Searching the shallows in summer
  |  First Published: February 2017

After our blitzing start to 2017 with humid and muggy conditions and great fishing through January, we are set for an awesome few months before we have to think about the dreaded Melbourne winter.

Our summer provides fantastic opportunities in the shallow areas for classic table fare. It doesn’t get much better than patrolling the shallows for a tasty feed of King George whiting and with the added pleasurable (and tasty!) by-catch opportunities of species such as sand flathead, calamari, pinkie snapper and salmon, the shallow margins of Port Phillip Bay are a great place to spend some time.

When you fish the shallow areas of the bay, take some time and care with your approach. Some consistent tricks and those little one percenters can make a lot of difference. Just like the local snapper guns, the shallow water specialists can be in a league of their own. Don’t expect the hardcore whiting angler to give up his secrets at the ramp to you, but asking a friendly question or two can often provide a great head start. Take the time to listen and dedicate some quality time on the water.

Tips for the shallows

Don’t blast out from the ramp at full throttle and make a beeline for the latest hotspot you heard whispered at the tackle shop. Take the time to use this information as a general guide.

Search the area using your eyes, checking the bottom structure type, and pay attention to weed beds, sand patches and reef areas. A pair of quality polarised sunglasses makes the job much easier and can allow you to find things you never would normally see with surface glare. Fish in shallow water are easily spooked, and they use these areas not only as a feeding area, but as an area to quickly seek shelter before retreating to the relative safety of deeper water.


Like the best pair of polaroid sunglasses, a quality sounder in shallow water may not be used to spot the fish, but current technology allows lateral exploration of the seafloor. Sounding to find the weed bed edges, holes, depressions and likely habitat has never been easier with technology like Lowrance’s Structure Scan, Humminbird Side Scan and Garmin Side Vu. Advanced transducers and sounders even have the ability to display full 3-dimensional images of the bottom.


Shallow water offers minimal protection for fish. Weary fish will be constantly on the move, searching for food. The application of a quality berley will not only help attract fish, but it assists greatly in keeping them around your fishing area. And as the old adage goes, a little bit often is better than a big dumping of berley. Too much berley will see you attract every juvenile fish and unwanted species into the area, so little bits are all you need.


Gear up appropriately for the target fish and the water you are fishing. You’ll benefit from using specialist leader materials like fluorocarbon for low visibility in the water. Embrace these advantages and reap the rewards!

Sensitive graphite rods perform exceptionally, with loads of power for fighting fish and sensitive tips for feeling bites.

You don’t need 15 rods in the boat, but being prepared makes life easy. I usually like to have an outfit at the ready with a squid jig, as calamari love shallow areas. Faster moving large species regularly appear in these areas too, so a slightly heavier rod with a soft plastic at the ready for a quickfire cast can bring a big salmon, pike or rat kingfish undone if you are prepared.


This is fairly self-explanatory, but the amount of boats that charge into shallow areas at 15 knots and throw the anchor overboard like the hammer throw tryouts for the Olympics is astounding. It is also no surprise that they generally don’t catch a lot and get cursed by other boats in the area. Next time you are at the boat ramp, take a look at a whiting specialist boat. The chances are high that anchor chain is covered in poly tube or similar.

Point Wilson to Point Cook

This area holds much of the ideal ground mentioned previously – wide expanses of shallow areas under 5m to hunt fish. Pipis and mussel have taken numbers of King George whiting, along with a decent amount of flathead to make it a handy addition to the catch.

Tony Spiteri from Two Up Fishing Charters passed on a handy report that he has been getting onto King George Whiting in the area of Wilson Spit. At this time of year, the fish will spread and you are likely to find them in plenty of locations. Give plenty of other boats space and everyone maximises their chances.

If the water is clear, definitely have a squid jig in the water or at the ready, as there are great numbers of calamari being taken from Point Wilson all the way to Point Cook. Tony also mentioned doing exceptionally well on the calamari recently when water clarity has been good.

The heavy reef areas around the Point Cook area are always worth a shot for a calamari drift. The warmer months can see numbers of smaller pinkies moving in. These guys provide sensational fishing on light tackle soft plastic outfits, with some good fish to 3kg mixed in with the average-sized fish around the 1kg mark.

Altona to Port Melbourne

Altona reefs are loaded with pinkies, and transient schools of salmon are popping up randomly. Being at the ready with a small metal slug is a great approach. Even better is a 3-4” soft plastic that these guys can hardly resist. Moving wider and deeper, the spoil grounds and deeper mud areas have produced a steady catch of snapper throughout the past month.

Young gun angler Mark Spiteri had a great day out with super keen fisho and AFL Brownlow medallist Patrick Dangerfield and Andrew ‘ET’ Ettingshausen from Escape With ET. Boarding Two Up III from Wyndham Harbour, the guys had a great day out landing a mixed variety of fish, including some lovely snapper to kick off 2017 in style. Keep an eye out for Mark’s fishing exploits on an upcoming episode of the TV series. The Two Up Charters team have been hard at it, recently filming with AFN Fishing & Outdoors for the upcoming Charter Boat Wars television episodes. No doubt some interesting viewing coming up!


I’d love to see and hear fishing experiences in the local area! Send through fishing reports and high resolution photos of your great catches to --e-mail address hidden-- with as much detail as you are happy to share.

Photo courtesy of John Cahill.

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