After an extended warmer than average period weatherwise through much of autumn, those sharp winter westerlies have arrived with a vengeance. Melbourne anglers face some obvious challenges in terms of battling the elements throughout the winter months, but the fish still need to eat.
When conditions inevitably take a turn for the worse across Port Phillip, perhaps consider a run up one of the local rivers.
Andy Smith from Hooked on Bait & Tackle says there’s loads of squid on offer across the western shores. In particular, shallow areas of weed and reef descending into about 6m of water, from Werribee South through to Point Cook, is where you’ll find some thumpers up around the 1.5kg mark.
Casting down wind ahead of a drift line, as well as trailing jigs behind the boat, has been equally successful. Even if a cast and retrieved jig fails to hook up, often it attracts the attention of any squid in the area, enticing them closer to the boat. Moments later, as the trailing jigs drift through… bang! As I’ve mentioned previously, try not to be in too much of a hurry to bring the first squid to the net. Since they usually hunt in groups, at times double or even triple hook ups are quite achievable. The key, however, is to ensure a hooked squid remains in the water and preferably about 1m or thereabouts under the surface, until the others latch on.
Despite the cooler weather of late, flathead are also providing inshore anglers with some terrific sport and a tasty meal. Fishing on the drift is the way to go, with soft plastics such as worm and baitfish imitations fairing best. Flesh baits including cut pilchard and bluebait are also a reliable option. Hot spots include the sands flats extending from the entrance to Werribee River, as well as the stretch from Wyndham Harbour through to Campbells Cove.
Pinkie snapper should remain active on the inner reefs during the winter months. Depths ranging from 4-6m are turning up plenty of juveniles to 35cm, with just the odd larger specimen to 2kg reported.
The Williamstown Sportfishing & Game Club held an inter-club Soft Plastic Challenge event recently with more than 40 competitors across four clubs in attendance. Strong winds made it tough going on the inner reefs, especially for those with smaller craft. Unfortunately, the big reds failed to show up on this occasion, but there were plenty of pinkies to 36cm accounted for throughout the morning, along with snook to 59cm, Australian salmon to 51cm, plus a few red mullet and leatherjacket.
The major drawcard in the local rivers this month, and indeed through much of winter, will be school mulloway, along with pinkie snapper, and of course, the ever-reliable resident bream. At this time of year, it is possible to tangle with each of these species in a single session.
Tried and trusted target areas include the jetties and swing moorings at Williamstown, as well as the rock groins that line the warm water outlet at Newport. A series of jetties and pontoons dotted along the western shoreline, from the mouth through to the West Gate Bridge, are popular with land-based anglers.
Limited opportunities to anchor at boat exist within the lower Yarra River. Fishing in general is discouraged within the main shipping port, but drifting under electric power is permitted between the channel markers and the bank, unless of course exclusion zone signage indicates otherwise.
The area surrounding the base of Bolte Bridge adjacent to North Wharf is a popular location at this time of year. Somewhat surprisingly, mulloway, pinkie snapper and bream are also available within sheltered waters of Victoria Harbour and well up the Maribyrnong River.
Bream are in reasonable numbers at the mouth of Werribee River with those pitching fresh mussel and tubeworm from the jetty and floating pontoons picking up a feed either side of high tide. Further upriver, small freshwater yabbies, as well as metal blades and worm or grub pattern soft plastics are well worth a shot.
After six years and 72 reports, sadly this is my final Port Phillip West column. Thank you to everyone who shared information and images during this period. As of next month, my wife Katrina and I, together with our young girls, Zoe and Maddi, will be setting off on an extended 4-5 month adventure along the coast of NSW and southern QLD. Needless to say, we simply can’t wait!
Upon returning to Victoria later in the year, we’re planning to settle on the Bellarine Peninsula. As a result, I’ll be unable to do this area report justice. Fortunately, Andy Smith from Hooked on Bait & Tackle has agreed to take over.Reads: 317