Fingermark bream (Lutjanus johnii), called golden snapper or “goldies” in the Northern Territory, are a fish of coastal rocky reefs and rockbars.
They are truly desirable fish, having excellent eating and fighting qualities.
Big fish are heavy shouldered, with a golden sheen.
This species should perhaps be called only golden snapper because the name “fingermark” is often used for moses perch, a species with a more obvious dark spot on its flank.
Goldies have been recorded from roughly WA’s Pilbara across the north to the central Queensland coast around Gladstone, but are most common in the far north.
They are essentially an estuary and coastal fish, nonetheless they grow to 10kg on Australia’s East Coast.
Small fish are found in tidal creeks, especially creeks with a lot of rock, and as they grow they move out onto coastal reefs and headlands.
The biggest fish often loiter near the edges of sloping rock shelfs where the rock joins a mud bottom in 25m to 35m of water.
Big fish can be caught in shallower and deeper water. The tops of sloping rocky reefs, about 5m to 15m deep, tend to have a lot of coral growth on them and hold parrot fish, spanish flag, coral trout and the like, but goldies will show up in these places.
Rocky reefs are the go-to spots. Look for rock patches around deep channels.
In creeks, fish the rockbars.
Goldies are also caught over flat rubble grounds and around wrecks and artificial reefs.
These fish will show up around wharves and headlands, and big ones are caught off beaches at Cape York Peninsula as they patrol at night at high tide.
Smaller fish will move over mudflats with a rising tide.
Goldies have good eyesight and can be a tricky fish – in clear water the big ones are best fished at night.
Always use fresh bait for these fish. Live squid will fool the biggest ones in clear water areas.
Dead baits should be as fresh as possible. Thawed packet squid can work when the fish are biting well.
Big tides tend to produce a better bite. They often feed fast and furiously at the turn of the tide.
Goldies will take lures, but bait usually works best.
These are a tasty species but also very slow growing and it is therefore important to stick to bag limits to ensure their fishing future.
Email any corrections, additions, pictures or video here.
Some external videos about how to catch fingermark are featured below.
Bream are usually easy to catch, but consistently getting big fish is not easy.
Bream are probably Australia’s most popular sportfish because they are common near human settlement, are fun to catch, and the big ones are a genuine challenge.
They are also possibly our most annoying fish, with swarms of tiddlers picking baits apart.
So how to catch them?
First, let’s have a quick look at bream species, as there are several fish most Aussies would recognise as a bream and they are slightly different in their habits.
*The black bream Acanthopagrus butcheri is the most widely caught, being common in rivers and estuaries across southern Australia, including Tasmania.
*The eastern yellowfin bream Acanthopagrus australis is found in estuaries and along beaches across south-eastern Australia, occasionally interbreeding with black bream.
*The western yellowfin bream Acanthopagrus morrisoni was identified as a separate species in 2013 – it is caught in Australia’s western and northern tropical waters.
*The northwest black bream Acanthopagrus palmaris inhabits coastal waters from Shark Bay to the Kimberley.
*The pikey bream Acanthopagrus pacificus is the main bream of the Top End and Cape York Peninsula.
*The tarwhine Rhabdosargus sarba is a bream-like species often caught alongside yellowfin bream.
*The pink snapper Chrysophrys auratus of Australia’s southern waters is also a bream, but no Aussie calls it a “pink bream”.
Let’s take a look at how to catch each species.
The black bream is found from Shark Bay in Western Australia across the south to Mallacoota, Victoria, including South Australia and Tasmania.
It is common throughout most tidal waterways, and makes its way far up rivers.
Black bream are also found around coastal foreshores, and occasionally on inshore reefs.
Black bream tolerate fresh water, but are mostly a marine or brackish water fish.
They loiter around manmade structure such as pylons and oyster racks, but the real go-to fishing spots are rubbly ground where there are small crabs and shellfish, and mudflats rich with worms and nippers.
Black bream eat almost anything but definitely prefer live or fresh bait.
Prawns and worms are the best baits, but chicken gut, mullet gut, fish fillet, squid, octopus, baitfish and even cheese catches fish.
