Despite the cooler temperatures settling in over the state, Western Port’s winter fishery is about to fire up in a big way. It is this time of year when many anglers begin to pack up and store their boats for the long winter ahead, but don’t put it all away just yet, there’s still plenty of good fish on offer if you can withstand the cold.
Many of our regular species have begun leaving for warmer waters but a significant amount still set up residence and stay for the entire year. These include snapper and whiting, which if you know where too look can be caught in relatively good numbers.
Although the whiting may not be in abundance as during the summer months, catching a good half dozen is a good result. Mind you, these fish won’t be the piddly little ones you’d normally expect; rather you can expect them to be in excess of 40cm if you concentrate on locations where they are known to be, especially around the entrances.
Below the bridge at San Remo, the whiting are quite consistent throughout the winter period. Most of the area ranges in depths of 3-5m and consists of thick weed and sand holes. It is amongst these sand holes where the whiting are found. In saying that, there is also an abundance of big calamari over these weed beds that can be caught from both the beach and from in a boat.
When the conditions have allowed anglers to venture out, few anglers have continued on the search of whiting and have found some very nice fish. One angler, Garry, managed 6 whiting with the largest measuring 48cm using pipi and mussel for bait.
A little north of the bridge at Dickies Bay is another well known whiting fishery. During the run-out tide, there has been a significant amount of garfish pushing in over the sand flat that have been caught using a float set up. Those fishing for whiting in the same area have been doing well with some fish exceeding 45cm.
Although the Corals is a well known location for its snapper and elephants in season, throughout the next few weeks things will begin to slow up.
In saying that, this location always produces small school sharks, snapper and gummy sharks. The majority of them are smaller in size, providing your fishing quality baits such as squid, trevally fillet and salmon fillet, gummies to 5kg can be caught.
The schoolies will be quick to find your baits and often bite you off, so tie your rigs from 60-80lb trace and use a 4/0 or 5/0 KL design circle hook to avoid this from occurring.
The run of elephants this season was certainly welcomed by many anglers, especially those fishing from the sand.
Corinella is always a great location to fish land-based, whether it’s from the pier or from Settlement Point, elephants, whiting, trevally, salmon, gummy sharks and the odd pinkie snapper can be caught.
The elephants certainly haven’t been a let down and anglers spread from Corinella to Stockyard Point have done very well catching them.
With that said, Stockyard Point was a top spot for the elephants and while they will begin to head offshore for the season, the beach has already been producing quite a noticeable amount of gummy sharks, which is really good for this time of year.
In the past, Stockyard Point has fished extremely well throughout the winter period, but that is only if you can endure the long walk in as well as being able to withstand the cold night temperatures. This is a low tide fishery only so make sure you get your tide times right.
Stony Point produces some amazing fish from the pier year round, but as the water temperature drops, night fishing for calamari is extremely productive. Most of the action will occur around two hours either side of a high tide change.
Calamari are a sucker for a smelly bait and as effective as artificial jigs can be, bait fishing is often more productive. Silver whiting suspended under a float on a prong is about as simple as the rig can get. Make sure you cast into the direction of the current, so it flows with the force of the tide past the pier.
Some of the calamari caught here can exceed 2kg, so make sure you pack a net to aid in lifting them onto the pier.
It is common knowledge that the Western Entrance is the home of the big gummy shark and, while they are still a possible catch over the next few months, smaller models in the 5-10kg range will be more common. The reason being is that the larger females have already entered the Port and done their thing and have gone again.
At this time of year, the smaller models tend to be a more popular catch for those fishing this location. Still, if you’re persistent, larger fish are a possible catch.
Fresh baits are the key, including trevally, salmon and calamari. Tackle World Cranbourne customer, Michael Phillips, fished off Buoy 14 recently and managed to catch and release two gummies of an estimated 12-14kg.
If there is one beach to try your luck from during the cold winter nights, Balnarring takes the cake. During the lead up to the full moons, gummy sharks become more active in their feeding patterns. Fishing two hours either side of the high tide is when you’ll most likely catch them providing you’re using a good selection of baits.
It can be difficult casting big baits out a fair distance, which is where a paternoster rig with extra long droppers works well. Specifically pre-tied land-based shark rigs are all the rage now. Bite me rigs are developed for land-based anglers making casting big baits far out, much easier. The bait hangs onto the sinker when cast and once it hits the water, dislodges and floats upward. The sinker anchors itself as the bait freely floats around with the current.
Using these rigs can allow you a much further cast than if you are using a paternoster rig or running sinker rig, which are typically used.
I recently hit the sand at Merricks Beach with mates Nick Bailey and Trent one very cold evening. I hadn’t fished in a while and was desperate to wet a line so just decided to join them. It was one of those impromptu trips where everything was the opposite of what I usually fish, especially during a run-out tide, but the end result was worth it.
Trent set the hooks into a solid seven-gill shark that took a tuna head bait and the best part to 30 minutes to land. We estimated it at around 60-70kg and released it a short time later. Around 20 minutes after releasing the fish, Nick hooked into one that was estimated around the same size, except this one took a trevally fillet.
Two nights later, Nick and Trent head back to Merricks and once again hooked into another giller that they estimated at over 100kg and was also released. Funnily enough, these fish are being caught in only 2-3m of water.
There is so much fishing to be done throughout the next few months and whether you’re in a boat or fishing from the beach, there are a lot of species that can be targeted. Just remember though, it is going to get very cold and wet so ensure your set up for the night with the right tackle, bait and clothing.Reads: 2021