Winter’s depths my favourite
  |  First Published: August 2014

The depths of winter are well and truly upon us but the shortest day has well and truly been and gone and now we stand on the cusp of springlike days.

I am a dyed in the wool estuary angler and this is my favourite time to get stuck into myriad estuary species with bream number one on the list. I know I’m not the only one.

The Hopkins River at Warrnambool has a plethora of bream with most fish averaging around 32 centimetres. Some larger specimens to 37cm are being caught but this is the exception rather than the rule. The floods of a few years ago and overfishing have combined to diminish the stocks of blue nosed bream in this system but the recruitment of new stock in the meantime has been a definite indication that the future looks bright regarding this estuary. Swings and roundabouts I suppose.

These pan sized bream are responding well to a wide variety of locally gathered fresh baits. Cut crab gathered from around The Cave at low tide has been a very successful bait to employ. When overturning the rocks please place them back in their original position and only take what you need. Brown shell pumped at low tide near the mouth has also taken many bream and just downstream of the road bridge on the western bank the weed beds here hold shrimp. Again only take what you need and remember the bream and estuary perch are currently residing downstream at this time of year, but come September, as long as heavy rains recede, the fish will begin to return to the upper reaches. There’s still plenty of ‘soapy’ mulloway to 3kg about in the system giving many an angler a pleasant shock when they take the bait.

Some excellent salmon schools are holding tight to our beaches with some fish landed exceeding 3kg although a hot bite might well mean sorting through the smaller ones until a ‘biggun’ takes the bait. Double paternoster rigs with a 1oz sinker and size 2/0 bait holder hooks baited with pilchard fillets and squid strips are doing the damage.

Those in the know are still successfully fishing for King George Whiting to 37cm with a tidal change occurring after dark the prime time. This period is also effective for gummy shark to 13kg so don’t downgrade your terminal tackle specifically for whiting - upgrade it to handle small gummies. Remember you are braving the elements after dark so the fish cannot work your line strength.

Schools of silver trevally to 900g are menacing our coastline with the Warrnambool Breakwater and the Port Campbell Pier the hot spots. Soft baits such as craytail and pippi meat are attracting these fish into biting.

It won’t be long now before the snapper move inshore to breed and feed and down our way they follow the calamari squid that come inshore to breed and subsequently end their life cycles. Along our coastline the biggest snapper are encountered prior to Christmas and even though the weather can be still unpredictable and quite cool, the snapper (that average 4kg) won’t be far behind. Use whole squid baited on a ganged rig that is very lightly weighted and when you get an enquiry, sit on your hands and allow the fish to eventually engulf your offering and take line at a great rate of knots before striking. Bring it on!

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