The Shallow reefs of the central east
  |  First Published: June 2010

The eastern side of Port Phillip sees a lot of anglers plying its waters, but where exactly should you go and in what conditions? This article will explain some options to explore this winter, and who knows what you might find.

The typical plan for many boat anglers exiting the Patterson River, is to thrust the throttle down and blast out beyond the 18m line anywhere from Mornington to the Fawkner Beacon.

Not that there is anything wrong with this, it’s just a curiosity that more don’t consider what else is on offer: more to the point, what are they driving over in their quest to fish wide and deep?

There is no doubt the deep areas of the bay do produce great fishing, however it’s worth remembering to explore the shallow areas of the inner central east. They can at times be fished so lightly and offer so much, including a share of XOS snapper.

Winter Hot Spots

In winter this area really shines, especially with the range of species holding on the structure rich area from Carrum to Sandringham. It really is a great mixed bag area with excellent locations for land-based fishing, boat based anglers and a growing horde of kayakers who thrive in this area.

The prevalent species through out this area include the bays usual suspects of snapper, King George whiting and squid, however the reefy areas also provide great habitat for other predators. Australian salmon, red mullet, barracouta and snook are a regular catch.

Whilst not a regular catch, a few mulloway are caught adjacent to the various drop offs in the area and gummy and school sharks are a possibility.

This is an area that works very well from first light to sun up and also at the other end of the day.

Working from Carrum and then heading north, we certainly don’t need to go too far to find the first area of interest - let’s take a look.

Patterson River

The first area of interest is the mouth of the Patterson River itself – the rock breakwalls provide excellent access for the land-based angler who can target bream, small Australian salmon and mullet by soaking lightly weighted baits such as cut pilchard, bluebait and tuna strips, or casting metal slices and soft plastics for the small salmon.

For boat and kayak anglers trolling lures is the only option, as anchoring or drifting is ill advised in this extremely busy transit lane. The most productive area is from the rail bridge to the yellow buoy just out from the river mouth. Kayak anglers are a little limited for launch locations since the major works along the Patterson River, however there is a small stretch of beach next to the first ramp that still provides easy access to the water.

For boat anglers, the Patterson River is Melbourne’s best launching facility, and although it gets pretty busy mid spring through to Christmas, this time of year is pretty quiet.

The Inner Artificial and Rec Reef

The old inner artificial reef was originally placed down many years ago and has been the subject of damage and spreading out from its original location when the destructive scallop dredges still roamed the bay.

The original reef site is still marked by a yellow buoy and can be found off Chelsea. This is a great general location to target pinkie snapper any time of the year and is a proven big-snapper producer in spring.

I have often been surprised how this well-known and well-worked mark produces time and time again and is always worth a look.

Rec Reef is one of the three trial pallet-ball reefs laid down by the Department of Primary Industries in April and May 2009. This reef has already exhibited significant marine growth and has resident pinkies and smaller baitfish present. It is located around a kilometre from the inner artificial reef in 11m of water.

Mordialloc Pier

Located at the mouth of the Mordialloc Creek, this pier is a sensational fish producer. In winter it becomes a terrific platform to chase all manner of species, especially Australian salmon.

Coming out of the creek there is a multitude of options available including some great flathead drifts in about 14m of water. A reasonable boat ramp exists in the creek along Governor Road with adequate parking, however the creek is extremely shallow at low tide and is often strewn with obstacles such as shopping trolleys.

Also be aware that the road bridge has clearance issues on high tide with things like overhead rocket launchers – you have been warned and if in doubt take the stress out of it and launch at Paterson River.

Parkdale Pinnacles

Between the Mordialloc Pier and Beaumaris Bay lies the Parkdale Pinnacles – these mounds are a serious reef structure comprising large boulders. It is a popular area to target pinkie snapper and the King George whiting. Fishing here and further north at Brighton is the best on the east side of Port Phillip. The pinnacles themselves will also usually hold a good population of calamari, leather jackets and garfish.