Berley can be used to bring them around but most bream fishermen go to the fish.
A light spinning rod and reel loaded with 2kg to 4kg line is ideal. Bream may shy away from heavier line, especially when the water is clear.
A 1/0 fine gauge hook is ideal. Use the lightest possible sinker, or no sinker at all.
Lure fishing for bream is a good way to get past the small fish.
Use small soft plastic lures on light nylon leaders and with the lightest possible jig heads.
Tiny hardbody minnows also work.
In hard-fished areas the biggest black bream are taken at night on the freshest unweighted baits.
Tides can have a major affect on fishing.
The change of tide can bring fish on the bite, while a rising tide will see fish moving over flats to feed.
It is not uncommon for bream to not feed until the tide changes.
Black bream reach 4kg but a 2kg fish today is a monster. The big fish are dubbed bluenoses.
The timing of spawning varies across the continent, with Western Australian bream spawning from July to November, South Australian fish spawning between November and January and Victorian fish spawning in October to November. Victorian fish also become sexually mature later, at around five years of age, compare with two or three years in Western Australia.
Black bream generally go upstream to spawn, which means big fish won’t usually be abundant in the lower reaches in summer.
Black bream are found in the smallest creeks and tidal lakes, but some fisheries are renowned.
In Victoria, Mallacoota inlet and Lake Tyers are important bream fisheries.
In South Australia, the Coorong and Port River are major fisheries, and the Onkaparinga River.
In Western Australia, Culham and Stokes Inlet produce a great many bream, and excellent fishing is had in the Swan River and Peel and Canning systems.
Black bream are tasty, but a warning – they often live around manmade structure in polluted waters and are likely to accrue whatever toxins are present in local sediment. The safest bream to eat is one taken from clean waters.
Eastern yellowfin bream
This fish is the second most important Aussie bream species.
It is found along the east coast from around Townsville in Queensland south to Gippsland in Victoria.
It inhabit estuaries in salt or brackish water up to the fresh water limit, but is also commonly found on inshore rocky reef and along ocean beaches and around headlands.
Eastern yellowfin bream are sometimes called surf bream, as they are often caught inside the wave breaks.
The ventral and anal fins of this bream are yellow, while the black bream’s are brown.
Black bream are also darker overall.
Eastern yellowfin bream take most baits, and are often caught from beaches by fishermen targeting tailor.
Otherwise, much the same fishing rules apply as to black bream.
Fish caught from the surf are very silver and clean, and a good size, making a superb meal.
Western yellowfin bream
This fish was only identified as a separate species in 2013.
It is caught in Australia’s western and northern tropical waters in much the same type of habitat as preferred by the eastern yellowfin bream.
Northwest black bream and pikey bream
These two similar species are fish of the tropics, with the northwest black bream caught from Shark Bay to the Kimberley, and the pikey bream from the Top End and Cape York Peninsula east down to the central Queensland coast.
Both fish inhabit coastal foreshores and tidal creeks.
The pikey bream forms large schools at times. It is usually targeted in the winter months.
The pikey bream does not have a huge following up north, as barramundi and the like are the greater attraction.
Nonetheless, some people do target pikey bream each dry season as the fish can be caught in numbers and they are good to eat.
Tarwhine look a bream, but they have faint yellow horizontal stripes and a more rounded nose.
They are most commonly caught off South-East Queensland and New South Wales in the lower parts of estuaries, and off surf beaches and on inshore reefs, but may be found through to eastern Victoria and also on in Western Australia.
They take a range of baits but are usually quite small and therefore rarely targeted.
Email any corrections, additions, pictures or video here.
Some external videos about how to catch bream are featured below.
The best bait for Victorian fishing is usually the bait you collect locally.
Beach worms can be collected from many surf beaches by using a bait attractor and a finger bait. Watch the video below. These worms are great for mulloway but pickers love them too.
Pipis or cockles can be found on surf beaches by digging in the sand with your hands or feet in the tidal zone. These are a good all-round bait.
Brown shell can be collected using a bait pump on flats in river estuaries. Bream love them. They are often found in smelly mud just below the surface. Use them on the hook with the shell.
