6-12kg size seem to be the most commonly used and will offer a good all round option for any angler looking to spend some time on the beach. A 12 foot rod offers the best compromise between light weight casting ability and enough length to keep the line above the breaking waves to stop them catching the line and washing the rigs back in. If the area being fished has only light surf and some light rock then a 10 foot rod may be a better option especially if there are any plans to cast a few lures as well as baits. If the surf beaches are steep, can be rough and have a heavy wave and tide action then going up to a 15-16 foot length rod is the best option. Whilst a rod of this length does not necessarily mean you will cast any further, often they will not cast as far as a shorter or lighter rod, they are designed for use with heaver sinkers and weights, this aids in slowing down the movement of baits in strong currents, as well as the longer length to keep the line well above the breaking waves.

When looking at reels I always suggest a model without too many ball bearings, between 2-4 is fine, this is because if the reel is dropped in the sand…..and it will happen—the less ball bearings a reel has the easier it will be to clean out. Large capacity reels in 6000-10000 sizes are ideal spooled with between 15-20lb lo-stretch monofilament or 15-20lb Braided line.

When it comes to line choice there are a few different ways to go, traditionally a good quality monofilament of 20-30lb has always been the standard however I consider this to be a tad heavy for most situations. A heavy line is usually quite thick and a thick line with be caught by the incoming wave action and washed ashore quite quickly.

A better option is one of the lo-stretch monofilaments available today. Platypus do one of the best versions I have come across and they are an Australian company so even better. The lo-stretch line is very thin for its breaking strain and will offer less resistance in the waves and being a lo-stretch mono will also offer better bite detection.

The other option is one of the many braided lines available on the market today, a braided line will offer super thin profile for the least resistance to wave action, increased breaking strain to diameter ratio and zero stretch for optimum bite detection. Sizes in the 15-20lb range are more than adequate for braid but some care is needed when casting as it can cause damage to your casting finger.

101 surf fishing paternoster 

The paternoster can
be shop bought

or they are easy
to make


Surf fishing is one of those styles of fishing where keeping everything simple is always the best option and there really is no need for mountains of tackle. A small range of different size star sinkers will be needed for different conditions, star sinkers are the best style as they offer the best resistance to rolling along in the surf like a ball or snapper style sinker would. If conditions are extreme and there is a lot of current or tide flow then the wire surf sinkers are another good option. The wire folds out and grips into the sand and acts similar to a reef anchor for a boat.

101 surf fishing running 
 A running sinker rig using an Easy Rig clip.

This make iteasy to change sinker weights as required.
All tackle shops will have these rigs.

A small selection of hooks ranging from size #1 through to 3/0 are recommended, for the smaller fish such as mullet and small salmon etc. Styles like Mustad Ultrapoint Penetrator in #1 are ideal but for larger salmon, flathead and other fish longer straight shank stainless steel options in 1/0-3/0 are the best option. If large baits are being used such as whole pilchards and slabs of fish fillet for gummy shark and eagle rays then even ganging 2-3 stainless hooks together is a great option.

101 surf fishing popper 
Poppers can often outfish a bait.
Make sure you have one on your rig

As far as lures go a small range of silver metal casting lures such as Halco Slices and Shimano Waxwings in 20-50gm will cover and spinning action but the must have for Tasmanian Beaches are the surf poppers. These are a small painted cork or foam surface popper body with some feathers attached to the rear on a hook. Originally they were marketed as Bass Surface Poppers but have now become an iconic Tasmanian surf fishing rig being responsible for more beach catches than any other lure or rig available. Colours vary but generally the red/white and blue/ white combinations are most popular and a small range of these is a must have.

There are 2 styles of rig generally used either a standard paternoster rig with star sinker on the bottom and either 2 or 3 arms above or a running sinker rig with the sinker above a swivel and then a short trace o the hook.

The standard paternoster rig is used the majority of the time for general fishing and can have a combination of surf poppers and hooks with bait. Sometimes one hook with bait and one popper is the norm but often a three hook rig with one bait and two poppers is used. It’s amazing how often the popper is taken over the bait too.

The running sinker rig is usually used when targeting shark and rays as they tend to take the bait off the bottom and the trace to the hook is usually a wire trace.


