Tuna anglers return to pinkies and squid
  |  First Published: August 2013

Cool and sometimes very cold conditions have certainly prevailed over the last month or so.

Apart from some very substantial rainfall during the middle and later part of last month, the weather has been predominantly dry.

Although your level of commitment needs to be generally higher at this time of year, fishing conditions during the early morning and late afternoon can be excellent. That’s of course if you don’t mind the cold, but the advantage is less numbers of anglers on the water at your chosen location, and some lovely photo opportunities during sunrise and sunset.

The lure of a big tuna over in the west of the state has still kept many of the larger trailer boat owners busy and away from the bay of late, but those who have stayed put or returned have enjoyed some consistent success on the winter reds. Most reports have been coming from the Mount Martha, Dromana and Safety Beach areas, over the wide expanses of mud flats across this region. Most captures have been in around 18-20m of water, but some captures much shallower and from the nearby piers and rocks during the rougher weather.

The winter run of snapper has always been the biggest unknown for many anglers but recent trends, and the general health of the bay, tends to suggest that we have an extremely viable year round snapper fishery in Port Phillip. The main difference seems to be that anglers need to be prepared to spend greater amounts of time using their sounder to locate feeding fish and to endure sometimes smaller bite periods. The use of a variety of different baits is also recommended. The upside is that this time of year the snapper taken are generally in great condition with exceptional table qualities.

The pinkies on the inshore reefs have long been a winter mainstay for many anglers and the sheer numbers of them in some areas is nothing short of staggering. Much like the reefs further north in the bay, our local reefs can produce some frantic action on the pinkies at times. The best bite periods are normally towards dusk, but first light can be very productive as well.

Due to the varying size of the pinkies you are likely to catch, I find fishing for them with lures from a drifting boat very productive. Not only does it provide easy and safe release of any undersized fish (there’s heaps of them), but allows you to cover more water effectively. And you’ve got an electric motor fitted to your boat, this allows you to hold on productive areas and easily change location to move with the school. Anglers bait fishing have also been doing very well indeed, especially with fresh squid, salmon fillet and various shell baits.

The squid fishing along the entire eastern shoreline still continues in earnest, but expect the squid to become less active as the water cools even more, and when the water discolours after rain. I have noticed of late that although there are still plenty of squid about, they seem to be far less aggressive than during the warmer months. Lighter line and more neutral colour offerings seems to do the trick at times, and you can do worse then giving a larger jig a try at times as well. The use of some sort of squid jig scent is also recommended.

One fish that never lacks any aggression is the humble old Australian salmon, and there have been several large schools working the eastern shoreline over recent times. You would be hard pressed to find a better all round fish to catch at this time of year I reckon, and the best part is they can be caught on just about anything when they are in the mood. At other times, they can be a little tricky, so a more finesse approach will get the job done.

In general, trolled minnow lures and even the humble squid skirt are a good way to locate and schools of fish, but try to avoid driving over them, as this will send any feeding fish down. Once the school is found, the best method is to cast to the fish, wind like mad and hang on! Soft plastics, metal lures, flies and even baits will all catch salmon, the only thing you need to work out is the pace of your presentation, and most of the time, that’s as fast as possible. Sometimes however, a sneaky lure or bait let sink though a feeding school will produce the bigger fish.

So, it’s time to break out the winter woollies and get out on the water. It might be cold, and wet, or even both, but the rewards are worth it I reckon.

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