Continuing and persistent wintery conditions have been the feature for the past month on the bay. Constant and cold northerly and northwesterly winds have been giving the local shoreline regions a real stir up, and regular intervals of rain have been juicing up the food chain along the inshore reefs. Breaks in the weather and calmer days with little or no wind have been the exception rather than the norm over the past few weeks.
Most anglers prefer to fish during more favourable conditions and temperatures, but those who have been putting in the time and effort of late have been rewarded with some quality fishing. Conditions have confined most of the opportunities to land-based locations, and protected inshore boating areas. It may be a little fresh out on the bay at the moment, but if you rug up you can still enjoy some great fishing.
The big drawcard for the dedicated land-based crew at the moment is some quality snapper on offer, particularly from Mornington Pier, and some of the local surrounding rock platforms.
These areas seem to fish best during the most atrocious weather, so it goes without saying that care must be taken, and my advice would be to always fish with a mate. Not only for the obvious reasons, but also to help land a big red if you’re lucky enough!
Snapper will come right in close to shore to graze during the worst weather, and will take a wide variety of baits, but oily fish fillets and whole baits are best. Surf rods are also preferred by most, providing ease of landing fish and better casting from the bank.
Boaties have had much more limited opportunities due to weather, but a dedicated few refuse to follow the seasonal masses and continue to focus their attention in the south of the bay. While the majority of winter snapper heads will be found in the top end of Western Port at this time of year, a few in the know have been doing pretty well in PPB as well, particularly on the western side of the shipping channel, out from Safety Beach and Mount Martha, and further south. Don’t expect to catch a cricket score, as bite windows are normally short, but the fish fight hard and taste pretty good as well.
Big schools of Australian salmon have been smashing the local baitfish populations for a while now, and over the past month they have moved right in close along shoreline gutters to feed. They can be very easy to spot in these areas, both moving on mass along the shore, and when they break the surface to feed. They move fast, but will respond to just about any method when in the mood. I love chasing them from the shore with a light spin rod and a few lures, they are great fun, fight really hard and make pretty good tucker if you look after them and bleed them as soon as you catch them.
Salmon will be wherever the food is, but some reliable locations seem to always produce more often than not. Frankston Pier and the Patterson River mouth are both great locations, as well as Mount Martha Beach near the Balcombe Creek mouth, and the Martha Cove mouth. The freshwater outflow from these areas attracts baitfish, and they in turn the salmon.
Olivers Hill, Mornington Pier, Fishies Beach and Daveys Bay are also all worth a look. Sometimes, like the snapper, they will bite better during the worst weather, but I like to fish for them during calmer or offshore winds, so I can watch the schools as they move. Lures, plastics and even flies are all effective, depending on how far you need to cast, and fixed and unweighted baits are deadly as well.
Consistent rain and fresh water has also helped the fishing in Patterson Lakes, particularly for the bream anglers, but also for those chasing mullet and the elusive mulloway. The bream seem to bite for longer periods, and will graze over a wider area when the water is dirty, and bait and lure anglers can really cash in at the moment.
Boat anglers are at a real advantage, as they can sneak along the banks and cast to grazing bream along the rocks and beaches throughout the canals and main river system. Bait anglers will do best fishing around any distinct colour change or nearby to drains or water outlets. Small noisy lures or plastics fish slow work best, while baits like garden worms and mussels are most effective.
I’m all for sitting at home and watching the footy on a less than perfect winter’s day, but if you’re prepared to brave the conditions, there’s some pretty good fishing to be had at the moment. Grab the thermos, jacket and beanie and have a crack. At least there won’t be a big queue at the ramp, or you won’t have to fight for your favourite spot on the pier!Reads: 259