Kangaroo Island Fishing

By Shane Murton

Kangaroo Island sits some 15km off the Fleurieu Peninsula in SA and is a low-fuss getaway in many regards. Accessing the Island can be done by travelling on one of the SeaLink ferries, which involves a 45-minute ride across Backstairs Passage. Alternatively plane flights operate regularly from Adelaide. Being Australia’s third largest island, including Tasmania, it has some 540km of coastline with a length of 155km - that's a lot of fishy areas to check out!

Kangaroo Island (or just KI to locals) is the leading tourist destination in SA, mostly as a result of the feature packed coastline and abundant wildlife, which also adds to your fishing experience. Those that have spent any time on the Island are well aware of its laid-back vibe and fishing which is far superior to what you'll find on the mainland- in some ways it feels as though you've stepped back in time 20 years or so. That small piece of water separating it from the mainland has aided in reducing pressure to local fish stocks.

I was lucky enough to grow up on the Island and still find it to be one of the best holiday/fishinglocations in the state. One of the benefits of KI is that you're on an island and you can always find a sheltered side to fish, or an inland area away from the wind, which means less downtime on your holiday and maximum time outside enjoying the surrounds and top-notch angling.

The contrasting shorelines of the Island, from the rugged wind-swept south coast to the comparatively placid north coast, provide a spread of options for lure and bait fishos to explore as will be briefly looked at.

Beach Scene

KI has both surf and calm water beaches in abundance. The south coast of the Island is a high-energy coastline and locations like Hanson Bay, Vivonne, Pennington and D'Estrees Bay are likely spots to target Australian salmon, sharks, mullet and many other typical southern surf species that don't mind crashing waves and deep gutters.

The north side of KI is more sheltered (at times!) and you'll find calm to semi-surf beaches here. Snellings Beach, Emu Bay and countless other sheltered beach areas can provide salmon and shark action, along with mullet, flathead, whiting and a host of other desirable species. The best part of beach fishing on KI is the lack of crowds and the reliable results possible.

Jetty Options

The Island caters well for land-based fishos and the local jetties are always popular. Vivonne Bay jetty juts out into an aqua-coloured ocean, while Penneshaw, American River, Kingscote and Emu Bay have rather innocuous wooden structures where you can get stretched from. Like when fishing anywhere on KI, expect the unexpected! Squid, shark, tommie ruff, silver trevally, whiting and even snapper and kingfish are possible from the planks.

For the Boaties

The boat fishing around KI takes some beating, with protected bay and offshore waters all holding a variety of table and sport fish.

The Bay of Shoals (aka Shoal Bay) and American River are two almost totally enclosed bays, and produce well on whiting, squid, salmon and others, keeping in mind to avoid marine sanctuary zones/reserves in the areas mentioned. Those into flicking lures or working baits will find plenty on hand to keep busy with and get a great feed while you're at it. Other inshore areas to try include Smith's Bay, Penneshaw's Hog Bay, Kingscote's Nepean Bay, and Stokes Bay. There's a lot of broken bottom and inshore reefs right around the Island where snapper, thumper KG whiting, and many other reef fish can be caught.

The offshore scene is punctuated with a great run of bluefin tuna between roughly mid December to March each year. At times the tuna are that close to shore even kayak anglers are getting stuck into them here! Various species of sharks, kingfish, samson fish, tuna, gummy shark, Bight redfish and arguably the biggest KGs in SA are all taken offshore as well. For those not towing their own boat across there's charters boats on the island who target whiting through to tuna and kingfish.


KI can be a windy and wild place and a great fallback is to fish one of the Island's many rivers for black bream. Chapman, Western, Harriet, and Middle rivers are just a few that hold populations of bream, mullet and salmon trout, and while some of these rivers cross through private land it's not that challenging to find a 'legal' stretch of bank to throw lures or set a bait.

Many of the rivers are land-locked systems and only open to the sea during the winter months and for the remainder of the year their waters take on a dark colouration, stained by the lush growth that leans into them, which further conceals the fishy inhabitants that lurk around the snag piles, rock bars and deep holes. If you're bank bashing watch out for the highly venomous local tiger snakes and the acacia bushes - I'm still picking acacia spines out of my legs weeks after my last bream assault here!

Fishing these skinny rivers is a blast and while there's innumerable small bream in them, there's more than the odd hooter as well. Between casts you can't help but admire the clean, pristine surrounds while listening to the local birdlife and koalas. KI sure does have something special going for it and if you're in SA check it out sometime.