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Surf Fishing Species and their preferred beach habitats

Now we know what these terms mean we can start to look at these formations or structures in a different way, that is, as an aid to helping us find the most likely spots where we will catch fish.

Our problem now is to decide what species of fish we wish to target as each has their preferences on where they wish to take cover from predators, hunt for food or simply move from area to area. Once we decide this we know what feature or features to seek out. There are plenty more but here are a few of the more commonly targeted species.


On the beach whiting will usually congregate in shallower waters where pipis, worms, small crabs and crustaceans, and tiny bait fish can be found. At times whiting will seen rushing in with the wash of a wave up onto what was seconds before dry beach chasing baitfish or to pounce on worms as they partially emerge from the sand to feed. So when I say shallow I mean 1 metre or less during daylight with as little as a few centimetres being all that is needed if it is a very dark night.

With this in mind it should be clear that shallow banks and gutters, beach breaks and drains with light foam cover are the most likely places to find whiting in average weather. Should very little wave action be present then whiting will usually opt for slightly deeper water on the edges of the above areas, waiting for tiny morsels be to washed to them by the tidal movement.


With very similar diets to whiting when they inhabit the surf, bream are best targeted in similar spots but with deeper water. Larger gutters with a strong beach break will have bream prowling just behind the break for injured baitfish or other foods washed out into their reach by the wave action. Narrow but deep gutters splitting areas where pippis and worms are abundant is usually a very productive area for bream especially at night.

out on the beach


Flathead are a true ambush species, burying themselves in the sand with little more than their eyes protruding, just waiting to pounce on any hapless prey to come within range. Droppoffs on the edge of banks and shallows where smaller species feed but have to retreat from on falling tides are a good starting location for flathead.

Swallowtail Dart

The mighty dart may only be a small species but what it lacks in size it makes up in tenacity and happily mixes it in areas frequented by larger species. White water covered banks and the deeper sections just inside the bank are prime dart fishing areas. The milky green turbulence swirling smaller baitfish, shellfish and worms towards the waiting dart are just too hard for them to resist as these areas offer them the chance to use their streamlined bodies to outmaneuver their prey.


Deep white water covered banks, gutters and mellon holes are where you will find tailor on the beach. Offering cover for both protection and to ambush smaller species the tailor will take up temporary residence on these formations coming and going through close by outlets or over deeper breaking banks.


The mulloway or jewfish for the majority of the time is the apex predatory fish of the surf and is highly prized by dedicated fishermen. Jew will patrol the main roads of the surf, traveling the edges of deep banks and deep gutters with good outlets to the open ocean, tracking down and consuming easy targets along the way. If they have not sufficiently satisfied their hunger they will take up ambush position just outside of large outlets waiting for their dinner to come to them.


On an average day the above should be a great guide, but should not be treated as the be all and end all for your beach fishing adventures. Very calm or rough conditions will force some species into areas they would not usually frequent, as will food availability and predator movements.

Beach fishing

Spotting fish in the surf

Reading the beach explained

Beach fish species and their habits

Surf fishing on the beach