Good old-fashioned winter eases for spring
  |  First Published: August 2012

Another month has passed on Port Phillip and it’s been a good old-fashioned winter this year with plenty of wind, plenty of rain and lots of chilly days.

This time of year, although not enjoyed by everyone, is still a great time to catch a quality feed of fish and also enjoy a great variety as well.

The added bonus is that, generally speaking, most species are in prime eating condition during the winter months, as they taking advantage of the blossoming food chain in the cooler and sometimes clearer water. And while some journeys onto the water require a few more minerals than usual, the rewards are definitely worth it, even if it is only to have your local pier all to yourself.

It seems that there are still plenty of snapper anglers who haven’t thrown in the towel just yet as I keep getting plenty of reports of some quality reds still on offer for those willing to put in the time. Maybe these boys will keep going all year and enjoy 12 months of November - half their luck.

Seriously though, the reality is that quality snapper can be taken right through the year in the bay, as they are historically a very common catch by commercial anglers on our side of the bay at this time of year. Anglers in the western parts of the bay also very regularly take them during winter, particularly in Corio Bay.

Specifically, the main concentration of snapper has been holding in the deeper marks out from Mornington and Mount Martha. And more recently, some nice fish have been taken out from Frankston and Mount Eliza as well. Best depth seems to be 20-21m and the fish seem to be preferring flat, mud bottom with very little structure.

It goes without saying that in this scenario, time spent on your sounder locating fish numbers is crucial and will often be the difference between success and failure. So too is the use of berley, and all the anglers I have spoken to recently have emphasised the importance of berley to bring the grazing snapper to your baits. And that all the fish they have been landing have been coughing up lumps of berley on the floor of the boat.

Baits have been varied, but pilchards, squid and salmon fillets have been the best of the bunch. Fish sizes have been between 3-6kg and most commonly 3-4kg. You will rarely find cleaner and better looking snapper than at this time of year, and these fish are great for a feed.

They are also top photo fish with deep colours and bright spots, and although I love a feed of fresh snapper, I love letting them go as well. Who knows how long the bite will last? Let’s hope it keeps going until the next spawning migration starts in spring.

Seems strange to be devoting so much space to snapper in winter, but who’s complaining. I have no doubt this fishing is a direct result of the continuing improvement of our bays food chain. Furthermore, the more predictable winter species like pinkies will continue to fire, especially on the inshore reefs. As always, times of low light are often best, and a little chop on the water never hurts either, especially when you’re fishing shallower water.

I reckon pinkies are a great fish to learn on for kids, for anglers learning to fish lures and plastics, and also for understanding what makes our snapper tick.

Expect the winter whiting and squid fishing down south of the bay to have some flow on effect for us as well, as much of the eastern shoreline holds plenty of both species right through the winter months. Most recently, anglers have been reporting plenty of smaller calamari around the reefs close to Frankston and Mount Eliza.

Although these areas seem to get a lot more attention these days, good quality jigs, a stealthy approach and a few of the modern squidding gadgets will all go a long way. If you own a kayak, or you boat has an electric motor then you’re ahead of the pack too as you can work areas more thoroughly, and avoid the noise of motors and anchors.

Garfish have been busy right around the bay, and have been particularly thick at Seaford, Frankston and Mornington. Salmon have been in the same areas as well, especially during rougher weather.

Recent and consistent rains will also keep the Patterson River producing some nice bream, as well as mullet and gars as well. I have had some reports of some ripper bream being taken on scrubworms after recent rain, and a few on lures as well.

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