Anthony Havers with a big gummy shark caught using a standard surf rod.
Gippsland offers some of the most diverse fishing in the state, and its surf beaches have been incredibly popular for many years. I want to introduce you to some of the easier access points near Sale, plus a few of the more out-of-the-way beaches many locals have enjoyed fishing lately. I’ll also update you about a new technique of targeting the big sharks and snapper that are often found just outside casting distance from shore.
From McLoughlins Beach near Port Albert to Lake Tyers Beach just east of Lakes Entrance, the beautiful Ninety Mile Beach has certainly established itself as a prime holiday and fishing location. In fact over the last couple of years holiday homes have doubled in numbers – and tripled in value – at the small coastal towns of Seaspray, Golden Beach and particularly Loch Sport. For family-orientated anglers, Loch Sport and Lakes Entrance also offer plenty to keep the kids entertained.
Don’t think that these areas don’t produce fish because they are so popular. Just as I was putting this article together, a friend informed me of an impressive catch down at Eastern Beach, right at Lakes Entrance. A surf fisher casting lures from the shore was landing salmon to nearly 3kg and having a ball. Then he hooked something really big! Forty minutes later he beached an impressive yellowtail kingfish around 5kg, and followed it up with another big kingie shortly after.
For those of you who, like me, don’t mind seeking out the more secluded beaches, here’s a couple of tips. Try McGaurans Beach just out of Woodside on the South Gippsland Highway or Pettmans Beach just east of Lake Tyers. The latter is probably the best beach I’ve fished over the years. Pettmans nearly always has a good gutter system right near the shoreline, and this is where I’ve caught most of my gummy sharks and big salmon over the years.
You’ll need to check your maps though, because although these beaches are well signposted they can still be a little difficult to find. It’s nice to turn up for a couple of days’ fishing in these places and rarely see another person on the beach.
Other locations well worth trying are Woodside Beach, Seaspray and Lake Tyers Beach. All of these areas provide caravan parks and shops close by, for food, bait and tackle. Even though these places are quite popular, they are certainly not that crowded, even in the peak summer periods.
I want to now focus on my local beach just 25 minutes from home and very popular with those living in the Sale area – that’s Golden Beach. In particular I want to share with you an exciting and very innovative way of catching big sharks and stonker snapper that live in these waters.
For years there have been some very impressive catches made not far out from shore by anglers fishing from tinnies launched from the beach. There’s always flathead on offer, but the reef fishing is what attracts the real keen anglers. These fellows have keenly guarded GPS marks that produce big snapper and even large whiting and leatherjackets. There’s also a group of anglers who regularly paddle out lines on surf skis and have a ball landing gummies, bronze whalers, school sharks and even hammerheads.
Surf anglers have used all kinds of techniques to try and take their bait out that little bit further hoping to land a big one. Anglers have used balloons, kites, and beach bazookas, just to mention a few. Three creative local guys by the names of Ben, Adrian and Matt Smit, however, have designed and built something ingenious to solve the problem of delivering bait out far enough into the surf to tackle the bigger fish.
The Surf Baitrunner is in a league of its own. It’s an Australian patented and designed custom built boat, using a 36 megahertz, 4 channel radio controlled unit that is often found in model aircraft. It can be operated from the shore with ease up to distances of 600m, and even further if you can maintain eye contact. The angler simply wheels the Baitrunner to the waters edge on its stainless steel trolley and connects the fishing line via a key ring to the quick release mechanism. The Baitrunner is then placed at the waters edge and the remote control radio control unit turned on while the angler sits back and relaxes while the Baitrunner heads out to sea! Once the fisherman decides his line is out far enough he disconnects the fishing line and steers the little boat back to shore.
The Surf Baitrunner can operate comfortably in choppy conditions with up to 1m waves. If it is overturned it simply rolls back over and continues on its way. The Surf Baitrunner is powered by a 12volt electric motor and a large rechargeable battery with an operating time of approximately 1.5 hours. This means it can run out 8 to 10 times on a single charge.
