Riding the surf’s rewards
  |  First Published: July 2014

There is no doubting that a Victorian winter is cold and bleak but on the brighter side, the salmon fishing really hots up. Victoria’s rugged coastline abounds with salmon during the cooler months providing land-based anglers with a few months of sensational fishing opportunities. During early May, hoards of salmon enter Port Phillip Bay and Western Port rounding up large schools of baitfish.

They stay in the confines of these two waterways until late May after which they seem to all but disappear. It is at this time that the salmon follow the schools of baitfish into the surf zones and spread out right along the coast. Further to the east and west, this is a little different as the fish filter in from offshore and enter the surf zones for the winter months.

While they take up residence, anglers from right around the state, descend on their local beaches keen to get into the action.


Victorian surf fishing tends not to warrant the elite in fishing gear but due to the high salinity of the beaches, the constant spray of salt and sand can take its toll on rods and reels if they don’t receive regular maintenance.

The basic outfit is a 10-12ft rod rated 8-10kg and while the fish average a 1-2kg, the reason for such a heavy rod is to support a heavy casting weight. More of the beaches will require star sinkers in either a 5-6oz weight to combat side wash, which occurs during a strong blow.

If you’re into spinning with lures then a much lighter rod will be required. Rods in a 9ft length with a casting weight of 60g will allow more control of the lure on the retrieve.

When it comes to matching a reel to your chosen rod, you will require something that is going to last. For most of the beaches being fished, smaller reels in a 6000 series will fit the bill and hold more than enough line required. In the past, anglers once used reels capable of holding 400m of 25lb monofilament whereas nowadays a reel that holds 300m of 20lb braid will suffice. If you’re targeting gummy sharks you may want to grab a larger reel with something in the 8000 or 10,000 series that’s capable of holding at least 300m of 50lb braid.

When it comes to spinning you only need a smaller sized reel with something in a 4000 series that is loaded with 10lb braid.


Gunnamatta surf beach is the most popular beach to fish from along the Mornington Peninsula. With around 15km of fishable beach, it abounds with deep gutters in which salmon can be found.

From the sand dunes anglers have good visibility along both sides of the beach to choose which gutter to begin fishing.

Tackle and tactics

The gutters along Gunnamatta are quite deep on the top of the high tide while on the low; tend to shallow out causing the fish to move out of casting range. Before casting out the first bait, take a minute to set a berley trail to attract the fish to the chosen gutter.

Providing you keep this berley trail constant, the fish will move in quite quickly. The most productive technique is to use a paternoster rig tied from 15lb fluorocarbon leader with two droppers each containing a 1/0 bait holder hook. The sand crabs aren’t that bad along here so surf poppers are only an option not a requirement. Blue bait, white bait and pipi are all worthy baits to use.

Gunnamatta is also an extremely productive beach to fish for gummy sharks. They tend to show up a few days before and after the full moon when the tides are greater.

A light berley trail is required to attract gummies to the area fished – this can be done by using an onion bag with a pre-purchased frozen tuna log placed into it. Secured off to a rod holder, this berley can wash around in the surf attracting fish.

The most effective rig is a fixed sinker rig tied from 60lb trace. The reason for such heavy leader is to aid when dragging the fish through the shore break. Most of the time fish are lost when waves dump on them in the shallows.

The ideal hook is a Black Magic 6/0 KL circle so the fish can hook itself. Gummies respond well to a wide variety of baits but where possible, fresh trevally fillet, salmon filler or calamari is by far the most effective.


Cape Woolamai surf beach also incorporates Anzacs Beach. When the salmon are firing, this entire stretch fishes very well, although anglers will have to be aware of surfers from time to time.

When the tide is high, salmon will move in to the close gutters in search of food enabling anglers to cast in close to where they will be located.

Tackle and tactics

Cape Woolamai is an extremely popular beach in winter mainly due to its close proximity to Melbourne. The gutters are quite deep and some are lined with rocks and reef, which keep the gutters at a constant depth.

Fishing around the rocks can lead to snags and bust-offs in which a paternoster rig tied from 20lb fluorocarbon will benefit. To further avoid snagging, it pays to use spoon sinkers. These have no sharp edges and can be pulled from rocky crevices rather than becoming snagged.

While the salmon may be wide spread, berley will aid in confining them to the gutter you’re fishing.

Berley methods should be undertaken in the same manner as with the other beaches by using an onion bag filled with fish scraps, pilchards or tuna oil soaked pellets. The most productive fishing is during the rising tide and in particular on days where it is overcast. This will keep the fish in close rather than scattered along the entire beach.

Lure fishing is also productive with both soft plastics and metal lures catching their fair share of fish. When a berley trail is established, it pays to cast and retrieve lures through the trail. Remember when berleying that you don’t have to cast great distances. Nearly always, the salmon will swim right into the shore break looking for the food source. In this case, discarding the bait rod and using a lure rod can be highly entertaining.


Kilcunda incorporates two beaches, Kilcunda Main Beach and Cemetery Beach that is located a few hundred meters to the left. These two beaches receive most of attention during the winter period mainly because of their easy access points from along the Bass Highway.

Kilcunda has two main gutters to the left and right of the stairs with a large rocky point also on the left. Cemetery on the other hand also has two main gutters that are quite deep.

These two beaches fish considerably well during a westerly blow but can become quite weedy making fishing a challenge.

Tackle and tactics

Kilcunda and Cemetery beaches can be descried as ‘standing room only’ during the winter months for the reason that they can be absolutely packed on weekends. These two beaches always fish well throughout the winter and while they aren’t known for numbers of big fish, are still very consistent with fish ranging 300g to 2kg on occasion.

When the westerlies winds blow the weed can heavily affect the fishing. In this case, a paternoster rig tied from 20lb fluorocarbon leader will offer some abrasion resistance and strength against the kelp, which you may become tangled in.

Salmon have quite a big mouth so stick to using a 1/0 sized bait holder style hook.

Salmon will respond well to a variety of baits but most fish tend to be taken on blue bait, white bait and pipi.

Like all surf beaches, berley is an effective method to keep the fish confined to the gutter you’re fishing. Often, anglers will fish the beach and just cast out a single bait. While they will catch a fish or two, using berley will bring in the whole school.


Williamsons Beach is arguably the producer of the largest salmon caught right along this section of the coast but not to give false hope; if they aren’t there when you first begin fishing, they will be somewhere along this stretch of beach.

To find them, use a little berley and fish the high tide.

Williamsons Beach is very deep on the high tide, which is why larger sized fish are regularly caught.

Tackle and tactics

Williamsons Beach has two main gutters almost directly in front of the walking path as you enter the beach. These two gutters fish best on the rising tide as the gutters can often be calved deeper stirring up the sand. Salmon will push in close at this time and with a consistent berley trail you’ll attract them in no time.

There are many different ways to berley effectively but for a constant flow without having to remember to toss in a handful, use an onion bag and secure it to a rod holder. A paternoster rig is still the most effective but should be tied from 20lb fluorocarbon with 2/0 sized bait holder hooks. This beach can experience some very strong side wash due to its depth and anglers will require 5-6oz star or grappling sinkers to hold bottom.

If berley is being used and the side wash is considerably strong, a 5-6oz bomb sinker should be used to slowly drift with the berley trail.

If you’re casting baits out and noticing the berley washing to the left or right you will find you won’t get much action. Staying in the berley trail is the key to success on any beach.

While there are specific techniques associated with different beaches, the main key to success is to use berley. It can be the difference between going home with a feed rather than empty-handed. The next time you’re thinking about hitting the surf, grab an onion bag, some pellets and tuna oil and get fishing.

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