The annual snapper migration has arrived and the stage is set for another big season. One of the key target areas at this time of year is Hobsons Bay, in particular the stretch from Port Melbourne across to Williamstown and around to Altona. We’ve already seen reds of 3-5kg show up just beyond the inner reefs at Williamstown as well as a few more out wider from Altona at P2 and surrounding areas. Further west, some serious reds of 6-7kg have been taken down the road at Geelong. Whether these fish are new arrivals or Corio Bay residents doesn’t really matter - the snapper are on and it’s time to hit the water!
Fishing at anchor with various baits presented un-weighted or via a light running sinker rig is a tried and trusted technique. The humble pilchard is by far the most successful bait, followed by silver whiting and freshly caught squid. Over the past few seasons, some very large snapper have also been taken on small - but legal size - Australian salmon which tend to school around the mouth of the Yarra River. Regardless of your choice of hook bait, a steady stream of berley in the form of cubed pilchard is essential to keep the fish interested and schooled up behind the boat.
Chasing snapper on the drift with lightweight spin tackle and soft plastics continues to increase in popularity. Basically, the technique involves using a tailing breeze to make a full length cast into undisturbed water ahead of the boat. Wriggly tail patterns such as the new Gulp! Nemesis range as well as the Turtle Back Worm and Crazy Legs Jerk Shad varieties each have an inbuilt action and swim enticingly on the drop - which is when most hits occur. Selecting an appropriate jig-head and hook pattern is crucial. As a general guide, weights of 1/8-1/6oz. are ideal for prospecting shallow ground less than around 8m in depth. Moving into 10-20m of water, a 1/4-3/8oz. weighted jig-head should get a plastic down deep enough in most conditions. A 1/0-3/0 hook pattern is generally the go, depending of course on the size of the soft plastic.
Indeed it is possible to combine both methods, and quite a few locals do well by berleying up at anchor, setting the bait rods and then flicking a plastic to pass the time. One of the many benefits to having a softie rigged up while bait fishing is that you can often trigger a reaction bite from snapper that are not necessarily dialled into feeding mode.
Squid continue to provide an option for anglers surveying the inner reefs and weed beds between Point Wilson and Point Cook. More recently however, early season snapper have been the major drawcard with a fine run of reds averaging 2-4kg taken in 5-6m of water just out from the abandoned jetty. The Victorian Recreational Fishing Peak-Body (VRFish) is exploring the possibility of having Point Cook pier restored for use by recreational anglers. The pier once provided a popular land-based option for anglers west of Melbourne in search of calamari, snapper, King George whiting, flathead, silver trevally, and bream. Records indicate it has been closed for the past decade and given the projected growth in fishing and housing growth in the area, it’s about time it was revamped and reopened.
Judging by the amount of bait schools stationed at the entrance to the Yarra River and the adjacent shallow reefs, it will only be a matter of time before the reds arrive in numbers. Recently, pilchard baits have accounted for the odd snapper to 5kg, but many more are expected in the near future.
Though most anglers have their sights firmly fixed on snapper at this time of year, the resident bream should start to come alive as we move further into spring. Come October, spawning rituals should be largely taken care of and the fish more actively on the lookout for a feed. Casting small diving minnows along the rock wall that line sections of both the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers will be well worth a shot. Likewise, the boat hulls at Williamstown and the maze of jetty pylons within Victoria Harbour at Docklands can turn up some good bream at this time of year. Whilst the Melbourne mulloway scene slowed somewhat through the latter parts of winter, mid to late spring has seen a surge in activity over the past few years particularly for those pitching soft plastics at bait schools and structure.
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