Sandworms can be collected all year on flats in river estuaries, except after big floods. A bait pump and sieve is used. Collect them up to 1m deep in water. All fish take these.
Spew worms can be collected using a bait pump at low tide in river estuaries. Spew worms are bigger and more durable than sandworms and this helps resist pickers. Large spew worms work for big bream and mulloway.
Shrimp be collected day or night using a dip net. Try around pylons and weedbeds, or use a shrimp trap with cheese, fish or soap as bait.
Black crabs are great for bream when used whole or cut in half. Collect them from under rocks at low tide along rocky edges of river channels or flats edges.
Bass yabbies or nippers can be collected using a bait pump in some areas and are a prime bait.
Black crickets are about from January and March and make a great bait for estuary perch. Collect them by hand or with a net under street lights or beneath cow pats in paddocks.
Fish such as mullet, galaxia minnows and whitebait can be collected for bait using a recreational bait net. Yelloweye mullet can be caught on rod and line and cut mullet flesh makes a great bait for mulloway, estuary perch and bream.
Catch limits, gear regulations and closed areas apply to bait collection.
If you want to skip the species descriptions and get straight to the fishing, scroll down to “Whiting habits”.
Types of sand whiting
The species of most interest to Aussie fishos is the bluenose whiting Sillago ciliata, most commonly found along the east coast from Victoria and northern Tasmania right up to Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula.
This species can be identified by a dark blotch at the base of its pectoral fin. Like most sand whiting it inhabits bays, tidal rivers, estuaries and coastal lakes. Schools are often found in the inner surf zone and near the mouths of rivers.
The goldenline whiting Sillago analis is a smaller fish that has rougher scales than bluenose whiting. It is found from Queensland across the far north to Shark Bay. In Shark Bay it is particularly common and supports a commercial fishery.
In South Australia the yellowfin whiting Sillago schomburgkii is the most sought sand whiting species, with the small southern school whiting Sillago bassensis also caught from the state’s beaches.
The eastern school whiting Sillago flindersi is found from south-east Queensland to South Australia.
The western trumpeter whiting Sillago burrus is found across the northern half of Australia’s coastline.
Sand whiting are rarely targeted in Australia’s far north yet several species inhabit the tropics. These are the goldenline whiting Sillago analis, stout whiting Sillago robusta, bay whiting Sillago ingenuua, mud whiting Sillago lutea, northern whiting Sillago sihama and western trumpeter whiting Sillago burrus. Up north they all tend to be small fish, hence the lack of fishing interest, however they do grow big enough to eat.
While sand whiting are found right around Australia they are most commonly fished from the central Queensland coast south to Western Australia’ Shark Bay.
While bluenose whiting are the most desirable species, some of the smaller species are sought by fishos, for example the “winter whiting” or “diver whiting” of Brisbane’s Moreton Bay (probably the eastern school whiting Sillago flindersi) is caught in large numbers, and despite its small size makes a great meal when two or three fish are butterfly-filleted.
Some so-called whiting species, such as various “weed whiting” are not really whiting at all, but this depends upon how one defines the term “whiting”. In the northern hemisphere, the term “whiting” refers to what look like completely different fish, including pelagic species.
Sand whiting are a true shallow-water fish, and as the name suggests they are usually found over sand or sandy mud.
They are saltwater fish that dislike brackish water, and heavy rain will push them down tidal rivers towards the mouth.
Sand whiting are caught from ocean surf beaches but are more often targeted within tidal inlets and in the lower reaches of tidal rivers.
The best fishing is invariably over shallow sand and mud flats that are home to worms and crabs.
Where nipper beds and worm beds are found, whiting will usually be abundant.
The presence of soldier crabs at low tide is often an indicator that whiting will be around at high tide.
Whiting will feed in just a few centimetres of water. The fish tend to move over flats to feed with the incoming tide, and this is often the best time to fish flats, but also fish the edges of gutters and channels on the falling tide.
The edges of walkable flats can be fished at low tide, and gutters on surf beaches that are accessible at low tide can also fish well around the bottom of the tide.
Big tides often produce the best fishing.
