by Gary Brown
Many anglers that I talk to tend to shy away from fishing a beach. This is mainly due to the fact that they don’t know how to read the features of a beach or they haven’t taken the time to identify how easy it is to recognise these features. Once you have worked out the different features you will then need to learn how to get the best out of these features.
As you can see from this shot it’s low tide. There are not many features except for the rocks on the right hand side
As Alan and Aaron walk past the rocks they will keep them in mind for when they come back at high tide
The generic names that I will refer to are holes, gutters, sand spits, bars, rips and white water
Now whether you refer to them as gutters or channels, these features are usually elongated stretches of either deep or shallow water that will run parrell to the shoreline and will be found within the surf zone. They are easily distinguishable by the white water that has formed from a wave that has broken on a sand bar that is located on the seaward side of the gutter or channel. This wave will then reform and break closer to the beach, eventually running up to your feet.
Alan can be seen here fishing a gutter that runs parrell to the rocks and at 90 degrees to the beach
When you have been down to the beach you may have noticed some of these gutters or channels that have either an ‘ U ‘ OR ‘ L ‘ shape the opens and empties back into the sea. This arm of the gutter or channel is sometimes referred to as a rip.
Those anglers new to beach fishing can sometimes confuse a gutter or a channel to a hole. These holes can be rather larger or very small and situated on the edge or end of a gutter or channel. You can identify then by either the wave motion or a change in the colour of the water. These holes can either be a high water or low water hole, meaning that a particular hole that you can see from the beach, but cannot reach with a decent cast a high tide, would be easily reached at low tide.
This salmon was caught out of a gutter at high tide which was at the anglers feet
Sand spits are usually a narrow section of sand that runs from the shore out into the surf zone. They can be found on the edge of gutters, channels and holes, and can be an access point to more productive areas at low tide. At low tide these sand spits can also be a very productive place to look for beach worms. Care does need to be taken when fishing off these spit as the wave motion and tide can collapse them.
Large, medium and small sand bars are usually found at all beaches. They are easily distinguished by the waves that break on them and they can be found at the edge of gutters, channels and holes.
Rips are caused by wind, current and tide, and may run north or south along a gutter, out to sea or along the end of a beach where the sand meets the rocks. Rips when used properly can be a big asset to the beach angler, as it can be used to carry the bait out much further than you may be able to cast. For example, if you were fishing into a ‘U’ shaped gutter with a rip on either side you could cast out into the rip and then allow the bait and rig to be carried out further to sea. If there has being no bites on the way out you can then slowly retrieve the rig and bait right back to your feet. Great way to fish for whiting, bream and flathead.
This angler has given up fishing the beach in these conditions. It wouldn't recommend doing this
As stated before the white water is formed with the break of a wave either on a beach or a sand bar or spit. It is this white water that the fish will either use as cover for protection from larger predators or as cover to chase prey.
Note the angle of the beach. This is what makes it a good high tide spot to fish
Reading of Beach formations.
As stated earlier there are many factors that sculpt the characteristics of a beach and these characteristics can change within the blinking of an eye. There was this particular day when I was targeting mulloway in a deep gutter that was running parrell to the beach in the early hours of the morning, and even though the waves have been gently lapping the shoreline creating a small amount of white water cover, there had not been a bite from a mulloway, let alone any other fish species. Yet, within forty-five minutes of a southerly changes hitting the beach, that same gutter produced three mulloway to 7.5 kilos. This was mainly due to stirring up of the waves creating more cover from the white water and the possibility of the dislodging of small crabs, pipis and worms. This in turn brought sand whiting, bream and other fish species into the gutter, which was then followed by the mulloway.
Check out how close to the shore these bream were
To try and give you a better understanding of the types of beach formations that you will usually come across I listed five different formations that I have come across and fished over the years.
An outer and inner bank with no exit or entry point.
A gutter with an entry and exit point.
A sand spit.
A gutter running parrell to the rocks at the end of a beach.
An outer bank.
If you refer to each of the diagrams and keep in mind the recognisable features that I have listed earlier, hopefully this will give you a better understanding of what to look for when you are trying to read a beach.