I can’t honestly think of a snapper season where so many snapper of over 9kg have been caught. This year has fished really well and although most of the bigger Western Port fish were caught during November, a few fish were taken well into December as well.
Though fish of 9kg (around the old 20lb mark) are as rare as hen’s teeth, there were still plenty of others close to the mark that kept anglers busy throughout the month. Even smaller fish provided plenty of entertainment right up until Christmas.
Charles Williams dropped into Tackle World Cranbourne after bobbing like a cork off Hastings early in the morning. Although there weren’t many others out, Charles was chuffed to have the area to himself without being plagued by other boats. After fishing for a few hours, Charles hooked up to a solid snapper of 11kg.
Customer Jarrod Parsons also sent me an email to report his capture of a 9.3kg fish from the Rhyll area on a 6kg outfit.
Snapper were certainly the hottest topic in January as the school fish continued to turn weekend anglers into sleep-deprived zombies, with many enduring long hours searching for quality fish.
Drew Wilson was one angler that caught his bag of fish, with the largest weighing 4kg. The humble pilchard was the standout bait. Fresh calamari, red rockets and pilchards have also been popular with anglers.
I had an early morning session with good mates Brendan Wing and Gawaine Black from Think Big Charters. We fished deep off Lysaughts to catch and release 30 odd snapper to around 4kg. Freshly caught calamari accounted for all the snapper as well as a 5.8kg gummy shark.
I headed out again with Gawaine to conduct a specialised snapper charter and give five clients a hands-on technical snapper fishing experience. This involved baiting, rigging, sounding and fighting techniques for snapper.
We ended up having a ball catching and releasing over 12 snapper, plus a gummy shark of 3kg as by-catch. Again, freshly caught calamari baits worked wonders.
In the top end of the Port, Max Clark fished Joes Island during the night. He caught five snapper of 4.5-5.5kg.
I briefly spoke with Steve Johnson from Ace Fishing Charters who has had some absolutely sensational snapper sessions. On every trip his clients have been catching quality fish up off Lysaughts. On one trip, 10 anglers caught and released 40 snapper between 1-3kg.
Warren Cater, Cameron Whittam and Brendan Wing ventured onto Western Port one night in search of large school sharks to test out some new shark rigs. The boys were confronted by a 30-knot southwesterly wind but it didn’t deter them. At about 11pm one of the rods screamed off, taking 200m of line in the first run before Warren went to work, battling the fish to the boat. After a long battle, they landed an estimated 30kg gummy shark that was released.
A good friend of mine, Ilja, also found success while fishing out from Tooradin in the top end of the port. He managed a gummy of 12kg that took an eel fillet. Better yet, it was taken on his brand new Shimano Baitrunner combo that he purchased on Tackle World Cranbourne’s Annual Gala Day Sale.
In another session around Crawfish Rock, David Hutchinson managed two gummies of 4kg and 6kg. He was using fresh silver trevally baits while fishing the run-out tide.
Some toothy sharks have also been landed. Seven-gilled sharks continued to steal baits, with plenty of anglers being bitten off while using monofilament leaders. Those that were landed were of substantial size. Adam Heller reports the successful capture of two seven-gilled sharks weighing 9kg and 24kg while fishing the run-in tide off Corinella. Adam was fishing in only 9m of water and had great fun on these big fish in shallow water.
Thresher sharks have also been landed, mostly as by-catch when snapper fishing, as young Steven Beasley found out. He was fishing out from Rhyll and managed a thresher of 2m in length, which is his largest fish taken in the Port to date.
There have also been countless anglers being bitten off left right and centre. One can only put it down to sharks. Though some may try to catch them by switching to wire leaders, remember that wire can deter threshers, schoolies and bronzies. As a suggestion, upgrade you monofilament to 130 or 200lb and use 10/0 circle hooks for your best chance.
Land-based fishing was very productive during December, with a number of fish being caught. Many anglers, like Mark Gray, spent countless hours from the sand and rocks targeting gummy sharks but few actually found success.
After much anticipation and research on locations, Mark again hit the shores one Saturday night. Fishing the low tide he managed a great gummy of 10.5kg (cleaned) and lost one bigger.
I also heard of another gummy shark caught from the rocks at Balnarring on a low tide. This fish was estimated at a whopping 25kg.
The land-based brigade were at it again enduring long hours on the sand around Phillip Island. Brad Palmer, Clint Hockley and Mark Keaveny managed good numbers of pinkie snapper to 40cm, wrasse to 4kg, gummy sharks and five thumping big seven-gilled sharks (all released) from six trips at numerous locations.
It’s mako time! Although I have already received a few reports of makos being hooked up and lost, I expect the next report to be full of reports of makos, both small and large. If it turns out anything like last year, those fishing light line classes such as 10, 8 and 6kg will be hooked up for hours.
February is the time the offshore angler ventures into Bass Strait to meet his match on some of southeastern Victoria’s most brutal fish. I’ll be there trying my hardest to photograph, catch and release these beasts of the ocean.
At the other end of the scale, the tasty King George whiting will be about in good numbers. Plenty have already been taken and it is during January that they really fire up in a big way.Reads: 1850