Fortune favours the cold
  |  First Published: August 2007

The rain has continued over the last month and as a result many parts of the bay are absolutely teeming with juvenile fish and baitfish in the shallows. Unfortunately in other parts of the state it has been a case of too much too quickly – hopefully things will return to normal very soon.

Some of the water in the south of the bay has become a little discoloured, especially around large outflows, but this doesn’t seem to doing the fishing any harm. Visibility is still quite good around most of the northern areas, and only gets better as you venture further south. Don’t be discouraged if you encounter dirty water, as this is likely to be where predatory fish will be hunting the baitfish. Many calamari anglers like dirtier water, but also expect to find salmon, barracouta and flathead.

In the south of the bay, some quality whiting have provided a bonus for boat anglers. Areas like the mussel farm out from Mt Martha, Rosebud Wreck and further south into Blairgowrie have produced some lovely fish of 40cm. As always fresh bait is a big help, especially fresh mussels and pipis. If you’re going to buy your shellfish frozen from a tackle shop, try to obtain those that are sold loose, not in bags. These are likely to be the freshest.

Of special interest is the use of small circle hooks by many whiting anglers, especially Black Magic KL 1/0 and Owner and Gamakatsu Shiner patterns. These hooks have incredible hook-up rate on a tight line and generally prevent the fish swallowing your bait. Berley is also a great help, as is the use of light line and as little sinker weight as possible.

Land-based anglers have not missed out either, and have caught whiting from Sorrento, Mt Martha Rocks and Mornington Pier. Mornington and Frankston piers have produced plenty of garfish too, along with barracouta and a few jumbo salmon in the rougher weather. I watched an angler fishing for garfish the other day from Mornington Pier, using a lightweight, sensitive $500 pole from Japan and some of the funkiest floats I have ever seen. He was absolutely cleaning up! The real fun started when a 2kg salmon grabbed his silverfish bait and set sail for Melbourne. Needless to say he didn’t land the fish, but it was very funny to watch.

Small snapper are still being taken in good numbers, and some ripper fish have been taken from the reefs around Mornington, especially by anglers using soft plastics. A good mate of mine has been bending his bream gear inside the Yarra recently on ripper pinkies to 4kg, so now is a good time to have a crack at these great little sportfish. My advice is to use a jig head of about 1/8-1/4oz and a 3-4 inch soft plastic (see also Brent Hodges feature this month – Ed.).

Berkley Gulp! is a standout performer on small snapper but I would also try ‘paddle tail’ plastics like Ecogear Grass Minnows and Power Shads. Colour is a personal choice but it pays to match the hatch a little bit. I like natural colours like green or pumpkinseed while baitfish colors can also be very productive. Best time is early morning and late evening, and the most productive areas have been Bird Rock, Fishies Beach, Frankston Reef or The Hospital.

I have had reports of kingfish in the far south of the bay, including a couple of one-sided battles with anglers targeting them with livebaits. Once our great bay was a renowned fishery for these big bruisers, so it is no surprise that they are showing up in greater numbers over the last few years. If you want to have a crack at a ‘king’ in the bay, stay close to reliable food sources like schools of garfish and salmon, fish close to structure like reefs, piers and pylons, and have adequate tackle for landing these fish. This might take time and a few fishless trips, but the rewards are worth it.

The Patterson River has been very dirty after a lot of rain entered from Dandenong Creek, but is still producing some mullet and small salmon for the land-based bait fisherman. I also saw an angler land a couple of luderick recently, fishing with nippers under the rail bridge.

For the bream spinners, don’t be discouraged by the dirty water – sometimes this is the best time to fish the canals. Not only are the fish less spooky, but they can feed more aggressively. Dirty water is not a guarantee of cricket score catches, though, and some observation is still needed. Try to target areas out of the main current flow, like small bays and points, and to fish more slowly than normal. Black bream don’t move as fast when the water is cold and are less likely to chase down a speedy retrieve, especially as your lure heads towards the cold freshwater on top.

Adam Royter and I had a couple of awesome sessions in the Patto over the past week, testing some new hard-bodied lures from Ecogear, catching bream to 38cm fork length. We used mainly 2–3lb fluorocarbon straight through to the lure, which gives your lure better presentation and action, but you do lose a few.

Well, rug up, grab the thermos and hit the water because if you don’t you’re missing out on some great winter fishing on the bay. It might be cold, and most probably wet, but I reckon the fishing is worth it.

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