Cool water and elbow-slapper snapper
  |  First Published: May 2017

While the warmer weather continued through much of autumn, the cooler daytime and night time temperatures arrived with little warning, like someone had flicked a switch and that was that.

Even though some warm days were a feature for many during the Easter break, the colder weather is here to stay as we move towards winter once again. With this change in the seasons comes a change in the fishing and shorter bite windows for many of the bay’s target species. The big plus is that for the most part fishing and especially boating conditions are more favourable.

A wide variety of fishing options further afield continue to keep anglers busy away from PPB. Anglers focusing on their local waters have enjoyed great late season snapper fishing, especially out from Mornington and Mount Martha. The peak activity has been centred around deeper areas in 16-20m of water and the most productive times have been around the change of tide and the change of light. When the two factors have been close together, the action has been red hot.

This late season snapper run is something that many of the bay’s snapper anglers look forward to, even more so than the early season migration in some cases. Most anglers are currently reporting that time spent on the sounder to locate fish is crucial. The use of fresh bait and frequently changing baits during the session are also important.

All of this is Snapper Fishing 101. It’s even more important at this time of year on the late season snapper. Many of the fish taken recently have been in the 6-8kg size range. Let’s hope they stick around for some time to come, and with the amount of bait in the same area, they just might! The best baits have been fresh garfish and squid, as well as silver whiting and the good old pilchard.

Just to even up the ledger a little bit, the land-based snapper anglers have been getting amongst the action as well on the windier days, although not with the same sized fish. They’ve mostly had 2-4kg fish, but they are responding to fresh baits and peak bite times during the day.

Both the land-based and boating anglers have also reported good numbers of whiting and garfish over the past month, so it’s worth being prepared with a lighter outfit or two at the moment. I have noticed big numbers of gars in the shallows, especially around dark, and have been doing very well on the whiting close to twilight too.

Whiting have not been in great numbers. They are making up for this in size with many fish around 40cm. Fresh bait is the key to both whiting and gars. Fresh squid strips and mussels are best for the tasty ‘ting’ and silver fish or maggots are the best pick for gars on a lightly weighted float. Peeled prawn pieces will also do at a pinch, especially when they are busy in the berley trail.

Plenty of pinkies have also been reported on the inshore reefs over that past month, although many of them are undersized and can be positively annoying, especially when bait fishing and when targeting whiting. Your best bet is to move spots when the key-ring sized pinkies move in. Fishing soft plastics and even trolled lures on the reefs can be a productive way of getting a bite from the larger more desirable fish, and bait fishing from a drifting boat.

The numbers of squid on the inshore reefs have been massive over the last month and seem to be growing as the water gets cooler. Plagues of smaller squid have been holding around the piers and shoreline rocks, especially Mornington Pier. Anglers have been shoulder to shoulder lately. Small green, red and black jigs have been the best bet, but please keep to your bag limit. I have seen and heard of a few cases of anglers going well beyond their limit lately.

Patterson lakes and other rivers and creeks along the eastern shoreline have also been producing lovely bream on baits and lures and have also been hotspots for schools of feeding salmon, mullet and other forage species. The odd mulloway has also been reported in the ‘Patto,’ I would expect more to report on this front over the next couple of months.

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