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Mornington Magic
  |  First Published: September 2011



Located on the southern peninsula, Mornington is approximately 60km south of Melbourne.

Once you have arrived there is plenty on offer, with some of the best species diversity in Port Phillip. Nonetheless, even though there are multitudes of species on the cards, anglers should perhaps focus on these few.

SNAPPER

Probably first on most Victorian anglers list is the mighty red. A fantastic sports fish and good on the table, snapper are the focus of an annual drive unlike any other. Although some spots I will describe in this article technically border Mornington, it really is a case of shared water and the thin red line.

Resident fish aside, the traditional run for snapper is mid-September to March. Early season will see fish schooling up in 22-23m between Mornington and Mt Martha, a trend that repeats itself at the end of the season. This stage also provides the opportunity for shallow water fishing within eyesight of the shore between Mornington and Mt Martha but during November to February the most popular marks in 18-21m receive a real hammering. These depths and Ansetts reef are good starting points.

Although some would regard Ansetts as a great big snapper spot, Mornington boasts a stellar population of school-sized fish between 2-3kg. Their abundance and perfect table size makes Mornington a great spot to bring beginners. A good session on these fish usually also produces a fish or two in the 3.5-4kg range, if not bigger.

Pinkies are in good numbers all year in 15-16m and Fishermans Beach is a good spot. Sunrise and sunset are good times, especially when they coincide with a tide change.

Otherwise any time of the day at a tide change will put you in with a good chance, although wider marks do fish better in full light.

I fish a running sinker rig in all instances for bait, except for those times when I fish a Sabiki rig. I do however fish two types of running sinker rigs to vary presentation.

The first rig consists of a size 0-2 ball sinker above the hook and the other an Ezi-rig above the swivel with a snapper sinker. I use two 5/0 octopus hooks and one metre of 18-27kg fluorocarbon for my leader.

I still have a preference for a sliding hook set-up and I use 5.5-9kg mono for my mainline when bait fishing. For bait I use a combination of rods, from 5-10kg graphite sticks to the classic 6-8kg glassy, with threadline reels to suit.

Nowadays my preference is for fast taper graphite rods and the great thing about this type of outfit is that having a second spool ready with suitable braid and leader means you can simply switch over and tie a lure on in a matter of minutes.

I like a semi-circle rod presentation cast out at 20-30m around the back of the boat except with Sabiki rigs, which I drop straight down.

Straight drops with baits will find fish too though. For bait, pilchards, squid, silver whiting, and garfish are great. I fish them whole with the exception of bigger garfish, which I fish in halves. For Sabiki’s I fish bait pieces. Berley really is a good idea for snapper fishing and pilchard cubes thrown out in handfuls will do the trick.

For plastics I either do the spool switch I described or I use my 2-4kg flick sticks. Fluorocarbon leader of 5.5kg plus is desirable and for plastics I like Berkley Minnows in dark natural colours and Squidgy Pillie Flickbaits.

More often than not you can get away with a 7g jig head, even in 23m, but 14g or heavier can be necessary with current. I have had my best results with erratic jigging retrieves.

From the land, Mornington Pier, Snapper Point, Fishermans Beach rocks, and nearby Mt Martha rocks are great spots.

Be very careful at the rock hopping spots, especially seeing as you are best there in the dark unless there is a westerly/north-westerly making things turbid in close.

I use a ten foot rod for land-based fishing and the reel to a 4500 size.

SQUID

A revelation to me in the last three years has been the consistent year round availability of southern calamari in this area. Great fun on light gear, top baits and fantastic eating, we really are spoilt to have these majestic creatures on our doorstep.

Coming out of the cove at the ramp the shoreline directly to your right or left for kilometres will hold squid where there is suitable habitat. Weed beds, reef and broken ground are all worth a try.

I prefer artificial offerings and have thing for Harimitsu jigs. The 2.5’s are a great all round size and the BG and EOR colours are sensational and a mainstay for Victorian fishos. For outfit I like small threadlines in the 1000-2500 range spooled with braid and 3.6-4.6kg fluorocarbon leader on 2–4kg rods. For the dedicated there is now a massive range of specialised ‘egi’ gear available at specialist tackle stores.

I prefer a rising tide for squid but you can get them at any tide stage, even slack water. Try deeper when the tide is low and shallower when the tide is high. A good depth range is 3-8m.

A number of retrieve types will work, from slow rolling to erratic jigging so experiment on the day. Having some sort of scent with you is not a bad idea, as it can make the difference between a good and bad session but always try without scent first as some days you just don’t need it.

Your other option is to suspend a baited jig under a float close to the ocean floor or to cast and retrieve a baited jig slowly. Heavy handlines are a good option for bait and less cumbersome in my experience when using float stoppers. Pilchards and silver whiting are my favourite baits for this and a fluorocarbon leader is desirable.

Squid fishing is just as accessible to land-based fishos from Mornington Pier, Snapper Point, Fishermans Beach and the techniques are the same.

GARFISH

Garfish are great fun on light gear, provide the opportunity for sight fishing and are smashing on the table. Called mini marlin by some, they certainly do have claim to their second name, skittering across the surface and tail-walking when hooked. They also make exceptional baits for snapper and gummies.

Garfish are available year round but seem to be more prolific from 2-23m during the warmer months. Tide changes are good times but they can be on throughout the day.

On a light threadline I use a size 10-12 long shank on 1.5-2m of 3.6kg fluorocarbon with enough split shots near the hook end of the line to keep a pencil float upright with the red indicator just out of the water.

I join it to my mainline with a swivel. Chook pellets or bread and tuna oil dispersed on the surface by hand or in a berley bucket will get these fish into a frenzy and silverfish, squid strips, bread, pilchard pieces and peeled prawns are good baits.

I find that having two baits is beneficial, as they seem to turn off one bait after a while. A switch to the other keeps the action coming and the first bait can be switched back to later for continued success.

Very sharp hooks are a must and a leader change after a good session is also worthwhile. Fluorocarbon that is practically invisible one day can be very visible the next day, because of wear and handling, so keep an eye on your line quality. Land-based opportunities are the pier, Snapper Point, Fishermans Beach and next door at Mt Martha Rocks. Techniques are the same.

GUMMIES

I rarely target gummies from this locality, although I have seen plenty boated as by-catch during snapper sessions. In saying that, there is no need to rehash what I have outlined in the snapper section.

The exact same bait, outfits and techniques will catch gummies off Mornington, even drifting down baits with ball sinkers. A chook pellet and tuna oil mix will suffice for berley though, and if you really want you can change to a single hook set-up with an 8/0 octopus and fish bigger fillet baits like salmon and trevally. Leaders of 27kg is preferable though and 20-23m is the optimum depth.

Normally I would search for a drop off when gummy fishing, but the nearest is the channel, which is some distance and there seem to be plenty on closer snapper grounds grazing.

Mornington seems to me to be a shark nursery. The average shark is not big but a great table size, available all year and there are plenty of them out there. Tide changes are prime times.

AMENITIES

The pier is currently being rebuilt and will offer good access to fishy spots when it is finished. The twin ramp is also a good one as are the cleaning facilities and boats are available from Mornington boat hire where you can also get tackle. If you are down that way though spend the extra 20 minutes and take a drive to Peninsula Total Tackle in Rosebud. For friendly expert advice on the Bay, Dan Lee and the boys certainly know their stuff and have a great range of tackle for all your needs whilst on the Peninsula and beyond.

As you can tell, Mornington offers some amazing fishing and species diversity. With a bit of thought and planning you can effectively target a number of species over a day, all within a short distance. What a picturesque spot too. Mornington really is magic.

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