A bit of wind and chop makes it easier to catch whiting, as they can be flighty in calm, clear, sunny conditions.
Whiting will bite at night and this is often the best time to target the biggest whiting in hard-fished waters.
From surf beaches, there is no need to cast far for whiting, as they will feed close to shore in the nearest wave-dump zone.
Best baits for sand whiting
Sand whiting take many baits but the gold standards are live worms and nippers.
Blood, sand, tube, beach, wriggler and weed worms will all catch fish.
Nippers tend to catch bigger fish, and tiny crab baits also work well.
Big sand whiting can be fussy, try different baits until you get a strong response.
Pipis (cockles) are a good bait in the surf.
If you must use a packet bait try peeled prawn.
Best tackle for whiting
Sand whiting feed in clear sunlit shallows, so light tackle is a must.
Fluorocarbon lines are less visible and therefore a good choice.
As whiting are a small fish caught in relatively open water they can be targeted with as little as 2kg line, with 2kg to 4kg being the ideal range.
Where possible, such as when fishing from a dinghy or yak, avoid using a sinker, just cast and drift the baits out.
Otherwise, use a pea-size running sinker rig that allows the line to pass through the sinker, with a sinker-stopper located from 40cm to 90cm above the hook.
As you will be casting tiny baits on light tackle, a small threadline/spinning reel (eggbeater) is ideal, matched to a light, sensitive rod. This eBay listing has a suitable whiting rod/reel combo in the pulldown selection.
A rod of medium length assists with casting and helps hold the line above wave action.
A dedicated light surf rod is best if you plan to target ocean beach whiting.
Long shank hooks in sizes 4 to 8 are ideal for sand whiting, and bait-holder style with barbs on the shank may help hold worm baits so they don’t easily slide down the hook shaft.
Best lures for whiting
Perhaps surprisingly, the bottom-grubbing sand whiting will take lures, even surface poppers.
Tiny soft plastic grubs work well, as do tiny poppers and stick baits.
You will need to use a stealthy approach using a spinning rod combo that can cast tiny lures long distances.
Long casts help prevent spooking the fish.
Whiting for the table
Whiting are among the best table fish, and the fillets freeze well.
Being small you need a fine, sharp filleting knife to get the best out of each fish.
Smaller fish can be butterfly-filleted.
Whiting fillets are particularly tasty when crumbed and lightly fried.
Did you know?
Sand whiting can bury themselves in sand to avoid predators. They have no major sharp spines, which makes them a great fish for children to catch.
The northern hemisphere whiting Merlangius merlangus is a separate species that looks nothing like an Aussie whiting, and was once so common it was ground up and used as a filler for flour, because the fish was cheaper than wheat.
Email us any corrections, additions, pictures or video here.
Some external videos about catching sand whiting are featured below.
Flathead make a tasty meal, but being a bit different from other fish they present a bit of a challenge for newbie filleters.
Keep in mind that they have sharp spines on the gill covers, and dorsal spikes, and sharp teeth too.
Here’s are two good ways to fillet them.
How to fillet flathead – Method 1
Put the fish on its back and cut across the body through the belly flap behind the pelvic fins.
Put the knife in the anus and cut lengthwise up to the first cut behind the pelvic fins.
With the fish on its back cut through the fish each side of the backbone.
Put the flathead on its side and cut through along each side to the backbone.
Put the fish on its belly and cut through the back skin.
Separate the fillets from the backbone.
Run the knife down each side of the rib cage bones to separate the fillets from the ribs.
Skin part of the tail end of the fillet by running the knife between the skin and flesh with the skin-side down and the knife angled to the ground, then use the small flap of skin to pull the skin off the flesh.
How to fillet flathead – Method 2 (simpler)
Put the fish on its side and cut into the thick end of the fillet just behind the pelvic fins.
With the knife still in the fish, angle the knife to the back of the fish and proceed to cut the fillet along the backbone down almost to the tail, but leave the skin attached to the tail.
Pull the attached fillet away from the fish and start skinning the tail end of the fillet by running the knife between the skin and flesh with the skin-side down and the knife angled to the ground.
