Firstly let me congratulate Brenton Hodges on his sensational six years delivering this column to Victorian and Tasmanian fishing fans. Brenton’s regular contribution and depth of information will be sorely missed but I am sure we will see him gracing the Fishing Monthly pages again soon. Enjoy your trip exploring Australia, buddy!
Many anglers slow down during Melbourne’s winter, packing their gear away and giving the boat a rest for a couple of months. However, just rewards exist for keen anglers that are happy to rug up, throw on the waterproofs and get out in the chilly mornings and cool days. Don’t pack it away – get out there!
Autumn delivered sensational fishing for King George whiting in the shallow areas from Avalon to ‘The Farm’ (Werribee Wastewater Treatment Plant area), and while the whiting are certainly not as easy to catch through the winter months, the quality of fish makes a trip worthwhile. You may have to employ a few more moves than usual, but adding quality berley into the area and using ultra-sensitive graphite nibble tip rods like the Shimano Southern Whiting Deluxe can make the difference between an average day and a decent catch.
Berleying is about quality over quantity. Spend the time to use a reasonably quality product, not just the leftover three month old pipis and mussels from the bottom of the freezer. Concentrated fish specific berley products deliver sensational value, with concentrated quality ingredients proven to attract fish when it matters. Good areas to target are the shallow broken weed/sand bed areas in 3-6m. If a trip coincides with a tide change around late afternoon or evening then even better, just rug up for the run back to the ramp!
The water may be cold, but the calamari love it. Anglers have experienced some of the best calamari fishing across the area this year. Regular catches of calamari up to and over 1.5kg have been common, and this should continue as winter progresses.
Mick Felsovary from Hooked On Bait and Tackle reports that anglers have had success across a range of depths and areas stretching from the Werribee South Marina all the way to Point Cook and even along the Western Shore. Mick mentioned that the key is to experiment with depths through your drifts and pay attention to the water clarity. If you are fishing after recent rain and the water is dirty, move out deeper than usual (as deep as 9m) and concentrate on red, purple, black or gold foil jigs for maximum effect. Jigs like the newly released Yamashita Egi Oh Live Search are producing the goods regularly with the advantage of a rattle that is tuned and designed to be in the optimum hearing level of squid.
Dark foil jigs are renowned for reliability and success during cooler months with generally overcast days and low light conditions. Many anglers, such as Rob Kriz and Peter Pantadis have had great success around Point Cook, nailing fantastic-sized calamari. Peter landed a beast that measured 43cm hood length on a classic gold foil jig, the Gancraft Kuma King George Whiting in size 3.0, while Rob set his personal best with a calamari measuring in at 45cm hood length!
The shallow reef areas stretching throughout this entire area are reliable to target. Mixed species are always on offer this time of year, with the realistic proposition of a quality-sized snapper.
After several years, land-based anglers are beginning to benefit from Fisheries Victoria’s artificial reef deployments. One of these reef systems has been placed a good casting distance in front of Altona Pier. Reef ball modules placed strategically have introduced habitat that encourages fish life and reliable catches.
Australian salmon, pinkie snapper, flathead, pike and even calamari are targets from the pier. Blue bait are a great bait to use on a paternoster rig from the pier, while soft plastic paddle-tails around 75-100mm in length have produced the goods over the last several months. Jighead weights up around 5-8g and a 2/0 hook are ideal to deliver good cast distance into the areas of reef modules on a 2.1m graphite spin rod.
Salmon schools roam the entire top end of Port Phillip Bay during the winter months, so keep an eye out for them to pop up at any time. If they do, a well-aimed cast into the edges of the school with a small 7g metal or a soft plastic rarely goes without a hook-up. Fishing 2-4kg gear on these guys is sensational fun, with good runs, aerial antics and worthwhile battles. Pike and pinkies can also be found under the salmon schools to keep the action varied as well.
Using the same style of outfit, head into the reef edges in 3-8m of water using blue bait and squid strips as bait. Large numbers of juvenile snapper move onto the reefs and provide great angling experience. Areas around the Cardinal at Altona, Millers Road and in front of the Williamstown Angling Club are great areas to search. For a surprise or two, cast a pipi or mussel on a size 6 longshank hook along the sandy or rubble bottom edges and you’ll be in with a very good chance of a feed of solid winter whiting, or some serious flathead.
Mulloway are hot on the list of anglers in the Maribyrnong, Yarra and Werribee rivers after the first rains of winter and cold weather. These estuary predators are becoming a regular catch, and ideal times to target them are around bridges at slack water in tide changes and areas where they can ambush unwary baitfish. Use 125-180mm soft plastic paddle-tails such as OSP 4.5” Dolive Shad, Lunkerhunt Saltwater Swim Bento and 5” Nories Spoontail Shads (getting hard to find now in stores!). These lures have proven very successful to target mulloway due to a heavy tail vibration and ideal forage size. Metal or hybrid/plastic vibes from 40-80mm are also well worth using with a hopping retrieve through ambush areas out of the main current area.
Bream will be making their usual movements into the middle areas of the rivers and schooling up. Vibes and curl-tail grub and worm style soft plastics are great target lures, while scrub worms fished near freshwater run-off areas are irresistible, especially in the Maribyrnong. Pinkies will also be pushing into the lower reaches of the Yarra River – keep a wary eye out for the Newport Power Station. If the power station is pumping hot water, head on down to target a bream, mulloway or (fingers crossed) winter tailor in the area.
I’d love to see and hear your fishing experiences in the local area! Send through fishing reports and high-resolution photos of your best catches to --e-mail address hidden-- with as much detail as you are happy to share.
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