Reefies in abundance
  |  First Published: April 2014

As we move into April and the early mornings get a slight chill, it’s time to start thinking about which species to target.

The land-based guys are gearing up for whiting and blue salmon up the beaches, and any of the lesser mackerels at Rosslyn Bay and a few of the local headlands. Blue salmon school up at this time of year and usually run the beaches between the mouth of the Fitzroy River and Corio Bay. They stop at plenty of spots depending on where the bait schools are and how much fresh the river is pushing. In the river they can be anywhere from the cut though downstream to the Narrows, Long beach and Rundles.

Coorooman Creek is prime for blues, especially around the timbers and sand banks at the creek mouth. Rita Mada, Kinka Beach, The Causeway and Ross Creek are all handy places to catch a feed of salmon, though not in the numbers at the better spots. At times Rosslyn Bay Harbour is the best location on the coast because the salmon follow in the large schools of greenback and yorkie herrings. They hit them hard in the harbour entrance or just inside before the wharves. When the blues are on at the harbour you’ll see guys in tinnies drifting and casting small Flashas or Pegrons.

The Bluff Rocks on the bottom end of Farnborough Beach are a good spot. In the late afternoon and evening blue salmon cruise around the rocks on the rising tides, smashing the herring pinned against the rocks.

The mouth of Barwells Creek is another spot where salmon gather in numbers. A few years ago Nev Brooks nailed a blue over 8kg fishing the beach when the tide was running out of the creek.

Salmon can also be thick at Farnborough Beach and Corio Bay. Blues work the gutters and channel edges like tailor and will even take pillies on ganged hooks. The trick is to fish the gutters when there is a bit of chop making a lot of white water. You flick the pilly into the area where the white water starts to clear and keep it moving slowly. Once you have worked it into the clearer water it’s time to put it back out for another go. If you don’t get a salmon in the first few casts, try the other gutters right up in the entrance to Corio and Fishing Creek.

When you are looking for blues you’ll find they’re often at whiting spots either chasing whiting or the soldier crabs and yabbies that draw in the whiting. I do the Rexy trick and thread three or four large yabbies by the tail onto a 3/0, a long trace and a small pea sinker. Salmon like a bait that is moving around, either in the current or alive. Whiting fillets on a couple of small gangs or about a 3/0 long shank can be another option when they aren't really on the chew.

Up the bay last weekend there were several quality fish scored along the edge of the dirty water current line heading into Water Park Creek.


Whiting are starting to come on in some of the local estuaries. Since then reports have come in from Long Beach, Coorooman Creek, Kinka Beach, The Narrows, The Causeway (on the seaward side), Lammamoor Beach, Ross Creek, Barwells Creek, Farnborough Beach and Corio Bay of one or two of the better whiting reaching 450 and 460mm.

Beachworms and yabbies are doing well, with prawns rounding off the more popular baits. Work the tides at the edges of channels and sandbanks in the creeks and the gutters on the beach where there is a little bit of white water coming over the banks. I used to think that the run-in was the best, but some places like the mouths of Barwells, Ross and Coorooman can switch on with the run-out tide.

Five Rocks, Three Rivers and Nine Mile also produce quality fish very regularly and like Farnborough Beach you can get your bait at your feet. If you can't catch beachworms, take someone who can so they can teach you. Failing that, all the bait and tackle shops have frozen worms that do the trick just fine. When we were kids we would go down the beach right at the bottom of the tide and bury a few fish scraps and bits of cut up pipis so that the passing schools of whiting would stop right where we wanted them. Be prepared because rays, shovelnose, flathead, bream and salmon all feed in the spots that whiting do and re often the bycatch.


Fishing in the bay could be a lucky dip this year. With the fresh flow from The Fitzroy virtually non-existent, the bay is in great shape. The continual flow and heavy rains of previous years hasn’t eventuated and the dredging of the harbour is complete, meaning that the water will be clear and clean within a day or so of any big blow.

The good news is that schools of bait, all the mackerels, trevally and tuna should be passing through instead of bypassing Keppel Bay. We all love the wet years and they are needed for the breeding cycles of all our local species, but the dirty water keeps the big schools of pelagics out wide and out of reach for the area’s many tinnies.

This is the period we expect all the lesser mackerels to arrive. There has been the odd doggy (school) and spotted mackerel showing at the islands, among the smaller Spanish that have turned up. The spots to check are places such as Barron, Humpy, Outer, Man and Wife, Ritamada, Pelican, Conical, Liza Jane Shoals, Pinnacles and The Keppels.

None of the Spanish are very big fish, although at 6-10kg they are a great eating size. Providing conditions stay the same, doggy mackerel will be about and they'll continue to move into the bay during this month. Make sure you have the sizes and measure any close fish because the fines are worth more than the fish.

Spotted mackerel are likely to come in as well as there have been a few showing at other spots along the coast. As a rule with the others, grey mackerel in the 2-3kg range should appear in some quantity and they are going to increase in numbers with good weather. Being mainly a coastal mackerel they usually hang in to the closer spots such as Double Heads, Farnborough or Corio Heads.

Anglers have been picking up a few snapper of late, which is unusual in the warmer months. I still call them squire but they were legal none the less. They were all caught on plastics, mainly Transams, Thready Busters and various imitations. The guys who caught them were working reefy rubble drop-offs around Man and Wife and Barren. I haven’t seen any caught on baits in the usual spots and these were all caught during the day. If this is anything to go by it could be a good year for snapper.

Reef fish are in abundance in April around the islands and out wide. Red-throat emperor, grassy sweetlip, red jew, cod, huge parrot and blue tooth are lifting the spirits for plenty of the fishers frustrated with the weather in recent weeks. There is a run of just legal reds around 600mm in very close to the islands, and a tip is to find the yakkas. Any of the rubble patches behind the islands have fish, as do most of the usual reef patches in close.

Coral trout are in good supply around the islands and shoal areas. Cobia, yellowtail kingfish, samsonfish, rosy jobfish, cod and a heap of other species are all on the menu during April and into May.

Starting to come into play are black jew, which have already been taken in small quantities at Double Heads and Corio Heads.

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