Fishing River Environments

Fishing Australian Rivers

Fishing in rivers is a popular pastime for many Australians. With an abundance of freshwater species to be found, it’s no wonder why so many people enjoy casting a line in these tranquil settings. Rivers offer a diverse range of fishing opportunities, from targeting iconic species such as Murray Cod and Trout, to pursuing lesser-known but still exciting species like Silver Perch and Bass.

When fishing in rivers, it’s important to have the right equipment and technique. Light to medium-weight rods and reels are generally suitable for most freshwater species found in Australian rivers. Live bait such as worms, shrimp, and yabbies can be effective, but artificial lures such as soft plastics and hard-bodied lures can also be successful. It’s essential to be aware of the local fishing regulations and size and bag limits for the area you’re fishing in, and to always release any undersized or unwanted catches carefully.

Fishing in rivers is a fantastic way to enjoy Australia’s stunning natural scenery while pursuing a variety of fresh or saltwater species. With the right gear and technique, it’s possible to have a successful day on the water and land a catch to remember.

Quick Facts

  • Australia’s rivers are home to a diverse range of fish species. From the popular Murray cod and Australian bass, to the golden perch, trout and the iconic barramundi, there’s a wide variety of species to target
  • Australia’s river systems range from the cool mountain streams in regions like Victoria and New South Wales, to the vast tropical river systems in the Northern Territory and Queensland.
  • Some species in Australian rivers are threatened or endangered, such as the Macquarie perch and the trout cod.
  • Some of the most iconic rivers in Australia, such as the Murray River, the Murrumbidgee River, and the Fitzroy River, offer some of the best freshwater fishing opportunities in the country.

Common fish caught in rivers

These hard-fighting fish are found in many of Australia’s freshwater rivers and streams along the eastern coast, and can grow up to 50cm in length. Australian Bass are a prized catch renowned for their sporting abilities.

These sleek predators are known for their aggressive strikes and acrobatic fights, making them a popular target for anglers in Australia. Saratoga are native to the northern parts of Australia, where they inhabit the calm, slow-moving waters of rivers and creeks.

Where and how to fish rivers

When fishing in a river, the key to success is in understanding the habitats and behaviours of the fish your targeting. Prime spots to cast your line include river bends, where the varying depths and speeds of water provide both shelter and feeding spots for fish. Look out for large objects like rocks or fallen trees that disrupt the current, creating calm areas, known as eddies, where fish often rest and wait for food. Overhanging trees and vegetation are also hotspots, offering shelter and an abundance of insects that attract fish.

Pay attention to the junctions where two rivers meet or where a tributary joins a main river, as the changes in water depth, speed, and food availability in these confluences often attract fish. Similarly, weirs and dams, with their significant changes in water flow and depth, can be good fishing spots, but always maintain a safe distance due to potential dangers. Finally, areas known as riffles and pools – shallow sections where water flows quickly over gravel or rocks, followed by deeper, slower-moving water – are also ideal as fish often feed in riffles and rest in pools. By being patient, observant, and understanding these key areas, you can significantly enhance your river fishing experience. The following river fishing tips are for both fresh and saltwater rivers.

The best bait and tackle for fishing rivers

Choosing the appropriate bait and tackle is so important for successful river fishing in Australia. The bait you select should ideally match what the local fish are feeding on. Fresh bait, such as worms or yabbies, often proves to be highly effective. The freshness of your bait can greatly enhance your chances of attracting fish.

Artificial lures also have their place in river fishing. Soft plastics, like paddle-tail minnows or curl-tail grubs, are versatile and can entice a variety of species. Try different colours, sizes, and retrieval techniques to simulate the movements of distressed or fleeing prey. Spinners, spoons, and hard-body lures can also be productive, especially when targeting predatory species found in Australian rivers.

Regarding tackle, a medium-action rod paired with a spinning reel offers a balance of casting capability and sensitivity to fish bites. A rod length of 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m) is typically suitable for river fishing, and when coupled with a 2500-3500 size spinning reel spooled with 6-12 lb (2.7-5.4 kg) monofilament or braided line, it provides a good mix of sensitivity and strength. When fishing around structures or targeting larger species, consider a 15-20 lb (6.8-9 kg) fluorocarbon or monofilament leader for its superior abrasion resistance and invisibility underwater.

Having the right bait and tackle for river fishing will improve your chances of landing a variety of fish species and ensure an enjoyable day by the water. For the most up-to-date advice, local tackle shops can offer invaluable insights into the best gear for the specific river you’re fishing in.

