by Gary Brown
At Foster on the mid north coast of NSW, I use to fish the racks as a kid. Dad would hire a boat from the local marina and we would head up the channel until we reach a good set of oyster racks (dad’s idea of a good set of racks is where there is deep water on the outside), here we would anchor up as close to the edge of the wash boards. We would be so close that you had to keep using the oar to push the boat away from the racks.
As the tide starts to rise the fish will start to come out and play
Once we were set up it was just a matter of either putting on the strips of skirt steak or mullet that had been soaked in tuna oil and casting it out the back of the boat. Back then we didn’t use any berley, so it was just a matter of waiting for the bream and flathead to work its way up the oily slick to the bait.
Dad’s idea of drag was to not have any. This was to stop the fish from going into the racks and busting us off.
Now days I find myself fishing with either my son or fishing mates not only fishing beside these racks, but inside them at low tide and drifting over the top of them when the tide is high and now days the bait has been replaced with soft plastics, surface lures, blades, hard bodied diving suspending and sinking lures. I do have a small amount of drag, but not like dad insisted on having. None.
Electic motors are an essential tools when it comes to fishing in the racks
Fishing the racks is heart in mouth stuff and it can bring a grown man or woman to his or her knees. It can destroy rod, reels, lures, electric motors, the bottom and side of boats, as well as breaking your will. But with all that said I can’t get enough of fishing in the racks.
Racks can come in the form of floating rolling cages, timber rails, timber rails with trays on top, poles and lines of rocks that have oysters growing on them.
There are so many different techniques that you could use when fishing the oyster racks that it would take a lot longer than this article to go through them. So what I will do is let you know three of the techniques that I use.
Casting a blade close to the edge of a rack is heart in mouth situation, so is pulling out a dusky of this size
Technique No 1.
You will need to position your boat in between the covered in racks so that it is travelling into the current. The tide can be done even at the bottom of the tide as long as there is enough water to float the boat. This will give both of you the opportunity to cast those lightly weighted soft plastics so that they land right beside the edge of the tray. You need to then allow it to slowly sink down beside tray while at the same time keeping the line away from the snaggy bits on the racks.
If a fish hasn’t already picked it up and swam off under the racks you should then slowly lift it off the bottom, allowing it to slowly float back down. This gets repeated until you have to cast again or you have hooked up. If you do get a hook-up you will need to respond extremely quickly and start winding the fish in so that you can turn its head and have it come straight at you.
On a number of occasions I haven’t been quick enough and the fish is still on the line and taken me underneath the racks. This is when I throw the bail arm over. Once this fish has settle down I try and lead it back out into open space and then give it what for. Sometimes this works and sometimes not.
If you take a close look at this shot you will see the rails on the left and the trays on the right
Technique No 2.
This technique can only been done when there is enough water covering the trays on the racks so that your boat can float over them and this is where the surface poppers and walkers can come into their own. It doesn’t seem to matter which way you drift over the racks when using surface walkers and poppers, but what does matter is the length of the leaders and the distance you can get out of your cast.
I will only have one metre for my leader length. The reason behind this is that the Spiderwire EZ fluorocarbon that I use is dense and will sink. So if the leader is too long there will be a bow in the line from the main line to the lure causing it not to work properly. For my mainline I use the ultra thin Berkley Crystal Fireline braid that will be spooled onto my Pflueger Abor threadline. The suppleness of the Crystal and the large diameter of the Abor will allow me to achieve long distance cast.
Another little trick to using either surface walkers or poppers is to allow it to sit for a while once it has landed. I will usually allow the rings to disperse and then start the retrieve of the lure. If I get a strike and the fish misses the hook I will immediately stop and allow the lure to rest before giving it a slight twitch.
Try casting as close to the edge of the rack for the best results
Technique No 3.
In one of the accompanying photos to this article you will see me holding a bream and to the left you will see a set of exposed rails at low tide. It is when the tide is up and starting to cover them that they come to life. Small crabs, shrimps and prawns will start to move about. Some of these rails will have small oysters and mussel on them that will also start to open. It is this movement of life that will attract the bream, flathead and whiting to feed on them.
This is the time when you need to direct your cast to have either the hard bodied lure or soft plastic to land directly in the middle of them. With the hard bodied lure you will need to slow roll it parrell to the running rails and with the soft plastics I would suggest that you slowly hop it along the bottom.
Well there you have it, just a few techniques for you to try when you next hit the racks.