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Home » Fishing-Tips-Techniques » Inshore-Fishing » Wharf Warfare


Australia's tropical north is blessed with some incredible sportfishing.

Line burning fish such as mackerel, tuna, trevally and queenfish commonly call these warm inshore waters home.

However, when it comes to land-based fishing throughout many parts of Australia's northern region, massive tide variations and nasty saltwater crocodiles make it extremely difficult to consistently catch these oceanic predators from the rocks. As a result, targeting pelagic fish from large jetties has become an important part of the tropical LBG scene.

Whether you call them jetties, piers or wharves, these artificial structures provide a safe and convenient place for anglers of all ages to wet a line. Although many beginners can be found trying their luck, there is also an abundance of hard fighting fish for the more experienced anglers to sink their teeth into.

I think large tropical jetties can be viewed as one massive fish-attracting device. The masses of pylons offer shelter and food for baitfish while simultaneously providing structure for predators to ambush prey.


When it comes to land-based fishing in Darwin Harbour, one of the most productive platforms is the Mandorah Wharf. This long wharf is situated along the Cox Peninsula on the west side of Darwin Harbour. Many predatory fish roam the surrounding reefs around West Point and commonly visit this wharf in search of an easy meal.

I first stumbled across the Mandorah Wharf way back in 2003. I arrived in Darwin with a handful of lures, a couple of hundred bucks in my back pocket with the hope of catching a wide variety of fish from the shore. During this trip I experienced one of the best runs of Spanish mackerel in Darwin Harbour and landed my first Spaniard, which was a 15kg fish on a live herring.

In the winter of 2019, I decided to revisit the Mandorah Wharf to see if the old haunt could still produce any pelagic predators.

I was pleasantly surprised when I drifted out a live herring and watched a huge mackerel engulf the bait 10m from the wharf. I instantly set the hooks and loaded up my Wilson Live Fibre Texalium 8-15kg rod, and 20lb mono sizzled off the reel at warp speed. The big mackerel took a couple of 100m bursts towards East Point and then I was able to slowly wind the fish back towards the pylons. My good mate Zane Cappo was able to secure the big Spaniard with a jetty gaff. The mackerel was estimated at around 24kg and needless to say I was straight into the cold tinnies after landing this trip maker.

During this trip I also landed a longtail tuna, brassy trevally, queenfish and a barracuda from the Mandorah Wharf. I mainly fished around the neap tides as this usually produces the cleanest water in Darwin Harbour.


Livebaiting is the most common method of targeting predatory fish from tropical wharves and herring is most popular baitfish. There are a few different species of herring on offer and these baits can easily be jigged up with a Wilson bait jig size 8 or 10. Baitfish can also be gathered with a cast net, although this is only recommended as a last resort. We have found that the mesh can heavily damage these delicate baits by removing their scales and rupturing their gill plates. The best way to keep your bait alive is in a small wading pool with a battery-powered aerator.

When you are live baiting with small baitfish like herring, the key to maximising your hook up rate is to downsize your tackle. Big fish can be very cautious around wharves, especially in harbours where there is plenty of boat traffic. I use a 6-10kg outfit with 2 rod lengths of 40lb shock leader. A short length of 44lb Mason single strand wire is always added to withstand the razor-sharp teeth of a Spanish mackerel. With small live baits like herring, a Mustad Octopus hook in size 3/0 or 4/0 works extremely well.


Small metal lures ranging from 40-65g are very popular amongst the tropical spinfishing fraternity.

Multi-purpose metals like SureCatch Knights and Bishops are a great all rounder and account for most species available. These chrome lures are effective at high speeds and can also be retrieved vertically with a sharp jigging action. When spinning from a jetty it's important to work the entire structure and try to avoid casting aimlessly out wide as the majority of predatory fish will be lurking right under your feet.

Tropical jetties are also a great place to showcase your light tackle spinfishing skills. Species like broad bar mackerel, school mackerel and tarpon are also fanatical lure chasers and can be taken on small Knights and Bishops ranging from 20-40gm. Avoid using wire traces for these smaller fish, as they are extremely wary to the presence of steel.


If you're targeting pelagic fish like tuna and mackerel, these speedsters are far more prevalent during the dry season. During this period the rivers and creeks stop flooding into the sea and the clarity of inshore waters is at an optimum. The duration of the dry season is usually between June and August. Species like trevally and queenfish do not mind hunting in the murky water and can be captured all year round.


Another large jetty situated in Darwin Harbour is The Stokes Hill Wharf. This platform is conveniently located right in the heart of Darwin and is only a stone's throw from the CBD. This wharf even has its own dedicated fishing area and artificial wrecks placed within casting distance to enhance the areas fishing potential. Huge barramundi can also be found lurking under the restaurant lights at night.

On the Queensland coast The Urangan Pier in Hervey Bay is probably the most legendary. This jetty spans well over a kilometre with the tip section yielding most of the pelagics. This jetty has some incredible variety and over the decades most fish worth capturing have been taken here. Common captures include Spanish mackerel, mackerel tuna, longtails, golden trevally and GTs.

For those anglers making the pilgrimage to Cape York Peninsula the small but productive Seisia Jetty is also a worthwhile stop. Tropical currents frequently rage past this platform making it an ideal place to target GTs and mackerel.

On the quiet coastal town of Carnarvon, found in Western Australia's northwest region, lies the One Mile Jetty. This place is famous for mulloway and more mulloway. These chrome plated creatures revel amongst the dilapidated piles of timber scattered throughout this jetty.


If you haven't fished from a jetty since you were a little grommet, maybe it's time to take a second look, you could be pleasantly surprised at the calibre of fish that commonly lurk around these pylons.

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