WINTER SURF FISHING TIPS
As we say goodbye to summer and the colder months descend on the southern hemisphere, the natural response from many fishos is to put the rod away in storage and wait for warmer climes. Northern hemisphere anglers would scoff at this. We are blessed in Australia that our winters are mild, and with such good year round species like Australian Salmon, Trevally, Bream, Tailor and Mullet, there is no excuse not to get down to the beach for some winter surf fishing.
In Victoria, the colder months bring the schools of baitfish in from the south. These rolling schools are like a meals on wheels buffet for Australian Salmon, who follow the schools with earnest. All that remains for me to do is find them, and reel them in. Similarly, on the north coast, you folks have Tailor a-plenty in the colder months. Here are my top tips on how to make the most out of your winter surf fishing months.
YES, YOU NEED WADERS
While the sand between your toes is blissful and relaxing in the summer, in the winter the frozen swill will chill your bare feet and you’ll wish you’d worn waders. I won’t go out without them.
Unlike in the summer, when you can walk out into the shallows, I wouldn’t recommend going past the foam in the winter, even in waders. It only takes one unexpected wave to wash over the top of your waders and you have to cut your fishing short and go home. Trust me, do that once, and you won’t do it again. There is nothing fun driving home with numb feet.
WATCH THE WEATHER
With winter weather offering some more extreme storms, keep an eye on the weather. Times of low pressure before a storm are the perfect time to fish. The calmer conditions before a storm create ideal hunting conditions for most predatory species and they seize the opportunity to stock up on food. Get your bait or lure among the action and you will have no issue landing some beasts with a bit of fight in them.
PILCHARDS WILL DO
Pilchards are the ultimate versatile winter surf bait. Australian Salmon, Tailor, Mulloway and many other species will all take them. If you aren’t sure where to start, pilchards are always a go-to baitfish.
SLOWER IS BETTER
The colder water temperatures cause the fish to slow down. Your fishing technique needs to match these new conditions. Slow your retrieve down to let the fish catch up and modify your fishing for the winter months.
With stronger winds and more unpredictable weather, fish will huddle around structure in the colder months. It offers shelter and food, including the few remaining sand crabs that haven’t gone into hibernation. Find the structure and you’ll find the fish.
USE BERLEY BAGS
I mix pilchards with pellets and tuna oil and leave it in a bag attached to a rod holder. It doesn’t have to be fully submerged. On the edge of the wash zone will do. But, particularly, on the south coast where the baitfish schools are, you will need something to get their attention. Berley bags are always good to have.
IF THEY AREN’T BITING, USE MORE WEIGHT
If the fish aren’t offering anything, use more weight and try and get your bait or lures to the bottom. All the winter species will take bait from the bottom and the winter months offer bigger swells and heavier surf that means your lighter weights might not be sinking enough. Go heavier and see if the situation picks up. In particularly choppy waters, I would even go as heavy as using a one ounce weight.
DURING STORMS FISH BAYS AND HARBOURS
When storms hit, fish will migrate to areas of respite, including bays and harbours. Fish these havens if you can brave the elements to land some of the bigger fish that don’t ordinarily come close to the shore.
Modify your surf fishing approaches ever so slightly to ensure you keep your catch rate high during the colder months. The cold mornings are not ideal but the winter months offer some productive fishing conditions. For fishos that don’t put the rods into storage, there is plenty of fun to be had.
Do you have any winter surf fishing tips to add to this article? Let us know in the comments section below.