Red attack: keep the pace
  |  First Published: September 2015

So it begins. As I draw a deep breath I can think only of snapper. Finally, winter has passed, spring is in the air and small pockets of snapper are schooling up on the inshore reefs waiting for the water temperature to rise enough to bring them on the bite.

Victorian saltwater anglers would all be biting at the bit right now. Waiting for a spike in the barometer, a morning high tide change or a 10-15 knot westerly to head out in search of an early season red.

I love this time of year because the depressing winter days are over and everyone is getting toey. Tackle stores are crawling with anglers buying up new hooks and re-spooling their line, some are even out on the water gathering fresh bait for the following weeks first snapper session.

Whatever mindset you have, keep in mind that you can burn yourself out very easily. Snapper aren’t the easiest fish to catch even in the peak of the season and even more challenging in spring.

The September/October period requires anglers to fish hard for reds, which means being on the water when events, such as a rising barometer or high tide change, on first light. These key factors can, and usually are, when fish will bite during the early season. In saying that, you still have to find fish. There is no point just driving out and dropping the anchor hoping to catch something. Rather, head out, use your sounder and find fish, then fish for them. Snapper are a very unique species and although they will flood the Port in the coming weeks, catching them throughout September and October can provide a real challenge.

The first signs of snapper arriving in the Port are usually when reports of barracouta are reported off Lysaghts and in the North Arm. Then reports of snapper from Spit Point, Corinella and Tenby Point begin.

Those land-based fishing also have a fair chance at catching the odd red from Settlement Point, Corinella Pier, Tenby Point and Stockyard Point. Only time on the water will lead you to success but don’t go too hard too early or you’ll burn yourself out before the season ends.

Gummy Sharks

Snapper aside, gummy sharks have continued on strong now with reports being more regular in the past month than the entire winter. August is usually a change over month for species and as the water temp begins to slowly warm, snapper, trevally, whiting and gummy sharks all seem to kick into gear.

Shaun Furtiere from Think Big Charters has been dominating the gummies throughout winter and into spring. Although he is about to make the switch to snapper anytime; I’m sure by the end of this month Shaun will be snapper happy and working his way around the Port with great success.

Of late, most of his gummy shark action has been in the Western Entrance with some very impressive models caught. Most of the fish have fallen during the run-out tide and at night when they are most active.

Fresh baits have been the key.


Although it is an exciting time of year and the snapper aren’t in full firing mode just yet, the first two to three weeks of this month are a good time to go out bait gathering. When you are in search of snapper, using fresh bait will always enhance your chances and finding where to catch it can be a problem from time to time.

In Western Port, there are many areas to gather baits, such as slimy mackerel, yellowtail scad, trevally, mullet, salmon and even King George whiting.

The better locations are around the bottom end of the middle spit, Tankerton Jetty, Tortoise Head bank and along the flats at Silver Eaves. For sure success, fish a paternoster rig with Mustad size 8 Bloodworm hook. Place on two small pieces of pipi and fish back into a fine berley trail.

You can also cast out a silver whiting on a squid prong, which is suspended under a float. Calamari in the area will move in on berley trails and should you have a baited jig back in the trail, you can also catch some calamari.

Once you do have a good bait selection, remember to take home a good bucket of saltwater and freeze your bait in the water in zip bags. This will keep them fresh for months without freezer burn.

Good Whiting

If you’re not into bait gathering or fishing for snapper or gummy sharks just yet, there are still some good whiting about.

Those fishing for them at this time of year tend to keep it quiet to relive an area from boat noise. Good friend Alex Obrien has been doing well with whiting to 42cm. On most of his trips, catches of 12-18 fish are common. Alhough he has been fishing different areas, Balnarring has been the most productive. In saying that, there has also been some nice whiting and calamari at Flinders near the Mussel Farm.

As the water temperature increases this month, fishing during a rising tide at night will be very popular from the Flinders Pier. Whiting will be the main target, but take a second rod and some berley. Fishing for garfish is very productive but few anglers engage in fishing for them here. A fine berley trail is required with a float set up and size 12 Mustad 4540 1/2 hook. This hook works particularly well on garfish due to its fin gauge and offset point.

There are plenty of options this month and it all comes down to being creative and adventurous. Always keep in mind that the snapper can be challenging so don’t go too hard too early.

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