Will you make The Cut in your yak?
  |  First Published: August 2016

‘The Cut’ is an artificial channel that was constructed way back in the 1930s to allow safe passage for boating traffic between Port Phillip Bay into Swan Bay. Located in the historical town of Queenscliff on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, The Cut has been expanded over the decades to now include a large marina, boat ramp and extensive wharfs.

The combination of an abundance of artificial structure and strong currents has created an excellent fishery with predatory fish following large schools of baitfish and using The Cut to move in and out of Swan Bay. The Cut offers kayak anglers a plethora of target species catchable within a very short distance of the launch site, no long paddle required!

There are a few different launch options to fish The Cut, the most obvious being Queenscliff boat ramp located at the northern end of Hesse Street. The facilities at the ramp are excellent and include an amenities block with showers, duel concrete ramps with floating pontoons, large car park and wash down facilities. Currently The Borough of Queenscliff charges a $10 parking fee that applies to all cars parking within the facility. Alternatively, and my preferred kayak launch option, is to use the remnants of Cayzer’s Slipway located on Fishermans Wharf at the northern end of Beach Street. The old slipway isn’t perfect, it can be quite muddy and often holds a thick layer of weed, however, if you’re launching over the high tide it is definitely a viable option with the added benefit of saving you some hard earned – just remember to bring waders as you will need to pull your yak out over the weed to the deeper water. It is worth noting that there are currently plans to redevelop this area, therefore launching from Cayzer’s Slipway may not remain an option into the future.

For kayak anglers the appeal of fishing Queenscliff Cut is definitely due to the large variety of species on offer in a small, confined and sheltered area perfect for small craft. Throughout the year a variety of species move in and out of the area, which means there is almost always something on the chew.

Sport anglers are drawn to the area to take on the hard fighting silver trevally that enter the area regularly throughout the year. Although silvers can be caught all year round it is during the summer months that the bigger units make an appearance. I have caught fish to 50cm+; specimens at 60cm+ are not unheard of.

Snapper enter the Queenscliff Harbour during their annual spring spawning run into Port Phillip Bay. With fish up to 2kg and the occasional larger fish on offer, they are well worth targeting. Australian salmon are caught consistently in the area and although generally small the occasional school of larger salmon will push into The Cut chasing baitfish. Squid are another species to add to the increasing list available and alongside King George whiting the options for catching a tasty feed within the confines of The Cut are high. Mullet, tommy rough and the occasional big bream are also viable options.

One of the keys to success when fishing The Cut is to make sure you’re on the water at the right time. The tide movement through The Cut is significant to say the least and planning your time on the water to coincide with the period of slack water at the turn of the tide is crucial. Launch your kayak during the last few hours of the run-in tide then fish the period of slack water followed by the first hour or so of the run-out. Slack water in The Cut occurs two and a half to three hours after the tide change at Port Phillip Heads.

With the tides sorted the next issue to address is where to fish. The most productive areas are generally where the water creates eddies. Eddies disorient the baitfish so the larger predators will frequently be found in these areas picking off bait that stray from the pack. The deep hole located at the western end of The Cut where the channel opens up is a prime location, a large eddy forms here on the run-in tide making it the perfect ambush spot for predatory fish looking for a feed. The abundance of artificialstructure is also well worth casting at, trevally, snapper and bream can often be found holding among the boat hulls, moorings and pylons in the area, and the yacht club is a great place to target fish holding in structure.

Without a shadow of doubt the most productive method when fishing The Cut, particularly when targeting silver trevally, is to cast and retrieve curl-tail pattern soft plastics. Due to the significant flow, jigheads in the 1/12oz to 1/6oz range are required. Plastics can also get results when flicked in tight against boat hulls and pylons. Crab pattern hardbodies can score a reward and are well worth throwing. It always pays to have a rod rigged with a squid jig on board as squid often follow your plastic back to the yak.

There are a few safety concerns that kayak anglers need to be mindful of when fishing The Cut. The first of these are the strong currents that flow through the cut between the two bays. When fishing the area I rarely enter The Cut itself, preferring to spend my time in the more open water at the western end of the channel where the flow slows considerably. The harbour itself is also busy with recreational and commercial boat traffic, so ensure you are highly visible. As always ensure that you are wearing your PFD and have a bailer on board as required by Victorian law.

The Cut is the perfect location for kayak anglers looking to fish a small area of water, well protected from the elements. This combined with the plethora of species on offer have it up there as one of my favourite spots to launch my yak.

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