NOTE: Special snapper rules apply in South Australia – more info here.
Adelaide is known for is known for its relatively sheltered gulf waters, many long jetties, and low-energy beaches.
Rock platforms within the state’s St Vincent and Spencer Gulfs tend to be safer than those outside the gulfs.
The two gulfs form a substantial portion of the state’s coast, with Adelaide located on the Fleurieu Peninsula on the east side of the Gulf of St Vincent.
Gulf waters are mostly sandy and shallow, with seagrass beds.
What the gulfs lack in large sportfish is made up for by the easy fishing for common bread and butter species.
The proliferation of jetties is a special feature for landbased fishos, both near the city and at coastal townships around the gulfs and in the large bays of the west coast.
Jetties were built at intervals right around the shallow gulf coastlines so ships could be loaded with wheat or mining ore. Some jetties still serve this purpose.
Other jetties are now used solely for fishing, and towns with a good jetty invariably attract more holidaymakers.
Adelaide itself has several metro jetties, as well as the productive Port River estuary, which includes the harbour entrance rock walls. Adelaide’s metro jetties are Brighton, Glenelg, Henley, Grange, Semaphore and Largs Bay.
West Lakes is a reclaimed marsh that is now a saltwater system and a great spot to target large black bream.
Outside of the gulfs are true surf beaches that face the mighty Southern Ocean.
Kangaroo Island is a popular fishing holiday and boating destination for Adelaide folk, with the southerly half of the island facing the Southern Ocean, and the north coast more sheltered.
It has beach, creek and rock fishing.
Boating facilities in South Australia are generally excellent, with protected, all-tide dual-lane ramps and caravan parks at most coastal towns.
Adelaide fishermen looking for a good day trip generally head south as the coast north of the city is shallow and drab, although crab raking has a strong seasonal following in this area.
Beaches and rock platforms immediately south of Adelaide are quite sheltered, but the southern side of Adelaide’s Fleurieu Peninsula has the more exposed Waitpinga and Parsons surf beaches that fish well for salmon, mulloway and occasional tailor.
Victor Harbour is a popular daytrip, with good fishing off the Granite Island causeway and Screwpile Jetty, and at Port Elliot.
Port Noarlunga’s Onkaparinga River is a popular destination for fishos chasing black bream, and small mulloway are also caught.
Rapid Bay has a good fishing jetty, also within day trip distance of Adelaide, with several other good fishing spots located on the run south down the peninsula to Cape Jervis.
Further afield, the state’s west has a coastline as wild and pristine as a fisho could ask for. Parts of the west coast are remote and require a 4WD for beach access, while some long stretches of beach can’t be accessed at all. Yalata is arguably the premium surf destination for those chasing trophy mulloway.
The east coast through to Port Macdonnell and Robe is home to bluefin tuna and crayfish for those who have suitable boats, as well as the usual bread and butter species, with Kingston and Cape Jaffa also having a strong following among fishing holidaymakers.
Yellowtail kingfish, samsonfish and bluefin tuna are the main sportfish, along with thresher, mako and whaler sharks.
Large squid are common throughout the gulfs, as is the world’s largest cuttlefish species, which spawns en masse near Whyalla.
Other popular species are red mullet (goatfish), leatherjackets, sand flathead and silver trevally.
Snook, a relative of northern barracuda, are common and a popular target.
Barracoutta are of interest to some fishos and they grow large in SA waters.
The dusky morwong and magpie morwong are often seen in seagrass beds by divers but they rarely take baits and are poor eating.
Offshore reefs produce mainly blue morwong, pink snapper, harlequin fish, blue groper, big leatherjackets and samsonfish.
Warm waters from Western Australia’s Leeuwin Current sometimes pass the state in summer and bring surprise catches of tropical species.
Crayfish are common mostly outside the gulfs, and blue swimmer and two-spot sand crabs thrive within the gulfs, with smaller populations in inlets along the ocean coast.
