Most anglers start to get a bit jittery by late August after a long cold winter. Moving into September, the casting arm well and truly starts to twitch in anticipation of the up coming months.
The ever increasing hype surrounding the arrival of snapper in Port Phillip Bay just seems to get bigger every year. While the season is unlikely to hit top gear until well into spring, there’s bound to be a few early season reds taken before then.
This time last year, large schools of snapper were marking up on the sounder south of the P2 buoy off Altona, but coercing them into feeding mode proved a challenge for most. Nonetheless, there were some rippers taken by mid-September with fish to 7kg showing up either side of a tide change at dawn. By the end of the month, regular catches of school fish averaging 2-4kg became far more frequent as the water temperature crept up towards the magical 15-16º mark.
Sustained periods of offshore northerly winds have produced ultra-clear conditions across the inner western reefs over the past month. At times it has been possible to see the bottom in up to 20ft of water and as a result the fishing has been tough.
For those searching for pinkie snapper, first and last light are about your only option in these conditions. However, expect the shallow water action to pick up soon after a strong onshore blow.
Following the murky waters of the Yarra River towards Port Melbourne and beyond, it’s been a totally different story. Huge schools of juvenile Australian salmon continue to work their way through the abundant bait, and the seagulls, terns and gannets have been all over it. Pinkie snapper and flathead can also be found lurking below, cashing in on the free feed.
Around at Altona, youngster Jed Hull landed a very respectable gummy shark on a whole squid while fishing with his family. Jed says he immediately knew there was something big on the end of his baitcaster outfit, because it nearly pulled him out of the boat on the first run!
Fishing nearby, George Gabriel and his father Con found a few quality fish in the shallows while casting soft plastics in calm mirror-like conditions. Drifting slowly in just 3m of water, the boys tempted pinkie snapper to 1.8kg and a few decent flathead on Berkley Powerbait Minnows, and Damiki Rippers rigged Texas style on off-set worm hooks. Earlier in the day, George also managed a thumping big squid and dropped a couple of others.
According to Andy Smith from Hooked on Bait and Tackle, a reasonable run of squid have made a welcome return to the local weed beds with some anglers achieving their bag on occasion.
Further west, there has been plenty of action down at Geelong with anglers standing shoulder to shoulder along rock wall at St Helens in the hope of snaring a big winter red. Most weekends have seen up to a dozen boats and a handful of kayaks also anchored nearby, particularly during the lead up to the full moon phase.
Keen kayak enthusiast, Richard Linossi, was amongst those to do well, returning to the ramp with a cracking 6kg+ snapper taken on a soft plastic in 8m of water.
Jack Kotas hit the metropolitan rivers for the first time in six months hoping for a jewie, but had to settle for a red hot snapper bite instead! Fishing well into the night, Jack and his mate, Tom, caught numerous fish to 3kg on raw chicken and live mullet presented close to the jetty pylons near Docklands.
Ryan Scarborough mentioned that some better than average yelloweye mullet have been taken in the Maribyrnong River on the rising tide. Australian salmon are still in good numbers around the Yarra River junction and the entrance to Victoria Harbour.
Andy Smith says the Werribee River is still fishing well for bream, particularly along the middle to lower reaches of the estuary. Live tube worms and Bass yabbies are undoubtedly the most productive baits for the finicky bream that occupy this system.
According to local tournament angler, Brad Hodges, fishing with lures and soft plastics has become far more difficult through the later stages of winter. When the elements align, however, there’s still a few resident bream willing to lash out at a carefully presented artificial, along with the occasional school mulloway that have been a welcome surprise.
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