Snapper taper off as those wonderful whiting get better
  |  First Published: February 2013

We have seen some great fishing and some excellent signs in the further improvement in the quality and health of our bay and the fishery that it provides the bay’s anglers.

The snapper reports have gone a little quiet over the last month or so, and this pattern is fairly normal for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the late summer months can be a time when the snapper begin to focus on the spawning urges, and can be a little more difficult to tempt.

Also, many anglers choose to turn their hands to the superb whiting fishing that is on offer in Western Port and Port Phillip, and maybe some other species as well, like natives or even trout. Especially after the useful rain we received during the winter and spring months in 2012.

During the quieter times of the snapper bite during their yearly migration, a good measure of fish behaviour is the reports from the bays’ charter operators. And they have all been experiencing some quiet trips of late, even a dreaded donut or two!

Specifically, as is the common trend for this time of year, the most productive marks have been the deeper areas closer to the shipping channel, especially the 19-21m mark out from Mornington, Mount Martha and Safety Beach. Bigger and more substantial baits have been very productive, with offerings like barracouta heads, silver whiting and cuttlefish producing some of the bigger snapper.

Some great fish have been reported, including several over the magical 9kg mark.

The bigger snapper tend always to be caught at the most unexpected time, and seem to travel in smaller groups, so if you are keen to chase a trophy fish, now is the perfect time.

Another reason for the smaller number of snapper reports hitting my desk this month has no doubt been the quality whiting fishing on offer in Port Phillip. Western Port has always received the bulk of the kudos for its whiting, and with good reason but there is plenty of quality and tasty whiting on offer in Port Phillip as well. The increase in catches over recent years is clearly an indication in the improvement of Port Phillip’s ecosystem, particularly along the eastern seaboard.

Even better, some of the best and most productive locations are right on my front door. And probably the best news for all anglers is that they are just as accessible for anglers fishing from the shore as those using boats and other floating craft.

In particular, the productive grounds have been the ‘golden mile’ stretch from Olivers Hill right through to Mornington. Also, the sand and reef pockets around Fisheries Beach, Bird Rock and Linley Point have all been very productive. Prime times have definitely been later in the afternoon, and into the night.

Whiting also tend to reward anglers for a little extra effort too, so the fresher and better quality of your bait; normally a better and bigger catch is the end result.

Quality mussels and pipis are preferred by many anglers, and fresh squid strips and tentacles (my favourite) are also very deadly. The use of circle or shiner-style hooks is also preferred by many whiting anglers these days, as it normally results in a mouth hook-up and facilitates easy release of undersize and unwanted fish.

Anglers keen for a feed of whiting should concentrate on sand patches amongst the reef, and also shallower areas of sand and reef that the shy whiting will feed on during times of low light around dusk. These areas are prime for land-based anglers to target as well during these times, and are also the exact places to look for flathead, squid and salmon and other predators as well.

The late summer pattern will also bring plenty of other light tackle options into play for anglers, and this is the time to shine for the smaller boats and kayaks alike. Pinkies, pike and other reef fish will be on the menu for lure and bait anglers and don’t discount the possibility for a yellowtail kingfish or even a mulloway for those anglers fishing the right depths and conditions.

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