Fishing tackle for Australia’s northern waters

Fish encountered in northern Australia tend to be bigger, even in close around the estuaries and along shorelines.

Barramundi, threadfin salmon, queenfish, trevally, cod and golden snapper (fingermark) are all caught from shore at times, and they are often big fish.

For this reason heavier gear is generally used than in the southern temperate waters.

And before we go any further with our tackle recommendations, a reminder that large crocodiles are common in northern waters. Don’t take risks.

Much tropical estuary and river fishing involves casting and trolling lures around snags, where a lure desnagger soon pays for itself. The simplest type is simply dropped down on a cord … see an eBay listing here. Telescopic poll desnaggers are also available, and some fishos prefer them.

For a fair dinkum, true blue Aussie lure desnagger, try this one … eBay link here.

When targeting barramundi and other large tropical estuary fish a baitcaster combo is the best option. The small overhead reels on these combos allow thumb control when casting, making lure placement easy. However practise is required to cast these reels and they do not cast tiny lures easily.

A baitcaster combo loaded with 10kg braid will handle most barramundi and threadfin salmon, with 15kg+ line better for large dam fish among timber and when trolling big rivers. See a suitable baitcaster listing on eBay here. The listed rod-reel combo can be used for trolling and casting.

Single-handed baitcaster rods are an option for day-long casting sessions, these combos have a short butt section often with a pistol grip. DO NOT buy a low-quality baitcaster reel as they can be awful to use – if on a tight budget buy a spinning reel (eggbeater type) instead.

A 6kg spin outfit with eggbeater type reel is fine for much tropical estuary and freshwater fishing. Lighter outfits aren’t recommended as you may hook big fish in tropical waters. A 6-10kg rod-reel combo is needed for barramundi and threadfin salmon and this can also be used to cast lures to pelagic fish such as mackerel and tuna. A 3kg spin outfit is ideal for whiting, bream and flathead. See eBay listings here.

For boat fishing, a shorter, stouter rod-reel combo loaded with at least 10kg line is ideal for general reef fishing in water to around 20m deep, and with a spinning reel this outfit can also be used to cast lures to pelagic fish. See eBay listings here.

Rods around 7′ long are ideal for boat fishing. Heavier gear will be needed when fishing around wrecks and artificial reefs to stop hooked fish swimming into the structure, always using braided line as its thin diameter is less affected by currents.

Soft plastic paddletail lures are popular and effective all-round lures for tropical estuary species, and these lures also work in freshwater locations. See eBay listings here. Choose large sizes for barramundi, and smaller sizes for most other fish.

Weighted jig heads are needed to rig most soft plastic lures, although some have the jig head built in. See eBay listings here. It pays to use the lightest jig head possible. Light resin jig heads allow an angler to present a more realistic suspending lure action.

Bibbed hardbody minnows by quality brands such as Reidys and Classic are generally used for barramundi fishing. Barramundi are strong fish that can tear apart the split rings and hooks on cheaply made lures, so buy wisely. Tropical tackle shops are well stocked with suitable lures.

Sabiki bait jigs are great for catching tropical sardines and herring, buy them on eBay here. Remove some droppers (rigged hooks) if required to stay legally compliant, cutting a complete rig in half will usually make two legal sets.

For northern squidding, where tiger (longfin) squid are generally the largest species encountered, standard unbaited squid jigs such as these work well, see listings here.

Tiger squid and the smaller arrow squid can also be targeted with baited spike jigs such as these … see eBay listings here.

The secret for successful squid fishing is to fish dusk, darkness and dawn, when the water is clear. Tiger squid can often be found in the shallows around reef edges.

Star sinkers or snapper leads are generally used on a paternoster rig for northern boat fishing. For most other fishing, ball sinkers are used, as part of a running sinker rig where the sinker slides along the line, allowing a fish to easily run with a baited hook. See eBay listings for ball sinkers here, see star sinkers here and snapper leads here.

Hooks in mixed sizes (suggest 1# or #2 for whiting, 6# or #8 for garfish, 4/0 for flathead, 11/0 for barramundi, jewfish and reef fish. Small heavy gauge hooks will catch small fish but have enough strength not to bend if you hook a big fish. Fine gauge hooks are better for livebaiting as the hook won’t overly damage the livebait. See various hook listings on eBay here.

Ganged hooks (joined chains of hooks) are used when fishing pilchard or sauri baits for mackerel. Listing on eBay here.

Redclaw crayfish are found in most northern freshwater locations. Strict regulations apply to the type of gear used to catch them. Ebay sellers have a variety of crayfish traps, be sure to buy one that complies with local regulations.

Other items you may need are wire trace to stop toothy fish such as mackerel, wahoo, barracuda and sharks biting through your line, see eBay listings here, swivels to stop line twist when using spinning lures here, a filleting knife to clean your fish here, a waterproof torch here, a sharpening stone for knives and hooks here, bait jigs to catch baitfish such as tropical sardines and herring for bait here, a sharpening stone for knives and hooks here, and of course a tackle box here.

Lastly, Australia’s tropical waters have saltwater crocodiles, stonefish, box jellyfish, irukandji jellyfish and ever-present sharks. These can all show up where you don’t expect them, including in the shallows around boat ramps, and beaches next to tourist resorts. Don’t take risks. Don’t camp near the water. It is safer not to use a burley bucket from a small boat in northern waters, and canoes are not suitable craft where large crocodiles may be present.

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