Approaching reds keep bay tense
  |  First Published: September 2015

The cold and windy start to winter has definitely continued during the last month on the bay. With this continuing trend has also come plenty of welcome rainfall as well, which is music to the ears of many anglers.

While this rain is needed right across the state and has been received in other much needed regions across the state, the late winter rainfall is also crucial for the bay’s food chain, and especially the snapper fishery.

The downside to the upside of our cold and wet late winter has been that many anglers (especially boaters) have not been able to effectively fish due to adverse weather and conditions. The winter snapper success from last season in Western Port and also Port Phillip Bay, and also the recent land-based captures have certainly got many anglers keen, but small windows of opportunity have kept many anglers off the water.

For those anglers who have been able to (or keen enough) to brave the conditions, the rewards have been well worth the effort. I have still been receiving fairly regular reports of good pinkies and larger snapper taken from various land-based locations.

Many of the popular rock platforms along the esplanade from Mount Martha to Safety Beach have been producing snapper of all sizes, as well as the mouth of Martha Cove. Expect this trend to continue and success to become even more consistent as the next migration of snapper get closer.

These areas are also prime spots for salmon at this time of year, and can also produce some solid whiting, although these are more reliable further south at the moment.

And while we are talking about reliable land-based locations, the redevelopment and long-awaited completion of Mornington Pier has finally arrived. The grand opening in Saturday 8 August was a big event, and now many anglers will have full access to their favourite fishing spot. The pier has long been one of the most popular spots for many anglers, and the new improvements provide safer access to the nearby reef and harbour areas. And what timing, too! With the imminent arrival of big numbers of spawning snapper over the next couple of months and beyond, there’s sure to be plenty of big reds (and other species) taken from the new pier this season.

While all this construction has been going on, the rest of the accessible areas surrounding the pier have been producing good numbers of squid and garfish, especially when the water along nearby reefy shores is too dirty. Squid and other sight feeders seem to prefer the cleaner water around the Mornington harbour, especially after recent rain when the nearby storm water drains are dumping fresh water onto the inshore reefs.

Don’t be put off targeting other species however, as many other winter targets like salmon and bream make the most of dirty water influence and the food that it brings. Big numbers of salmon have currently been hanging around the mouth of Patterson River, Kananook Creek and Balcombe Creek, cashing in on the nearby baitfish and other food items around. Spinning with soft plastics, small metal slugs and even drifting baits in these areas is a fun and very effective way to catch a few fish.

I even dusted off the old fly rod recently, and tickled up a few small salmon at the mouth of Balcombe Creek. Muz Wilson’s trusty old Salty BMS was the fly that got it done, but without getting too technical, keep to a small white baitfish pattern, and you’ll catch plenty of salmon. Often getting the fly out to them is the hard bit.

Patterson River has also been producing some lovely bream for the dedicated bait fishers, especially up the top of the system closer to the freeway bridge. The humble scrub worm is the best bait at this time of year, and even other freshwater baits like small yabbies’ and even mealworms are worth a go.

The lure fishers have been doing it a little tougher, but most of the better quality lure caught bream have been falling to crab lures and small vibes. I have had no recent reports of estuary perch or mulloway from the system, but stay tuned.

With the onset of the next ‘silly snapper season’ not too far away, many anglers are already bust gathering bait and doing early recon trips out in the bay to their secret marks. Take my advice, and get out on the bay before the AFL umpires put down their whistles, you won’t be disappointed. It might be a little fresh, but the rewards a worth it.

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