Winter well worthwhile
  |  First Published: July 2007

At last we have received some welcome rainfall and the Mornington Peninsula is beginning to look green again. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

Surprisingly enough, the southern waters of the bay remain very clear with the only dirty water being around the mouth of the recently opened Balcombe estuary and further north at the mouth of the Patterson River.

Speaking of the Patterson River, Trevor and Lynette Hogan have had a bit of a breather over the past few weeks as many anglers have packed their boats away for the winter. Activity did increase over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend though and anglers who set out from Carrum enjoyed some great fishing. Seven-year-old Brent Bredin recently landed a ripper snapper of just over 3kg while fishing with his Dad. Brent’s fish took a mullet fillet fished over some shallow reef and by all reports it took about a week to wipe the smile off the lad’s face.

Inside the Patto Lakes system itself, young kayak angler Frank took his Hobie for a spin up the back of the lakes system where he likes to fish small hard-bodied lures on light line. Imagine his surprise when the knock on the end of his Rapala was not silver and black and broad in shape, but flat and brown and shaped like a small shovel – a nice flathead! Great to see, and no doubt another indication of the health of the Patterson Lakes system. I chuck a lot of lures in the Patto and I am yet to catch a flathead – so well done Frank!

Pinkies are still making up the bulk of the bags of most anglers fishing on the wider marks and on the inshore reefs early in the day. Some bigger snapper are also being landed, especially by those anglers using fresh baits and paying attention to detail.

Anglers casting soft plastics over the shallower reefs are taking good numbers of pinkies too. As usual, 3-5” stickbaits are the best, as they have the best fall through the water and closely imitate the natural food source. Colour doesn’t seem to be too crucial, but next time you’re in you local tackle store check out the Gulp! colour called ‘nuclear chicken’. This colour is dynamite on pinkies (and bigger snapper) but it looks like no baitfish I’ve ever seen.

Trolling small hard-bodied lures can also be very effective, especially around Bird Rock, Frankston Reef, McRae and Snapper Point. Be prepared for plenty of by-catch, but this is half the fun. Salmon, pike, barracouta, red mullet and flathead all love to grab a trolled lure. Choose lures about 5-10cm in size that can be trolled at a fair speed and run at differing depths. Ecogear SX48s and MW72s, Rapala Mag7s, Juro Galaxia Minnows and Jackall Chubbies are all worth a swim.

The rest of anglers’ bags have been filled with some quality ‘bread and butter’ species, which after all are the mainstay of Victorian saltwater fishing at this time of year. What has impressed me of late is the quality and numbers of calamari still in the bay, including some real horses (like the one that pinched my favourite jig a few weeks ago). I always have more success with good quality jigs, and prefer neutral colours like brown or green.

Land-based anglers have been getting amongst the squid too, while some welcome schools of smaller salmon have also turned up at Mornington and Frankston piers, especially during the rougher weather. Further south, some nice whiting are being taken from Sorrento and Portsea and those in the know reckon that winter is the best time for these tasty winter wonders.

For something a little different, I recently decided to do some exploring on foot. It’s no secret that I like to chuck a few lures for bream, and some of the keenest young anglers I know do a lot of exploring in skinny waters around the bay with good success. It might surprise you to know that some lovely bream live in waters like Kananook Creek, Seaford Drain, Mordialloc Creek and many others. Most respond well to a variety of techniques, but light line and a bit of stealth is necessary. Even then it doesn’t stop them pinching your lures, as my young mate Mark Bolger will be only too happy to tell you. Check out the photo of a willing little customer that ate a Smith Jade in Kananook Creek, just outside the heart of Frankston!

For those with even more willingness to explore, there are a few decent freshwater options as well. Most of the creeks that feed the south of the bay have small freshwater reaches that contain trout, eels and various other native species, as do many of the lakes in public reserves. Remember to be mindful of these sometimes fragile environments and observe size, bag limits and closed seasons. There is some good fun fishing to be had, especially for the younger crew.

Well, there you have it. Cold weather doesn’t have to equal no fishing. Leaving the cold aside, some of the best conditions for boating occur in July and it has always surprised me that there are not more anglers on the water. Whatever you like to catch or wherever you like to go, there’s always a fish out there worth catching.

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