Small salmon are called “salmon trout” in South Australia, and tommy ruffs are called “tommies”.
Maggots (gents) are commonly used as bait for garfish.
There is a large network of marine parks and some small aquatic sanctuary areas.
Be sure to know where they are before fishing, see the links below.
Adelaide freshwater fishing
Adelaide is the capital city of Australia’s driest state, which means there is limited freshwater fishing.
The lower Murray River empties into the sea at the Coorong mouth, 80km south-east of Adelaide, a famous mulloway haunt when floodwater flows.
The section of the Murray flowing through South Australia can fish well, with cod making a comeback in recent times, until drought hit hard in 2019.
The lower Murray has mainly golden perch (also called callop, or yellowbelly), silver perch, redfin, tench, cod and carp.
Yabbies are common in most streams around Adelaide.
There is a small following of die-hard trout fishers, but climate extremes have killed off some marginal trout waters, along with a push to help native non-sporting fish to thrive, instead of feral favourites like trout and redfin.
Trout are in Adelaide’s Torrens and Onkaparinga Rivers, along with carp, redfin and galaxia.
Sixth Creek, a permanent stream that flows into the upper Torrens, has had self-sustaining populations of brown and rainbow trout in the past.
The Broughton, Hindmarsh and Finniss Rivers are the best places to find a trout, and some public reservoirs and private dams.
A government survey showed that redfin perch were far more common than trout in most SA streams, with the Inman, Myponga, North Para and Onkaparinga Rivers holding many redfin.
Quite a strong population of tench was found in Sturt Creek.
All these streams are an easy day trip for Adelaide residents.
The South Australian Fly Fishers Association is the focal point for gaining the latest knowledge and access to local trout waters.
The map below, adapted from a 2006 government report, shows trout availability in some of the streams that flow into the lower Murray lakes.
The state was a late starter in Australia to allow fishing in its reservoirs, but some impoundments have been opened to fishing, with more planned.
Fish stocking of reservoirs took off only after years of lobbying, with Warren, Beetaloo, Bundaleer, South Para and Myponga Reservoirs stocked with golden perch, silver perch and murray cod.
More reservoirs are in the pipeline for public access. There is debate over stocking trout.
The lower Torrens River flows through Adelaide’s CBD and this section has plenty of large carp. Don’t discount carp as a sportfish, they fight hard and large fish can be difficult to tempt.
How to fish Adelaide – bait, lures & tackle
Cockles (pipis) are a popular bait in SA.
These are found in the sand of some surf beaches. Tubeworms are collected in muddy flats areas, and are a prime bait.
Worms found in rotting seaweed, a common feature of SA beaches, are good for whiting.
Maggots (gents) are commonly used for garfish – they are bred in rotting meat, then purged in wheat bran.
Mulloway are best targeted with livebait.
Squid are readily available in SA and make good bait, being particularly effective as fresh or live bait for mulloway and kingfish.
Of the packet baits, prawns, bluebait, whitebait and pilchards work well on juvenile salmon, tommy ruffs, bream and snapper.
Pilchards presented on ganged hooks work well for surf salmon.
Tommy ruff fillets make great snapper bait.
A local species of shellfish called razorfish is a good whiting bait. It is found on tidal flats.
Yellow-eye mullet will take small flesh baits, with mice meat being popular.
Paternoster rigs are standard fare when beach and boat fishing in SA, using light star sinkers and small long-shank hooks.
For black bream, running sinker or weightless rigs work well. Gar and tommy ruffs are often targeted using float-fishing methods, and floats can be useful when rock fishing for sweep.
Lures: Small soft plastics and minnows work well on black bream, with chrome slices the best casting lure for salmon, snook and silver trevally.
Squid jigs are a must in the tackle box, and large baited jigs work well on big SA squid.
Adelaide fishing weather & tides
Autumn and winter provide the most stable weather, with more wind in spring and summer.
Sea breezes blow hard in the warm months as the land heats up, and temperatures can sore above 40C for days at a time.
