Cold brings calm
  |  First Published: June 2008

The cold weather of winter has definitely set in, but with this change has come very calm and flat fishing conditions. An early start on Port Phillip Bay might be a cold one, but the rewards are there in the form of some quality table fish, some great light tackle sportfishing, and a few surprises thrown in as well.

The dredging of the bay is yet to show any visible signs from the shoreline in terms of water clarity, but one thing I have noticed over the past few weeks is huge numbers of starfish on the bottom. Although winter is the time when this migration normally takes place, there seems to be a very large number of these creatures about at the moment. Only time will tell what the real impact will be.

On a positive note, I have received plenty of promising reports over the past month. Most notably there have been several anglers still taking respectable snapper from the wider marks. These fish are between 3-6kg, and there are definitely enough about to justify a trip out wide on a chilly winter’s morning.

One of the anglers tasting success recently was young angler Mitchell Greene, fishing in 22m out from Frankston with his father John. The Greenes had laid a heavy berley trail for about two hours. Mitchell’s snapper measured 72cm in length and took a whole silver whiting on 4kg line. The fish was in prime condition and is a good indication of the quality of fish still out there for those willing to put in the effort.

These wider marks, as well as the closer inshore reefs, are also prime targets in early winter for those anglers chucking plastics for snapper. This method normally is done from a drifting boat, and can be very effective and lots of fun. Although many fish are around 1kg or less, there’s always the odd larger specimen to really pull the kinks out of your line.

My advice is to try and locate areas of dense reef with good depth changes, and, of course, where there are fish marking on the sounder. Smaller pinkies will show as smudges near the bottom, and will normally be in groups at the front or back edge of the reef. Larger fish will mark more prominently, and will sometimes be further up the water column. Snapper and pinkies can be very aggressive, so be ready for a strong pull as your lure sinks. Standout lures are Berkley Gulps in 4-inch Minnow and 5-inch Jerk Shad. Ecogear Minnows and Squidgy flickbaits are also effective.

The inshore reefs are still producing good numbers of whiting as well, and the good news is they are also very accessible for land-based anglers. These fish will progress further south in the Bay as the weather and water cools, but good numbers of whiting can still be caught right through winter if you know where to find them. In my experience, fresh bait is the real key to success, so fresh squid strips, mussels, pipis and especially Bass yabbies are the way to go. You will have to put up with plenty of by-catch, and lots of undersized snapper at times, but persistence pays in the form of tasty fillets and a great light tackle sportfish. Also, I know a few anglers who’ve got a few whiting on soft plastics, and they seem to like Berkley camo Sandworms. That’s no shock really, but they are a challenge on lures, so give it a go.

Squid are still about in big numbers from the usual areas for both land-based anglers and boaters. It always amazes me how the stocks keep replenishing, even considering the astonishing growth rate of our humble and tasty calamari. Small jigs are the go at present, with natural colours being the best. I would try yellow, green or brown in 1.5–2.5g sizes. Ecogear, Yo-Zuri, Yamashita, Daiwa and Hayabusa all make great jigs to do the job. Young fishaholic, Terrence Bauer, had a ripper session recently off the Frankston Reef with his mate Mitch. Judging by the photo, the boys may have got a little hungry out on the boat while they were catching them!

Plenty of salmon are still about and most seem to be keeping to the reefy areas between Frankston and Safety Beach. The bust-ups that I have seen lately have been monumental, with thousands of fish in a couple of big schools. Some of my local mates who are divers in these areas say that the salmon schools are as thick as they’ve seen in years. The techniques that I outlined in last month’s edition are all worth a go, and remember to keep one eye on your sounder and the other on the top.

The bream scene changes a little at this time of year as the mature fish get ready to spawn, but some good fish can still be taken. Water clarity seems to be the real key, and the bait fishers can have some frantic action as the water dirties after heavy rain. I fish for bream all year round, all over the country, but I still reckon Victoria’s got the best of the best (with the possible exception of a little island at the bottom of Bass Strait!).

Young Dougie Bauer knows this only too well, and just happens to live right in the thick of it on the shores of Patterson Lakes. Doug sent me a pic of his most recent bream capture, taken on a Gulp camo Sandworm just around the corner from his back lawn. His bream measured 35cm and was probably close to 1kg.

So, there it is for another month. Traditionally the early winter months are a transitional period in the south of the bay, but it is a time of year I enjoy immensely. Boat and angler traffic is much slower, and the fishing can be just as good.

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