Words and photos by Rob Paxevanos
The folks at Cooper asked me to put together my Top 10 land-based/small boat/kayak spots in Australia...phew, tough job! There are thousands of amazing places that could make this list in our massive and piscatorially diverse country.
In no particular order, here are 10 beauties that squeeze into the creel:
My new base has such a good variety of fishing that every time I fly home from an interstate shoot I just can’t wait to keep exploring. The freshwater lakes such as Ewen Maddock and Mackenzie have excellent bass fishing, and in the case of Ewen Maddock some of the country’s biggest Saratoga! The estuaries have a mix of southern species such as flathead, bream and whiting, and northern species such as the mighty mangrove jack. The beaches are spectacular and yield lots of whiting and a few jewfish, but if you want big fish hit the inshore reefs for Spanish mackerel, long-tail tuna and snapper along with a bevy of reef species.
An inshore Cape York coral trout taken on popper!
You just have to get to the Cape, it’s just a great adventure that any 4WD enthusiast should put on their bucket list! Casting a line off the very tip will give you goose bumps and if you allow time many species will pass by with each tide, big stuff included such as trevally, queenfish, Spanish mackerel and cobia. If you have a tinny, the inshore coral bomies also fish extremely well for the same fish and also the tasty coral trout. You can get shelter from the southeast trade winds on the western shore areas. Use poppers for extra fun. If you miss out, fear not – you pass some very fishy rivers on the way back. These hold jacks, barra, sooty grunter and more. Medium-sized lures of the soft and hard variety, and various local baits all work well. Of course you need to be croc and mossy/midge-savvy, but a little bit of planning, lots of supplies and a map will see you fishing places that don’t see many fishos...and that’s always a precursor to great fishing!
The holy grail of land-based and kayak fishing...a big black marlin!
The South Coast of NSW is blessed with a huge variety of beaches, headlands and pristine estuaries, and Jervis Bay is one of the jewels in this crown. ‘JB’, as locals call it, is global hotspot for land-based game fishing.
Marlin are caught off the rocks at JB every summer, but the best ledges are getting very busy and it’s a long wait (often measured in years!) for the marlin to swim your way – you’re effectively waiting for the current to bring them to you. If you have a tinny or a yak, you can find them a little easier but it’s still a big enough challenge to be a true benchmark in fishing circles; the marlin typically range between 50 and 120 kilos.
Let’s not forget the excellent bream, flathead and whiting fishing in the nearby estuaries, including St George’s Basin which is famous for these three popular calm water species.
Good surf fishing for salmon and gummy shark, and all the usual inshore suspects such as snapper, flathead and kingfish, but it is the popular estuary-dwelling dusky flathead that made Mallacoota famous with fishos.
Besides the average size flatty of 40 – 60cm, there are some true ‘croc’s in there, even some over the meter mark. Whether you’re boat or bank-based, moving around and covering ground is the key. Best baits are live poddy mullet, whitebait or strips of striped tuna. With lures, soft plastics and vibes work well, but switched-on anglers are also using micro hard body divers on the shallow fertile weed and yabby banks with outstanding results.
Yep, Canberra. Besides being home to political heavyweights, there is some MASSIVE Murray cod in and around the region. Until you graduate to cod class, the key is to target the smaller but still very impressive golden perch...and hope for a cod along the way. The local urban lakes such as Burley Griffin, Tuggeranong and Ginninderra all hold goldens and cod, as does the legendary Burinjuck Dam (pictured). The Murrumbidgee River fishes well from Tharwa to Burrinjuck. Googong Dam is centre-stage though...pristine water, hordes of tasty redfin, a good number of goldens, and if you are ready for master class there’s some UNBELIEVABLE Murray cod in there...the stuff of legends.
Tassie has some of the best-conditioned brown trout in the world, and attracts anglers from all over the globe
While there is good saltwater fishing for popular species like bream, salmon, flathead and squid, and exceptional bluefin tuna fishing, it’s the willy trout that draws visiting anglers from far and wide. Nearly every freshwater stream, river and lake in Taz holds trout, and I’ve done a few laps of Taz tallying up new places that hold trout each time! Taz is blessed with a great road system so you barely have to get off the beaten track, but if you do the fishing gets even better. Summer offers superb dry fly fishing, but lures and baits are allowed in places too: check www.ifs.tas.gov.au for rules and regs. There is a swagful of professional trout fishing guides in Taz that can show you a great day should you need a helping hand.
Casting in a line at the Salmon Hole in the Lincoln National Park
SA has some tasty delights, but I agree with the crows that Port Lincoln is the jewel in the seafood crown. Take any of the seafood trail tours and be prepared to write home about it. Or catch your own feast: shore-based spots for the iconic and delectable King George whiting abound. Look for sand patches in the weed and you’ll find squid and even pan-sized snapper along the way, especially on a high tide that coincides with dawn or dusk. You’ll need to watch your step, but from a safe distance from the cliff the Salmon Hole in the Lincoln National Park is also a must-see.
Stopping for yet another shot! You will not believe how blue the water is at Esperance until you see it for yourself
Some INCREDIBLE beaches will have you gobsmacked while you rig a line for salmon, snapper and jewfish, but don’t overlook the estuaries and lakes dotted along this sparsely-populated coastline; they are absolutely loaded with bream, the most you will find anywhere in Australia. Any regular bream bait or lure will work...go exploring and see how many different places you can catch them.
A quick pic with the Fishing Australia film crew prior to launching the yak at Cape Perron, Shark Bay
Famous for the dolphins at Monkey Mia, I reckon these smiley-faced cetaceans feed on whiting as much as the locals do! You see, the whiting there are that numerous and ravenous that a drive along a beach track will find you plenty and all you need is a few tiny little popper type lures to catch them. Want bigger fish? Be careful what you wish for! Giant trevally, jewfish and sharks all swing in close along the bay waters, and it is a global hotspot for the mighty cobia. Also known as black kingfish, cobia are an A-grade table species, and you can sight fish for them from a kayak...some of the best fun I’ve had sitting down!
Cahills Crossing at high tide, note the croc in the bottom left corner
The Top End is loaded with hotspots for the iconic barra, and is arguably the best place for them thanks to the massive fertile flood plains that see barra breed and recruit in their millions.
Unless you're uber experienced, kayaks are typically a no-no thanks to there always being the risk of crocs almost anywhere, so a reasonable-sized tinny is best. From a tinny you can access water without being in thick bush or mangrove banks and you can target remote billabongs, or even easier dozens of estuarine rivers.
If land-based, look for river crossings, most of which are near the end of the tidal reaches. Cahills is one of my favourite easy-to-find and access spots. There’s always a few barra about, but in the dry season when the tides push up to the road is good. But watch for crocs...there is a viewing platform for the less experienced, but it is safe if you consult with locals on how, when and where to fish without becoming the bait!
I must stress, I’ve fished thousands of good spots around Australia, so this is by no means the definitive top 10: that’s an impossible task! I must also stress that you check fishing, boating and camping rules and regs, and of course fish sustainably so these wonderful places remain open and in good order for future generations.
Tight lines and good times!
Rob Paxevanos is the host of Australia’s longest-running national TV show on angling, Fishing Australia, and a passionate advocate of sustainable fishing techniques. For anyone out there keen to learn lots more about Australia’s sensational fishing, Rob produces instructional books and DVDs (available at www.robpax.com) and also has a wonderful new Fishing Season calendar to grace your wall.
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