Winter Snapper a good option
  |  First Published: June 2009

Once again a wide range of weather has treated anglers in the south of the bay over the past month as the firm grip of winter takes hold.

By and large, the bulk of the days at this time of year are calm with little wind, but the cold temperatures seem to keep many anglers away from the water. I’m here to tell you that you are missing out on some great fishing for quality table fish, and some great sports fishing thrown in as well.


The most encouraging sign over the past month has been the reports of some quality snapper still being taken in the south of the bay. Typically, these fish have been taken from wider marks, but contrary to the belief of many anglers, this winter pattern is quite common. There’s no doubt that the spawning migration of snapper each year makes for some thrilling fishing, but similar bites can occur through the winter months. Experienced snapper anglers could do well to employ their proven techniques in the bay through winter and potentially enjoy the best boating conditions of the year.

Andy Smith from Gone Fishing and mate, Anthony Nicklen, discovered exactly that recently, experiencing an insane winter snapper session out from Mt Martha point. Fishing a deep mark in 19.6m of water given to Andy by a customer, the boys fished fresh squid heads and strip baits on braid and mono rigged threadline tackle. After a dawn start, they landed around 30 snapper from 3.8kg with the best fish topping the scales at 6.3kg! Not bad for a winter trip on the bay, and I’ll have to admit that it got my snapper plastics rod twitching in the rod locker. I reckon I’ll be sounding around for a little bit of that action for myself really soon.

Gummies and elephants

Even more interesting from Andy’s report was the variety of the by-catch encountered during the session, with five gummy sharks, one elephant fish and one small school shark also taken by the two lads during the session. They also landed several of their snapper on soft plastics. This is a great sign for those anglers targeting the schools of pinkies from the shallow inshore reefs, meaning that the bigger fish are only a short boat drive (or paddle) out wide into the deeper water.

Squid an option

Apart from making top shelf baits for winter gummies and snapper, the humble old squid make superb tucker for us humans as well. They also make for some surprisingly good sight fishing as well. My good mate Adam Royter and I had our first fishing trip on the bay in ages lately. Inspired by some of the latest Japanese squid fishing DVD’s, we decided to tickle up a few cephalopods armed with some wacky new retrieves and techniques.

It’s fair to say we had a pretty fun day, and I have had a few more since, and we even mastered the Japanese voices needed! Seriously though, the most productive areas continue to be the shallow reefs from Pelican Point, Sunnyside, Royal Hotel Bay (Mornington) and Shark Bay (Mt Martha). As always, brown and neutral coloured jigs worked best, although the use of light line seemed to make a difference when the squid had been touched up a little in one location.

Further south, land based squid anglers have been experiencing similar results, but for some much larger specimens up to 2kg from the inshore reefs. Portsea and Sorrento piers continue to turn up some lovely squid, as well as the concrete retaining wall at the Blairgowrie Marina, especially in rougher weather. I spoke to an angler there recently who reckons green jigs with a pink stripe are best, and if the honkers hanging out of his bucket were anything to go by, I reckon he knows what he’s talking about.

Winter whiting

Whiting should continue to be a target for many anglers in the far south of the bay right through winter, and as always attention to detail aids success. I watched Lee Rayner’s whiting DVD recently, and for those wanting to pick up a few tips, I’d recommend it. I’ve been fishing for whiting my whole fishing life, and I learned plenty.

Surf fishing is hot

Additionally, expect excellent surf fishing to continue from Portsea and Gunnamatta beaches where some great salmon to 2kg have been reported over the last few weeks. Surf fishing can be a frustrating business at times, but when the fish are on its right up there for fishing action. Best bet is to plan your trips around rising tides and times of low light when the salmon are more likely to be feeding in the inshore gutters. Berley is also a big help, keeping the fish in your area for longer.

Don’t let the cold of winter stop you from a day on the south of the bay. We are blessed with a great year round fishery, and a wide variety of target species to suit all anglers. See you on the water.

Deep water reds in winter. These fish came from a deep mark off Mt Martha and were amongst 30 other good sizes snapper taken.

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