Continuing on from the pattern of the last month, winter has well and truly set in.
Steady and consistent rain has changed the composition of many areas in the bay right along the south-eastern seaboard. Although your favourite location may be silted and dirty for short periods of time, especially after rough weather, this is of great benefit to the food chain and ecosystem of the bay. Both the fish and Port Phillip itself rely on fresh water influx to prosper.
As is the norm for this time of year, fishing can require a greater level of dedication and commitment, especially when the weather is a little pear shaped.
Personally, I enjoy fishing during the winter months, especially for table fish that are generally better eating, and in prime condition due to lower water temperatures.
I have still received a few scattered reports of snapper from the wider eastern marks, which comes as no great surprise. Reliable winter snapper fishing is common in the north and west of the bay, especially around the Yarra mouth and Geelong, so if you’re willing to invest the time, give it a go.
My advice would be to employ a ‘cubing’ style approach, which is used to great effect on pelagic species like tuna. This is a great way to attract nomadic, cruising fish, especially if they are holding in mid-water.
Baits should be lightly weighted, or unweighted and fished through the berley trail. Pilchards are your best for cubes, and also try baits of tuna fillet, yakkas and red rockets. Soft plastics and lures fished through your berley trail are also worth a try.
For the most part however, pinkies are the best option for snapper anglers at this time of year. There have been some great signs for the coming months too, with some ripper pinkies being taken on the outer fringes of the inshore reefs.
Areas like the Frankston Wreck, The Hospital, Fishermans Beach and Bird Rock have all being producing some nice pinkies. Most of these fish are between 1-2kg, but some larger specimens to 3kg have been taken, especially off Mt Eliza. Look for areas of dense reef on your sounder, this will show up a thick, deep red on a colour screen and dark grey to black on black and white.
Fringe areas close to a drop off are prime, and pinkies will mark up in thick clusters and groups. You may also encounter large numbers of small fish in similar areas, if this is the case, move on. These smaller fish are a great indication of spawning success, but can be annoying and difficult to release unharmed, especially while bait fishing.
Probably the most popular method is to fish soft plastics from a drifting boat over these areas, which is a great way to cover water. 3-4 inch minnow style offerings are best, as these match the food source on the inshore reefs. Be ready for a variety of by catch too, like salmon, red mullet, flathead, pike and barracouta.
Further inshore, the squid fishing is still going from strength to strength, although when the water dirties after rough weather, they can be a little difficult to find. In this situation, try deeper areas and fish your jigs a little slower, as the squid will normally hold very close to the bottom.
You can even find them on your sounder at times; some keep one eye on your screen if you’re struggling a little. Fishing slower and closer to the bottom with your jigs is also a great way to target cuttlefish, which have been surprisingly common over recent times.
Personally I have caught several over the past 6 weeks or so. I’m told they are great eating and I know they are ripper bait, but I like to return cuttlefish to the water unharmed.
Land-based anglers are still experiencing some great squid fishing from all of the popular locations, and this will continue for some time to come. Traditionally, late winter and into spring sees larger spawning squid and more aggressive behaviour, so things should get even better.
If you are fishing a popular area, like Mornington Pier, try to time your trips at prime times of the day like first and last light, and during peak tidal periods and tide changes.
Often squid will move through in schools during these times and will feed for relatively short periods of time. Light line and lightly weighted jigs are also productive at the moment. Also, I would give a blue or pilchard coloured jig a go at the moment, as they seem to be very effective at present.
Recent rains have also turned on the bread and butter fishing in the rivers and from the piers too. The Patterson river in particular is turning on big bags of mullet and small salmon for anglers using poles and floats, especially around the entrances to the various canal gates. Marinated chicken baits and dough seem to be the most popular, along with plenty of berley.
If float fishing with a pole is not your cup of tea, the surrounding bustle and activity also creates other angling opportunities. Small mullet and salmon are prime food sources for mulloway, and bream will also take advantage of available food scraps in these areas too.
No harm tossing a few lures around these areas as well, especially when there are lots of anglers fishing in one area.
There’s plenty of fishing to keep you busy over the winter months, all you need to do is rug up and brave the elements a little. For many anglers, this is the most productive time of the year.Reads: 2351