Guide to fishing South West Victoria from January to April

A month by month description of where you can go fishing…….that’s cool. Thanks………..Mark Grenovich

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Sometimes, usually when you hear stories of mind blowing fishing in some tropical paradise, I’m sure we all question our residential, geographical selection process. Living where I do in the often cold, wet and windy southwest of Victoria I of course do at times. But then I think of the variety that we have, I’m pretty happy with my lot. Many of the fisheries mentioned here are developing ones, if you’d told me twenty years ago that I would be catching bream, perch and mulloway on lures, catching kingfish on surface lures and having a consistent SBT game fishery at my back door I would have laughed. You have to get out of Victoria to have that sort of fun.

Many of the fisheries mentioned in this article can be severely weather dependent. In many areas poor weather or sea conditions can be just an inconvenience to your plans. In the Southwest of Victoria however it can mean that there is no chance of pursuing that option for a number of days, even weeks at times. Whilst annoying at times, it is one of the reasons that local fisheries remain productive as adverse weather keeps them from being able to be fished too hard. Another good thing about the area is that there are always plenty of options available if your first choice option is wiped out by bad weather.   If you’re planning a trip down to the south west of Victoria here is a bit of a monthly guide as to some likely target species. All of the options mentioned here all within and hours’ drive of Warrnambool (Often the length of time you might have to run down a barra river by boat to get to the hotspot.), with the exception of the Glenelg River which is an hour and forty minutes.

January

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Inshore variety

There’s nothing better than spending a summer’s morning cruising around the local inshore reef areas targeting some of the best seafood around. Succulent King George whiting may not be in the numbers of Port Phillip Bay or Western Port, but with most fish taken being around 40- 48cm, who’s complaining. To add to your seafood smorgasbord, maybe throw a squid jig around or a soft plastic for pinkies. Hoop netting a few crays or, if it’s warm enough, jump in with the mask and try and get a few diving. A side dish of abalone always used to be on the cards as well, now that the stocks are slowly recovering from the abalone virus that has affected the area a few years ago. Mornings often provide the best conditions before the south easterly winds get up.

Locations: Lady Bay, The Basin, Killarney, Pt Fairy Bay.

February

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Yellowtail Kingfish

Being traditionally the warmest month of the year, and with the school holiday crowds gone, February is the time to target the line burning Yellowtail Kingfish. Trolling squid strip baits over shallow reef areas (usually around 3-10m deep) or anchoring and fishing live baits or squid strip baits, are the two main methods most anglers target the kings. Many anglers are also switching to casting surface lures at these fish for some seriously exciting sports fishing. Actively searching for schools on the surface and then casting in can produce some spectacular action. High quality 15-24kg rods, reels, terminal tackle and knots are essential in stopping the larger fish than can top a meter in length.

Locations: Killarney, Pt Fairy, North Shore Portland.

Lures/baits: Fresh live/squid, live salmon/ mackerel, Slugos’, Jet poppers.

March

Sharks

The kings can disappear fairly quickly at the end of summer but the pelagic shark scene stretches on through Autumn. Mako sharks can actually be encountered throughout the bluefin tuna run and can make a good change of scenery for game fishermen who have had their fun with the tuna. The easy access to fresh tuna carcasses also makes for plenty of berley. To target the blues and makos start a light but continuous berley trail anywhere in the 30-70m of water. Getting the right drift to keep the berley trail is important too much wind/current and you’re moving to fast, too little and your trail will not cover as much area as it could thus reducing the your chances of luring up a toothy beast. The waiting game then begins. Blue sharks and makos are the make up the majority of captures although thresher sharks are also a possibility, particularly in closer to shore.

Locations: Offshore from any ramp from Warrnambool to Portland.

April

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Bluefin

Whilst tuna now seem to be present almost all year round if last year is anything to go by, come April the fish have spread well along the coast and are in numbers that give you a fairly good chance of encountering a school of fish. Tuna had been notoriously inconsistent in their migration patterns in the south west area over the past two decades. However since 2006 the local south west tuna run has become a massive feature of the Victorian, if not national, game fishing calendar. There are plenty of school fish in the 10-20kg bracket but it the chance of tangling with a 100kg plus fish that really gets game anglers hearts pumping with anticipation each season. With these big fish in mind common practice is to troll lures on 24kg -37kg outfits. Trolling is also beneficial due to the need to cover plenty of water in search of the fish. Distances from local ramps to the tuna grounds can be quite large at this time of year and the southern ocean is not the place to underestimate. Make sure your boat and crew are well prepared and you have a good grasp of the weather forecast. Alternatively there are a number of charter boats operating out of all the local ports each season that can put you onto your first SBT.

Locations: Large boats operating near continental shelf off the ports of Portland, Pt Fairy and Warrnambool. The shelf comes closer to the shore the further you move west.

Lures: Trolling : Rapala XRap 20/30, Killer Vibes, Black magic flea and maggot, Zuker feathers. Casting: Stickbaits: Dawia Overthere skipping and Saltiga Dorado pencil, Zipbaits Monsoon breaker.

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Bream

Bream can be taken all year round in local rivers and estuaries. However autumn is always a good time to target the local bream population. Any crowd or water quality issues that may have existed over the summer should have passed and the waters usually haven’t discoloured enough to make deep water fishing the only option. All manner of bream luring techniques can therefore be practiced, all often with in a short distance from the closest ramp. No need for too many long runs. Many 1kg plus fish are caught in local estuaries. Just remember such a fish is likely to be 10-20 years old so think twice before taking too many, or any, at that size. All the major local estuaries have well established launching facilities as well as areas of bank access.

Locations: Curdies River, Hopkins River, Yambuck Lake Fitzroy River, Glenelg River.

Lures: Zipbait Rigge MDR46 Khamsin tiny, Ecogear VX 35, SX 40, Zman 2” grub.

Next time we will check out some options for June through to December.

Mark Grenovich

About Mark Grenovich

Mark Gercovich is a school teacher who lives in the Sth West of Victoria at Warrnambool. He has been contributed to a wide variety of angling publications for almost 20 years. Despite being a successful bream tournament angler he enjoys a wide variety of fishing scenarios from fishing skinny water for big trout to chasing meter plus Kings on lures and live bait. Mark has also traveled extensively having fished in every state of Australia as well as Vanuatu.

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