Snapper fever taking hold
  |  First Published: September 2007

We have been treated to more welcome rain right throughout the last month, and by all accounts there’s plenty more on the way. It has also been very chilly, and quite windy, but these are all good signs of the winter that we badly needed. This will definitely benefit the fishing in the bay over the summer months.

Much like last month, some of the bay’s inshore waters have become a little discoloured, especially around the mouth of rivers and creeks. Although the water does not look as appealing as usual, this discoloured water attracts all sorts of baitfish and other food sources in close. In this situation, the predatory fish will cash in.

Visiting the mouth of the Patterson River recently, I saw quite a few anglers catching some lovely salmon during the run-in tide, which had created a distinct colour change in the water, well within casting distance. The dirty river water was mixing with the clean water from the bay, and the salmon were tearing the joint apart, smashing baitfish. These fish were 1–1.5kg and were falling to a mixture of metal lures and soft plastics.

Speaking of baitfish, there’s still no shortage of bait schools in the bay. Every time I drive the shoreline near my house in Mornington, several pods of birds and actively feeding fish are ripping up the surface. Speaking to some local anglers around the area, they say that most of the bait is around 7-10cm in length, and, reportedly, there are also some large schools of pilchards around. Mix these up with good numbers of garfish around Frankston and Mornington, and you’ve got some great signs for the upcoming snapper season.

It won’t be long now and the ramps in the south of the bay will be packed again, as snapper fever takes hold. Even at the time of writing, many of the snapper diehards that I know are already getting itchy feet and starting to get their gear ready for upcoming season. My advice is to spend some time getting some quality baits now, especially with the ready availability of garfish, barracouta and squid from most of the popular land-based areas.

The whiting have tapered off a little over the past month, however I did see a land-based angler at Mornington catch some nice specimens recently, using Bass yabbies for bait. Interestingly, he was also using small Shiner style hooks to pin his soft baits on, and was having great success with the timidly biting whiting. Reliable marks for boat anglers include the mussel farms out from Mount Martha, and further south towards Rosebud and beyond. Winter whiting have been something of an unknown for many of the bay’s anglers, but for those who put in the time, the rewards are definitely there.

Small pinky snapper are still being taken in good numbers, and a few larger specimens have also been caught during rougher weather. Most of these fish are around 1kg, but some larger fish have also been reported. Attention to detail always pays off with pinkies, especially in the bait department, so don’t be afraid to use good quality baits like fresh squid, tuna fillet and good quality pilchards.

Squid fishing has been a little hit and miss lately with the dirty water, but there are still plenty of tasty calamari around the reefs and piers. As you know, I am a big believer in good quality jigs, and it is when the fishing is a little tough that better quality jigs will produce the goods. Try brands like Ecogear, Yo Zuri, Hayabusa, Yamashita or Daiwa. Best size for my local waters is 2–2.5, while further south in the bay 2.5–3.5 jigs are best.

The Patterson River has been very dirty after all of the rain we have had, and has been a little hit and miss for all you bream nuts out there. I have had some good days and some dud days, but now is the time that the bream begin to go into pre-spawn mode and are not really concerned with feeding too much. I like to give them a little relief at this time of year, but good quality baits will still catch a few fish (although most will be small). Remember to always adhere to size and bag limits. It was disappointing to see an angler with several undersized fish recently.

Well, once again, rug up and get out and have a go on the bay. Before you know it, the footy will be over and snapper fever will take over the bay. It’s the time of year I always look forward to, as I know many others do too.

It won’t be long and snapper fever will take hold in Port Phillip Bay. For the last two seasons the fishing in spring has been sensational – as these clients of Reel Time Fishing Charters can attest (photo courtesy of Matt Cini).
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