One of the huge advantages of the Surf Baitrunner is that it can also be used at night. It has built in LED lights, green at the bow and red at the stern, so that fishers who enjoy night fishing can use the craft as well. Since the Smits starting using their invention several years ago, their catch rates have increased dramatically. Its application is not just restricted to surf fishing, but also trolling impoundments for trout and cod. Also, game fishers can use it for trolling lures or live baits stealthfully from large boats into a school of yellowfin tuna, kingfish or a whole range of other pelagic species.
The surf bait runner is easy to handle and weighs approx 37kg. It can fit in the rear of a station wagon, or even squeeze into the back seat of your average car. The stainless steel trolley that comes with built in rod holders can be disassembled in minutes for easy transporting.
The shark fishing has really been the highlight for Ben and Matt recently and they use hefty game rods and stout reels to horse these big fish in. Battling bronze whalers to 3m is not for the faint hearted and huge skates and rays are a time consuming and unfortunate by-catch.
Where big sharks are concerned, the Smit boys are passionate about catch and release, and after a few quick photos most of the big sharks they land are returned to the water. As you can imagine, pulling these beautiful big toothy sharks up onto the beach amongst the families enjoying a swim with the kids has plenty of eyes popping out of heads – especially after they release them again! Even a 1.7m gummy takes a bit of wrestling in and lately lots of school shark around 1.2m have been turning up. Schools of hammerhead sharks also make regular appearances over autumn.
For most of us, setting up a couple of standard surf rods is still the best way to get a good feed of fish, and right now salmon are also turning up along the Ninety Mile Beach. Flathead are a regular catch too, and persisting into the night should see you get a few gummy sharks as well. Best baits are large bluebaits, cut pilchards and squid, plus cured eel is a deadly temptation for gummies.
Crabs can be a worry at times so checking baits often is essential. You will usually find that just before the gummies come on the chew, the crabs go into hiding. You’ll need to put in a serious effort to catch gummies and like all types of fishing, the longer you keep at it the more success you’ll encounter. Sometimes you have to fish into the wee hours of the morning until the gummies decide to feed – that’s when you’ll often get a succession of hook-ups.
Not all of us are into hauling in trophy sharks and snapper, so here’s a great option to keep the kids happy. Set up a few river rods with a standard running sinker and bream rig. Buy a few boxes of sandworms or even use small strips of squid for bait, and cast into the shallows of the wash right near the shoreline. You’ll find heaps of large yellow eye mullet here and if you berley up with bread soaked in fish oil, you could be in for a very busy time. I think even Mums and Dads will also be surprised at the fish to be caught. Don’t be surprised if whiting or a large salmon jumps on the hook, either. It’s not commonly known that sandworm is deadly bait for surf fishing, so give it a go.
NINETY MILE BEACH: SPECIES ON OFFER
Bronze whaler shark
Like to find out more about the Surf Baitrunner?
For further enquiries and sales contact:
PO Box 190
Sale, Victoria, 3850
Ph: 03 51497909:
E-mail: --e-mail address hidden--
Where to stay
*90 Mile Beach Holiday Retreat - Track 10 Loch Sport (cottage/lodges, on site vans and camping sites). (03) 5146 0320
*Riviera Country Caravan Park – Lakes Entrance (on site cabins and vans, fish cleaning and freezer facilities). (03) 5155 1236
*Woodside Central Caravan Park – Woodside.
(03) 5187 1446
Where to get bait
• Woodside Service Station – bait, ice, fishing tackle, 7 days a week (03) 5187 1358
• Sale Bait Supply – for fresh sandworm daily. (03) 5143 1666
• Foodarama – at Golden Beach, also a licensed general store.
• Loch Sport General Store – also fuel and take away. Ph. (03) 5146 0300
Anthony Havers with a big gummy shark caught using a standard surf rod.
A nice school shark caught fishing with the Surf Baitrunner.
Matt Smit hooks into a big bronze whaler. Game rods and reels spooled up with heavy lines are a must when chasing big sharks from the beach.
Matt Smit with a huge bronze whaler caught from the surf.
Big snapper are always a chance from anywhere right along the Ninety Mile Beach.