Fishing for beginners: tips from Andrew Ettingshausen

Jessica Watson
Posted October 3 2016

It’s time to step out of my comfort zone and tackle a popular boating topic that I’ve been neglecting. I love seafood of every type but sadly this love of seafood isn’t matched by an ability to catch fish. Fishing’s never been much of a strong point for me, in fact during the 210 days of my voyage around the world I caught only a single fish!

So in an effort to improve from this very low base I thought it was time to ask for help. Thankfully one of Australia’s best-known fishing identities, rugby league star, and TV host Andrew Ettingshausen offered to answer my questions and point me in the right direction.

Jess: Where do I start? Is there a fishing school I can go to, a book I should read, a video I should watch?

ET: Fortunately, these days’ starting out in fishing is very easy. There are hundreds of books and magazines that explain the A-Z of fishing. There is a whole world full of internet videos and posts on all Australian Species and how to catch them. And there are weekly Television shows like my Escape Fishing with ET show that takes you on a journey to some of the best fishing destinations across Australia and the Pacific. Best of all just about all Australians live close to a creek river, estuary, dam or the ocean.

Jess: What’s a good fish for beginners like me to chase?

ET: It's important to do some research and preparation on what fish species live close by. Once you have found out what you can catch locally you can do some more research on what knots, rigs, hooks, line, rod and reel and bait or lure you will need to stand a chance.

Call into your local tackle shop and speak with the manager or staff about where to go and what rigs work best. You may get lucky and have a tackle store staff member give you directions to a local hot spot and explain what rig and bait that will work.

Go down to your local wharf and chat to other anglers. Watch what they do and get some tips on the right baits, line strength, and rig they are using. Fishing off a local wharf is free and this is a great place to learn the basics.

Jess: I dragged a lure halfway across the Pacific Ocean but only caught one fish. Any ideas on what I could have been doing so badly wrong?

ET: The oceans of the world are massive expanses of water. Many fish rely on currents, wind and water temperature to move sometimes hundreds of kilometers. When looking to catch fish in any body of water key things to look for are baitfish or small crustaceans that big predators can eat.

A lure towed behind a yacht does catch fish but only if it's traveling past fish that can mistake the lure as a baitfish. Not all lures work well so if your lure wasn’t swimming in a way that looked real then you could easily miss out.

Jess: Do you have an absolute must-have piece of fishing equipment and why?

ET: Besides the obvious rod, reel, line, and hooks, the most important tool I would be lost without is a pair of pliers with a cutting edge. Whenever you catch a fish you need to be able to remove the hook to release the fish. Pliers make this job easy.

Jess: What about an all time favorite fishing destination? Where is it and why is it a favorite?

ET: There are some great fishing spots in each State and Territory of Australia. A few of my favorite places in my home state of NSW are Sydney Harbor and the mid north coast. Sydney Harbor is an amazing spot to fish because you can catch quality Kingfish right next to the Harbor Bridge and Opera House. What a backdrop!

And the coast between Coffs Harbor and South West Rocks produces some great sport fish. Whether you're fishing the river breakwall for big Mulloway or chasing Snapper on the shallow reefs, there’s fish for every angler.

Beach Fishing is also great fun, you can catch beach worms for bait, which is challenging.

Jess: So why is it that you don’t simply head down to the local fish shop and let someone else do the hard work?

ET: I love fishing, for me, it’s the excitement of the hunt. Trying to put all of the details together to work out a plan to catch a specific fish. The big plus side to this is that many of the species I target are beautiful eating.

I like to practice catch and release, only keeping enough fish for my immediate family to eat. Releasing the fish needs to be done with care so they can swim away and create thousands more fish to chase.

I need all the help I can get so I’d love to hear your fishing tips and advice as well? And if you’ve got a favorite fishing destination why not head over to Deckee’s locations section and tell us about it? 

2 people found this helpful. Do you?Thank Jessica Watson

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Jack and Jude
Deckee Pro  Posted October 8 2016
The thirst for "where" in the fishing equation is eternal. Pick up a local newspaper and the fishing column is largely devoted to where they're biting. But I am going to give my hints on "how" so you can successfully land your dinner no matter where you fish.

There three basic types of fish - those that search for food on the bottom, those that find food on or near reefs and those that chase and eat other fish neither close to the bottom nor near the shore. Each requires a different technique.

Flathead, bream, flounder, snapper, and whiting are a few bottom feeders looking for tiny crabs, crustaceans and other foods requiring your bait to be on the bottom. Best is clean sand near areas home to their food, meaning submerged rocks, patches of weed and kelp. Cast or chuck your bait out as far as you can then in easy little jerks give your dead bait a bit of life, slowly bringing it home. Just about anything will work as bait; fish flesh and yabbies the best, even a bit of cheese as a starter will attract a hungry fish. The bait must stay on the hook which should be at the end of your line with a sinker about a metre up. Use only sufficient weight to counter current and achieve good distance.

