Venus Bay

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Venus Bay is located on a small peninsula of land on Bass Strait with the other side being the beautiful Andersons Inlet. Steve Cooper and his mate Dave fish this picturesque location and let you in on their beach secrets!

A neat salmon caught by Rod Mackenzie.

A neat salmon caught by Rod Mackenzie.

Victoria’s annual run of Australian salmon hit the surf beaches in autumn. The next few months are the most productive and South Gippsland’s Bass Coast beaches, from San Remo through to Waratah Bay at Sandy Point, are renown for their autumn, winter and spring salmon fishing while little is written about the snapper, gummy sharks and flathead caught from the same beaches.

Driving east from San Remo anglers are confronted by a series of beaches that have legendary status among those dedicated to standing on beaches and casting long rods: Kilcunda, Baxters and Williamsons often feature in fishing reports. One of the most consistent areas is at Venus Bay where anglers can choose from five beaches, aptly named Beach No.1 to 5. I fished Beach No. 4 with local David Walsh. When we arrived there were already a couple of dozen anglers, spread across 300 or so metres of beach, most standing close to the access steps where there were several obvious gutters.

Kilcunda is one of the Bass Coast’s most famous salmon beaches.

Kilcunda is one of the Bass Coast’s most famous salmon beaches.

For the uninitiated, the action of the surf carves out channels or gutters along the beaches, and these are easily distinguished by the darker appearance of the water. As well, waves rarely break over the deeper water; the roll comes in until it reaches the shallow edge of a gutter, then rises to break on shore.

Dave says the top time to fish the beaches is a couple of hours either side of high tide. First and last light are always good, but the fish seem to move in and feed best around the top of the tide.“One reason for this is the pipis,” Dave explains. “The water digs them out of their holes in the sand and they get washed out from shore creating a natural berley, and that brings fish in to feed.“Salmon do not have the dental equipment to open pipi shells, however most of the shellfish are damaged and opened by the pounding surf, which is what creates the berley.”

PILKCHARD

On this day, conditions are relatively calm and while salmon are caught, not as many as we would like. Experienced surf fishers will tell you they prefer a sea that is working; dumping waves and rough water provide cover for salmon hunting small baitfish. Dave says the best is yet to come: “July is historically the best month for salmon fishing on these beaches.”

In winter, the Venus bay beaches produce salmon to 2.5kg, and during the night gummy sharks to 12kg are sometimes caught, usually on salmon fillet. Over the summer months, sand flathead to 50cm and snapper to 2kg can be caught.

Dave tells the story of a whale being washed on to the beach a few years ago during the warmer months: “It was buried but the waves dug it out again and the only way we could fish was with handkerchiefs over our mouths and noses to block the stench,” he says.“Still, the fishing made the discomfort worthwhile. One angler managed to catch snapper to 5kg, and on either side of the whale carcass anglers were fishing for sharks.”

For anglers visiting Venus Bay, the most difficult beaches to access in terms of the walk in are Beaches 3 and 5. The rest are an easy walk down some steps. Last beach along this run is Waratah Bay, which fishes in similar fashion to the beaches mentioned.



Gunnamatta Beach is noted for producing quality salmon.

Gunnamatta Beach is noted for producing quality salmon.

Tackle

The big question is whether you have the right gear. An 8 kilogram threadline outfit is a good starting point. Most surf rods are about 3-3.5 metres long and capable of casting sinkers or lures up to 120g (4oz). Solid tip rods dominate the market but for my money are too soft on the tip and lack the recovery that assists with casting. Rod blank taper and construction determine distance, not the weight of the rod, which is why carbon fibre is popular. Not only is it lighter, this material has better recovery when casting giving increased distance with lighter weights. Moreover, how far you have to cast on a beach depends on where there is a channel or gutters. Some days, these will be almost at your feet.

Australian salmon is the mainstay species and most anglers fish a simple two-dropper paternoster rig. The top dropper has a surf popper or saltwater fly instead of bait, the bottom dropper a 3-4/0 long shank or Suicide pattern hook. Sinker type depends on conditions. In calm water with little side drift, a bomb sinker is suitable. However, in rough water with side drift most anglers use star or grapnel sinkers, which have wires jutting out that dig into the sand. The best way to attach any sinker is with a clip swivel as this allows you quick and easy way of changing sinker weights to suit conditions.

You know the fish are biting when anglers are lining up wall to wall during the week.

You know the fish are biting when anglers are lining up wall to wall during the week.

A rod holder is essential. You can make your own out of a metre-long piece of 50 mm diameter PVC tube. As well as holding your rod tip high and above the waves, a rod holder is ideal for holding the rod when baiting up.

Bait

Dave’s preferred baits are fresh salmon fillets for gummy sharks and pilchards or squid for salmon. In rough water, when the salmon are running, he advises customers to use salted baits, as these will take more punishment.

Of course, there are many anglers who prefer to walk the sand and spin their way along the beach. If this is your preference, look to metal lures like a simple chrome slice. Soft plastics also work, but you need to strike a balance between the jig head and wave action. Every day is different. On calm days, light jigs do well; however, when the surf’s up more lead is required.

Steve Cooper

About Steve Cooper

Cooper is now a freelance travel and fishing writer with no fixed abode - his home being his cleverly appointed Jayco caravan which is packed to the pop-top with fishing gear. He has has towed the rig the length and breadth of Australia behind his diesel-powered Toyota Landcruiser which of course is topped with a small, flexible fishing boat.

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