Sharks star in offshore fishing drama
  |  First Published: February 2016

When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Ross Winstanley says the fishing has been difficult for certain species and definitely the case when seeking snapper inside Corio Bay with only a couple of fish found around a kilogram in weight. Fishing inside Stingaree Bay, Ross caught three pinkie snapper at 40cm and a swarm of juvenile leatherjackets.

Ross says the snapper were caught from 5.30 to 7.00am, and then the leatherjackets took over. Each fish that was hooked and brought to the boat was followed by five or more from the school. Ross notes that the adults are mainly found on the outer continental shelf and that he’s never seen them before inside Corio Bay. Ross has also caught a few reasonable sized whiting in Stingaree Bay. No bag limit captures have been made recently, but this is a good sign.

Warmer water often brings the snapper into the shallows where they can be targeted using soft plastic lures. Point Wilson and from Point Henry to Clifton Springs are good locations to hit and around the 5m mark is a good starting point. Big pike approaching a meter in length have also been caught by anglers searching for snapper with soft plastics. Pike have a tough mouth so make sure your hooks are razor sharp.

King George whiting have announced themselves with good numbers caught at St Leonards, Clifton Springs, Point Wilson and Avalon. Most fish have been small with plenty around the 30cm mark. Larger fish either side of 40cm have been caught around dawn and dusk by anglers using common baits such as pipis, fresh squid and mussels.

Rod Ludlow from Beachlea Boat Hire at Indented Head says the fishing has been great over the last month. Squid have been plentiful with several of Rod’s hire boats bagging out between St Leonards and Portarlington with Governors Reef the hot spot. Early and late are the best times – it is harder to find them during the middle of the day.

Rod had a few nice gummy sharks between 4-6kg come in and plenty dropped at the boat. About half of these fish were caught during the day, so worth a crack for those who struggle to get up early. Most effective baits were squid and fresh fish fillets. Rod says you should try in depths of around 14-18m off St Leonards around to the Prince George bank.

Rod notes that the whiting have been fickle, but they are definitely there for the taking and some boats have caught them while drifting for flathead so they seem to be sitting fairly deep. Best spots to try have been the weed beds along the edge of the deep water using pipis and mussels. Try to get the wind and tide moving the same way – the flood tide has been better.

Some big silver trevally are kicking about the Queenscliff Boat harbour with some exceeding 45cm. Anglers have had some line stretching fun using pilchard fillets for bait and soft plastic lures such as single tailed grubs. Best bet has been slack water, which is around two hours after the tide times.

The warming of the Barwon River has seen European carp captures increase. Anglers fishing the end of Fyans Street, near Balliang Sanctuary, Queens Park and Breakwater, have caught fish from 2-5kg. Top baits include worms, corn kernels and white bread squashed over the hook. Redfin have also been caught during the day upstream from the Shannon Avenue Bridge.

Big redfin are still available from Wurdi Buloc Reservoir near Moriac. The best fish I have heard of lately was around the 47cm mark and anglers casting soft plastic lures and working them very slow along the bottom have caught most of these bigger specimens.

Downstream where the Barwon meets Bass Strait, the lower estuary has seen small Australian salmon and mullet caught on almost any bait from the Ozone Jetty, Fishermans Jetty and the sand bank downstream from the bridge on the Ocean Grove side of the river. King George whiting to 42cm have been caught by anglers fishing the outgoing tide near the mouth of the river and the nearby sand patches towards Ocean Grove. Pipis have been the standout bait, but fish have also been caught on squid and pilchard fillets.

The offshore fishing has really lit up with kingfish, sharks and snapper turning it on. Anglers fishing from the shallow reefs of Breamlea to the Rip have caught kingfish to 75cm. Jigs have worked best in around the 10-15m range but don’t hesitate to troll minnow lures. A good idea is to have a rod ready with a surface popper, as it is not uncommon for a hooked fish to be followed to the surface by the rest of the school.

Some big mako sharks close to 100kg have shown up in Bass Strait so those with game fishing tackle should be able to get those kinks pulled from their lines. Blue sharks have also been present so you may need to wade through a few of these before you strike a mako.

Drifting out wide along the Surf Coast has yielded quality flathead to 50cm, gummy sharks over 10kg and pinkie snapper to around 50cm. The trick here is to find some rubble on the bottom and drift over that area until you find the fish.

Mick Allardyce from Allyweld Group says the inshore reef areas around Anglesea have produced King George whiting and pinkie snapper. Salmon have been up and down in condition, however, they’re one of those fish you have a chance to catch all year. My advice is to have your surf rods packed and get out fishing.

Well, that’s a wrap for another month, just remember that although the holidays are over the waterways will still be fairly busy, so remember to take care out on the water and make sure your safety gear is all up to date. Fisheries will be out patrolling, so don’t be caught out. Remember to stay hydrated in this heat and protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. Until next month, tight lines!

Catch a few around Geelong, Bellarine Peninsula or Surf Coast to Lorne recently? Send in a report to --e-mail address hidden-- with VFM in the subject field or give me a call on 0408 997 348. Please include where (without giving away your secret spot!), when, what on and who caught the fish. Pictures are always great, but please make sure they are at least 1mb (file size).

Those boaties keen on fishing near the Rip should take note that the boundary that includes the ‘Rip’ has been extended in a 3nm radius from Point Lonsdale. This means that life jackets must be worn when boating within 3nm of Point Lonsdale, which includes all of the Lonsdale Bight back to the Shortland Bluff under the lighthouse. For more info, head along to http://transportsafety.vic.gov.au/maritime-safety/newsroom/new-definition-of-port-phillip-heads

Legislation to end commercial netting in Port Phillip Bay has been passed through Parliament. The Fisheries Amendment Bill 2015 delivers on a key commitment of the Andrews Labor Government’s Target One Million plan for recreational fishing. The phasing out of commercial net fishing in Port Phillip Bay over the next seven years should see a marked increase in recreational catch rates and the size of fish available for anglers. This includes the total ban to all netting in Corio Bay by the 1st of April 2018. The 43 commercial license holders will be bought out and compensated by the government. A limited non-net fishery will be provided for commercial operators.

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