For what may look like an easily accessed and nondescript location, it's quite amazing what can actually be caught from the wooden or metal structure of your local jetty or wharf. These areas are the training ground for many fishos, yet there's enough fishy appeal to attract anglers of all ages and skill levels. If you're a land-based fisho, they really are the gift that keeps on giving!
Like any angling setting, jetties require you to tune into the local details if you want regular success. This can mean working out which fish bite best at certain times of the day, particular stages of the tide etc. and the different sections of the structure that produce most consistently.
From a single jetty you can have a diverse cross-section of species, and their feeding and movements will generally hold true to surrounding areas and your knowledge of the fish gained from elsewhere. Namely you could find sand whiting, flathead and squid in the shallows to mid depths, and may fish deeper to find kingfish, snapper, sharks and others for example. Localised hot spots are also the norm, and some structures may have reefs, sand holes, weed beds, gutters and other fish focal points to target - kind of a hot spot within a hot spot!
First timers to a jetty are best served fishing early or late if you want to see the full potential, or try fishing either side of high tide. Those structures fitted with lights are also well worth investigating after dark. Jetty lights are like a magnet for fish, and will attract a food chain starting with the smallest of microscopic food items and ending with the biggest of predators. From squid, garfish and mulloway in the south, to barra, black jewfish and queenfish in the north, it's always worth trying after dark around the lights if possible.
The use of dead or live bait is a great way to get introduced to jetty fishing and all that it offers. Live baits in more northern parts can be collected on location, or caught elsewhere, kept alive and carried onto the jetty.
Again if you can have some knowledge of local species before starting your session this will give you a massive head start. Many jetties are fitted with signage of the expected species you can catch and their relevant size and bag limits. Some research will go a long way also in guiding your tackle and bait selections, and as always a good yarn at the nearest tackle shop or pub won't hurt!
A simple but effective way to begin your bait fishing is to start a berley trail and then fish your baits in the trail. This berley trail may consist of a tuna oil, bread, pilchard or pellet base and must be reasonably constant. Usually this will attract a range of smaller to midsized species which in turn can also bring in larger more predatory fish. A berley trail of heavier material like broken up shellfish, fish chunks or pellets, can be sent to the bottom also and will again likely bring a host of species to your area.
A great means to dispense your berley is to use a plastic berley pot with a rope attached and have this set just below the water line for a continuous and tasty trail. Alternatively a weighted berley pot, or simple broadcasting by hand, will get your berley to the bottom.
Many jetty fish can be quite smart, having seen (and maybe eaten!) countless lines and hooks previously, so stealthy and minimalistic rigging can be a huge advantage. Where possible keep sinker weight as light as possible, or even nonexistent. Explore the options by fishing with floats, drifting unweighted baits, through to fishing the bottom.
Jetties make for ideal luring platforms, and given they attract a lot of baitfish, there will be ample predatory fish stalking the fringes looking for an easy meal. As an example, squid are a highly popular target on the planks, and will be picked off in the shallower areas over weed beds and a combination bottom of weed and sand, and also around baitfish schools. Working jigs like the Sephia Egixile down deep or around the lights at night will soon account for these if they're around. Look for the ink stains on the planks to also guide your efforts!
Basically any lure approach can work on jetties. Soft plastics, such as the Squidgy range, are super effective, allowing you to work the entire water column, making them one of the more effective presentations for a range of species. Start with plastics in the 2-4 inch range and you'll soon discover if there's any pelagic minded species around!
Diving minnows, metals, poppers and stickbaits all have their place in your lure box for jetty work. Like any luring scenario be on the lookout for bust-ups, nervous bait, eddies, or jumping fish to denote a promising area to be flicking over.
When starting out on the planks, more generic style outfits are a perfect way to get a foot in the door with this caper, allowing you to dabble in both bait or lure fishing if you need. Ideally however, specialised gear will let you to get the most from your chosen method.
A good starter outfit would be a 6' 6" to 7ft rod, running 4-6kg braid, with a 3000-4000 reel. From here the sky really is the limit if you start messing with sharks, big mackerel and trevally, kings and any other notorious thugs that have a penchant for the planks.
Jetties are a place that longer rods can be of benefit. They let you work your lures closer to the waterline, helping them maintain a more natural action, and make swinging larger fish up easier than shorter, lighter rods. Also they help when trying to steer a pylon bound fish away from danger. Stepping up to 9ft and even above can be beneficial for some fishing here. For those using shorter and lighter rods consider how you'll land any decent fish hooked, with a gaff, long handled landing net, or even a crab net coming in handy to secure your catch if there's no easy access to the water.
Jetties are a super reliable and easily accessible fishing platform for shore anglers, and there's some truly epic fishing possible at all corners of the country from these structures. Come armed with a spread of reliable tackle and be prepared for anything to swim past and you'll have an instant love affair with these fishy hot spots!