As always, this time of year is all about snapper.
It’s amazing to see Victorian anglers out in force when the snapper are running in the bay. Growing up amongst this culture most of my life, it’s very easy to become engrossed in this yearly angling obsession, and spend more hours on the water than off.
The most pleasing feature of this years fishing has been the amount of novice and first time anglers experiencing success chasing Victoria’s premier target species. It’s also pleasing to see the general attitude of many anglers changing to lighter tackle, varied techniques and catch and release.
One of the more popular approaches this year has been the use of kayaks and smaller watercraft by many anglers. The popularity explosion in this form of fishing in tournament and recreational fishing has no doubt made this happen. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the yak fishers don’t get amongst them either, they do very well indeed, especially in the shallow reef areas where stealth is an obvious advantage.
Many of the successful kayak fisherman are choosing to slow troll deep hardbodies, especially from the Hobie yaks, which can be solely propelled be pedal power, freeing the arms for fishing.
Snapper of 5-6kg have been fairly commonly reported by many anglers, and there was also a monumental capture of a 40kg thresher shark recently out from Sunnyside Beach, Mornington. This fish took a trolled Halco Crazy Deep Scorpion in Red Head/White colour. A great effort from a very small craft, although some help from Matt Hunt’s handy gaff and tail rope was required. Lucky he was conducting a charter nearby!
The yak anglers are also getting amongst plenty of squid, salmon, pike and other reef species as well.
Consistency in the snapper bite so far this year has been a little tricky, and it seems there is not yet a steady pattern to go by. Pre-dawn starts have been the most productive during most tides, especially when this coincides with a tide or wind change.
As is the case further north in the bay, almost the entire eastern seaboard is fishing well, and in a variety of depths. The most consistent water depth seems to be 12-16m, especially between Mornington and Carrum. Further south the productive areas have been a little wider, and have also provided some great and welcome by-catch in the form of quality gummy sharks and some lovely flathead.
I am always happy to see anglers trying out new techniques, and the popularity of soft plastics and other lure fishing methods has grown once again this season. Many anglers have even been fishing large grub-style plastics and vibe lures in the rod holder, especially when a steady berley trail has been employed or if conditions are a bit sloppy, giving the lures a very natural movement.
Often the artificial offering will get taken instead of your baits. Lures and plastics are also effective when cast from a drifting boat, especially in areas where the snapper are grazing over rubble or scallop beds, and in shallower reefy areas. Lightly weighted plastics can also be very effective when snapper are holding off the bottom, and will often respond to erratic action imparted on your lures.
Land-based anglers have also been taking their fair share of snapper, but as is always the case the rougher the weather the better. However, recent rains have provided opportunities for some anglers at the mouths of the bays river and creeks, when the snapper will come in closer to feed on the flooded food being washed into the bay. The entrance areas of Patterson River, Balcombe Creek and Martha Cove are all worth a bash after rain.
If you’re over the snapper, there’s still plenty of squid action to be had, and some real quality specimens are around at the moment. Once again, the kayak anglers do very well on the squid, as do anglers like me with electric motors so that a quieter approach can be employed.
I would recommend using quality jigs in dark or neutral colours. Size 2.5 or 3.0 is best, although bigger jigs will often get the trophy squid. I know there are plenty of anglers who make squidding part of their day on the bay, and for good reason. They are great fun, top class tucker and make awesome bait as well. Kids love to catch them too, and they are a great way to amuse the young ones who seem to love to wind all the time.
Plenty of salmon have also been on offer, but they can be a little bit flighty with boat traffic. Keep your eye on your sounder when you are in the proximity of a school, or alternatively watch the behaviour of the birds overhead. Small 3-4” plastics and sinking lures are best, as they can be allowed to fall through the water column if the fish go deep.
If you can’t get excited about a day on the south of the bay at the moment, I reckon you need to take up golf. The crowds at some of the ramps and piers can be daunting but the wait is worth it. I know I’ll be out on the water every chance I get.Reads: 950