Quality catches for the dedicated
  |  First Published: June 2017

The weather is swinging into the Melbourne winter we all know. This doesn’t mean you have to pack the rods and reels away, though.

The metropolitan area and the western area of Port Phillip Bay continue to produce a variety of options. Plenty of baitfish have congregated across the northern aspect of the bay, but reliable areas to find the bait stretch from the mouths of the metro rivers out and all the way across to Point Cook.

Huge numbers of Australian salmon have spread out across the top end of the bay. The highest concentration of these hard fighting sportfish is between Williamstown and Altona. While the fish have not been huge by some of the standards seen along our coastal surf beaches, solid fish up to and just over the 1kg mark have been common and hugely concentrated.

These bay predators push the population of whitebait and small blue bait up into packs and feast on them daily. An eagle eye and great quality polarised sunglasses assist to spot the fish. Approach them smartly – it pays dividends. Rather than having one cast or troll run over the fish if you target them from a boat, take your time to get in front of the moving school. Do this by watching the birds and the direction of their travel.

There is nothing worse than one boat driving over top of the entire school in an effort to hook a fish. Most often, the end result is the fish disperse or go deeper and the red-hot fishing slows to a crawl. If you are going to troll, an old technique that still can be effective is to troll small white or clear 3” (75mm) octopus skirts with a small bean sinker in the head. Add a tinsel head skirt under this for a natural holographic sheen that will boost your catch rates substantially.

In addition to this, many other methods are effective and have been highlighted over the years. Trolling divers up to 100mm in length can be a great way to attract deeper fish to your spread of lures. Always have a casting outfit rigged and ready to go if the fish appear. The ideal lures are small metal casting slugs up to 30g in weight.

Matthew Calleja has enjoyed great success by fishing smartly across the top end of the bay while searching for salmon. Matty positions the boat so he can stop and cast towards the school of feeding salmon. This has allowed him to catch multiple fish in sequential casts without having the need to motor around them and risk spooking or scaring the fish.

The shallow areas of the bay also produce great catches on the reefs. Alan Bonnici of fishingmad.com.au has enjoyed good success from his Native Watercraft Slayer kayak around Altona. Alan reports that fishing unweighted pilchards and squid near the reef has resulted in a lot of good size pinkies from 35-50cm in length and also some lovely eating size flathead to top off a great morning on the water. Some of the flathead have been up to 48cm in length – truly a great size for the bay. There is always a good chance of by-catch along the reef areas with leatherjackets, salmon and pike all common.

Further afield, the far west of the bay and the entrance area to the outer harbour of Corio Bay can be a worthwhile proposition for some deep water gummy sharks. Target the 20m line and fish squid and pilchards. If you are going to berley, do so lightly. Heavy berley generally attracts a lot of unwanted fish in the area like small flathead and copious numbers of banjo rays and their flat, unwanted stingray cousins.

The shallow areas from Clifton Springs all the way around the Bellarine Peninsula are ideal areas to target calamari from now until the warmer summer month’s return. Sam Cunsolo headed out off Clifton Springs recently with his girls. Fishing glassy calm conditions and seeing the calamari were a little finicky, Sam and the girls wisely downsized their jigs and came up trumps using red foil Yamashita jigs in size 2.5.

Back towards the city, and renowned metro river specialist and Hobie pro angler Dale ‘Thursdale’ Baxter has been up to his usual tricks with quality catches on the board. Prior to the metro mulloway really firing up, which is due to happen any time now, Dale headed to some local piers to exploit the structure with the premium access that a quality fishing kayak can provide. Princess Pier provides a huge amount of shelter, food and fishing opportunity.

Dale has encountered great success recently using 3” Gulp Nemesis lures in camo colour matched to a Daiwa TD Commander Avenger 2-4kg rod with 6lb leader in the pylons. This presentation has allowed Dale to land about ten quality snapper in the pylons with the best hitting just shy of 70cm and only two fish under 35cm in length. That’s the benefit of quality gear in the hard-to-fish territory.

The rivers will continue to get even better from now until the big winter flows. Baitfish will begin to concentrate in the lower reaches of the rivers and while most of the bream gradually move towards the middle and school up, they can’t resist a well-placed bait like a scrub worm after fresh rains.

Alan Bonnici continues to enjoy really good fishing around the Warmies and the West Gate Bridge, landing plenty of bream up to 38cm. For those anglers wishing to encounter a mulloway, now is the time to put in serious effort towards our local rivers. Focus and target on the structure and your efforts will reap the rewards!


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.

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