Salmon Season in the Surf
  |  First Published: July 2005

Since many anglers give their boat a 3-month rest in the garage over winter, the fishing focus shifts to Victoria’s fantastic surf beaches. Some fishermen take a nocturnal approach and target big winter gummies but most are chasing one of our best little sport fish, the Australian salmon.

Salmon, or sambos as they are affectionately known, are the mainstay of our beach fishing trips. Being a schooling fish, you’re likely to encounter them in their hundreds or not at all. This can be a real point of frustration because salmon schools can move from beach to beach overnight. Naturally, when they find concentrations of food (often little frogmouth pilchards or white bait) they’ll enter the surf zone to feed.

The larger fish need favourable tides to encourage them into the shallows. As the tide floods and the near shore gutters fill, bigger fish find the confidence to move closer to shore. For this reason, it is advisable to look at the actual height of the tide, not just the time it peaks. Spring tides (the highest high tides) usually occur just after the full and new moons. This is when the gutters are at their deepest and the really big fish get caught. Steep beaches often have the best deep gutters that most suit these big salmon.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of fishermen are unaware that small salmon (under a kilo) are nearly always found in the shallow washy areas less than waist deep. For a fun session, try using a light surf rod, like a 4 wrap Snyder or Shimano’s 10’6” coastline light. Stick to short casts and concentrate on berleying heavily with pillies and bluebait. I use a small bait bucket on a belt around my waist, which is more convenient than running up and down the beach for berley all the time. Wear waders and simply drop the crushed bait at your feet while you’re knee deep in water. It helps to avoid steep beaches like Williamson’s and Kilcunda and opt for shallow areas like Waratah Bay, Venus Bay and Kitty Miller Bay on Phillip Island. With a bit of berley you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the number of fish you find in such shallow water.

The old paternoster rig will handle most surf conditions for salmon. Two droppers with a surf popper on one loop and bait on the other is the norm. Often the bigger fish are taken on the popper as small salmon won’t always eat the larger lure. Sand crabs can be a nuisance too but they don’t destroy poppers like they will soft bluebait.

Cranbourne Fishing Tackle staff members organised a surf trip with their customers in mid May. The group of 23 anglers including myself ventured down to Cemetery Beach at Kilcunda chasing a few salmon. We enjoyed an unusually warm, calm night but despite our best efforts, not a single sambo was landed!

So there you have it, take my advice and you probably won’t catch a thing! However, just before you sell the rods and take up tap dancing, we are going to do a few more surf trips. If you’d like to join us (free of charge) please contact us at the store (03) 5996 6500. Hope to see you on the water.

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