In Depth Fishing Report 17/5

17 May 24

A few freezing cold mornings have again reiterated that winter is just a quick hop skip and jump around the corner. Some species of fish are still adapting to the changing conditions and seem to be in poor condition when caught. But in saying that there is plenty of good fishing to be had.


Offshore: the tuna boats haven’t stopped flocking to the Portland, Port Fairy and Port MacDonnell areas in search of that fish of a lifetime our area is famous for this time of year. The bigger fish haven’t been red hot but when they have been it’s been on, spectacular to say the least. There’s been some pretty crazy footage of fish absolutely belting the bait schools at the back of boats and huge fish launching out of the water after the schools of yakkas, redbait and pilchards. Dolphins and seals are also on the same bait balls which has been cool to see for so many especially the first timers. Trolling skirts and diving minnows is still the preferred method but there are a lot more anglers turning to live baits to entice a bite especially once the surface action is all done and the fish go back deep a bit. Many people ask what type of hook they should be using for these fish and whether or not the circle hooks are the go and I suppose it all comes back to personal preference and what you’re used to. Many guys are running simple live bait hooks due to their strength and smaller size compared to other styles of hooks. J hooks are great for a hook up but the issue is staying hooked up with them during the fight. Circle hooks are probably the most popular choice due to the ability to find the corner of the jaw a lot of the time. Doing this will allow for the leader to be free of the tuna’s teeth and mean that you won’t get chewed off. Yakkas have been the most effective bait and are easily caught lately with a simple bait jig and some light berley. Simple place the hook just under the skin on the back near the dorsal fin and lower it into the water with a ball sinker or if they are on the surface then just let the yakka swim down itself. One thing I will tell you to have ready and that’s a harness and gimbal but cause once that fish eats the yakka there’s only one place it’s going and that is away from you at a rate of knots. It’s a lot easier to clip the rod and reel into the harness when you hook up than looking for it in a panic while the fish is nearly pulling you out of the boat. Some keen guys are beginning to get great results on topwater lures which has been super visual and exciting. To do this you’ll need a purpose built stick bait rod that is usually used for giant trevally which is a long rod from 7ft4 to 8ft in some instances. The line rating is something that confuses a lot of people cause they are now using PE ratings which is an ancient Chinese scale that was used to measure silk diameters. The PE rating is simply an easy way of identifying the diameter instead of in millimetres. While the diameter might be .17 of a mm the breaking strain will differ a lot depending on the quality and the strands of braid used. Typically a stick bait rod will have a rating of anywhere between PE4 and PE10 depending on its application but the higher the number, the heavier the rod. The reels used are anywhere between a 8500 to a 20000 size depending on the brand you choose. Leaders are another talking point with 100-200lb leaders being the “norm” for chasing these sorts of fish on topwater. When it comes to lures there is literally thousands of types out there and each angler will have a different favourite but there is a couple of basic styles to make sure you have in your arsenal. Poppers have been a thing that has launched onto the tuna scene the past few years and they continue to land their fair share of fish on them. Slow sinking stick baits have been getting cast into school tuna schools for years now and the introduction into bigger size lures with new colours has meant that they now share a section in the tuna fisherman’s tackle box. Using them with a steady retrieve with a sweep of the rod gives them a great action and will excite the tuna. When you hook up on the surface the main thing to remember is that you need to make sure you get a good hook set so once the fish takes the lure and is steaming away from you give the rod a few big rips of the rod tip to make sure the hook is set. Even though the fish is smoking the reel it doesn’t mean that the hook is set properly and could fall out at any time. Closer to shore and Scott Gray has been getting into some absolute cracker garfish around the Port Fairy area. These mini marlin as they are often called are a very tasty species and one that absolutely love winter time in the south west. If you have young children that love fishing then these fish are a great one to target as the provide acrobats when hooked and the way you target them is very visual too. Most anglers will use quill floats in a berley trail with either sand fleas, maggots or small pieces of prawn as bait.

Freshwater: the trout have been starting to move around in both the Hopkins and Merri Rivers. The water is very clear in the Merri but that doesn’t seem to be worrying the fish when following a lure. A few anglers have been getting them but the condition of them is quite poor. Lots of the fish have been caught with broken fins and no weight in them at all. Lewis Holland caught a 60cm trout and he said it would’ve been lucky to be 3lb and in bad condition. Once the water dirties up and the bait begins to move around a bit more we will see them bulk up and start to put on condition. The Hopkins Rivers water quality upstream is quite poor with what looks to be a small algae bloom. Some anglers are still landing some nice trout in this water but I would suggest releasing them until this disappears. Camperdown crater lakes have been hard work lately especially Lake Purrumbete on the redfin. One angler reported that he caught a few in 70ft of water on minnow but they were small. From all reports there are lots of reddies on the sounder but getting them to eat is another thing all together. You know they’re hard work when they don’t take minnows dangled in front of them.

Estuaries: the Hopkins River bream appear to be spawning or at least starting to set up in the deeper water like they do every year. Peter White, Mick Waight and Barry Johnson headed out during the week and landed no bream or perch just small salmon. Hopefully this is just a barometer thing and they come back on the chew. All the other estuaries in the South West are in need of a good flush out so hopefully there is some rain on the forecast and they can get some much needed flow back into the waterways. The flow will help the two systems that need it most which are the Curdies and Yambuk as they are both having algae blooms and without proper flow and rain the water level won’t be at a suitable level to do anything with. They need to be flooded and then opened to the sea so that stagnant water can be flushed out and the new good water can come into them.