Strong winds and less than ideal conditions along with artic temperatures during cold fronts have characterised Melbourne’s winter this year. A great option for fishers has been to turn focus towards the relative shelter of the metropolitan rivers and land based piers and jetties around the bay margins.
Dirty water conditions from run-off pushing down our rivers concentrates the fish into likely feeding areas under and around the junctions of mixing. These areas exist where freshwater flows have pushed food into the waterways and downstream. The freshwater meets the higher salt concentration of the estuary in the rivers and create mixing areas that concentrate food and provide plenty of cover for larger estuary predators to hunt down unsuspecting bait. These areas of saltwater influence can be fantastic places to concentrate your fishing effort.
The surface mixing area is generally quite easy to find, with dirty brownish coloured fresh water converging with the cleaner blue-green coloured bay or estuary water. Mixing areas don’t simply run vertically down towards the bottom. Saltwater is more dense than fresh, so the freshwater slides over the top of the salt and the front (or tongue) of this saltwater wedge may be hundreds of metres upstream of the surface mixing area. It is also likely to retreat downstream or move upstream with the tide. Modern depth sounders can easily define any areas of overlapping water layers.
A good rule is to use the surface mixing area as a starting point for your fishing trip. You can then move around accordingly and know that you are within a generally likely area. After all, when we rug up and brave the conditions of a Victorian winter we don’t want to waste effort fishing areas unlikely to produce!
Lure and baitfishing are effective during the cold months in the rivers. The general principle is that the fish species concentrate away from the edges towards the middle or deeper areas of the river. Put some thought into your bait presentation – there is a wealth of food like worms and land-based critters getting washed into the river and it isn’t a coincidence that scrub worms or freshwater yabbies are dynamite bream baits! If the conditions are dirty, use bait with a decent amount of scent to it or add your own artificial scent product to the presentation.
Lure fishing options are similar to bait presentations in the prevailing conditions. Any offering with a decent amount of vibration will help a fish track down your offering easily. Plus, if they are a little lethargic in the cold water it can assist to trigger a strike. Ideal styles of lures are metal vibes, fished with a short lift or hop, nice and slow, then a decent pause. Don’t be afraid to take your time and wait 5 or even 10 seconds or longer between hops. Soft plastics with curl-tail or paddle-tails for vibration are also ideal and worm styles excel.
In the Yarra River, areas from Richmond all the way through to south wharf and the Docklands area can be worth your efforts. Make sure to fish slowly with lures. During this time of year many fish will use the pier and jetties for shelter, they generally hang deeper than usual. Mulloway are also a great target with live baits such as mullet, and fresh dead baits like mullet, fillets or even squid. Downstream areas from under the Westgate Bridge all the way to the Warmies at Newport regularly produce winter snapper (mainly pinkies), along with bream, salmon, mulloway and potentially tailor. If you see the Newport Power Station working, head on down! Michael Smith braved the wet conditions recently and had a great session, landing numbers of salmon and pinkies up to 40cm in length. The last two hours of the incoming tide was the best bite window.
August can see the Maribyrnong River fish consistently, especially for anglers who target bream. The area around Flemington Racecourse also serves as a reliable base to start. A decent amount of parking for land-based anglers exists near Lynch’s Bridge and has good bank access, although it can get a little muddy underfoot. The downstream areas and bridges can hold numbers of fish, but patience is the key. Fish may be quiet and shut down, so fish slowly and methodically and you can generally give yourself a good chance. Higher reaches can also produce fish at times, but be selective during conditions. It may be worth waiting until the initial major flush has slowed a little if you are going to venture upstream for a trip. Canning Reserve is a well-known area to target bream and Alan Bonnici, John Regali and Mark Moseley have consistently been rewarded for their efforts there lately.
The piers and jetties around Williamstown offer great shelter from the prevailing cold southerly and southwesterly winds. Head down and fish in an area that is a little more comfortable, and that delivers a great mixed variety of fish species. The piers and jetties easily produce all manner of species, such as bream, pinkies, Australian salmon, tommy rough, silver trevally, flathead, tailor and even a chance at the elusive and highly sought-after mulloway. Prawns, blue bait, pipis and sandworm are all useful baits. A small amount of berley into the water here is a great option. A fine sinking pellet with an aniseed base is ideal and economical. Fishing Mad founder Alan Bonnici and some of his mates have done well fishing the area, and have had success on seven or eight species in only a couple of hours, including pinkies, flathead and bream. A bonus of fishing the area around Williamstown is the numerous cafes to grab a coffee and stay warm while you fish!
The entire stretch along the western area of Port Phillip Bay had great potential to produce during the depths of winter. Sold snapper up to 6kg in weight is a proposition for anglers who target reef areas after storms. If you are prepared to wait it out, a good fish is very possible. Numbers of pinkies can keep you occupied in between catching big models. The amazing run of calamari along the northern area of the bay has been phenomenal. Heavy reef areas such as Point Cook are great winter options. Purple foils and dark red are great options during the overcast days, but if you manage to strike a nice sunny day and find some water that isn’t too cloudy or dirty, cast around a white UV jig. They consistently produce in bright conditions.
The areas around Indented Head are renowned for a consistent run of winter King George whiting. Pipis, squid and mussel are all fantastic bait options. Berleying this area is essential, and once you manage to get the fish biting, the bite window may only last for a short period, sometimes less than half an hour. Often, this coincides with darkness or a tide change. Areas only a few hundred metres from the ramp around the stick can be productive, but don’t be afraid to fish deeper than you would during summer. The rewards of big whiting are worth the time to relearn and experiment with this winter fishery.
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