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Spotlight on the gorgeous Mornington Peninsula
  |  First Published: December 2015



To follow on from November’s feature on the coastline of Phillip Island, this month we take a visit to the Mornington Peninsula. Located some 60km from Melbourne’s CBD, the Mornington Peninsula is one of the most pristine and magnificent fishing locations in the state.

Like Phillip Island, the Mornington Peninsula encompasses a huge that provides anglers with the facility to explore many different fishing techniques for a range of species including Australian salmon, silver trevally, flathead, garfish, calamari, snapper, gummy sharks, kingfish, mako sharks and much more.

From Mt Martha to Sorrento, some eight concrete boat ramps are situated in prime locations for anglers to access productive fishing grounds. There are also seven piers to fish from and that’s not including all the smaller jetties and land based spots from where you can catch a good feed of fish. Of course, then you have the back beaches where salmon, gummy shark, mullet, silver trevally, sweep and a host of other species can be caught. Though it sounds like a mouth full, The Mornington Peninsula is a Mecca for anglers of all levels of experience.

Limited to the pages of this magazine, I will stick to covering the most popular and prized species targeted and caught in this area.

LAND BASED OPTIONS

The Mornington Peninsula is a finger-shaped section of land that separates the Bass Strait from Port Phillip Bay and provides anglers with land based fishing locations on both sides.

Along the back beaches, salmon, gummy sharks, silver trevally, yellow eye mullet and sweep are the most common species caught. This is commonly achieved by setting a berley trail either by tossing in handfuls of fish pellets or suspending an onion bag full of pellets into the wash.

Salmon are far from picky when it comes to something to eat but white bait, pipi and blue bait are hot favourites. Silver trevally, mullet and sweep are also happy to take the same baits. Because of the wave action and the fact that you do need to achieve a fair distance to casting into the deeper gutters, a paternoster rig tied from 15lb fluorocarbon leader will suffice.

Gummy sharks on the other hand require a more specialised approach. Gummy sharks are more active at night, especially on the lead up to a full moon when the tides are larger. Fresh baits are always going to yield a better result than frozen and I’d personally opt for using calamari, salmon, trevally or tuna fillet. I suggest using a running sinker rig tied from 60lb with an 80lb bite leader. Always continue to cast your baits into the berley trail as this is where the fish will gather as the trail is established.

Of the most popular beaches, Gunnamatta, St Andrews and Portsea round out the top three that support all of the aforementioned species.

Inside the Bay, the Portsea Pier is a hive of activity through the summer months and is famous for producing calamari, whereas garfish and whiting fish the best during winter months.

Freezing cold mornings during the top of high tide is when most of the calamari action occurs and if it is the big models you’re after, concentrate on late July and August. Jigs in a 3.0 size tend to work best, especially those with a red foil belly. Throughout summer, calamari are still a common catch from the pier but fish on first light before the boat brigade head out. As the sun rises, garfish are also a popular catch with anglers. A simple float setup with size 12 long shank hook and a small piece of silver fish threaded onto that hook will work wonders.

Further around the coast at Sorrento, the same fishing techniques can be used for garfish and calamari although calamari seems to be more popular right through the night. Whiting are also a fun catch by those heavily focused on that specific species. A paternoster rig with pipi for bait will do the job. Just continue to cast to the same location after catching the first one.

The Blairgowrie Marina jetty is an interesting one. During strong westerly winds in the winter and spring, salmon take refuge around the jetty. Anglers spinning with metal slugs from the beach to the left of the jetty tend to do quite well on sizeable salmon. Throughout the rest of the year, garfish and calamari are the two main species caught.

Throughout the summer months, Rosebud and Rye piers also produce similar species to Blairgowrie, Sorrento and Portsea although fishing for large bronze whaler sharks is also quite common for those set up for the task. A big bait such as a half tuna ballooned out into the deep usually finds its mark. If you have a kayak, it could pay to paddle a big bait out also. This technique is usually undertaken at night when there is less boat traffic.

Though these are the main locations to fish from, there are still plenty of beaches and smaller jetties which all produce fish. The best approach is to choose a species and set your rig to suit it.