A good kayak launch location is the Parkdale Life Saving Club, which has a ramp from Beach Road down to the sand.

The Beaumaris Mussel Farm

The aquaculture leases in Beaumaris Bay provide an artificial structure where an entire marine ecosystem is supported. Australian salmon schools regularly make their presence known, but bust-ups with birds working are not the only indicator that they are about.

It pays to keep looking because they will often be about nearby the Beaumaris Motor Yacht Squadron pier.

This spot can be very hot and cold, which is a little perplexing as it is surrounded by shallow reef, but when it’s on good catches of garfish are common and squid can be taken here as well.

The Marine Park border to Half Moon Bay

Just past the Beaumaris Pier at Table Rock is the start of the Marine Park boundary, which runs all the way to Quiet Corner about 500m out into the bay, taking in about 120 hectares of water.

It is well marked in water and on land (check the boundary at www.dpi.vic.gov.au). The edge of the Marine Park and out to about the 12m line is very productive water with rugged reef and pinnacles prevalent.

The area off the Black Rock Clock Tower on Beach Road is a popular hot spot with locals. Serious structure exists with bommies, drop offs and shoals ranging from the edge of the Marine Park all the way out to about 12m, where the reef gives way to sand and mud.

This edge of the reef area is a great area to deep-troll hardbodied lures in search of quality snapper. The area is home to every species the bay offers and can at times supply spectacular fishing for Australian salmon, especially in mid winter. The Half Moon Bay boat ramp is suitable for only small boats of less then 4.5m due to the extremely shallow bay surrounding the ramp. Low tide can be particularly frustrating.

Land-based options include the pier for squid and garfish and the odd whiting, whilst casting off the car park rock wall into a strong westerly blow will see your bait in 5m of water and some prime territory for a solid snapper.

Whilst out of casting range from shore, the shallow horseshoe reef just out from the entrance to Half Moon Bay is a whiting and pinkie hot spot at night.

Kayaks are easily launched at Half Moon Bay to the right of the boat ramp.

Anonyma Shoal

Anonyma Shoal, opposite the Sandringham Hotel, rises up to 2m of water from 12m or so on the deep side, and is an extremely rugged reef that has claimed more then the odd keel from yachts returning to the Sandringham Harbour.

It is marked via two cardinal markers north and south, several 100m apart. This area holds infinite possibilities and it is one of the regular locations that yellowtail kingfish turn up on in summer, particularly the northern end of the reef.

Large Australian salmon regularly cruise the sides of the shoal with whiting and snapper able to be targeted all around off the reef.

Deep diving lures such us Rapala X Rap 15s work very well here but the jutting reef will claim any that are run too close to the edge such is the risk and reward factor. Although little is written or said about it, at times there must be mulloway lurking around the edges of this structure. Kayakers can paddle from Half Moon Bay or off the sand at Sandringham Yacht Club via Jetty Road.

Sandringham Yacht Club Break Wall and Rock Groynes

The Sandringham Yacht Club provides options when it’s too rough elsewhere, as there is always a sheltered side, even if that means fishing inside the harbour where a sizeable population of cunning bream call home.

The rock wall itself provides a great structure to target snapper of all sizes in rough weather or at night, whilst the area all around provides a safe haven for squid.

Salmon regularly frequent the area with some stonker flathead also found in the shallow waters surrounding the scattered reefs, right through to the rock groynes or break walls opposite New Street. This allows the land-based angler a comfortable platform to cast into up to 5-6m of water onto scattered reef.

This area is very hard on tackle, but the rewards can be great, especially for big red after or during an on shore blow when they sometimes come close under cover of white water. The area is popular for whiting, pinkies and squid in close and better quality snapper out a little deeper off the edge of the reef.

Explore the inner east!

Whilst I’m not suggesting it’s the only place to fish on the eastern seaboard, the inner reefs I’ve described here provide a variety of species and angling opportunities that are just not available out wider.

When in doubt, ease off the throttle and have a look in closer, you just might be surprised by what you’re driving over!

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