River runs brown
  |  First Published: November 2016

Spring has taken its time to fire up. With huge late winter downpours across the state and the metro catchment, fishing has been for the super keen. Rewards are there, if you’re persistent and spend the effort. The huge amount of water pouring into our catchments is sensational for the long term health of our rivers and the bay, but spare a thought for many land owners and farmers that have copped the rough end of the stick. Drought-like conditions and a serious lack of water have been overrun with torrential rain cells dumping rain for days on end.

While many anglers have written off the local rivers for the immediate time, a few diehards have stuck it out, braved the weather, the cold, the rain and the chocolate water and still come up trumps. Alan Bonnici, truly FishingMad akin to his website, has used the high and dirty rivers to his advantage and fished the backwater areas of lesser flow. Areas like Williamstown have been his saving grace in the horrid weather. Alan’s regular dedication to getting out and wetting a line shows, with consistent catches of bream in the Maribyrnong over recent months and pinkies further downstream and into the Hobsons Bay area.

There’s nothing better than angler reports, especially when they’re honest. One of Alan’s recent reports displayed his dedication in bucket loads! It simply read, “Was caught in the impossible conditions today at Williamstown. Blowing a gale, current super strong, and water was brown due to all the rain but still managed some nice pinkies.”

Other thinking anglers have continued to slot in fishing trips in the short windows between the ordinary weather. Dean Yeoman and his young son Lincoln, one of the keenest and most passionate junior anglers I’ve ever met, have had great fishing land-based in the far west of the bay around Geelong. Using premium quality bait has proved the difference lately when conditions have been marginal.

Premium pilchards and squid saw the boys sorting through plenty of small flathead before some good eating size models appeared. Lincoln once again showed why he continually out-fishes his father who clearly taught him too well, by landing a lovely pinkie of 1.6kg in shallow conditions. They used the coverage of first light to their advantage, hitting the water at 5.30am.

Not to be outdone, Dean provided the largest capture of the day, with a 1.7kg gurnard, a species more regularly seen outside Port Phillip Bay. However, Dean forgot one thing, the nasty spikes that these fish possess – ouch. I hope it’s healed up Deano! Another member of the Didyabringyarodalong Angling Club, Johnny Humphries landed a lovely pinkie just shy of 2kg, along with a solid flathead from Cunningham Pier in Geelong.

Marty Baker and his wife headed out recently. While conditions were overcast they compiled a lovely bag of calamari around Point Cook and then settled on some solid structure in 19m of water wide off Point Cook. Marty landed a fantastic snapper measuring in at 77cm on a cocktail bait of fresh calamari and pilchard.

One of the keys to quality land-based fishing around Melbourne is weather and water conditions. The biggest wind and rain storms can really turn it on. Renowned locations around the bay are frequented by passionate and dedicated anglers. When the next load of ordinary weather hits, try hitting the open windy and rough locations. Even better, use the coverage of the dirty water and the edges of these areas to target big land-based snapper. From now until the end of the year, Port Melbourne, Hobsons Bay, Williamstown and through to Altona are extremely likely to produce quality fishing.

Snapper, like any predatory fish, use cover to their advantage. The dirty fresh water throughout the surface provides plenty of shelter and coverage for them to move into shallow areas with confidence. The rough and dirty conditions, coupled with large volumes of water pushed into the bay that wash food in and concentrate the baitfish.

For those anglers in boats, the entire shallow reef areas that run from Hobsons Bay through to Point Cook will be holding quality fish. An essential tactic to increase your chances is to fish unweighted baits. Some of the reef is renowned for resulting in countless lost rigs and terminals. Berley will bring the big fish near you, but go sparingly over the shallow grounds. It’s a fine balance between attracting the millions of baby juvenile snapper, flathead, salmon, pike and assorted odd reef fish in the bay, and attracting that fish of a lifetime lurking in the waters less than 10m in depth.

As always, it’s well worth a sound and search over the deeper mudflat areas. Don’t be a sheep and get attracted to the flotilla. Snapper can swim and if you present a bait in your own berley trail, your chances of red success are well and truly increased. There are wide expansive areas that these fish graze around and if the last three years are anything to go by, the huge concentrations of baitfish will see the quality snapper continually move and hunt. The best anglers outsmart them – be in that group with good preparation and switched on tactics.


Marty Baker with a cracking 77cm early season snapper.


Smile says it all – congratulations, Lincoln Yeoman.


Lincoln Yeoman doing it again!


Filthy water and horrid winds still produce the goods for clever anglers.

Photo courtesy of Alan Bonnici.

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