BOATING OPTIONS

In the boat, there are more fishing options than a fisher could dream about! Snapper, gummy shark, whiting, calamari, salmon and flathead are the most common species caught and can be accessed quite easily from any of the ramps along the coast. The Sorrento boat ramp in particular provides anglers with plenty of access to the bottom end of the bay. Those anglers drifting among the boat moorings heading down toward Portsea catch calamari by casting artificial jigs over the kelp beds. There are also some good whiting grounds in 10m off water out from Point Franklin. When targeting whiting in this region, it pays to fish with pipi baits and use a paternoster rig to keep the baits out of the thick seaweed.

The Sorrento boat moorings are a great location to drift for calamari through winter but in spring are an excellent location to catch garfish, especially if you’re fishing from a small dingy or kayak.

From the Sorrento ramp, anglers can also access Bass Strait through the heads in search of mako shark, thresher shark, kingfish and a huge host of other species.

Anglers launching from Rye have access to some of the best calamari grounds the bay has to offer. The most productive grounds are the shallow flats around the Rye Channel, The Sisters, The White Lady, and the Pinnacle Channel. Once again, drifting is the preferred method over the weed beds and broken ground. Garfish are abundant through spring among the boat moorings at Blairgowrie while snapper are caught during late spring and through the summer months along the edge of the south channel, back of Mud Island, and in the deep around Mt Martha. To find snapper, you’ll have to sound them up first but be sure to set a good berley trail of cubed pilchards after anchoring. Cast your baits out unweighted into the trail and wait for the fish to come on the bite.

Gummy sharks on the other hand may require a different approach. Try to fish the edges of the South Channel during the last few hours of the flood tides during the lead up to the full moons. A running sinker rig is the most effective approach to keep the bait near the bottom where they feed. Fresh calamari strips and tuna fillet are the top baits.

The Mornington Peninsula has so much to offer anglers from all levels of experience and although I have spent most of my life fishing it from the tender age of 7, I am still finding areas that produce fish I would have never thought to find there.

Whether you’re fishing from the land, boat, kayak, jetski, or paddleboard there is always something somewhere to cast a line at.

While I could waffle on all day and night about this place, I want to leave you with just three simple pieces of advice no matter where you fishing from.

Use good quality bait whether it’s fresh or frozen.

Use good quality terminal tackle such as leader and chemically sharpened hooks.

Use berley in an onion bag for land-based fishing and in a berley bucket if fishing from a boat.

Need some bait or tackle? Call into Compleat Angler Rosebud –11 Boneo Rd, Rosebud, (03) 5981 1994.

RECOMMENDED TACKLE BOX FOR BOAT ANGLERS

LEADER: Surecatch fluorocarbon 12lb, 15lb, 20lb. Surecatch Nylon trace 40lb, 60lb and 80lb.
HOOKS: Mustad Octopus 92553NPBN 3/0, 4/0, 5/0 & 6/0, Bloodworm #12, #8, #6, #1, Demon Light Circle 3/0, 5/0 & 6/0
SWIVELS: Mustad Rolling size 10, 6, 1 and 1/0
SINKERS: Bomb style in a variety of weights from 1oz to 16oz
LURES: Zerek Flash Minnows 90mm, Mustad Darter Jig Heads 1/4oz 3/0, 3/8oz 4/0 & 1/4oz 2/0. Yo Zuri Hardcore minnow, Ebi Shad.

RECOMMENDED TACKLE BOX FOR LAND BASED ANGLERS

LEADER:Surecatch fluorocarbon 12lb, 15lb, 20lb. Surecatch Nylon trace 40lb, 60lb and 80lb.
HOOKS:Mustad Octopus 92553NPBN 3/0, 4/0, 5/0 & 6/0, Bloodworm #12, #8, #6, #1, Demon Light Circle 3/0, 5/0 & 6/0
SWIVELS:Mustad Rolling size 10, 6, 1 and 1/0
SINKERS:Bomb and star style in a variety of weights from 1oz to 6oz
LURES:Zerek Flash Minnows 70mm, Mustad Darter Jig Heads 1/4oz 3/0, & 1/4oz 2/0. Metal Slugs in both 25g & 35g, Yo Zuri Hardcore minnow, Ebi Shad.
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