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TERRAIN:  HIGHWAYS TO THE FEEDING ZONES    You can sign along to this post !

Yellow Fin Whiting have been showing up in good numbers in both gulfs recently.

But you still need to find them, and fish the right spots … at the right stage in the tide.

YFW are always on the move. Actively feeding on a moving tide. Both in and out going tides.

But there are dead transit zones, over which they will pass through without providing you much of a chance to catch them. These are merely the … Highways to the Feeding zones.

The feeding zones is where you want to be fishing.

In each YFW Habitat there are transit zones and feeding zones.

In the upper gulfs the coastal environment contains a lot more mangroves and samphire beds. Nearest to shore and onshore are the Salt bushes and Samphire bed areas.

On many stretches of the upper gulfs they will also be a mangrove forrest wall.

Through these mangrove forrest flow many small tidal creeks and channels, that pour in and out onto Sandflats. The Sandflats drain out, eventually meeting the ribbon grass weed beds.

In the lower gulfs, the terrain is slightly different without Mangroves and less Samphire.

They are replaced by open sandflats, sometimes with a little scattered reef, and banks of fine seagrass weed beds, that drain out to a weedline of ribbon grass.

Each area has it’s own characteristics and features, which influence the movements and feeding behaviour of the YFW. The all have their transit zones and their feeding zones.



We start at the deep end, the weedline. This is the first of the habitats in which we find YFW.

The deeper seaside of the sand flats are always bordered by the weed line of sea grass beds. These are usually Ribbon weed or tape weed beds (Posidonia varieties). Often this will be where the bottom of the low tides hold. And were the YFW take refuge on the low tides.

In the lower sections of the gulfs, their cousins the King George Whiting also keep them company at the weed line. Along with many a Flathead too.

The best spots for land based KGW are the weedline areas that receives a natural berley stream from  sandy shallow drains, running off the sand flats.

This habitat is also a favourite for Flathead, which take cover in the weed edges and like to ambush baitfish straying too close.

You will find the larger YFW hanging around here, mixing it with the Flathead and KGW. Large YFW have the speed and morphology to take minnows at the weedline. They are able to chase them down along with any Shrimp that may have come out of the sheltering grasses.

The barrier like structure of the weed beds will mean there is always some channeling through the weed beds, caused by the tidal flows. These channels are the main flow areas during tidal movements, on and off the sandflats.

Focus your fishing at these channel openings, both at the bottom and at the start of the tide.

And in a dodge tide, it is the only place to be. The minimal water flows of a dodge tide will be greatest at these channels, and so stimulate the YFW to feed in that area.


~ King George Whiting, Yellow Fin Whiting and Flathead all found down on the weedline.


~ Find the water flow and fish at the channel openings


Sandflats … are never Flat !!!

Sand flats don’t always slope seawards in a continuous gentle gradient. They is more often a series of ridges, gutters, bowls, channels and steps leading down to the weedline.

These are not necessarily dramatically obvious. A 4” to 5 inch depth difference is a significant change in these shallow sandflats.

These structures and variations in the sandflat terrain are the most obvious fish holding areas. The slightly deeper areas of the shallows, are the first areas that YFW will retreat into on a dropping tide, or swim into and hold in, on the incoming tide.

Fish always hold at steps and drops on the sandflats, wether it be the run in or run off.

They prefer to feed on the shallow edges of any deeper water areas rather than in the deep water itself.

If in a fast flowing channel focus on the slow side of a bend in the channel. It is where food would naturally settle and fish will feed. It is where the benthic organisms colonise more with out fear of being swept out by a fast moving tide.

Shallow weed beds of finer bladed, lawn like, seagrasses ( Zostera varieties) are often found on the more open flats lower in the gulfs. They are important for the movements of YFW during the tidal flows. In very shallow water YFW will tend to favour moving along the weed bed edges and take cover in the weed beds. It is an ideal spot to target them in ankle deep water. The water is always a bit deeper alongside the edges of these fine grass weed beds.

Should the wind be a bit strong, YFW will hold on the Leeward side of these beds a bit more. And on light winds with gentle lapping waves, the windward side of these weed beds.


~ The small variations on the sandflats hold the fish


Regardless of upper or lower gulf areas, you should identify the substrate that you are fishing on.

As a wading fisherman you can feel and identify the different substrate underfoot.

It is simply either, coarse, gravelly and hard, or soft, silty, and sandy.

I usually move on quickly from the coarser, gravelly areas and onto the finer, siltier, sandy areas.

Coarse gravelly limestone or shell grit areas are not as productive. They do not hold the YFW food so don’t hold the YFW long. It often is a faster flowing area and a transit zone for fish.

You will still catch the odd few YFW as they use it as a highway to the feeding zones. But they won’t hold and feed there.

The feeding zones are characterised by finer, softer, siltier sand beds. Which holds a lot more YFW food. This is where all the benthic dwelling creatures, like cockles, worms and clickers live. All the juvenile prawns that we see leaping around on the surface at night as nocturnals, now bury themselves for the day in the soft sand and silt.

YFW linger a lot longer in these softer sandy areas searching for and feeding on the food it holds.


Bordering the sandflats on the shoreside in the upper gulfs are often mangrove forests. Amongst the mangrove forest there are clear water ways that channel the considerable tidal movement experienced in the upper gulfs. The tides flow through tidal creeks and mangrove openings and into the samphire beds, or out onto the sandflats. These mangrove openings will hold a greater concentration of fish when the tide is moving.

At times the thick growth and dense mangrove canopy can totally conceal an opening. There are however some tell tale signs of a concealed creek or channel. Ever wondered about those Shags, that regularly congregate on certain mangrove trees overlooking the sand flats. It’s the Shag breakfast club. The shags are there because there is food flowing out there. Minnows, Shrimp and Prawns are being brought out on the falling tide through a creek concealed by the mangrove canopy. The larger YFW are not threatened by the Shags and will also hang out the front of these spots.


~  Mangrove Openings have high flow rates and hold fish


Once past the mangroves there are obvious narrow channels through the samphire beds. These are invariably gravelly rarely holding benthic species. But they will hold and concentrate YFW passing through that can’t help but see your offering. The YFW like to move up into the muddier samphire bed areas primarily to feed on Haswells crabs and small mud cockles. This is a highway on which you can actually take a toll.

Great spots are Junctions, like one I nicknamed “Gepps X”. It does bring to together a concentration of fish. Even if only a relatively short time at the right time of tide. You can even catch YFW by hand at night in these narrow and restricted spaces.

Google satellite images are the most useful tool you have to help you find the spots and plan your strategy for the incoming and outgoing tide.


~  Fish move into the channels of the Samphire beds


This has nothing to do with the terrain. Try casting lures around feeding Eagle Rays on the sandflats.

The YFW often hang around feeding Rays hoping to pounce on food that the Ray has dislodged.

They are in a switched on and opportunistic feeding mode, ready to pounce.

Just offer them your lure instead! This has worked well on a few occasion.

And in the better years now past, when the YFW biomass was not that badly decimated by the pro netting activities, they would also hang around swimmers on metro beaches, in the hope of some dislodged food.




~   A nice Catch wading for YFW

As keen Hunters and Gathers, we always need to stay alert to and aware of all the features in the fish’s habitats and how they will effect our catch rate.

Tight lines all.

Cheers, Des

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