Much like last month, wide ranging weather conditions have featured over the past four weeks in the south of the bay. Cold, crisp and still mornings have often continued right through the day providing excellent boating and fishing conditions if you don’t mind a bit of a chill.
On the other end of the scale strong winds and some welcome rain have broken up the calm winter pattern to remind us what season it really is! The promise of substantial rain still continues to elude us for the most part, but hopefully this pattern will break soon.
Traditionally at this time of year, we Victorians tend to spend more time off the water than on it, and when the claws of winter dig in on a chilly day, nobody could really blame us. I’m here to tell you that some great fishing can be experienced through the winter months, especially for some great table fish and ‘bread and butter’ species.
These more simple species and methods may seem a little less glamorous and exciting on the surface, but if you cast your mind back a few years, you’ll remember that that’s how we all started in the fishing caper, and with good reason.
Some of the most superb garfish I have seen in years are in the bay at the moment, and these little scrappers are enjoyed by anglers of all ages. They will respond to a variety of baits and techniques, and can even be taken on lures and flies for those keen to try. All of the popular land based spots have been producing good numbers of gars, although they can become a little flighty when the water is really flat.
The presence of predators like salmon, couta and others don’t seem to help either. Inshore reefs and areas of strong weed growth are the best target areas for boating anglers to target, as these give the flighty gars some cover as they feed in the open water.
Lightly weighted float rigs baited with silverfish or maggots seem to be the best method, and anglers also like thin fillets of chicken, tuna and flathead. Peeled prawn is also a good standby. Hook choice is personal as always but a good chemically sharp 12 or 14 hook will do the trick. Berley is also very important, helping to keep the gars feeding and in your area for longer.
A welcome by-catch in the garfish areas at the moment is squid, which are also in very solid numbers. Boating anglers especially can target both species at the one time as calamari will also respond to berley, and a well-presented squid jig while fishing for gar.
I know I’ve been saying this for ages, but by observing anglers right throughout the south of the bay, neutral coloured jigs are definitely all the rage at the moment. I have definitely found likewise over the past few years, ever since my mate Adam Royter presented me with a brown 2.5 Ecogear jig some time ago, which I still have.
Greens, black, brown and purples are definitely the angler’s choice these days, lucky there are such good quality jigs available now.
The bays more southern areas continue to produce the larger squid, and this pattern will continue over the next couple of months as the yearly spawning pattern takes shape. Areas further north, especially Mornington Pier and the surrounding reefs are producing smaller specimens, but this area seems to be richer in numbers at the moment.
The Mornington area and further south have also been producing good numbers of barracouta at the moment, although most are fairly small. This is not a bad thing however, as I know plenty of snapper anglers who would give their right arm for some small couta baits come summer time, so now’s a good time to stock up some quality baits.
These crazy fish can also be practically suicidal at times, and can be great fun for kids, but remember to be careful of the pointy end with little fingers. Couta are big fans of cast metal lures and soft plastics, although wire may be needed at times. Unweighted pilchards and bluebait are also effective, as is similar baits suspended under floats. Like garfish, couta will respond well to berley, and often will follow other species up the trail.
Like most of the coastline, surf reports still continue to be strong from the ocean beaches. Salmon to 1.5kg have been reported as well as some healthy silver trevally at Rye and Portsea to mix things up a little. With other species on offer, it pays to fish some softer baits on a lighter outfit, or alternatively a two-hook rig. A few gummies have also been reported at night, but at this time of year a night mission on the beach takes a fair amount of dedication.
Who would have thought; winter in Victoria and still enough to fill my column! Seriously, there are plenty of winter options out there for anglers on the south of the bay. See you on the water.Reads: 997