Keep beachworms alive for a few days with fresh seawater changes and an aerator.

Collecting bait for beach and flats

AS we enter the final month of winter, the beach fishing season in Queensland and Northern NSW is seriously heating up. So too are the shallow estuary flats, particularly as we head towards the full moon in August and into spring. When it comes to light line bait fishing from the beaches or flats, fresh live bait is best. Let’s have a look at three of the best live bait types for the beach and estuary flats. bait beach flats


I’ll start with pipis, which are third in my top three list for light line live bait species. However, it’s important to point out that pipis are best used solely from the beach and not the estuary flats. This is because they are not a natural bait from calm estuary waters.

Pipis can be collected two main ways. First, from long open beaches which permit four-wheel-drive access. On these beaches, pipis can be easily spotted in the intertidal zone by looking for small raised mounds under 4WD tracks in the sand. This is a dead giveaway that a pipi lies underneath. Use your fingers or a blunt instrument – not a knife – to extract the pipis from the sand. They will be only a few centimetres under the sand.bait beach flats

Pipi mounds appear under four-wheel-drive tracks at low tide.

On beaches where 4WDs are not permitted, pipis can be found by doing the ‘pipi shuffle’. This is a matter of simply shuffling your feet into the sand as the water covers your feet or ankles until such time as you feel pipis beneath your feet. When you find one, shuffle around in the immediate area because they tend to be found in batches. The hour either side of low tide is best.

Pipis are a good bait off the beach and fun to collect.


Second on my favourite light line bait list are yabbies. Now unlike pipis, these are found on the western or calm side of the island and so are best used in those locations. They can at a pinch be kept alive and used off the beach, though again they are better used in areas they are found naturally. Yabbies are easy to find by looking for small holes in the sand in the intertidal zone and the edges of mangroves.bait beach flats

They are best pumped in those areas of slightly darker sand interspersed with small melon holes. And look for evidence of disturbed sand around the hole as evidence of a yabby ‘in residence’. Likewise, areas of soft sand rather than mud close to mangroves are good spots. It’s then a matter of using a yabby pump and pumping two or three times over the holes to find them.

A floating sieve is a good option to collect yabbies on a high tide.

When you hear the ‘slurping’ sound of soft sand and water as you pump, you are usually in the ideal yabby zone. Yabbies can also be pumped at high tide into a sieve held by a friend or attached to your body by a rope and a piece of pool noodle wrapped around the sieve to make it float. Finally, if you are choosing a pump for the first time, unless you are purchasing one for your kids to use, go for the longer king-size pumps because these are easier on your back bending over to pump.bait beach flats


Finally, and number one on my bait list for the beach and estuary flats are live worms. Off the beach, I find it’s hard to beat a piece of fresh live beachworm for thumping big whiting, bream, tarwhine, flathead or even pesky dart. Beachworms also work well at the entrances to estuaries and the western side of Queensland’s big sand islands.

Beachworms can be caught on most stages of the tide but are easiest to extract in the last two hours before and the first hour after a low tide. Look for areas of flat beach near the water line where a very thin layer of water washes back and forward over the sand. You then want to work your ‘stink’ or keeper bag full of fish frames from the top of where the water is reaching to the edge of the water.bait beach flats

Another big Fraser worm, note the thin film of water covering the sand.

Then look for heads sticking up or ‘V’s as the water washes back – a giveaway of a worm head. You want to use a firm finger bait such as a pipi or a firm piece of fish flesh for the worm to grab while you work your fingers into the sand to pinch it firmly and lift. There’s plenty more to this little trick, which is best explained via the videos available on my Facebook page.

However, as you get further away from the estuary mouth and up the creeks, blood or mangrove worms take over as the No. 1 bait. Much harder work, these can be extracted by either digging with your hands in the thick mud near mangroves or using a pitchfork along muddy and weedy bay foreshores. So, there you go. I hope these tips help you score quality fresh bait to improve your catch on your next beach or estuary flats trip.bait beach flats

For more tips and reports, jump onto my Facebook, Instagram and Youtube pages – Ontour Fishing Australia.

Click here for another story by Sean.

About Sean Thompson

Sean caught the fishing bug bad one very cold Canberra day 20 years ago when he was bored and picked up and read Angler's Almanac by the fireplace. Since then he has filled his mind with knowledge from fishing magazines, books, the internet, TAFE fishing courses, guiding fishing charters (estuaries, beach, bay and mountain lakes) and of course 'on water' experience. He and a group of mates formed a social fishing club and soon started to share what they learnt and caught online. Sean is the admin for Ontour Fishing Australia on Facebook, which is a page that shares information, reports and sponsor giveaways and welcomes all to the site. He plans to move into blogging on his new website when time allows.

Check Also


Unlocking paths for fish with fishways

When we’re out fishing, most of the fish we catch – and many we don’t …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *