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Fishing Structure

You hear fishermen speak of it all the time, but what is structure?

Fish are constantly hunting or being hunted and seek out structure to try and give themselves a tactical advantage over their predators or prey. Structure gives fish of all sizes a place to hide, ambush, rest or eat, so it come as no surprise that fish congregate in these areas. However because of the varied shapes, sizes, and habits of different species and even different size fish of the same species the structure one fish may seek out can be totally different to that of another.

I will try and give a quick overview of what structure is then break this topic up into a few different areas of fishing and give a some species specific examples.

Overview - structure is an outstanding feature on otherwise featureless surroundings. It can be a living thing such as seaweed or for a clown fish an anemone, a channel, a bridges pylons, a rocky out crop, reef, wreck, a floating crate or even a sandbank, and these are just a few examples.

Check out the list below for your favourite species structural preferences.

Favoured Structure by Species

Whiting on the flats

These small fish are generally bottom browsers, feeding on worms yabbies, crabs and small bait fish. Their body shape allows them to enter very shallow water and will in fact move into areas that barely allow them to fully cover their bodies with water. For a whiting structure is usually not so much a sand or mud bank which holds the above bait species but small gutters and drains which will allow them the earliest and latest tidal access to these banks and area where they can capture food washed from the bank. Why?, because these small drains offer not only easy extended access to the banks but a degree of cover from predators such as seagulls and terns. Yep it's a tough life being a fish, you not only have to keep a close eye out for what is going to try and eat you in the water but also what may swoop down from the sky to scoop you up for breakfast. Then there's the fishermen ........


The humble flathead has similar tastes to whiting both in preferred terrain and food, however they also haunt these areas because the whiting and mullet that use the drains are also on their menu. Flathead are often referred to as lizards, a great description for not only their looks but hunting style. Flathead will take up position either in these drains or on the edge of them near weed using their camouflage to mask their presence until it is all too late for unwary prey. Often flathead "lies" can be seen on the flats where the flathead has dug itself into the mud or sand waiting for an unsuspecting victim to wander by. Dropoffs as the bank falls into deeper is also prime flathead structure.


Bream are scavengers with a varied diet so they also can found in very wide range of areas, from the just behind the beach break in the surf, very shallow reef, to rock walls and jetties in estuary systems and assorted snags in rivers and mangrove lined creeks where losing a lot of tackle is par for the course. Basically any water obstacle or overhang offering good cover and an easily accessible food source should hold bream. Even over wharves and buildings jutting out over the water will attract bream to their shadows where easy morsels of food can be picked up as they discarded by people.


Very similar in shape and to be honest not that different in feeding habits from bream, snapper are found in much cleaner waters around reefs, ledges and dropoffs. Smaller fish are more often perched right on top of reefy formations or heavy rubble bottoms where as larger fish will more often patrol the edges seeking easy prey that may wander too far from safety. When searching for new snapper fishing spots a good chart with well defined contour lines is a very good starting point, snapper just love areas that fall several metres in depth over a very short distance.


The predatory tailor is always on the hunt and structure for these fish is usually a likely ambush spot for bait fish. Back eddies, clean dropoffs and deep holes in estuaries are a favourite hangout for these guys when they are smaller choppers but as they grow are more commonly encountered around rocky outcrops and surf beaches. Rocky outcrops and deeper gutters with foam and turbulence from breaking waves offers them just the structure they desire to give cover from other larger predators and ambush schools of bait.


Encountered most usually on a surf beach, the swallowtail dart looks for near identical structure to tailor. Deep ocean gutters which raging white water close to banks holding their primary food sources of pippis and worms are favoured also giving them the option to join in on attacks on bait schools or pick up tasty morsels such as small crabs and shellfish that may wash by.


The mighty mulloway or jew is a prowler that usually sticks to what he knows. The jewfish will patrol or cruise areas he knows holds his favourite food. These include deep channels, droppoffs, eddies around bridges and small reef rubble where he can get out of the current to make wild dashes at passing baitfish to fill his belly. Deep ocean gutters with clear outlets to the sea will also hold their fair share of jewfish as they search for larger fish species such as bream, whiting, tailor and mullet, as well as other delicious morsels such as squid, large prawns, and beach worms.


Ocean going fishes such as mackerel, tuna, wahoo, marlin and dolphin fish are open water fish that rather than specifically seeking out protective structure are more in an area because of the bait species it attracts. Pinnacles, current lines, wrecks, temperature variations, surf lines, fad's and in the case of dolphinfish floating debris that accumulate bait schools will hold pelagic. However I would suggest using these features only as a starting point, then sounding around for the bait schools. Once the bait is located these predators will be close by and waiting.


As you can see structure is many things to many fish. I hope the above has given you an idea why you never really get a straight answer on what structure actually is, as you can see it is somewhat difficult to... quantify? As a rule of thumb most fish will seek out an area that offers protection and food source, find a suitable area like that for the species you are targeting and you have a big head start over those that blindly cast into the water hoping that something will jump on the end of their line.

A place to call home.

As a rule of thumb most fish will seek out an area that offers both protection and food source, find a suitable area like that for the species you are targeting and you have a big head start over those that blindly cast into the water hoping that something will jump on the end of their line.

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