There are a number of baits that will work effectively when beach fishing but by far the most popular is the Bluebait. This is widely available in tackle stores across the state and your local tackle store will have a good turn over of frozen bait so it’s likely to be a lot fresher than service stations or supermarkets. There is always some discussion over the large and small Bluebait but the facts are that it is never available in any particular size, the size of the Bluebait is very inconsistent and is determined on availability to the bait company— sometimes it’s small and sometimes it’s large. Pilchards are another option and are a fantastic bait; they are IQF (individually quick frozen) not salted or treated and offer the best as far as quality of a bait. They are usually available in small bags or up to 2kg blocks.

Other baits include trevally fillets, fish pieces, squid and pippies depending on the fish being targeted.

Fish Species

The main species targeted when surf fishing from Tasmanian Beaches is the Australian salmon. It is present along most coastlines around the state and can range in size from small 500gm ‘cocky’ salmon right up to 3kg full sized ‘green, or black back’ salmon. They will take the surf popper very readily, silver lures cast from the various rocky outcrops as well as bluebait, pilchard and at times squid. They are a great fighting fish offering fantastic sport as well as being a good eating fish when tossed fresh on a beach side campfire.

Depending on the location sometimes flathead are encountered, whilst not common when present in the area they can be caught quite readily. Yellow eyed mullet are also quite common close in along most beaches, whilst tricky to catch smaller hooks and smaller baits such as squid and pippies will usually bring them undone.

But by far the most exciting fish to target from Tasmanian Beaches is the gummy shark. Best times to chase a gummy are usually around the full moon period every month and from dusk on into the night. They will respond well to pilchards, squid and fresh fish fillets such as mullet and salmon. They are a hard fighting fish, offer fantastic sport and are a magnificent table fish especially battered with some chips.

However one of the more underrated sports fish you can catch from the beach is the eagle ray. Whilst not offering anything on the way of table fare they do put on a spectacular show once hooked, unlike a skate that will sit on the bottom, the eagle ray will give a blistering run and keep swimming and water. They will take the same baits as the Gummy Shark but preferring the fish fillets.

Likely Areas

Looking along a beach and wondering where to start can often be a daunting prospect but there are a few small tips that can help decide the most productive areas.

Try and position yourself high up on a nearby dune if possible and look down on the beach with a good pair of Polaroid sunglasses, the ability to read the beach and identify the various formations is really a necessity if you hope to produce better results.

Look for the banks, a bank is shallow sand area surrounded by deeper water and is easily identified as the area where waves rise up to crest and break, creating white water and turbulence that some fish species like to use as cover.

In between the banks and the beach will be the gutters and the depth of the gutter is best gauged by colour, light green usually being shallow and darker greens and blue to almost black being much deeper areas. The motion of waves can also give an indication of depth as large waves that were breaking on banks suddenly reform and roll on as a rounded swell.

The gutters are where the majority of your fishing should be concentrated as this offers the best environment for the fish.

At the end of the gutter and usually going around the end of the banks are the channels and outlets, these act as an access point for larger fish to enter and leave through clear water as they move from one area to another in search of food.

Keep an eye out for any drop offs as well, a drop off is where a shallow area quickly falls away into deeper water. Close in banks, gently sloping beaches and spits will often have a drop-off on their edge.

And never ignore a backwash; a backwash is the returning water from a wave or waves that has run up a beach. When large waves are present and you are fishing a steepish beach the force of the returning water can be quite strong, more than enough to drag the unwary angler down from behind. This is where a lot of the smaller fish will school up and it’s always worth tossing a bait or lure into, remember here there are small fish there are often larger fish nearby.

So the next time you are on the East Coast with your family or even just a few mates don’t overlook the Surf Fishing possibilities on our Beaches, you may just end up with a pleasant surprise but at the very least you will have a damn fine relaxing time.

Jamie Henderson

101 surf fishing salmon fast action
Beach actioncan be slow, but when a school of salmon turn up it can be hectic.

John Orchard hooked these salmon on two poppers of different colours.

101 surf fishing salmon 
The staple of Tasmania’s beach fishing — an Australian salmon.
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