The strange and quirky weather has continued throughout the past month in what has been a testing time of extremes at both ends of the scale. Growing up in Victoria, I can always remember the long hot spells at the start of the school year, but the heat we have experienced over the past few weeks has been something else altogether. Luckily, we have a top class Bay fishery on our doorstep that can provide relief from the elements.
As always, snapper are still the go-to fish for many anglers wetting a line in the south of the Bay. Any fisher will confess to the obsessive nature of our great sport, but there is a special something that surrounds a summer of warm days, screaming reels and hard fighting snapper on the end of your line. Some top sessions that I had earlier in the year certainly rejuvenated my enthusiasm for this great fish. Let’s hope they keep biting for a few more months to come.
At present, the wider marks south of Mornington, from Fishermans Beach and down to Safety Beach have provided the most consistent snapper action. Shallower water is worth a try earlier and later in the day, but when it’s brighter concentrate your efforts in depths of 18-22m. The fishing can be a little slow at times, and more than a little frustrating when fish can be clearly seen on the sounder, but concentrating around tide and light changes is the key to success. It’s also worth spending the extra effort sourcing or gathering quality baits, and presenting them well.
The great sign for me during the course of this season has been the heavy presence of gummy sharks amongst the snapper. These fish are also suckers for a well-presented bait. Fresh squid and pilchards, yakkas, barracouta and silver whiting are all proven offerings. It’s also pleasing to hear that many anglers are practicing more catch and release, and limiting their kill. The use of circle hooks and more advanced tackle has no doubt aided this cause.
There has also been some good captures from land-based locations. The trusty old planks of Mornington Pier are well trodden by thousands of anglers each year, but still continue to produce some nice reds. The various rock platforms at Mount Martha and Safety Beach are also worth a trip, although care needs to be taken in rough weather, especially during strong westerly blows.
Excellent numbers of whiting have also been around in February, providing rewards for anglers in the know. There’s no question that the Bay sits in the shadow of Western Port when it comes to whiting, but if you don’t need a cricket score catch, the south of the Bay is the place to be.
The most productive areas are those with light rubbly reef near deep water. This provides refuge for the whiting when the sun is high, but they will feed heavily early and late in the day. Fresh mussels, squid and pipis are crucial, as is light line and sharp hooks. I know an angler who catches heaps of whiting on Bass yabbies too, and claims the Bay fish taste heaps better. Fishing unweighted or lightly weighted baits can be very productive, although the scavengers can be a little friendly at times.
Hungry schools of salmon have also been keeping boats busy over the past month, and pulling a few kinks out of the line for those sportfishing anglers like me. I still get a big buzz out of watching a salmon inhale my lure, and I know I’m not alone.
At present the salmon in the eastern side of the Bay are smaller than the models down at the Heads, but they are about in good numbers. The most important observation to make when you find a school on the chew is the size of the bait they are feeding on. Match this and you will catch a lot more fish. Salmon make great baits, and aren’t too bad to eat either given a bit of TLC – but they excel as a sportfish, so remember to only take what you need.
The clear water has made the squid fishing a little tough lately, but good quality jigs will still produce. There has definitely been a strong push this season towards natural coloured jigs like brown and green, which is both a sign of pressure, but also the availability of some pretty sexy jigs on the walls of fishing stores. Fair dinkum, if you’re a jig nut, some of them look good enough to eat while they are still in the box.
Local bream fishing has also been pretty tough, but will improve after we get some much-needed rain. Nonetheless, some nice fish have still been taken on good baits and by thinking anglers. Lures are taking a few fish as well, as my intrepid shore-based spinning mate Mark Bolger has been finding out lately, plucking bream from some tight little holes around the Bay.
As another month passes, I would like to send my best wishes to all the country communities affected by the recent bushfire devastation. Please give generously, and donate wherever you can.Reads: 1380