Baitfish Take Over the Bay
  |  First Published: July 2006

Well it’s absolutely freezing at the moment but somebody forgot to tell the fish. While recent weather has made it hard to get motivated, the good fishing has compensated anglers brave enough to take on the cold.

The abundance of whitebait in the top end of the bay recently has had to be seen to be believed. From Ricketts Point all the way to Williamstown anglers have been encountering schools of bait. Shallow or deep, the whitebait is everywhere!

This has made it tough for anglers chasing the salmon schools because they rely on diving birds to give away a school’s position. With so much bird and bait activity many ‘bust ups’ have turned out to be false alarms.

It’s not only the birds and professional fishermen taking advantage of the baitfish either; salmon, pinkies, calamari and other bay predators all seem to be joining in the smorgasbord!

Beaumaris to Sandringham

The pinkie fishing of last month seems to have stayed steady and the size of fish, in general, has been great. Fish to 50cm have been coming from areas like Ricketts Point, the Aquarium, the Cerberus, Sandringham and the Hampton rock groynes. Most pinkies have been in the 32 to 45cm range. The undersize fish have still been annoying.

Fresh baits of squid strips and pilchards have done well around dawn and dusk but it’s the soft plastics that have dominated reports. Anglers using stick baits such as Berkley Bass Minnows, Lunker City Fin-s Fish and Squidgy Flick baits have all done well, as have those using plastics from the Berkley Gulp range. Matched to jigheads of 1/8oz to 1/4oz and hopped slowly across the bottom, incorporating a short pause, has consistently pulled the better fish. Anglers fishing lightly weighted pilchard cubes down a cube berley trail on dusk have also caught good pinkies.

Robert from the Compleat Angler’s Melbourne store tells me that customers have been getting some great bags of calamari around Ricketts Point, Black Rock and Sandringham.

Boat anglers drifting over reef patches with smaller squid jigs have done well on calamari up to 1.5kg. Standout jigs have been Yamashita size 2.0 and 2.5 in pink or green and the 2.5 Ecogear Egilee. One tip from Robert was that when someone onboard hooks a calamari, other anglers should all cast to the same spot. Calamari travel in small groups so chances of double and even triple hook ups are good once you’ve found a patch.

The salmon are still hunting whitebait schools between Beaumaris Bay and Sandringham. They can be a little tricky to find on top sometimes with all the baitfish. Quite often they are feeding deep rather than on the surface. Trolling has been a great method because it allows you to cover plenty of water while looking for any surface activity. Trolling both shallow and deep diving bibbed minnows has been successful lately. The fish are still of great size between 800g and 2.5kg.

St Kilda to Port Melbourne

Anglers continue to catch calamari inshore over reef and broken ground between Elwood and St Kilda. The closer to spawning season we get the more prolific the calamari will become. Once again, the smaller size squid jigs are performing better.

Pinkies are still being caught although they’re becoming a bit patchy, and the smaller fish are still a nuisance at times. Fresh squid strips and half pilchards fished with light sinkers have worked well for fish to 48cm. Soft plastic anglers have also done reasonably well using paddle tails and stick baits.

The baitfish up around Port Melbourne recently has been phenomenal and commercial fishermen have been a regular sight in this area with their nets.

Andre from Melbourne Fishing Charters tells me that he has seen the netters working most days. They are also netting a few pike, mullet and flathead in close. Andre has been busy putting his clients on to pinkies over the past few weeks but says that the size has not been large. He also mentioned the abundance of undersize fish.

Williamstown to Werribee

There’s still some great pinkie fishing to be had around Williamstown and Altona. Fish up to 50cm have been taken on bait and soft plastics. From the mouth of the Yarra right around to the football ground at Williamstown has seen large schools of pinkies getting around with early morning and just before dark most productive. Best baits have been fresh squid, pilchards and half sauries. Berkley Gulp 4” Minnows have been the best of the artificials.

Dave from the JV Laverton store tells me of a friend of his who caught some great pinkies and snapper from the shore at Williamstown. Fishing in the evenings using pilchards for bait he’s been catching fish from 52 to 64cm. Now that’s the way to warm up a winter’s night!

Dave also tells me of a monster bream caught from the Werribee River. The fish was 52cm long and was caught on bass yabbies. He reports the river has been fishing very well for bream with the best baits being bass yabbies, sandworms and crabs. The fish have come from throughout the river, from the jetty at the mouth all the way to the golf course upstream. As well as bream there have been quite a few yellow-eye mullet caught too.

Altona has had some good calamari action with the shallower reef sections consistently producing specimens to 1.5kg. The same type of terrain at Werribee is also producing good bags of calamari. Best jigs according to Dave have been size 2.5 Yo Zuri jigs with chartreuse or white being the pick of the colours.

Yarra & Maribyrnong Rivers

While the rivers have been patchy for bream at times, when the water has cleared and the weather has settled, some great fishing has been had. The Docklands has been fishing very well for bream around pylons and moored boats. Soft plastics have worked well with the recent standouts being Snapback Grubs and Ecogear Grass Minnows.

Fished on very light jigheads and dropped down along the pylons or the shade of yachts has been effective. For the bait anglers, bass yabbies, crabs and raw chicken soaked in tuna oil have worked well.

Silver trevally have also started to make an appearance and are becoming more frequent captures every week. Raw chicken and prawns have been productive, as have small paddle tailed soft plastics like the Grass Minnows.

The tailor have started to run at the Warmies at Newport. They should be in full swing in July. The fish have been biting at night when the hot water is being pumped out from the power plant. Mixed with these tailor have been plenty of salmon, which are probably there because of the massive schools of baitfish in the top end of the Bay.

During the day these salmon have been caught by boat anglers as they troll by the vast schools of bait around the mouth of the Yarra. Casting at the Warmies with small metal lures and bibbed minnows has been the best method amongst the shore brigade while those in boats have been trolling small bibbed minnows.

So far, it looks like the great fishing of June has carried on. Let’s hope it continues through July and the rest of winter!

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