Milder winter bodes well for good spring fishing
  |  First Published: September 2013

Cold and wintery conditions that are expected on the bay at this time of year have not necessarily been the norm of late, and consequently anglers have enjoyed some very mild weather.

Due mainly to prevailing northerly winds, these trends have kept more anglers on the water than we usually experience at this time of year. Consistent rains have also kept a strong charge in the bays food chain and kept many of the target species on the chew.

Once again, consistent reports of snapper continue to hit my desk, which is a great sign. Of great interest is the quality and size of the fish caught by those anglers willing to put in the time. As I have reported over the past few months, keen snapper anglers at this time of year often have to endure sometimes fickle and short lived bite periods, and also have to be prepared with a variety of baits to tempt the sometimes fussy snapper, which are predominantly graze-feeding at this time of year.

Specifically, most reports have been coming from the Frankston and Mornington areas, in particular the deeper areas in 18-21m. Much like the trend of early spawn run snapper, some anglers have also done well of late targeting shallower reefy areas around Frankston, Mount Eliza and Mount Martha. Average size seems to be in the 3-5kg range, so who can complain about the possibility of landing a 5kg red? And with the spawning migration just around the corner, what better time to get out onto the bay and into a few reds before the silly season starts.

These shallower reef areas are also prime targets for lure fishing as well, and while most fish you encounter will be smaller pinkie snapper, the chance of tangling with a quality red to pull the kinks out of your line are very good indeed. Personally I have found the use of vibe style lures very successful of late, especially Jackall Masks and Transams. And when the bite is a little finicky, especially during the middle of the day and during calm weather, downsizing your offering to a 3” plastic and lightly weighted jig head will get the job done.

Probably the most exciting and pleasing news that I have received over the past month is the continuation of some great fishing for mulloway throughout the Patterson Lakes system. This winter has been the best jewie season I can recall for some time with some ripper fish being taken throughout the bays estuaries, and even out in the bay itself. While many of the Patto fish have been undersize, there has been enough quality fish to keep anglers coming back for more. In particular, the local kayak anglers have been doing lost of damage, even trolling deep diving lures through the middle of the day.

Land-based anglers targeting the main highway and rail bridge at the front of the system, and also the floodgate entrances to the canals have also been doing very well using soft plastics, hardbodied lures and live baits. High tide change seems to be the most consistent time of late, but if there is any great numbers of bait and forage species in the area like mullet and salmon, the mulloway will not be far away. It’s worth noting at this point that anglers need to be aware of the legal size and bag limit, as action can be fast and furious at times. Take care to return any undersized fish to the water unharmed.

Marauding salmon schools continue to hunt right along the eastern shoreline in the bay and are providing some great light tackle sport, and some pretty good bait as well, for many of the bays anglers. They are often found feeding right in close to shore, so can be easily targeted by land-based and boat anglers alike. The mouth of the Patterson River, the entrance to Martha Cove marina, Oliver’s Hill, Fishies beach and Mornington Harbor have all been hot spots of late.

If you’re driving down Nepean highway towards Frankston and you see birds and dolphins working close to shore, chances are there’ll be some salmon in the area. And if you’ve learnt the hard way like I have, it pays to have a rigged rod in the car ready for a few casts!

The squid fishing has been steady over the past month or so, albeit the calamari have been a lot less active in the cooler water. Try using lighter line and slower sinking jigs (sometime bigger is better), and fish them as close to the bottom as you can. Recently, I have found gold, black and green combinations have worked best.

It seems like a long time since a early report contained so much exciting and encouraging fishing news, which is a great sign for the warmer months and longer days to come.

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