Just as the AFL season draws to an end, another much anticipated and keenly followed event has finally arrived.
Yes, the long awaited Port Phillip snapper season is here and set to explode. Indeed, the talk on various online forums and social media suggests local anglers have been gearing up for months - collecting bait, servicing reels, preparing rigs, consulting tide charts and studying diaries and old fishing reports in preparation for what promises to be yet another bumper season.
Gathering just outside the heads, schools of migrating pre-spawn reds usually start to arrive on Melbourne’s doorstep anytime from late September through to October. One of the key target areas in the west is the stretch from Williamstown to Altona. Here the seabed primarily consists of sand, weed and rubble, though some of the more productive marks also comprise scallop beds and heavier reef matted in cunjevoi – prime feeding ground for hungry snapper! Given many of the major hot spots are situated within relatively close proximity of the public boat ramps at Newport and Altona, this area particularly appeals to anglers with smaller crafter, including tinnies and kayaks.
The entrance to the Yarra River through to the Williamstown Football Ground reef is a popular inshore target area at this time of year. Further around at Altona, a shallow water marker indicates the presence of another prominent reef.
Pete Mesto, and no doubt many others, experienced some amazing shallow water reds in this area last year, especially during rough conditions of an evening. Whilst smaller pinkie snapper are mostly what’s on offer across the inner reefs, if you get the timing just right, it can be game on for a few weeks during mid to late spring.
Out wider, the yellow P2 marker buoy and surrounding area would have to be one of the most frequented haunts for snapper anglers across the entire top section of Port Phillip. The ground here is fairly nondescript, but seemingly ideal for grazing snapper. Some early season reds to 8kg seem to turn up each year, though the usual run of school fish more commonly average 2-3kg or thereabouts.
Looking back to this time last year, consistent catches of snapper to 5kg were taken just south of P2 in 17m of water on pilchard. Learning how to operate and read your sounder is the key to finding schools in deeper water. Some of the new models allow you to scan at fairly high speed, which means you can quickly cover ground and still mark snapper, baitfish and likely looking structure.
Aside from snapper, some reasonable flathead can be expected to start showing up this month. Making the most of fine conditions, Brad Morcombe ducked out from Williamstown in his tinny hoping to secure a feed. Fishing both at anchor and on the drift with strips of squid for bait, Brad’s eight year old daughter, Holly, managed a respectable 47cm flathead - just her second fish ever!
From previous experience, the inner reefs at Point Cook are probably still another month away from hitting their peak, but you never know. Casting soft plastics on the drift is a good way to prospect the shallows and cover ground relatively quickly. You’ll soon know if there are a few snapper around, or flathead for that matter, as they rarely pass up a well-rigged softie.
Reliable patterns to try include worm and baitfish imitations, including Berkley Gulp Turtle Back varieties and Crazy Legs Jerk Shads. It’s also well worth having a squid jig wafting around at the back of the boats drift, particularly along the 4-6m line.
Further west, Point Wilson and Clifton Springs generally experience a good run of snapper from early October. Anchoring and berleying along either side of the shipping channel is popular for those fishing with a spread of fresh and frozen baits. Over the past few years, some innovative crew have also found success trolling deep diving lures on down riggers. Most soft plastic enthusiasts generally prefer to seek out shallower sections of reef and rubble. Regardless of your chosen method, the presence of baitfish, which in turn attracts larger predators including snapper, is often crucial early in the season.
Reports from the metropolitan rivers have been somewhat scarce in recent weeks, though there are still quite a few bream up for grabs for those fishing with traditional live baits in both the Maribyrnong and Werribee Rivers. At this time of year, the resident bream seem more intent on spawning rather than chasing down lures, but this will change as the water temperature rises over the coming months. In the meantime, live tube worms, Bass yabbies and fresh mussel are your best bet, particularly in the deeper middle to upper tidal reaches of our local river systems.
Reports, including a general description of when, where and how the fish were caught, and photographs may be submitted via email to --e-mail address hidden--Reads: 999