Cold on the bay, but still biting
  |  First Published: June 2017

The prolonged warm and settled weather we all enjoyed for the first few months of the year is all a distant memory now. We have moved into the cold weather patterns and into winter.

While it takes a few more minerals to commit to the early starts and late finishes, smaller effective bite windows can make the extra effort worthwhile. It might be cold on the bay this winter, but there is still plenty of great fishing to be had for all anglers.

With lots of other fishing options keeping most of the boating anglers busy farther afield, there have been a lot less snapper reports coming in. After a great late run of fish around Mornington and Mount Martha out wide in recent months, it seems likely that there are still plenty of fish about, and there will still be plenty right through the winter months.

Deeper areas on the western side of the shipping channel are proven for winter snapper, for those anglers keen to give the reds a crack in the cold. These areas, and others along the eastern side are also home to some ripper gummies as well, and with the very encouraging number of reports of gummy sharks from all over PPB this year, we should be in for a cracker winter as well. A few mates of mine caught thumping fish just offshore recently, which is a great sign for things to come.

The keys to success are to look for humps and rises on the bottom on your sounder and use fresh, quality bait. Many anglers, as well as fresh squid and cuttlefish, prefer salmon and trevally fillets. Be prepared to work your way through the undesirable by-catch at times too. Often you’ve got to catch a dozen or more species of bottom dwelling sharks and rays before the ‘gumbos’ show up.

Another trend that has continued in earnest since Christmas has been top-class whiting fishing right along the eastern shoreline, especially the Mornington Peninsula. PPB has long played second fiddle to Western Port as a whiting fishery, especially on our side of the bay, but this year has been a cracker so far. Let’s hope it continues right through the winter as well.

Inshore areas have been fishing well during the day, especially further south. Local areas between Mornington and Frankston have been fishing well at night, especially for the land-based anglers. Good quality bait is always best and it’s hard to go past locally caught squid and mussels. Pipis are the most available and probably still the best all-round bait, but the good old toadies love it as well.

Garfish have also shown up in some very big numbers over the last month or so, and can be effectively targeted from the same areas close to reef and structure. Gars respond well to berley and will take a wide range of well-presented baits.

You can fish with baits suspended under a float, or slow wind unweighted baits through the berley trail. Gars will also take very small soft plastics and even small flies if you’re looking to try something new! Some might think that’s a lot of messing around, but it’s heaps of fun, let me tell you.

Calamari numbers seemed to explode this year as soon as the water cooled down, and the great squid fishing is not slowing down at all. The squid will become less active and stay closer to the bottom as we move right into winter, but their sheer numbers at the moment are keeping the fishing strong. Jigs with red and gold body colours seem to be the best at present. I always prefer green/purple combinations and UV white/pearl jigs in 2.5-3.0 sizes. Don’t be shy to try a few fast winds too, to fire the calamari up if they are a little inactive.

Big numbers of salmon have been moving up and down the eastern shoreline on the hunt. The mouths of the local creeks and rivers are prime spots to try your luck, especially after recent rain. They will also swim right along the beach gutters on calm mornings and can be spotted quite easily from the bank or boat.

Boats with electric motors and kayaks can be very useful when they are in skinny water, as the schools can be very flighty. An upwind approach is the way to go. Long casts with soft plastics, metal slugs and flies are the best bet, and trolling is well worth a try to locate any feeding schools. They’re great bait, great sport and not bad tucker if treated right. The humble salmon is one of my favourite fish.

Speaking of favourites, I’ve got a soft spot for the Patto after many years spent floating around the canals, and it has been fishing very well lately. Plenty of mullet and bream have been around for the bait fishing crew, and good numbers of solid bream for the lure anglers as well. I haven’t had heaps of reports of mulloway yet, but recent rains should change this and I expect to hear more in the coming months from the estuary perch as well.

Stay tuned!

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