Since most cruising yachties frequent reef country, it's important to remember that reef fish like cod, trout, dumbos, live inside caves and hunt for food close to coral edges and right next to bombies. We often drift fish in Little Red as close to a coral cliff as we can without getting hooked up on the coral. Or cast out to put bait as close as we can to the reef, or drop our baited hook down until it touches the coral then bring it up so that it sufficiently clears to avoid a hook up. Coral Fish feed early morning and twilight thru night - middle of day they're snoozing. We never use a rod and reel with reef fish, just a handline for quick action because coral fish strike hard then run straight for a hole in the coral, and we must prevent them reaching that hole or risk losing the fish, hook and line.

Pelagic fish are usually the biggest of our prey. They are fierce predators who will put up a powerful fight for their lives, so our gear needs to be able to withstand much greater forces. On the Banyandah we do not use expensive rods and reels that are difficult to store, instead we have large spools that hold first about a fifty metres of 3mm braided cord making the initial fight easier on our hands, connected to a good quality swivel to which another fifty metres of hundred kilo test monofilament line is attached to another swivel to which is attached a metre or two of wire trace - pelagic fish have sharp teeth that will easily cut through fishing line. Two other points – secure the braid to the spool with a tail extending to attach to your ship and use a half metre long shock cord held in a bight of the cord just after the spool to ease the brunt of the strike. You may want to use your sailing gloves if pulling in these brutes with your hands, and brace yourself for "runs." Tuna are powerful fish that jerk their heads side to side, and given any slack will charge off to the side or try to turn. If faint at heart, forget fighting pelagic fish, they will not give up life easily, both in the water and once in your cockpit. On the other hand, if you're a hunter/gatherer feeding your family, there's nothing more rewarding than hand to fish battles connected to a beast. It saddens me to kill such beautiful creatures, but I am providing food that must be killed to eat.

Pelagic fish take lures that look like their prey. The bait shops are full of choices. Up in coral country, Spanish Mackerel love shiny silver spoons, our favourite is a plain one by Halco costing less than $20. We used to drag lures day and night across the world’s oceans, until we’d lost far too many to sharks and other big creatures. We then began making our own lures from shiny silver wine cask bladders, making skirts wrapped around a heavy sinker and secured with twine in a groove we cut in the lead. Cut the skirt to produce multiple legs similar to rubber squids.

Tuna run in colder waters and around ocean reefs, especially near the horns. Our favourite lure is a red and white Halco Laser Pro that has a spoon taking it to around a metre deep. Cheaper lures are sometimes not made to withstand the powerful strike and it would dreadful to sentence a beautiful creature to a slow death, being unable to feed having a large lure attached to its mouth. We use good quality, heavy gear to avoid losing the fish and doing this. A few other pointers when hunting pelagic fish - go where they feed, meaning submerged sea mounts and reefs. Divert to pass over or close to these smaller fish havens, and look out for seabirds feeding on bait fish, there's a good possibility a few pelagic fish will also be there. We do not charge straight through a feeding area dispersing them, but rather sail around its edge where our prey waits for stragglers.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide to fishing, just a few pointers that may help you get a feed of fish. And here is our final word on conserving this fast diminishing resource: Take only what you can eat, and eat what you take. We preserve the bulk of a big fish not eaten within the first few days. It's an easy process using Mason jars and a pressure cooker, and provides many scrumptious meals that will store in our lockers for a year or two. Good hunting.
3 people found this helpful. Do you?Thank Jack and Jude
Jessica Watson
Posted October 7 2016
That was a pretty brave and crazy idea Mark! But aren't those are the best ideas.. Heading out on fishing charter boats is a great suggestion and Joe sounds exactly like the ideal person to head on onto the water with.
2 people found this helpful. Do you?Thank Jessica Watson
Mark Watland
Posted October 4 2016
Nothing beats the first-hand knowledge of the experienced fishermen. Shortly after I graduated from high school, I had the crazy idea (not as crazy as sailing around the world) to buy a commercial fishing boat and to take off into the Pacific Ocean to make a living. Since I had almost no experience commercial fishing, I might have failed if not for the fact that I had a very experienced partner in my business venture. I absorbed much of his knowledge quickly and we made a success of it. Going out on charter boats can be a great source of information for anyone who wants to learn to fish. The skippers and deck hands on charter fishing boats are usually happy to share tips on what type of gear to use. And since they know the local waters well, you can gain knowledge of where and when to fish. After you learn the basics, just putting in time on the water along with talking to the old salty dogs will improve your chances of catching fish. I don’t personally know Joe Farr but he grew up a few miles from where I live in the US and he now has a charter fishing business in Sorrento on Port Phillip Bay. A close friend of mine used to live next to Joe in my community and says that he had a deep passion for fishing since he was a tiny kid. Joe fished around the world before he settled on the Mornington Peninsula. Fishing on charters like Joe Farr Fishing can be a great way to get a lesson in fishing. And just remember, a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at the office.
2 people found this helpful. Do you?Thank Mark Watland

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