Fat whiting plague the bay
  |  First Published: March 2016

Warm and settled conditions continued for the majority of last month, treating the bay anglers to some superb days on the water. Some welcome rain arrived during the middle of last month, giving the inshore areas a real shot in the arm, and juicing up the food chain on the inshore reefs. As is the trend during this time of year, evening offshore easterly winds have cleared the inshore and beach areas very quickly, once again making fishing missions during the low light of early morning, late afternoon and evening much more effective.

With so much great fishing on offer for other species both within the bay itself, and further afield, snapper reports have been fairly sparse over the last month. Successful anglers have targeted the outside or western side of the shipping channel for larger, more solitary snapper. This has traditionally been a common area for professional anglers and charter groups at this time of year, and although the numbers of fish caught is generally less, the size and quality is better. By-catch of school and gummy sharks is also fairly common as well – another reason to target these deeper areas.

Expect the areas out wide from Mount Martha and Dromana to fish well as the water cools over the next couple of months and the wider fish move into the shallower mud banks to feed. Fishing for smaller pinkie snapper has also improved around the inshore reefs and will become more consistent as the water temperature cools. These areas are prime spots to troll or cast lures and fish soft plastics from a drifting boat. They can also be fished effectively with bait, although undersized pinkies and other non-target species can be a fair nuisance.

The most encouraging trend over the last month or so has been the regular capture of good bags of whiting from local areas. While spots further south are well renowned, local shoreline areas and broken reef from Frankston all the way to Safety Beach have produced whiting to 40cm, although most fish are in the mid 30cm range. Baits of fresh squid, mussels and pipis are best, and the prime time to target these tasty fish, especially from the shore is around first and last light, and at night during a rising tide.

Secondly, and more exciting for many has been the numbers of kingfish taken so far this year right on our doorstep. Most of the reports I have received are from Mornington Pier and its surrounds where anglers have been successful fishing live garfish or squid baits under floats. There have also been a few nice kings taken by spear fishers along the nearby reefs, especially around Bird Rock, Snapper Point and Woolleys Reef.

The local kingies never seem to be far away from schools of feeding or cruising salmon, and they love to terrorize schools of garfish. If you are on the hunt for a king, start with garfish. There’s plenty of fun to be had catching the ‘food’ species as well, especially if you have kids in tow. Berley is the key to attract gars, but keep your eyes in the sky for birds working or following schools of feeding fish. Strips of squid both fished under a float or trolled behind the boat are a great way to target kingfish locally, and some anglers who have caught plenty, swear by this method.

Squid numbers continue to improve along the inshore areas, especially for land-based anglers, which is a great sign for the months to come. Whether you chase them for bait or a feed, they are a reliable species, and will get better as the water cools and we head deeper into autumn. I have found that natural coloured jigs are working best, as they have done all season.

A change of pace for many, but if you want to try your hand in the fresh water, recent and long term stocking in Devilbend Reservoir has provided local anglers with some great fishing lately. While trout and redfin have been reliable targets here for some time, estuary perch have been introduced and seem to be flourishing. While most of them are still fairly small, they are great fun on small topwater lures and plastics during the evenings and early mornings. The trout and reddies will get in on the act as well. Safe and modern fishing platforms have been provided for anglers to use, so it’s also a great place to take the kids.

Bream lure enthusiasts have done well in the Patto and some of the smaller systems, and I’ve heard of a few nice estuary perch caught as well. The annual run of mulloway in the Patto is not far away either, so there’s plenty to get excited about in the month ahead.

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