When you think of Portland, you think of deepwater fishing. Starting with the Lee Breakwater, which gives land-based anglers a great chance to fish depths usually only accessible for boaties. The adjoining deep-water harbour is a great sheltered fishing spot as well. Heading offshore to the famous tuna grounds and excellent bottom fishing that offers a range of tasty deepwater species, Portland really has it all for those keen to target the salty depths.
However, another productive local area exists that differs hugely from this deep-water theme. The North Shore runs from Portland Bay almost around to Narrawong, and is a shallow area with prime angling grounds that run 10m deep and less. Even offshore the waters of the North Shore are only 20-30m deep. This area is sheltered from the Southern Ocean’s southwest swells by the headlands of Point Danger and Cape Nelson. It is this combination of these slightly warmer and sheltered waters, in comparison to the rocky headlands that dominate the South West Coast, that create a niche of angling opportunities. Here are some of the species you can expect to encounter.
The North Shore area has long been renowned for kingfish. The ability to target recognised game fish in Victoria is quite limited, particularly if you exclude sharks from that list. Therefore the opportunity to catch kingfish, in quite shallow and accessible territory, is a major drawcard for many anglers during the warmer months. Most anglers target the North Shore area in depths from 3-9m, however the kings can turn up anywhere. The next person that has a light rod take off like a freight train won’t be the last. However, this often ends in disaster, so remember that the use of quality tackle is essential on kings. The fish can range from 2-15kg and even the rats fight with ferocity. The two main techniques generally used to target kings are to troll or baitfish at anchor. Trolling usually involves using a long, thin, fresh squid strip behind a small, skirted jig. Preferred speeds and depths can vary; downriggers and paravanes can also be useful if the fish go deep. Remember the kings can be quite fickle or at times simply not there. If this occurs, or the weather conditions and water temperature don’t suit trolling, this can often be the best time to attempt baitfishing. Other species can be targeted in a light berley trail while large bait, usually squid, can be floated out the back under a balloon on a heavy outfit. Perhaps the most exciting way to target kings in the area is to search for surface cruising schools and throw large soft plastics and stickbaits into them.
The past couple of seasons have seen southern bluefin tuna turn up in the shallow North Shore water, not just in the traditional cooler months for tuna fishing, but from January through to March. Sure these are the same school sized tuna that seem to be ever present almost all year round these days. However, there is something special about catching them in the warmer weather. Beach launching to chase tuna schools around on blue flat seas is the norm. Cast small stickbaits or plastics into the schools, or troll smaller skirts for these fish, which seem to always be feeding on small bait.
Considering the reputation the nearby Lee breakwater has for producing big snapper, the North Shore fish are considerably smaller, with the majority falling in the pinkie class. This might seem disappointing to those who chase big reds, or those of you fortunate enough to live in areas more conducive to large snapper. However, there are positive, namely what they lack in size they make up for in numbers. Unlike many excursions chasing large fish, most well organised outings will succeed in catching a feed of pinkies in the 1-2.5kg range. Another benefit is the variety of other fish that live in the same area and take similar rigs and baits. Long waits are unusual, particularly with a little berley and quality bait. An inshore session on the pinkie snapper in the area is almost guaranteed to see you encounter a number of other species. This variety and uncertainty is probably what makes it such a good fisher; you could encounter silver trevally, salmon, large King George whiting, snook, yellowtail kingfish, squid, barracouta, thresher shark, mulloway, pike, cowanyoung, gummy shark and blue throat wrasse. Add to this a host of less desirable rays and sharks and you can see how you can have an exciting day out fishing. Target the pinkie snapper on light gear and soft plastic lures in these shallow waters.
King George whiting are a welcome by-catch when fishing for pinkies. The whiting in the area are often large, 40cm+ fish, and have no hesitation in swallowing baits such as a half pilchard or finger-sized squid strip. For those who specifically target whiting, the many sand holes between the reefs in 3-7m are the go. Kingfish love these sand holes too. Many a whiting angler has had their gear smashed up when something a little bigger has taken a liking to their fresh squid bait. While bag limits aren’t common, particularly compared to whiting fisheries such as Port Phillip Bay, it is the quality of the fish that make whiting fishing in the Portland area special. Most fish are in the 40-50cm range with fish smaller than 35cm rarely encountered.
If you love snook fishing then the North Shore is the place for you. We catch some thumping snook by-catch while targeting kingfish on lures or pinkie snapper on plastics. Concentrate on catching them with a bit of lead line trolling, this is favoured by snook aficionados, or troll minnow style lures and you will consistently encounter good-sized fish in the 70-90cm range.
Most of the salmon encountered in the area are bigger fish, which isn’t good news for those looking for livebaits, but great fun if you can target a school on spin gear. Some of these salmon can be 3-4kg or above and put on a fine display if hooked on light gear. If you can find a school mixed in with some rat kings you are in for some fun. Unlike the kings though, salmon are present all year round.
Calamari squid can be prolific in the area and in impressive average sizes. Perhaps the hardest thing about squid fishing in North Shore is deciding whether to eat them or turn them into kingfish baits.
Numerous shark species are attracted to the region. You never know what you may encounter, from the tasty gummy shark, to more interesting travellers such as bronze whalers and even small hammerheads. At times the area has produced exceptional fishing for thresher sharks. There have been enough odd sightings of great whites to convince me not to dive in the area!
The ramp known as Wally’s Ramp is situated 8km west of Portland. It’s an easy beach style ramp and a 4WD is recommended, I have seen 2WD cars launch small tinnies there, but I’ve also seem some get stuck! If you had a medium sized boat, target tuna in the area between Julia Percy Island and Portland to avoid the crowds at Portland during the height of tuna season. Otherwise, launch at Portland Harbour and drive across.
Portland Bay Lodge
Portland Bay Lodge is10 acre property located at Wally’s Ramp that can sleep 100 people. There is a large hall with dining room overlooking the ocean, commercial kitchen, and accommodation lodge. There are shared and private bathrooms, ample parking for plenty of boats, wash down areas for boats, games room and CCTV for added security.
Booking is exclusively by a single group for a minimum charge equal to ten guests. Rates are $33 per person per night and fishing advice is provided on the area if required. Andrew and Dean are usually all over what’s happening fish-wise.