Top Target Species

Fishing for Murray Cod in Australian rivers is an exciting and challenging experience. These majestic fish are a prized catch for many anglers, not only for their impressive size but also for their strong fight and elusive nature. Murray Cod can be found in many of Australia’s rivers, particularly in the eastern states, and can grow to over a meter in length and weigh up to 100 kg.

Murray Cod are known to hide in underwater structures such as logs and boulders, so it’s important to cast your line in these areas to increase your chances of a bite.


The best time and season to fish rivers

The ideal time and season for river fishing in Australia can vary depending on the location and the species you’re targeting. Here are some general guidelines to enhance your fishing experience:

Time of Day

River fishing is typically more productive during dawn and dusk. Many fish species are more active during these periods due to their feeding habits, as they often feed more heavily at night and will either be starting or ending their feeding period around these times.

Water Flow

The water flow in rivers can have a significant impact on fishing, similar to tides in coastal fishing. Fish tend to be more active when there’s a moderate flow which stirs up food and brings it downstream. Thus, fishing after rain events can often yield good results, though safety should always be the top priority in such conditions.


Different fish species exhibit different seasonal behaviours, so the best fishing time also depends on what fish you’re targeting.

Summer (December to February): In the warmer waters of summer, fish like perch and catfish become more active. Fishing in the early morning or late afternoon can be productive due to cooler temperatures.

Autumn (March to May): Autumn can be an excellent time for river fishing in Australia. Many species, including redfin and trout, are active during this time.

Winter (June to August): In winter, species such as trout can be targeted more successfully. Due to colder water temperatures, you might find better success fishing during the middle of the day when it’s warmer.

Spring (September to November): As water temperatures begin to rise in spring, many fish species, like cod and bass, become more active. This season can be particularly good for targeting bass as they often come into shallower waters to feed.

Remember, these are only general guidelines, and fishing can be influenced by various factors, including local weather and water conditions, bait availability, and more. Always consult local fishing regulations, including size and bag limits, before heading out for a day on the river.

River fishing safety and regulations

Fishing in rivers can be an enjoyable and relaxing experience, but it’s important to prioritise safety and adhere to local regulations. Here are some key points to keep in mind when river fishing:


River fishing can pose several risks, and being aware of your surroundings is paramount. Here are some safety guidelines:

Weather and River Conditions: Always check the weather forecast and river conditions before setting out. High river flows and adverse weather can make river fishing dangerous.
Water Flow: Stay aware of water flow and levels. Sudden water level rises can occur, particularly after heavy rain, making river banks slippery and potentially hazardous.
Footwear: Wear appropriate footwear. Riverbanks and riverbeds can be rocky and slippery, and good grip shoes can prevent falls.
Sun Protection: Make use of sun protection measures like sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses. Our Aussie sun can be intense, especially around midday.
Wildlife: When fishing the banks of rivers, keep a look out for snakes, especially during summer months.


Fishing regulations in Australia differ by state and territory, so it’s vital to check local government websites for the most current information. Some general regulations to be conscious of include:

Fishing Licenses: Most Australian states and territories require recreational anglers to possess a valid fishing license. Ensure you have the correct license for the area you’re fishing in.
Size and Bag Limits: There are size and bag limits for numerous fish species to encourage sustainable fishing practices. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the applicable limits for the species you’re aiming for.
Closed Seasons: Some fish species have closed seasons to safeguard them during their spawning periods. Be certain you’re aware of any closed seasons for the species you’re targeting.
Gear Restrictions: Certain areas or specific species may have restrictions on the type of gear you can use. Always verify local regulations to ensure your fishing gear complies.

For the most accurate information on river fishing safety and regulations in Australia, consult the relevant state or territory government websites.

Tips and Tricks for Fishing Rivers

How can I find the best spots to fish in a river?

Look for areas where the water flow slows down, such as eddies or areas behind rocks and logs. These areas provide cover and food for fish, making them a likely spot to find them.

What kind of bait or lures should I use in a river?

It depends on the fish species you are targeting, but live bait such as worms or minnows can be effective. Additionally, artificial lures such as spinnerbaits or crankbaits can mimic the movement of natural prey and entice fish to strike.

How should I approach casting in a river?

Try to cast upstream and let your bait or lure drift naturally with the current. This will make it look more realistic to fish and increase your chances of a bite.

How should I adjust my technique based on the time of day?

Fish are often more active during low light conditions such as early morning or late afternoon. During midday when the sun is high, consider fishing in deeper, shaded areas where fish may be seeking refuge from the heat.

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