Can the tuna get any closer?
  |  First Published: July 2012

The fantastic tuna fishing season here in the South West has continued when conditions allow anglers to access the fish.

While some have bemoaned the lack of barrel specimens, the problem is offset by the number of school fish and their close proximity to shore. The fish have been feeding heavily on the massive schools of small whitebait sized bait.

This has lead them to be a little finicky when it comes to actually getting a hook up. Many anglers have experienced fish jumping all around the boat and not hooking up. Some ‘thinking’ anglers though have been modifying their techniques and coming up with the goods. Tactics like cutting the motor and casting metal slices, plastics or surface walkers, cutting back on leader and lure size as well as trolling plastics well behind the boat are all things that have served thinking anglers well.

After each stretch of bad weather it is amazing how close in these tuna can be found before boat traffic scatters them wider. Tuna have been caught in Lady Bay itself in as little as 14m and just past the back of the lighthouse at Port Fairy in similar depths.

It’s not just the tuna that have been taking advantage of these inshore bait schools. Some seriously big snook, or short-finned pike, have been caught in the Lady Bay area recently. Some of these snook are over a metre long and as thick as your arm. These fish have been taking cast and trolled lures.

It almost seems strange at the moment to come across boats anchored up bait fishing as most are chasing tuna, but plenty of pinkies and gummy sharks are being taken by those chasing them. And remember, nothing makes better bottom fishing bait than fresh tuna off cuts.

The Hopkins estuary is still quiet but some good EP are still being taken in the freshwater sections. Trout haven’t really fired yet but in July they will be a major focus of many anglers. How you target the Merri for trout in July will depend on what happens with rainfall events between now and then. With only a little rain anglers should fish natural colouration minnow style plastics and smelt colour flies in the deeper areas. Trolling minnow styled lures will also work well.

If we get some serious rains then fishing shallow runs and flooded margins will be a better bet. Paddle-tailed soft plastics and dark large wet flies are the weapons of choice. Remember certain local areas remain open to trout fishing in the local area due to their ‘sea run’ classification allowing anglers to target trout at this opportune time.

The Merri below Broomfield Street weir and the Hopkins River below the falls are the two main target areas.

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