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
Check out the list below for your favourite species structural
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
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
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.
Fishing Basics Index