Aussie salmon a worthy adversary
  |  First Published: July 2007

In the past few weeks the temperature has dropped dramatically, inspiring anglers to begin focusing on Victoria’s fantastic surf beaches. Thankfully, Australian salmon don’t mind the cool weather – in fact they thrive on the schools of whitebait and pilchards found inshore at this time of year. Let’s have a look at the techniques you’ll need to catch a few this winter.

Salmon in the surf

Salmon, or ‘sambos’ as they are affectionately known, are a great little sportfish that can be targeted on relatively light line. Unfortunately, many anglers purchase the heaviest surf rods, capable of landing Moby Dick! It’s better to opt instead for a lighter 6-8kg outfit. Generally, a six-wrap glass rod will feel much better because it puts some sport into the fight. After all, most salmon only weigh between 500g and 2kg.

Tides are an important factor when hitting the beaches. Sambos move in through the surf break on a flood tide when the water is deepest. An hour before high tide is a good time to be fishing. Sunrise or sunset can also be great times to search for a few salmon. Changing light conditions seem to make it easier for these voracious little predators to feed.

Baits can vary, however bluebait, whitebait and pipis will account for most fish. Bluebait are my favourite, but can be tricky to keep on the hook. I use a small piece of Baitmate, which is a fine elastic string available from most tackle stores. Wrap it tightly around any soft baits to bind them to the hook and line.

Artificial lures such as surf poppers and white plastic grubs also work extremely well. Their main advantage over traditional fish baits is that sand crabs don’t tear them to shreds like they will everything else at times.


Most surf beaches will hold schools of salmon at one stage or another. They can often be caught sporadically at any beach, but when you come across a large school feeding actively, the action can be mind blowing. Bigger schools like this can be seen from a high vantage point like a sand dune before you choose a fishing spot on the beach. Take your time to have a good look around and pick a likely area. Look for clear water where the surf break doesn’t stir up too much sand. A little white wash can be a bonus, as salmon will actively feed in deep washy gutters.

Popular beaches worth trying include Kilcunda (5km east of Phillip Island) and Gunnamatta (on the Mornington Peninsula). Woolamai and Smiths beaches on Phillip Island are also great areas.

Recent surf reports

During early May I spoke with several groups of anglers who found salmon to 2kg at Cemetery Beach near Kilcunda. Williamsons Beach was also fishing well but the fish were around half that size. The following week the wind turned southeasterly and blew loads of thick kelp along the beach, hampering fishing efforts. Williamsons is a great spot to wet a line. Approximately 10km from the city side of Wonthaggi, this beach is noticeably steeper than most and often steep beaches have deep gutters right up against the shoreline.

Plenty of smaller salmon between 500g and 800g, often nicknamed bay trout, are currently being taken on pipis and squid along the sheltered beaches near Point Leo and Somers. While not truly ‘surf’ zones, these areas can provide reasonable fishing options when the wind is blowing. Most fish were taken on a paternoster rig with one baited hook and one popper. Interestingly, several anglers report that the bigger sambos ate the artificial bait.

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