April, May and June are the best boating months, although storm fronts come through in winter, bringing gale-force winds.
Keep an eye on the weather forecasts.
In the Southern Ocean a big swell often occurs, and boaters must beware breaking waves over reefs. Most of the state has a tidal range to about 2m, but this increases to almost 4m in the upper reaches of the two gulfs as the water mass is pushed up into a smaller area.
Adelaide’s tides are relatively small. The gulfs have a tidal quirk called “dodge tides” – an extended period of little movement when fishing is usually poor.
Port Lincoln has a localised tidal quirk of a one-tide day.
The state’s small tidal range makes boating easier.
South Aussies (Croweaters) like to “dab” for garfish in the shallows at night.
A spotlight is used to stun the fish, which are caught (dabbed) with a handnet.
Another popular pastime is “raking” blue crabs in the shallows in summer.
Crabs are caught from jetties and boats with baited drop nets.
Flounder are found throughout the state in sheltered tidal shallows, and are speared at night with a light.
The local yellow-eye mullet is one of the few mullet species that scoff meat baits, and curried raw mince meat was a favoured bait for many years.
Crayfish are caught on the state’s oceanic coast, and the southern cray species are among the tastiest in the world.
South Australia is home to the great white shark, which give small boats a nudge from time to time.
The cownose ray, locally called eagle ray, is a fighting fish that often jumps when hooked, unlike the giant smooth stingrays that are also common.
Gummy and school sharks are popular, but less popular are fiddler rays, shovelnose sharks and port jackson sharks (doggies).
Elephant fish are caught in SA waters, and on rare occasions dolphin fish have made their way into the upper gulfs.
Big blue groper are caught in the more remote rocky areas.
In recent times there have been restriction on snapper fishing, because of declining stocks.
Adelaide also has some language quirks, perhaps because it was a free settler state. Dams are called reservoirs, the word “river” often appears first in titles, eg River Murray.
Find local fishing holiday accommodation here.
South Australian fishing seasons and baits
The following advice applies mainly to the two gulfs.
Black bream - All year, best in winter/spring. They move further up waterways in summer. Use live tube or blood worms, peeled prawn or tiny lures, best dawn and dusk, often at turn of the tide.
Crabs, blue swimmer - Best in summer. Rake them or use nets baited with fish frames, fish day or night.
Crabs, sand (two-spot) - May to June. Use drop nets baited with fish frames, tide dependent, their presence is usually noted when they start stealing fishing baits.
Flathead - All year. Use baits of bluebait, whitebait, small pilchards, squid, fish strips or lures, they bite all day.
Flounder - All year. Will take tiny baits of peeled prawn, worms or squid at night tide, but the usual method is spearing in the shallows at night, usually in summer.
Garfish - Best in summer/autumn but bigger fish often caught in winter. Use tiny baits of maggots, prawn, cockles presented on a float or just drifted back from boat, or dab at night with a net and light, they bite all day.
Mullet - Strong run of fish in autumn/winter. Use tiny baits of mince meat, seaweed worms or cockles. They bite in daylight, usually in very close along beaches at high tide.
Mulloway - Best in summer but caught all year. Use live baits or fresh fish fillets or freshly caught squid. Fish dusk into the night at turn of tide.
Salmon - Big fish best in autumn/winter but small fish show up all year. Use baits of peeled prawn, bluebait, whitebait, cockles, pilchards or lures. Best at high tide at dusk and dawn.
Snapper - All year best in spring/summer. Use baits of squid, pilchards, fish fillets or jigs. Best at dusk and dawn and they come in close after stormy weather. Restrictions currently apply.
Bluefin tuna - these appear off western SA before Christmas, reaching Port Lincoln about late February, and the eastern SA coast around March, depending on currents. Early season brings the biggest fish, along with albacore.
Snook - Bite all year but best in summer. Use lures, pilchards or fish strips. They bite well at night under jetty lights.
