Now that the AFL final series has reached the pointy end, local boat ramps will be inundated with anglers searching for snapper.
After a very wet twelve months and a warmer than average end to winter, once again, all the signs suggest it will be a season to remember.
Snapper will be at the forefront of many anglers minds throughout October, but the big decision for some will be whether to berley up and soak a few baits, or cast lures and soft plastics. While bait fishing with pilchards, silver whiting and fresh squid is still by far the most common method, each year it seems more anglers are willing to experiment with soft plastics and lures.
It is possible to combine both methods and quite a few locals are known to do well by berleying up at anchor and then fishing with soft plastics. Last year, one of the largest snapper recorded in the west was caught using this technique.
After anchoring in 12m of water off Williamstown and berleying steadily for half an hour, James and Ben Laverty went on to land more than a dozen snapper to 2.5kg on both pilchards and baitfish profile soft plastics. The larger fish were taken on Squidgy flick baits in the pilchard colour pattern, including an impressive 7kg red that was eventually subdued after a 20 minute battle on bream spinning gear. This is just one example and there have been plenty of snapper averaging 2-4kg taken by anglers adopting a similar approach.
For those interested in giving it a try this season, a lightweight graphite rod matched to a 2500 size reel is ideal for fish up to about 3kg on the inshore reefs. A more powerful 3-6kg outfit is perhaps better suited to working heavier jigheads in deeper water or when specifically targeting larger specimens.
Four to six inch baitfish profile minnows, flick baits and jerk shads in natural tones such as pumpkinseed, smelt and pilchard colour patterns consistently produce, while bright pinks and greens can be equally successful.
Occasionally snapper intercept a plastic while it is being dragged through the water, but more often takes occur as the lure sinks during a pause in the retrieve. Allowing the jighead to lay motionless on the bottom may trigger a strike from shy or shut down fish, while aggressive whipping of the rod tip to emulate a panic stricken baitfish is also worth a try.
With two anglers on board it’s well worth varying your approach until a pattern is established on the day.
Andre Lindsey and the crew from Melbourne Fishing Charters were one of the first to record an early season red with two 3.2kg snapper taken while fishing just south of the P2 marker off Altona. Andre originally intended to put his clients onto a few rock cod and was somewhat surprised to encounter these fish so early.
As has been the case for much of the year, consistent catches of pinkie snapper are still available along the shallow inshore reefs between Williamstown and Altona. Many of the fish caught in this area are undersize, with just a few keepers up around the 35-40cm mark taken on soft plastics. At this stage, most of the deeper marks are yet to fire with any consistency, but that will change as the water temperature rises over the coming month.
Mick Wilkinson caught plenty of flathead to 40cm while drifting in 10-12m of water between Point Cook and Werribee South. The fish were mostly taken on pipis, with some falling to pilchards and soft plastics.
Michael Felsovary from Hooked on Bait and Tackle confirmed that flathead to 60cm have been taken from Point Cook to Campbells Cove.
Bag limit catches of squid have been hard to come by in this area, but they are showing signs of gathering in greater numbers.
Further west, salmon to 700g were on the chew at Kirk Point during the early stages of spring and these fish are expected to show up along Werribee South any day now.
Sebastian Widjaja put in some time targeting the resident bream at Docklands for reasonably consistent results. Though he usually visits this area in summer, Sebastian was surprised by the level of activity during the cooler months, particularly given the influx of stormwater runoff of late.
Bream of 30-35cm were taken on pieces of peeled prawn presented on small hooks. More recently, vibration style lures such as blades have been producing the fish, particularly when cast close to the jetty pylons.
Ryan Scarborough reports that the Maribyrnong River is still highly discoloured with eels becoming a relatively common capture throughout the estuary. A few bream up to 32cm have been taken by bait anglers on scrub worm and prawn.
Yelloweye mullet to 30cm have been thick throughout the Werribee River, while bream up to 1kg have been taken from the island through to the K-Road cliffs. Dave Bissett landed an impressive 40cm specimen on scrub worm. Brad Hodges also managed a few on sinking stick-baits closer to the mouth of the system.
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