Once about 3cm of skin is off, grab the fillet and skin and carefully tear the skin off the flesh, this will take the bones with it and leave you with a fillet.
Fish filleting knives and sharpeners
A small, sharp filleting knife makes life easier when cleaning small fish. See eBay listing here.
A longer filleting knife is helpful when skinning large fish. For skinning purposes, the knife need not be ultra sharp as a sharp knife may cut through the skin while separating it from the fillet, which is undesirable. See eBay listing here.
Blunt knives are near useless, so a good sharpening stone is essential equipment. See eBay listing here.
A professional-quality knife sharpener makes it easy to keep all your knives sharp. Use powered sharpeners with care to avoid shortening the life of your knives. See eBay listing here.
How to skin fish
To skin a fillet, place it skin-side down on a flat surface.
Run a long flexible filleting knife flat from the tail end, cutting with the knife blade angled slightly down towards the skin.
As mentioned earlier, a knife that is not too sharp is best suited for this job, as it won't easily cut through the skin, but it will separate the flesh from the skin.
Skilled use of a sharp knife will work however.
Fish with tough skins such as leatherjackets may be skinned by simply tearing the skin off.
Some external videos showing how to fillet flathead are featured below.
Tasmanian trout fishing is seasonal, both in the legal sense, and in that conditions change through the year.
The island has four distinct seasons, along with the vagaries of changing annual weather patterns.
Lowland waters are warmer than highland waters, and tend to start fishing earlier.
Highland waters might be a better choice when hot summer conditions hit lowland spots.
Annual rainfall plays a large part in determining fishing quality, as well as previous recent spawnings, stocking, cormorant numbers, and more.
Some Tasmanian waters are legally fishable all year, so there is always somewhere to enjoy the sport.
Spring trout fishing
Most Tasmanian trout waters open on the first Saturday in August. This follows the spawning period. Brown trout spawn first, followed by rainbow trout. This can be a good time to fish the lowland
waters, as highland waters will have harsh weather.
Nonetheless highland fishing can be good if you pick your weather. After brown trout have spawned they are usually hungry.
Rainbow trout spawn later but are also aggressive at this time.
In lakes the trout are often feeding at this time in the shallows by “tailing” with their heads down.
Late winter and spring is when sea run trout are caught in numbers in river estuaries as they chase whitebait and juvenile eels and lamprey.
Summer trout fishing
This is when dry fly fishing on highland waters is at its best.
The shallow edges of lakes fish well but usually only in the early mornings. Look for tailers and midge feeders as the sun rises.
For boaters, later in the day wind lane fishing can be productive during midge hatches.
Rainbow fishing can be particularly exciting around the wind lanes.
Look for mayfly hatches for the best dry fly fishing. Weather will play a large part in the type of fishing you do. Avoid very hot days.
Sight fishing in the shallow waters can be done all day, but is best in mornings and when it is overcast.
Look for lake banks with high trees that provide a period of long shadows in the morning.
In the evening an insect hatch might get fish feeding again at dusk.
Streams start running lower in summer, how much will depend on rainfall, but insect activity will generally increase, especially when there are warm nights.
By February river levels usually hit the lowest point and overgrown riverbanks that are otherwise mostly inaccessible such as along the Huon will fall below the scrub line, exposing pebble shores and shallows that can be walked and waded – however this can change very quickly with rainfall.
In these low water conditions, pick overcast days. The really big river fish will be mostly out and about at night.
Autumn trout fishing
The mayfly hatch slows down in March but midge and beetles become the new attraction.
All the best known lakes are worth a try. By late March and April try sight fishing for trophy trout chasing bait in the shallows.
When seasonal rainfall has been poor, choose rivers that have a reliable environmental flow from an upstream dam.
Winter trout fishing
Trout waters are mostly closed from the end of April, but some are open all year.
If you plan to fish the winter you will need appropriate clothing, including neoprene waders, not the thin PVC type.
Rivers will usually be flowing hard, waiting for the next push of spawning fish in April.
Winter fishing can be good, but it can be very cold. Lowland waters are the logical choice.
Email us any corrections, additions, pictures or video here.
Some external videos about catching trout in Tasmania are featured below.