At the time of writing, wild weather in the form of gale force winds have been hammering Port Phillip Bay for days on end. It was quite a show!
As a result of an intense low pressure system, a phenomenon known as a storm surge, which is usually only seen in tropical cyclones, flooded parts of inner city Melbourne as water was forced back up the Yarra River. Combined with a high tide, gale force westerly winds and about 20mm of rain, the river rose rapidly, breaking its banks in parts of the CBD and flooding cafes along Southbank. Houses along the Esplanade at Altona were also affected as waves crashed over the beach breakwall, spilling on to the road and into neighbouring properties. Many piers and jetties were damaged and some boat ramps were inaccessible for days, especially around the high tide mark. Needless to say, not a great deal of fishing has been possible in many parts of the bay of late, though there are a few protected pockets offering refuge from the elements.
Corio Bay is one such area largely unaffected by the surge and strong winds. Anglers in boats can easily tuck in close to the lee shore to fish in relatively calm water. The major drawcard at this time of year is the chance of crossing paths with a big winter red. Many hours, generally at night, are put into taming these beasts, but the rewards are there for those prepared to invest the time. Smaller pinkie snapper have been schooling close to some of the jetty structures in recent weeks. Australian salmon have also been highly active and often spotted herding bait throughout the inner harbour region. Though they’ve been a little slow so far this winter, garfish are expected to be on the go through late July and August.
Once the wild weather eases, land-based anglers will no doubt be looking to lock horns with an inshore, shallow water snapper. Just prior to the storm surge, Michael Felsovary from Hooked on Bait and Tackle had received reports of reds to 4kg turning up along the foreshore at Port Melbourne. These fish were taken well into the night on whole pilchard. Also doing well on the winter snapper, Jim Iliopoulos emailed through a brief report and a few photographs featuring some rippers taken just out from Lagoon Pier, again while fishing under the stars.
Prior to the recent change in weather, the stretch from Point Cook through to Werribee South had been firing for squid and flathead. More recently, however, Corio Bay has been receiving plenty of attention, particularly from those looking to snare a trophy-sized winter red.
Local expert, Danny Skene says although it’s a really tough time of year, these big fish are well worth the effort. He admits, locating snapper on the sounder isn’t too difficult, but getting them to bite can be downright frustrating. Despite their aggressive snatch and scram feeding style through the warmer months, winter reds can be timid biters, often mouthing a bait for lengthy periods before dropping it at the first sign of any resistance.
To combat these conservative habits, Danny opts for a rubber band to tension the line around the spool with up to 2m of slack, sometimes more, to allow the fish to get the bait down and move off before setting the hook. Whole pilchard and silver whiting presented through the late afternoon and well into the night, particularly around the new moon phase, offers the best bite window. Most reds encountered to date have maxed out at about 6kg, though Danny expects the larger 8-9kg plus specimens to turn up during August.
To prove there always an exception to every rule, Dylan Pace and Matt Alsop ventured out on Corio Bay one morning armed with light spin sticks and soft plastics in search of snapper. After sounding up a promising patch, Dylan’s Gulp! Minnow was slammed by an 82cm ripper, which put up a huge tussle on just 8lb line. The boys hammered the area for the next few hours, but could only tempt smaller pinkies and a few flathead.
Large schools of Australian salmon have also been patrolling the inner harbour region. Phil Jordan has been doing well casting both metal slugs and soft plastics within Stingaree Bay.
The metropolitan rivers have been somewhat patchy of late, which is to be expected at this time of year, but there are still fish to be caught for those willing to persist. Flicking a crab imitation from his pedal powered kayak, Dale Baxter managed half a dozen bream amongst various man-made structures in the lower reaches of the Maribyrnong River.
Michael Felsovary had little to report from the Werribee River, with just a handful of bream sighted in recent weeks. Prior to going to print, the water was absolutely crystal clear, which may see the fish pushing further upriver in preparation for spawning.
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