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||Surf Casting and Angling Club of W.A. (Inc.)
Fishing for Herring from the shore.
Herring are a very important recreational fish on the West and South Coasts of Western Australia. This page gives some tips on fishing for herring from the shore.
Herring are great fish to catch on light gear such as a small single handed rod and 2 or 3kg line. They are speedy, acrobatic and strong, often jumping out of the water when hooked.
Australian Herring (Arripis georgianus) and juvenile Australian salmon (Arripis truttaceus) in Western Australia are similar in appearance and often confused. That's not surprising, since they are related species. Both species have rows of golden or brown spots on their sides and back.
Herring:- have a large yellow and black eye, black tips to the tail fins, clear pectoral fins, and rough scales.
Herring size limit:- none. Bag limit (as at 1 February 2013):- 30 per day combined in the "All other species" category State wide in Western Australia.
Australian Herring. Note the large eye.
Juvenile salmon:- are very similar and are sometimes confused with herring, but have a smaller eye, no black tips on the tail, pectoral fins tending to be yellow, and smooth scales.
Salmon minimum size limit:- 30 cm. Salmon bag limit (From 1 February 2013):- 4 salmon per day within an overall 16 fish per day bag limit of "Nearshore/estuarine finfish" category State wide in Western Australia.
Compare: - juvenile Australian Salmon (left)
and adult Australian Herring (right).
Where:- Herring can be found everywhere on the lower west and south coasts, in estuaries, near reefs, reef holes, beaches, rock walls, and jetties. Herring are easily attracted with berley.
When:- Herring can bite well at any time of the day or night. Early morning is sometimes better, because the bites can taper off if they are fed with too much berley. But like all fish, sometimes they are just not very interested in feeding. Then you might need to tempt them with the right type and size of bait or lure.
Seasons:- Years ago, herring were a seasonal fish on the West Coast, with autumn and winter the best times and much fewer fish in late spring and summer. In recent years, herring can be caught all year round if you know how to fish for them.
Baits:- Maggots (sometimes called "wogs"), whitebait, bluebait, pieces of mulie (pilchard)or other fish, squid, octopus, prawn, red meat, shellfish, chicken, any of the artificial baits cut to a suitable size.
"Whitebait" and "Bluebait". Excellent baits for herring and lots of other species.
Lures:- Herring really love small chrome or gold lures, small soft plastic lures, flashy flies, flouro green or white tubing. Vary the speed of retrieve, because if a herring really wants your lure, you can't wind fast enough to pull it out of its mouth, and they can zip through the water at amazing speeds.
Herring are expert at throwing off weighted metal lures when they jump out of the water. If you land one in five hook ups with a weighted lure, you're doing well. The good thing is, often there's a queue of other herring after that lure.
Berley:- Pollard, fish oil, minced up fish scraps, mashed up mulies, tinned sardines, etc. Use little and often. Herring will come right to your feet in 30 cm or less of water. Cast shorter each time and bring them closer to you. Throw a little burley close in. You'll see the herring darting around and making splashes on the surface as they take the burley.
Hooks:- For whitebait or bluebait:- a gang of three Limerick or Tarpon size 6 to 2 depending on the size of bait. Make sure they are sharp. For other baits size 8 to 4 Beak, Suicide, wide gap or similar hook type. If herring are fussy, go to smaller hooks and smaller baits.
Traces:- (The line between the weight and the hook) Herring sometimes refuse to bite on short and heavy traces. Use 2 to 3 kg line, 1 to 2 metres long behind a burley cage or blob. Sure, it might wear and you might snap it, but you will get a lot more bites, and there's the bonus of garfish if they are around.
Bite:- Herring often bite hard and hook themselves, particularly when you are moving the bait. At other times they are fussier. In calm conditions, one way is to just watch the line and you'll see the bites or see the line tighten. Just tighten the line without jerking and you'll feel the weight of the fish.
Sinkers:- Use the smallest / lightest sinker you can cast or will take the bait down to the fish. Berley herring in close and try using no sinker at all. Sometimes a cast of 3 metres is enough.
Blobs:- (Floats) Solid or with a hole for burley. Use a heavy trace through the blob to avoid break offs, tied to rings or swivels.
Burley Cages:- Sinking or floating, wire or plastic.
Rigs:- Bait rigs:-
Burley blob (float) and bait or lure rig.
Berley cage and bait rig.
"Double Whitebait or Bluebait" rig, adapt them for the bait you're using and pick a sinker to suit the place. Have several of these ready made, and pick the sinker and hooks to suit the bait and where you are fishing. Catches many other species too!!.
One way of Rigging a burley cage
Main line to the top,
bait trace to the left.
Ganged hooks "Limerick" type on left,
stronger "Tarpon" on right,
for whitebait or bluebait,
"suicide - beak" hooks for bait in centre.
Rigging a blob (float), main line to the left, bait to the right. The bead is for heavy duty fishing and protects the knot from damage and break offs after repeated casting.
Knot for dropper loops. Wet the knot well and pull slowly and evenly until it is tight. The loop can be cut and then the dropper will stand out from the line. This knot introduces a slightly weaker point in the line, so use suitable breaking strain line if casting a heavy sinker.
Herring fishing "Secrets":-
1. Fine, light, long traces will give many more bites compared to using shorter or heavier traces. Use clear nylon or even fluorocarbon leaders when they are really fussy.
2. The "secret" of using whitebait and bluebait without them going mushy and falling off the hooks are:- make sure they are fresh, and add a handful of dry pollard after they have thawed, dip in fish oil for extra smell.
3. There are many ways to catch herring, but sometimes they are fussy. If someone else is catching herring but you are not, check the rig, bait and fishing technique being used by them, and do the same. Simple.
And when you have caught your fish, make sure you look after them properly to get the best out of these delicious small fish.
Article, photos and rig drawings by Terry Fuller.
References from WA Department of Fisheries website.
Brochure:- How to identify herring and
juvenile salmon (link opens in a new window)
Copyright © 2010 Terry Fuller and Surf Casting and Angling Club of W.A. (Inc.)
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Content of this page was last updated on 1 February 2013.