Squid - Available all year but best in summer. Use artificial jig lures or baited wire jigs. Best at dawn when the water is clear, but also at dusk and night.
Tommy ruffs - All year. Use maggots, peeled prawn, cockles. Best at night.
Whiting, king george - All year but often better quality fish in winter, use baits of cockles, peeled prawn or squid on the edge of seagrass beds, they bite all day, often tide dependent.
Whiting, silver - All year. Use tiny baits of cockles, worms or peeled prawns.
Whiting, yellowfin - All year but best in summer in spots well away from swimmers. Use fresh or live worms or peeled prawns. Some fishos do OK on tiny lures.
Kingfish - summer.
Silver trevally - summer.
Chow (yakkas) - summer.
Red mullet - all year.
Leatherjackets - all year.
Sweep and zebra fish - all year.
Sharks - all year but better in summer.
Fishing gear for South Australian waters
A 3kg spin outfit is ideal for gar, whiting, mullet and bream. See eBay listing here.
A 3-6kg spinning outfit is suitable for general estuary and light boat fishing in South Australia. See this eBay listing for a suggested spinning combo here.
The above light outfit can be used on shallow, low-energy beaches to catch SA's yellowfin whiting and yelloweye mullet, but a dedicated light surf rod would be better for this purpose.
A heavier surf rod is needed for surf mulloway, snapper and gummy shark fishing. A heavier surf rod is needed for surf mulloway, snapper and gummy shark fishing.An affordable heavy duty surf rod can be seen at the eBay listing here.
For a higher grade 4.6m surf rod, view this eBay listing here.
These heavier surf rods can be matched with this spinning reel ... eBay listing here.
Surf rod-reel combos are available, see eBay listing here.
For boat fishing, a short rod/spinning reel combo loaded with 10kg line is ideal for general reef fishing in water to around 20m deep, and can also be used to cast lures to pelagic fish. See eBay listing here.
Small metal slice lures work well on South Australia's salmon trout, silver trevally, flathead, barracoutta, tommies and snook. See eBay listing here.
Use larger metal slice lures on high-energy beaches where big salmon are expected.
Soft plastic grubs work well on bream, salmon trout and tommies, and freshwater fish such as yellowbelly, redfin, cod and trout. See eBay listing here.
Jig heads are needed for unrigged soft plastic lures. See eBay listing here.
Squid jigs are an essential item in South Australia as large squid are usually abundant in gulf waters and are readily available on jetties. Baited jigs are popular in South Australia - these can be cast and left out until a squid arrives. Bait these jigs with a tommy ruff or mullet and set this under a float. If you don't want to use baited jigs, standard lure jigs such as these work well ... see eBay listing here.
The secret for successful squid fishing is to fish dusk, darkness and dawn, when the water is clear. Summer is usually best.
Floats are useful for suspending a bait, and work well when fishing for South Australia's sweep, tommy ruffs, salmon trout and trevally. The polystyrene floats in the following listing are slid onto the line and a stopper is placed above the float to set the depth fished. See eBay listing here.
Star sinkers or snapper leads are generally used on a paternoster rig for surf and boat fishing. For most other fishing, ball sinkers are used, as part of a running sinker rig. See eBay listing for ball sinkers here and for snapper leads here
Hooks in mixed sizes are needed. Suggest 4# to #8 for whiting, mullet and tommy ruffs, 10# to #12 for garfish, 1/0 for bream, 4/0 for salmon and flathead and 11/0 for large mulloway. See eBay listing here.
Ganged hooks (joined chains of hooks) are often used when fishing pilchard or garfish baits for salmon and mulloway. Listing on eBay here.
Flounder spearing is popular in South Australia. A submerged light is generally used to find the fish, see eBay listing here.
Crabbing is popular in the South Australian shallows, using a crab rake. See eBay listing here.
Check out Parsun outboard motors on eBay
Email us any corrections, additions, pictures or video here.
Some external videos filmed around Adelaide and SA are featured below.