Mid-autumn is always a pleasant time of year to fish the western flank of Port Phillip Bay.
Sheltered by light offshore westerly winds for the most part, the fishing can fire at times with a range of species still feeding with vigour across the shallow inner reefs. In addition, Melbourne’s metropolitan rivers also offer plenty of variety as pinkie snapper, juvenile salmon and yellow-eye mullet begin to move in amongst the resident bream and school mulloway.
Pinkie snapper are gradually starting to assemble in greater numbers on the inshore reefs around the top end of Port Phillip. As is often the case, first and last light present the best opportunity to tangle with these feisty critters. While most fish encountered recently have been averaging just 25-35cm, there’s a good chance you’ll pick up a larger red during low light periods. Worm pattern soft plastics, such as Gulp Turtle Back Worms, rigged on 1/12-1/8oz jigheads generally provide the most consistent action and when the fish are on, don’t be surprised if they’re intercepted just a few metres below the surface.
Looking back to this time last year, King George whiting were active beyond the reef at the back of Williamstown Cricket Ground right through to the main beach, particularly in 6-8m of water. A few respectable flathead to 40cm or thereabouts can be expected in this area when chasing whiting with baits of pipi, mussel and squid. Flathead are also a common by-catch for those targeting pinkie snapper with soft plastics.
Whiting and squid have been the mainstay around at Point Cook and the action is expected to continue over the coming month. The squid in this area are generally smaller than their Bellarine brothers and sisters and seem to prefer 2.5-3 size jigs.
It’s been another solid month for Jason Farrugia of Magnet Fishing Charters with some hot action on the whiting grounds at Werribee South, Kirks Point and Wilson Spit. Jason says there been some ripping fish to 40cm+ amongst plenty of smaller models.
Over the past few weeks, a terrific run of pinkie snapper have also arrived in the shallows. While most are quite small, averaging just a few centimetres either side of the legal size limit, there have been a few up around the 40cm mark taken alongside whiting and some heft blue spot flathead.
Across at Corio Bay, pinkie snapper and flathead can be expected to remain a viable target for anglers casting soft plastics on the drift across the local spoil grounds. Keen lure angler, Phillip Jordan, has been doing well from Stingaree Bay right through to Clifton Springs. Casting ahead of the boat in 3-5m of water has resulted in several pinkies to 35cm and some good eating size flatties to 45cm on most occasions.
The unofficial start of the Melbourne mulloway season generally gets underway in late March with most encounters experienced from either side of Easter through to mid-winter.
I say ‘encounters’ rather than ‘captures’ because many of these beasts are hooked by anglers chasing bream on lightweight spin tackle, which inevitably leads to disappointment! Those who specifically target metropolitan mulloway with more appropriate tackle stand a much greater chance, but a fair percentage are still lost amongst the structure laden shores of both the Maribyrnong and Yarra rivers.
Local mulloway maestro, Abz Azman recently secured his first of the season with a beauty estimated at 8kg+ succumbing to a live mullet rigged on a 7/0 hook attached to 60lb leader material. Serious tackle when compared to finesse bream gear, yet one he hooked earlier still managed to get away. Abz says this fish slammed a live mullet just 30 seconds after it hit the water and proved too much to handle, despite the heavy equipment.
As the water temperature gradually cools over the coming months, expect the resident bream to start schooling in the deeper sections of the river. Traditional live baits, including live sand or tube worm and Bass yabbies, provide consistent results year round. Casting small diving minnows in tight to the reed banks and snags is also still well worth a shot, before the fish bunker down over the cooler months.
During the latter stages of summer, Melbourne Water, in conjunction with Southern Rural Water, released approximately 200ML of water from Merrimu Reservoir into the Werribee River for environmental purposes. According to Environmental Water Planner, Bill Moulden, the main purpose of the release was to provide nursery habitat for juvenile black bream in the estuary. Monitoring by the DPI earlier in the year found many juvenile fish in the upper reaches of the estuary near Werribee Golf Club. It was hoped the release would push these fish downstream towards the sea grass beds at the river mouth, which provide food and protection from predators.
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