Winter wonderland in Western Port
  |  First Published: June 2016

It is June and despite the fact that everything’s cold, the fishing is still productive if you’re tough enough to brave the conditions.

I love fishing Western Port throughout winter and not just because I am mad. Along with the fishing being quite good, there is very little boat traffic and other anglers on the water. The boat ramps are also nearly empty in winter.

Before getting into what’s happening in Western Port though, let’s look at the surrounding beaches, which are alive with fish.

Starting at Cemetery and Kilcunda beaches, the salmon have arrived in good numbers, but their size has been a little down for so early on in the season. Most of the fish range from 500-800g, but during strong southwesterlies, some larger fish have been showing up. Mind you, in these conditions you do have to combat the kelp, which is ripped from the sea floor. Unfortunately you will go through quite a number of rigs attempting to drag the clumps up the beach so go prepared and take some extra leader, hooks and swivels or just a handful or pre-tied rigs and sinkers to get you through.

Cape Woolamai and Anzacs beaches are also showing signs of a good salmon season to come, but the larger fish don’t tend to show up until the end of June and the beginning of July.

These two beaches, in fact the majority of beaches along the southern side of Phillip Island, don’t tend to get too weedy throughout the season. Mainly because we have a westerly running swell, which pushes the majority of it towards Kilcunda.

Anzacs Beach is one of my all time favourites for a few reasons. Firstly, the car park is satisfactory and accommodates quite a number of cars and the walk to the beach is only around a 100m.

The beach itself is quite deep with two main gutters. The one to the right is rocky and this is where pinkie snapper can be caught along with salmon, mullet, silver trevally and the odd tailor. The gutter to the right runs horizontal before heading vertical and out the back of the breakers. This gutter usually holds excellent numbers of large salmon throughout the entire season, and berley works a treat.

I decided to have a fish at Anzacs just recently and along with some nice mullet, I also managed a few salmon to around the 1kg mark. Pipis were the favoured bait on this day.

Inside the Port has been very different. Shaun Furtiere flicked me a few images and reports from his success just before the water temperature dropped for the winter. Shaun had been targeting whiting along the bottom end of the Middle Spit, Tankerton and Ventnor areas with good success.

Fishing in depths ranging 4-6m of water, Shaun said that with the onset of winter, anglers can still catch them year round but are best to drop into 8-10m of water as well as heading to Flinders and Cat Bay where they’ll be on the bite all winter.

Shaun also mentioned that the winter gummy season is now upon us and for the next few months, they will be a regular catch for many anglers fishing the Port. Although they can be targeted right throughout the Port, during the winter months anglers will tend to encounter smaller males rather than the larger females. This is because the larger females tend to be offshore and only enter the Port during the spawning season (autumn). In saying that, females to 12-14kg are still common, especially if you’re working the Western Entrance and those deeper channels where they frequent. If you’re just after a feed or the sport of catching them, then concentrate on working the channel banks, especially the southern end of the north arm and or Corinella area on a high tide.

Land-based anglers can also get in on the winter gummy action by fishing the low tide at Stock Yard Point or high tide at Tenby Point, or Settlement Point at Corinella. These three locations are some of the most productive if you get the moon phase and tide times right.

On the other side of the Port, winter fishing for gummy sharks is also particularly productive at Point Leo, Balnarring and Somers beaches. Once again, a high tide is recommended, as the fish will come in close to the shore.

Another winter adversary if you want to get the boat out is the abundant southern calamari. Calamari thrive throughout the Port in winter and tend to be caught more by those fishing land-based. This is most likely because those in boats are targeting gummies and the like.

For the land-based angler, flicking from the Flinders Pier, Stony Point Pier, Cowes Pier or San Remo Pier produces calamari during the rising tides with night time the most productive. Artificial jigs in a size 3.0 with red foil belly have been working a treat of late.

If you do want to escape the crowds of other anglers also trying their luck on a calm night, head to one of the many beaches and set yourself up with a baited squid jag and suspend it under a float.

While not all beaches will produce calamari, you do need to do some research and find out where some good reef lies within a 2m depth area.

As for a head start, try Cleeland Bight and cast towards the orange buoys. Ventnor Beach, Mchaffies Point, Flynns Reef, Cat Bay, Summerland Bay and Berrys Beach all produce quality calamari when a baited jag is cast out under a float and left to flow with the current.

This technique often produces big calamari and if you are going to try this method, choose your weather conditions. Calm weather is often the best, especially when fishing the ocean side of Phillip Island.

Although we are set for a long cold winter, there are plenty of days that are sunny and worthy of heading out to flick a line and it certainly beats sitting back on the couch whether you’re land-based or in a boat.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Furtiere from Think Big Charters.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Furtiere from Think Big Charters.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Furtiere from Think Big Charters.

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