Wintery conditions have persisted for the past month on the Bay. The water temperatures have remained very cool, and the inshore water clarity is unbelievable. Call me optimistic, but I reckon we are already seeing a shift towards spring conditions, with longer days and sunshine to warm the skin on a day out on the water.
With this seasonal change has come more comfortable fishing conditions, especially for those fishing from a boat. Flat morning seas have seen many more anglers getting out amongst the fish, although a fair amount of commitment is needed to brave the cold starts. A full, hot thermos is a must if you’re settling in for a day on the Bay at the moment.
The garfish have come on strong over the past month, with all of the usual haunts producing some quality gars, and in good numbers. The best news for the Bay’s land-based anglers is that gars can be caught from most of the piers and platforms throughout the south of the Bay.
The best of the action will normally occur early and late in the day, but the gars will also bite well during the top of the tide, especially further south in the Bay where tides and current flow are much stronger. I was at Portsea Pier recently and saw the action peak at the top of the tide, only to slow dramatically as the outgoing tide gathered pace.
It seems all anglers have their favourite bait for gars, but the best are silverfish, maggots, flathead fillet pieces and prawn pieces. Berley is also essential to keep the fish active for longer periods. Normally this is a mix of breadcrumbs, tuna oil and a small amount of the bait being used. One thing is for sure, I know plenty of snapper anglers who up over the next month will be stocking on the best fresh snapper bait going around. Know anyone with a vacuum packer?
Reports of pinkies are still fairly consistent from the inshore reefs, and some nice 1-2kg fish have been taken from the piers during the windier days. Soft plastics fished early in the morning are the way to go for most anglers targeting these hard-fighting little scrappers.
One of the best parts of this style of fishing in the south of the Bay is the variety and frequency of by-catch. It’s great fun for those new to the sport, and I know fishing plastics in the Bay has turned the brow of a few seasoned campaigners in recent times as well.
Larger snapper are still not being taken in big numbers, but the silly season is not far away, so it might be worth spending a bit of time watching the sounder on your next trip. Although the annual spawning migration brings plenty of reds into the Bay each spring, there still are plenty of fish that call the Bay home all year.
The humble salmon have been a little scarce this winter. If you have a look how much bait is in the Bay, who could blame them for not popping up on the surface like a bunch of lunatics? All they need to do at the moment is swim around for 10 minutes each day with their mouth open and they’d be full. It’s good for the health of the Bay, but can make sportfishing tricky.
Lately, some big schools of salmon have been loitering around the mouth of Patterson River, and further south at Snapper Point, Mornington. The best method is to cast into the school from afar. Avoid trolling, as it will put the fish down every time. Try to match the hatch as closely as you can too, typically most of the bait in the Bay is 50-100mm long.
The squid fishing has been a little patchy, due in large part to inconsistent weather. I have had to fish my jigs much more slowly and deliberately on the bottom to be effective. Using more natural colours like brown and green also helps. Best areas have been Mt Eliza, Portsea and Rosebud reefs.
The bream fishing has improved over the past month. A glance back to last month’s cover shot should give you an indication of what is available around our great Bay. I have seen some cracker fish caught from the banks of Patterson River, particularly by anglers using fresh shrimp and scrubworms for bait.
I recently had Shaun Ossit, another obsessed bream spinner from South Australia, in my boat. He was keen to try his skills on a waterway with a tough reputation. On the day we fished the Patto it was true to form, but we were still lucky enough to tangle with a few fish.
So if you’re still keen for a fish, don’t let the cold dampen your spirits. After all, there’s a reason why we own jackets, gloves and beanies. With a little bit of preparation and planning, you can still come home with some great memories, or some great food for the table.Reads: 2284