Aside from the height of snapper season, the weeks either side of Easter are arguably the most anticipated period on the local fishing calendar.
As daylight hours dwindle and the seasons change from warm to cold, the inner reefs are where all the action takes place. During this transitional phase, King George whiting, squid, pinkie snapper and some ripping blue spot flathead are available in the shallows. One of the largest flatties I’ve seen for a while, estimated at 55-60cm, was taken by Allan Allwood while fishing off Kirks Point. Al also picked up several pinkies, whiting, leather jacket and a bag of calamari. Good eating size flatties are still available on the flats just out from Werribee South and flesh baits and paddle-tail soft plastics presented on the drift account for most.
According to Jason Farrugia from Magnet Fishing Charters, the whiting have been a lot bigger lately with some pushing the 45cm mark! These fish, as well as what Jase desribed as ‘heaps’ of pinkies averaging 30-40cm, have been taking squid and pipi among a steady stream of berley.
Though the period traditionally referred to as the ‘snapper season’ has well and truly passed, the coming months offer some hot action in the shallows. At this time of year, pinkies gather in numbers on the shallow inshore reefs, particularly around the top end of the bay. The majority range in size from barely legal up to about 55cm or 2kg in weight – but expect the odd 4-5kg+ red to be lurking nearby. In fact, the largest snapper I’ve encountered over the past few years have come between Easter and ANZAC Day while casting soft plastics on the drift just out from Williamstown Football Ground. Nearby patches of rock and rubble, from the launching ramp at Altona right through to the Yarra River entrance, hold schools of pinkie snapper at times, particularly during or immediately following an onshore southerly blow. Yes, there’s likely to be plenty of pickers to sort through, but it’s well worth the effort when a real one latches on.
As is so often the case, concentrating your efforts either side of a change in tide at first and last light maximises the chance of striking the fish in feeding mode. There’s likely to be some Australian salmon patrolling the edge of the reefs this month. These speedsters can easily be spotted when herding baitfish to the surface, so keep and eye out for birds hovering above or diving at bait schools.
The lower reaches of the Yarra River should see some pinkie snapper and the odd larger red holding on the edge of the shipping channel this month. The yacht club at Williamstown acts like a magnet for these fish during autumn. Small diving lures intended for bream account for some unexpected reds under the boat hulls. Initially, this is a bit of a novelty, but since snapper pull at least twice as hard as bream of equal weight, it can become an expensive exercise among the moorings!
The Maribyrong River has produced some fine urban fishing of late with anglers reporting catch and release sessions of up to twenty bream either side of the legal size limit. There’s also a few pinkie snapper to 35cm or thereabouts mixed in with the bream. Baitfishing is highly productive with tubeworm, small crabs, fresh mussel and maggots most likely to produce. Bream seem to be well spread throughout the system with reports coming from Flemington Racecourse, Victoria University, Edgewater Estate and all the way through to Essendon Rowing Club. Lure casters are favouring diving minnows, crab imitations and both grub and worm pattern soft plastics rigged on light jig-heads.
The key to fishing the edges with lures and soft plastics is to work in tight to structure – be it dislodged sections of bluestone, bridge pylons, floating pontoons, reeds or overhanging trees and shrubs. As long as there’s some flow, both the incoming and outgoing tides can be equally successful. During slack water bream generally become more selective in their feeding habits, however this is prime time to cross paths with a metropolitan mulloway, especially a few days either side of the full or new moon phase.
Down the highway at Werribee South, expect an influx of large yellow-eye mullet any day now. If previous years are anything to go by, there should be plenty of mullet, as well as some good bream available from the jetty and floating pontoons at the mouth of the system. Raw chicken and dough works a treat on the mullet, while the bream respond best to live tubeworm and Bass yabby.
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