Snapper still on the surge
  |  First Published: February 2011

Once again, Mother Nature has given us a good dose of tropical weather over the last month, which has made fishing opportunities tough and varied for many anglers.

These conditions are normally commonplace in the northern states, but are very unusual for our southern waters, especially at this time of year.

Regular flushes of fresh water from the various outlets along the eastern shoreline, and relatively mild weather have kept water temperatures down for the most part, and have made some species a little hard to pattern. This has been especially true for snapper, but the upside is the boost and strength of the bay’s food chain and available food sources for all species.

As was the case during last month, large numbers of snapper are showing on the sounder right along the eastern shoreline in depths between 12-20m. The hungry fish are still congregating nearby to bait schools and reliable structure. Successful anglers are targeting these fish with quality baits and a good berley trail, which will keep the snapper in your area, and on the chew.

I have received plenty of reports of some quality fish over the 6kg mark coming from shallower marks, but by far the bulk of the bays boaters have been concentrating in the deeper areas, around 18-22m. Typically, the smaller school-sized fish are in great numbers in these depths, and have been responding to a wide variety of techniques. The Mornington and Mount Martha areas have been very productive, as well as Frankston and Mt Eliza, particularly from the Hospital and Sunnyside.

These smaller snapper love to eat soft plastics too, but be prepared to fish them slow if the snapper are a little less active. Slow rolling and walking your lure along the bottom, interspersed with a few pauses can be deadly. Slow winding a bait along the bottom can be deadly as well.

Expect the snapper to move towards spawning mode over the next month or so, and during this time the timing of your trips becomes more crucial. Spawning snapper will tend to bite heavily in smaller windows around tide changes, so try to plan around these events. Lighter weighted and better-presented baits often do the trick, and larger aggressive fish will often respond well to bright coloured plastics and trolled lures during this time. Don’t be scared to try shallow water either, particularly around first light and nearby to some heavy reef.

It’s worth noting that during spawning, many anglers do not take many snapper, especially the larger females. Fish from shallower water do release well, so why not take a photo and let a few go to catch next season, or after they’ve done their thing.

Shallower water has also been very productive over the past month for the remainder of the bays target species, especially calamari, garfish, whiting and flathead. I can’t remember a recent season in our bay when so many good whiting have been caught, and many have been around 40cm and bigger. Land-based anglers have been taking their fair share as well, particularly from smaller beach areas around dusk.

Good bait and a little berley are essential, and I would also recommend the use of smaller circle hooks, which provide better hook up rate, and easy release of under-sized fish.

Garfish have been around in big numbers, and they too respond well to berley and good bait presentation. Pier anglers have been doing well at Seaford and Frankston and boat anglers from the same area. Floats are you best bet, and on calm days, unweighted offerings down the berley trail are great. Gars will even take small plastics and even flies if you want to change it up a bit, and a great fun on ultra-light tackle, and great to eat too.

The awesome calamari fishing continues, and will only be affected adversely by dirty water on the onshore reefs. When this occurs, try to find deeper reef nearby, and the squid will be there. There is no doubt that the squid are getting a fair belting at the moment, and have become a little wary during brighter times of the day, but lighter line and good quality jigs will do the job more often than not. I have also found that changing colour during a session can be a big help too, and don’t forget the scent on your jig.

Bait anglers have been catching some ripper bream in the Patterson River lately, especially nearby the ramps when there is less boat traffic. The river mouth itself is also prime when there has been a fresh dose of rain. I also saw a young bloke land a couple of crackers at the mouth of Kannanook Creek the other morning fishing with Bass yabbies.

Lure fishing opportunities have been limited with the dirty water, but the didn’t stop my mate Steve giving me a touch up recently after a morning session on the snapper.

Plenty of action in the bay over the last month, and there is plenty more to come.

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