Patto Bonanza
  |  First Published: June 2007

Port Phillip Bay continues to produce some excellent fishing for both boat and land-based anglers, especially those who put in a little extra effort. Fresh baits, attention to detail, the right lures and fishing at times when others are well and truly tucked up in bed are all ingredients for fishing success.

Pinkies remain the mainstay of anglers fishing the wider marks, and they have turned up in good numbers from some of the piers too, especially Mornington. Most fish are around 1kg, but some bigger specimens have also been taken. The trend at the moment is for anglers to cast and retrieve soft plastic stickbaits. I can tell you from my own experience, this is a very productive technique.

Broken reef, especially close to a steep drop-off, is the best place to try while covering the area from a drifting boat. Bait fishers will also do well in these areas, anchoring off the drop-off up current, and fishing lightly weighted or unweighted baits back through a berley trail. Be prepared to sort through some undersized fish using this method though, and be sure to return the little guys safely back into the drink.

Squid have also been prevalent right through the south of the bay, especially on good quality jigs. My preference is for green or brown jigs in the 2.5 size. Fish them slowly and close to the bottom. I have been fishing lately with 2-3lb fluorocarbon straight off the reel and a very soft rod with excellent results. The stretch in the line and the give in the rod mean that fewer squid are lost.

Anglers fishing out wide on traditional snapper marks have also been taking some quality flathead. I have heard reports of some great ‘frogs’ around the 3kg mark, and have seen many fish of 1.5-2kg. These fish are great eating and respond well to most baits, but fresh squid is best. They will also willingly suck in a plastic, although these can be hard to get down to the bottom in deeper water.

The south of the bay is also still choc-a-bloc with garfish, some big schools of barracouta and some nice salmon for good measure. Overall, I see no change on the horizon in the fishing at present. With all the bait and activity around, I am also expecting to see and hear more reports of kingfish captures and will be watching my inbox, and my lures, with great interest over the coming weeks.

Speaking of interest, it’s no secret that I have a soft spot for the Patterson Lakes. With the way it’s fishing at the moment, who could blame me? Not only is it less than 20 minutes’ drive from my front door, it offers a great variety of fishing options for all anglers, from the diehard snapper guru to ‘old mate’ with his float pole on the bank.

Bream are the most consistent target year round and are taken using a wide range of methods. Even though the increasing number of lure fishermen will have you believe they catch the most bream, I’m here to tell you that light line, some live shrimp and a sharp hook will win hands down, especially when the water is clear. Prawns also account for their fair share of bream.

The lure fishermen have been doing well however, and it’s great to see nearly all of them practising catch and release. A 35cm bream could be 35 years old, so they are too good to catch just once. Personally, I have been catching plenty of bream lately on the new Ecogear SX40 colors that have just been released. Fortunately, part of my job involves product testing, and these little guys, like their 19 brothers and sisters, are bream magnets. In the clear water conditions of recent times I have been fishing a lot with 2-3lb fluorocarbon straight to the reel. This can be a pretty hairy (and expensive) way to catch bream, but it’s a lot of fun and very effective. Sight fishing to bream cruising the rock walls and sand flats is a real buzz.

Enough blowing my own trumpet, I thought I’d save the best report until last. The boys from Lofty’s Compleat Angler stores at Ringwood and Dandenong have been chasing a ‘Patto’ lure target of a different kind over the past few weeks – the mighty mulloway. Regular readers will remember last year around this time when several jewies were landed and a lot more lost on barra lures, livebaits and soft plastics cast from the bank.

The guys from Compleat Angler have been targeting the food-holding structures in the main river system, especially the bridges and flood gates, using lightly weighted soft plastics. Mulloway normally require a much heavier tackle presentation, but clear water and lots of food has meant more finesse has been required. One of the boys has even tried his luck on ultra light gear, and we can all guess the ending to that story.

Anyway the end result has been several nice fish hooked, with many lost. The most recent capture was a ripper fish caught by Mitch Chapman. This fish was estimated at 7-8kg and was taken using 6lb braid mainline with an 8lb leader. Mitch released his prize to fight another day – well done!

Yet again our great bay has turned up the dial for us hopelessly addicted anglers – let’s hope there are plenty more to come. Whether it’s rod burning action you’re after, or a relaxing afternoon on the camp chair, there’s a spot in the bay for you.

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