It has been an erratic winter in Melbourne this year. The weather has been from bad to worse to good all in a week. While these conditions don’t favour anglers, some foggy, calm days have provided us with a chance to get out for a fish and it’s been some ‘old school’ favourites that have saved the day. Surprisingly though, the best results have been provided by using more ‘new school’ techniques.
August is a top time of the year to catch calamari in the top end of the bay because it’s the start of a run that lasts until October. While we don’t get monsters like those caught around Point Lonsdale, Queenscliff or Flinders we do get great numbers of calamari from 500g-2.5kg. These are found over reef and weed beds where they can camouflage themselves and ambush any unsuspecting prey. Reefy bottom also provides places for them to attach their egg sacs during their spawning run.
Calamari feed in waters of 1-8m deep and in the calm, clear, shallow water they feed on any small fish that they can sneak up on and wrap up their tentacles around. This voracious appetite and hunting ability is ultimately their downfall when they home in on that pink little baitfish that just hovers over their head almost daring them to eat it. Unfortunately for the calamari this pink baitfish is a squid jig and this time he’s the main meal!
It’s usually a pretty easy task to catch a feed of calamari but some days they can be a little tricky to entice. In times like these, anglers taking advantage of a lot of the ‘new school’ tackle and techniques have been dominating the catches. In any group of boats fishing for calamari, one boat will seem to be catching them every few casts, while the rest struggle to catch more than a few. More often than not, the successful boat contains some switched on anglers who have adopted the ‘finesse’ approach to catching these tasty critters.
It’s not rocket science either. They’re just using soft plastic tackle, which involves a light graphite rod (preferably soft as when squid are lightly hooked they can tear off a jig easily), small reel and light braided line of about 6lb coupled with a light 6lb fluorocarbon leader. On the business end is a small Japanese squid jig. These jigs can be expensive but the way they hover in the water and move when twitched is proving the difference. Combine all this with casts fanning in all directions by the anglers to locate a pod of feeding calamari and what you get is a very quick and efficient method of finding and catching calamari.
Snapper outfits or handlines might work well in areas with faster tidal flow or when the calamari are really feeding hard, but when there is very little wind to drift you will run into problems. This is because large jigs are difficult to cast. In addition, the large jigs snag very quickly in the shallow waters and don’t hover long enough to entice a wary or boat-shy calamari into grabbing it.
The baitfish that inhabit the shallows in the top of the bay are also quite small so it also pays to match their size with the size of your jig – a size 2.0 is a great starting point. A fine line and trace with a small quality jig combined with being able to cast good distances to locate pods is all that is required for a feed when conditions aren’t in your favour.
The occasional calm days have also allowed anglers to venture out and try for another old winter favourite: the pinky snapper. The Rickets Point and Black Rock reef systems are usually a reliable spot all year for pinkies and while August isn’t as action-packed as the warmer months, their better size makes up for it. Most fish have been around 2kg, with a few around 3.5kg Furthermore, the chances of the odd 5kg plus snapper showing up really increases at this time of the year.
The usual baits and methods have produced a few fish lately but the soft plastics have been far more successful. This might be because this method can cover a lot of water, or because an abundance of small baitfish have been brought into the shallows by the rain. I’m not really sure why, but the runs are on the board for the plastics brigade around this area at the moment. The best times have been early in the morning and late in the afternoon, while the best plastics have again been the 3” and 4” Berkley Gulp Minnows in a range of colours.
Calamari of up to 1.5kg have been consistent over reefs around Beaumaris, Ricketts Point and off Black Rock. As mentioned small jigs fished on light lines has been the best method of late with late afternoon or mid morning on a calm day being the best time.
I have had a handful of reports of whiting from Beaumaris and Black Rock with fish up to 37cm taken on pipis but the fish have been patchy and hard to find, so some dedication is needed if you would like to catch a few of these.
Robert from the Compleat Angler Melbourne store tells me things in this area have also been patchy. Nevertheless some great pinkies have been caught around the Anonyma Shoal, in front of Sandringham Marina, off the rocks at the Marina and at St Kilda. Once again soft plastics have been the most productive method while baits of pilchard and squid have also accounted for a few fish. Most fish have been around 1.5kg but some nice fish of over 3kg have also been caught, making for some very happy fisherman. The high tide change and late afternoon have been the best times.
Calamari have been consistent around Sandringham, Anonyma shoal, Brighton and St Kilda. The pier at Brighton really starts to fish well for these guys at this time of the year. The best time has been a calm evening around dusk with a high tide. Small jigs either cast and jigged back or fished under a small float with a light stick attached have worked well lately.
Tan from the J.V. Marine in Laverton tells me customers have been doing it tough for pinkies around Williamstown lately and are having to work hard to find fish. Pilchards and squid have worked for anglers fishing in front of the ‘footy oval’ as have 4” Berkley Gulp Minnows.
Tan did mention customers have taken snapper to 5kg on pilchards fishing in 5-8m of water off Altona. The best days have been those immediately after really windy and rough weather.
The calamari fishing on this side has also been great with the calm days producing some great sessions around Point Cook and Altona. I even managed to sneak out once myself and was not disappointed. We had a ball, with packs of a dozen or so calamari chasing the jig. We didn’t have any problems catching our bag that day! Small jigs and light line again provided the difference between doing it relatively easily and having to work hard to catch them.
Tan also reports that customers fishing soft plastics over the broken weed beds and sand flats off Werribee South have caught some top flathead to 65cm. The best plastics have been Gulp 3’ Minnows in the chartreuse and pearl colours.
Things have been tough due to the rivers being very dirty from much needed rains. The Docklands has fished well for bream lately, with fish up to 40cm being taken on soft plastics such as the Berkley Gulp 6” sandworm in either natural or camo colours. Anglers using crabs for bait have also caught some great fish to 34cm.
The ‘hotties’ is still producing a few tailor to 2kg and the pinkies while not as thick as last month have still been consistent. The best time has been when the hot water is running.
Hopefully August brings some more stable weather, allowing us more time to chase some fish. While things are a bit tough, perseverance should help get you some fish.Reads: 1939