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Wayne Harvey

When Pelagic fish get brought up in conversation I'm sure that most of us have an image in our mind of hard hitting, fast running, lure crunching critters that can strip hundreds of metres of line in the blink of an eye. This topic can also be associated with game fishing, big outfits and deep water. There are two main groups that these fish can be put into, and they are Coastal (inshore) and Oceanic (offshore) fish. Generally speaking, when chasing these fish offshore, big boats along with big outfits are required, mainly due to bigger fish lurking in deeper water. However, when targeting inshore pelagics the whole story changes, in fact this can be achieved in a small punt with lightweight outfits and right on your front doorstep! There are some great species to place in your firing line and some of the most popular include mackerel (Spanish, grey, spotted and school), tuna (northern bluefin and mackerel), trevally (giant, golden, bludger and diamond), queenfish and cobia.

If you want to have a crack at any of these quite powerful speedsters, the first thing you should do is get a good understanding of the areas these fish frequent, along with the area that you are fishing. There are a few keys listed below that can hopefully point you in the right direction when it comes to finding and experiencing what shallow water pelagic species have to offer.


This is one of the most important factors. It's simple; bait attracts predators, so if you want to increase your catch rate, finding bait is a big advantage.


These are your eyes in the sky. When birds are flying high, they are generally looking for bait schools being pushed to the surface by hungry fish (mainly mackerel and tuna). If you notice birds flying very low to the water and swooping this means that the bait and feeding fish are either just below the surface or getting very close.

Try not to zoom in at a hundred mile an hour on the schools as the fish have very good vision, are very wary and can spook quite easily. Instead be patient and motor ahead of the school and kill your motor. This allows you to quietly drift and wait for the feeding school to come to you. Metal slugs, small blades and soft plastics around 3-5 inches long will get best results.

In most cases these schools of fish will be spotted and school mackerel, or mac tuna, but sometimes there will be big northern bluefin tuna and grey and Spanish mackerel underneath them. Again, if you are patient enough, let your lure sink beneath the school of feeding fish and you may find yourself hooked up to something a little bigger and a lot faster!

Current Lines

Fish use current lines as ambush points, especially pelagics. If you can find a situation where two or three currents meet, pelagics shouldn't be too far away. Work both or all currents with metal slices, blades and plastics until you work out where the fish are holding.

Colour Changes

Once again, pelagics don't hold back when it comes to ambush. If you can find a colour change where dirty, silted water meets clean clear blue water, you can almost guarantee there will be some sort of action close by. When fishing a colour change, work your lures right where the two colours meet or cast into the dirty water and bring your lures back into the clean water. Most of the time the fish will be hanging right on the colour change waiting for anything to stick its head out of the dirty water.

Tide Change

The tide change, especially an incoming tide, triggers big fish to move into shallow water and feed with confidence. If you find fish on an incoming tide, follow the tide and currents as the fish have a knack of always being just in front of it.

Pressure Points

This is a situation that unfolds when tidal currents push onto a feature, creating a pressure point. There is the up-current side where the water pushes onto the feature and creates a pressure point and the down-current side which is often labelled the lee side or the sheltered side.

Position yourself on the up-current side and cast metal slugs and slices, blades and soft plastics into the pressure point. Sometimes the pelagics will be hunting on the bottom, so it's worth sinking your lures to the bottom and jigging them erratically through the water column.

When your lure is about halfway back to the boat, wind it as quickly as you can. This technique is often referred to as "burning" and if there are any speedsters around your lure should get slammed. Just remember when burning lures that you can never wind too fast. In the eyes of any pelagic fish, a fleeing bait fish, especially at speed, is what they thrive on. If you have worked the pressure point without success, try the down-current side or the sheltered side. Quite often this is where you will find bottom dwelling fish such as golden trevally.

Creek & River Mouths

This is by far my favourite scenario. Incoming tides around a creek or river mouth, just after they have bottomed out, is the perfect time to be in place for when fish start feeding. This is where all the bait and food sources will be before the tide carries it back into the sheltered reaches of the estuaries.

Gearing Up

All you need to get into the action is a spin rod around 7', rated around 5-9kg or 12-20lb. Bigger or smaller should be ok, as long as you have enough tip to get a good cast in. Reels from 3000-5000 size will perform well, spooled with 10-20lb line. Leader depends on what you encounter on the day. It is also a comfort thing with many people, but 30-60lb monofilament should be ample, depending on what you are fishing for. If you come across toothy critters in your search, it is advisable to use about 6-10 inches of single strand wire. Don't connect your braid straight to wire, instead incorporate at least a metre of monofilament to absorb any shock on the initial hook up and throughout the fight.


When pelagic fish go into a feeding frenzy you can almost throw anything at them and they will hit it. But generally speaking small lures such as metal slugs, TT Switchblade and Switchblade HD in 1/4 to 1oz and ZMan 3.75" StreakZ, ZMan 5" StreakZ, ZMan 8" StreakZ XL and ZMan 4" StreakZ Curly TailZ soft plastics, rigged on TT jigheads, are prime (depending on what you are targeting).

Fishing for shallow water pelagics is great fun and unless you know what is running in your local area at the time it can almost be a lucky dip as to what species you will encounter. There are many different methods and techniques you can use to catch these fish, including sight casting, burning lures and jigging. Best of all this style of fishing can be done just out the front and you don't need a big boat to get hooked up.

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