Autumn Fishing Targets

15 Mar 24
Autumn is a fantastic time to sample the fishing here in the southwest, whether you're a local or visiting angler. It's the peak transition period between summer and winter fishing, with a wide variety of species to target. Let's take a look and what, and where, you can target here in the SW this autumn. Of course, there's a whole lot of other species you could add to this list, but these would be our top 5 choices.


Autumn has become the peak season for tuna here locally, with the opportunity to tangle with both barrels and school fish whilst still wearing shorts and t-shirts at times! Normally the barrels turn up around Easter, so expect to start hearing whispers in the next few weeks. The school fish have been going well for a while and this will only continue. The autumn fish are typically much easier to find and catch than summer fish, as they move onto bait balls and can be seen visibly feeding hard instead of just milling or sunning on the surface. Warrnambool, Port Fairy, Portland and Cape Otway are all pretty reliable but keep up to date with reports or jump on a charter to have the best chance of finding a few. A spin rod of 7'2 rated at 30-50lb, and an 8000 spin reel with 50lb braid will be ideal to cast at tuna whilst still being able to troll a small skirt if the fish aren't showing on top.

Best lure choices: Black Magic Jetsetter (skirt), Jaks Barrel Bullet (skirt), Halco Laser Pro 160XDD (diver), Zerek Speed Donkey (diver), Nomad Riptide (stickbait), Amegari Flavie 110 (stickbait)


Whilst certainly a year round target, autumn presents a great opportunity to find several species of sharks. The most common here in the SW are gummies, schoolies, makos, blues, and threshers. Late summer and early autumn has always been peak season for makos, as catches from the last few weeks have reflected with plenty of small to medium sized makos landed and larger ones lost. Blues are always happy to sniff their way into a berley trail but they're not too flash on the table, so might be best left alone or caught and released. If you're out deep dropping or berleying for other sharks, it's always worth having a heavy overhead setup rigged and ready to go with a wire trace and 11/0 hook in case a mako pops up. Typically spring is best for the bottom dwelling gummies and schoolies but there's still plenty around in autumn, and can be found anywhere from the surf beaches out to over 100m of water offshore. Late summer and autumn is also when we see the most threshers during the year, a much more enigmatic shark and one of the few which will regularly grabbed a trolled live bait or lure targeted at kingfish or tuna. They'll be found basically anywhere and will sometimes grab gummy baits off the bottom, but most of the time they're caught in fairly close (less than 30m) and come along unexpectedly. Portland's North Shore and the coastline between Warrnambool and Port Fairy seems to be where most come from. They're very tasty too!


Autumn sees the tail end of the whiting season but there's still quite a few to be caught at all the usual local haunts including Port Fairy, Warrnambool Harbour, Portland Bay, Port Campbell and of course Killarney. As the water cools the bigger fish often come out to play with solid fish exceeding 45cm to be found. Fishing out of a boat or kayak with a berley trail over mixed sand and reef in any sheltered bay will always be productive; shore based anglers will find Killarney and Warrnambool's Breakwater to be the two best spots to try. Fresh pippies (such as our popular Tackle Shack loose pippies) are by far the best bait, fished on a 1/0 flasher rig and 10lb leader. Anglers also have good success on mussels, squid and live worms and clickers. Remember if you're catching a lot of wrasse you're probably too close to the heavy reef, and you want a good bit of tide running to get the whiting fired up.

Estuary Perch

EPs really bite well in autumn, and will still be more than willing to smash a surface lure which comes past on an evening all the way through until May. In pressured areas such as the Hopkins Falls or upper Curdies, especially when the water is low and clear they will become a bit shy and fussy compared to early in the season so you're best to drop leader sizes and fish later or earlier in the day. The Hopkins anywhere from the mouth to the falls will hold perch, as will the Curdies upstream to Timboon. The Gellibrand, Fitzroy and of course Glenelg are all known perch haunts. As the water cools, slow your retrieve down with plenty of pauses. Bream will also be found in the same areas but they will begin to slow as the temperatures fall, and they'll move back off the edges into the deeper water. Expect to get a few whilst targeting perch especially closer to brackish water and with smaller lures. And with all perch fishing; fishing around structure around low light periods offers the best chance of success.

Best lure choices: Fish Arrow Flash J Shad (soft plastic), Rapala Crush City Creeper (soft plastic), Atomic Cicada (surface), OSP Bent Minnow (surface), Ecogear SX40 (hardbody), Daiwa Double Clutch (hardbody).


Whilst trout are obviously present in the Hopkins and Merri rivers year round, they're largely left alone by angler during the summer months as they become hard to catch and other species are on offer; but things change about May as the first rains of the year come down. Early season trout can be still a little sulky and not too aggressive, so in this period soft plastics of 2-3" are best employed on a light jighead and leader in the deeper pools of the rivers. Once the water temperatures drop enough, in late May or early June, the browns begin to think about spawning, and begin their typical winter aggression. This is when the larger hardbodied lures are at their best; and there's few things more exciting in SW freshwater fishing than watching a 3kg brown trout chase down a hardbody and grab it at the rod tip before putting up the fight of it's life. The lakes will also fire up in May, with fish moving from cooler deeper water onto the edges and surface layers. Lake Purrumbete in particular fires during autumn, with anglers casting the weedbeds and edges with hardbodies and bent minnows finding action aplenty (as well as thick schools of redfin below).

Best lure choices:
Daiwa Presso Minnow 60F (hardbody), Zipbaits Rigge 56SP (hardbody), Fish Arrow Flash J Shad (soft plastic), Berkley T Tail (soft plastic)