Reds still raging
  |  First Published: February 2016

Long spells of warm weather have been the trend for most of January, and although easterly winds have persisted, the fishing has remained consistent for the bay anglers.

Warm, dry conditions have resulted in clear inshore areas, which make shallow water fishing much more effective during low light conditions. The offshore easterly winds have also pushed a large majority of the bait into deeper water, and many of the inshore reef species out a little wider in search of food.

Many of the holiday anglers visiting the bay, and a good chunk of the locals as well, are still focused on the snapper action out wide. Productive areas have been the 19-21m lines out from Mornington, Mount Martha and Safety Beach. Most of the reports I have received suggest that the snapper have still been very hit and miss, and often a few location changes have been necessary to put a few reds in the boat.

Anglers have also reported that even though the size and quality of the fish is generally high, substantial numbers are uncommon. Competition for food is a big factor in this situation as there is generally a lack of smaller school sized snapper mixed in with the larger fish. In addition to this, the massive amounts of bait in the bay has made food readily available to foraging snapper, which makes anglers’ baits less attractive. Although scarce in numbers, reds are still a big focus for many, and persistence and attention to detail will pay off, especially as the water starts to cool down.

On the flipside, there’s plenty of other species and options that have kept anglers busy over the past month. Reports and captures of local kingfish have continued as the water temperatures continue to rise. Mornington Pier and surrounds seems to be the real hotspot at the moment, with most of the fish taken on live gars. These fish have been around the 2-4kg range. I saw two large kingfish frames at my local boat ramp recently that were about 1200mm long, so no doubt there are a few larger specimens about as well.

Large schools of salmon have dominated most of the inshore areas of late, especially around Frankston and Mount Eliza. Around these schools, especially when they are busting up on the surface has been a very reliable place to look for the elusive kingfish as well. Trolling diving minnows or small, skirted lures seems to be the best way to locate the school. After you locate them, sit off the fish and cast back to them. If they don’t break the surface, let your lure sink through the water column, as they often hang deeper, especially when there are a few boats around. This can be the best way to land the larger fish in the school too, especially if you use a slightly bigger lure or plastic, or even unweighted bait.

Although most local anglers have looked further afield for their whiting, there have been some solid fish taken from our inshore areas as well. Clear water has made low light and night missions best, and fresh bait is a premium requirement to succeed. Fresh mussels, pipis, squid and Bass yabbies are the best baits. Don’t be afraid to fish right in the shallows, especially if you fish from the bank at night.

Squid numbers have really improved over the past month, and I found some solid patches of squid right through the Christmas break, especially off Mount Martha and Mount Eliza. Even so, deeper water has yielded the best results. Try to find some good reef in 5-6m of water, and stick to natural coloured jigs like green, brown, gold and dull red. The same goes for anglers fishing from the bank, or the piers, but make sure to concentrate your efforts around early morning or late afternoon.

The local bream fishing has improved over the last month as better water clarity and water temperatures make the bream more active, but also a little more wary. Surface lures have been a real standout, and are the best fun to fish as well. Once again, early morning sessions have been the best in low light, especially when this coincides with a high or rising tide.

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