In Depth Fishing Report 20-4

20 Apr 23

With the cold snap of winter just around the corner I thought I would touch on the techniques, species and best places to fish over winter. Many anglers pack their rods and reels away over winter but there is certainly a lot of great fishing to be had still even in the cold.

Freshwater: Winter has always been the prime time to target big brown trout in the South West. Whether you prefer to fish the many lakes around the district or walking the banks in the rivers, there is something for everyone this time of year. Let’s start off with the lakes and what to expect in them when we really hit winter. Lake Purrumbete is the trophy trout capital of Victoria after many years of producing double figure brown trout and chinook salmon. But what makes these fish grow so big and continue to draw anglers to the area? The amount of bait in this lake alone is astronomical, which only does one thing for the fish and that is allows them to grow extremely fast after being released. The trout herd the huge bait schools up to the surface from the depths and rip through them like tuna in the ocean. When anglers think of bait fish they think of the standard size fish around the 2-3” mark but these minnows are next level. Some of them will exceed 5” and it’s not uncommon to catch a trout or salmon that has a stomach full of them when cleaning. So this leads me to the techniques used to bring them unstuck. Many anglers troll this lake and others close by so they can cover lots of the water in a single day and I can tell you this is a deadly technique for both trout and salmon. Using live bull head, live minnow or lures such as tassie devils or a minnow diver on a downrigger is the preferred trolling methods. If you haven’t got a downrigger then simply flat lining the same lures can be very successful especially when the fish are up in the water column smashing bait which is typically early mornings or late afternoon. The revelation of bent minnows on trout has certainly taken over what anglers target them with when fishing in the shallows over weed beds. This style of fishing is very addictive and can be super frustrating, as the majority of fish that you’ll see come over to the lure will just look at it or follow it and then swim off in another direction. All you do with them is a steady retrieve with lots of twitches of the rod tip and wait for the bow wave to appear behind the lure. You might find that the trout will follow it the whole retrieve and then smash it at the boat so keeping it steady is the key. Closer to home the Merri River is a go to for those wanting a bit of exercise while targeting trout too. The best time to target the bigger fish is early mornings and late afternoons just like Purrumbete but the technique is slightly different due to it being filled with obstacles. Unlike the lakes where there is little to no snags, the Merri is filled with them and these provide a great ambush spot. When targeting trout in rivers you’re always trying to pick out the little spots where you think a fish will be sitting which could be a number of different spots. If you’re fishing in fast flowing water then have a look for the slower water which is more than likely going to have a trout hiding out of the current saving its energy. Using brightly coloured lures if the water is stained and natural colours when it’s clean will hold you in good stead. Pick the weed beds to run your lure up along also and simply wind the lure back in a steady fashion.


Saltwater: winter time offshore means two things; tuna and salmon. Although tuna are a year round possibility now, the best time is certainly winter when the water temperatures drop and bigger bait moves in. The tuna become very fussy through summer time but not in the winter, where they can smash all sizes of lures. It’s not uncommon to be targeting the bigger fish only to have school tuna continuously taking the 10-12” skirts before the bigger fish which they are intended for. The most intriguing part of targeting tuna in an open ocean like ours is just finding them on any given day. Usually consisting of lots of hours driving around with a blank ocean, it’s the rush when you find a school of fish as big as a football ground literally launching out of the water that makes it all worth it. The heart rate goes up as you set the spread of lures in their correct position according to what other lures you have out. Usually a diving lure will be put closer to the boat to allow it to swim under the skirt when turning and get under the turbulent water caused by the engine and hull. Skirted lures are placed in a few different positions depending on the shape of the head and the pressure waves that come off the boat hull. As a starter you can put a skirt with a longer shaped head back in the spread and a shorted fatter head can be placed closer to the boat to cause disturbance and stand out in the rough water. So what speed should you troll at? As a guide 6-8 knots or 11-14km/h is a great place to start and can be varied during the day if needed. When it comes to Australian salmon winter is by far the most productive time to target them for both numbers and size of fish. The best part about salmon is you don’t need a boat to access great fishing, unlike the tuna. Most of our beaches produce excellent fishing but there is certainly a few stand outs over the years. Killarney Beach is a well known area to target salmon due to the nature of the area with its many sheltered bays, reef system and surf beaches. When targeting salmon from the beach the best technique is using a 9-10ft shore spin to cast out metal slugs into the schools. It’s a very easy technique but also super effective for these speedsters. When you’re fishing off the beach you are looking for either schools of fish which will appear as a dark patch moving along the beach or a gutter which can be a bit trickier to determine. When talking about a gutter it is simply a deeper section cut out close to shore by either a rip or just the current moving through fast. To find one of these is a bit of a challenge but can be done by using these simple steps. First stand up at the highest point in the area you’re fishing and observe the water and where it is and isn’t breaking. A gutter can be spotted by seeing that a wave forms up and then drops away to nothing as it moves into the deeper section. The other way to find a gutter is just spotting a darker patch of water that doesn’t move unlike the schools of fish. You want to target these areas as they hold both the bait and fish so keeping a close eye on the conditions and water is a must.


Estuary: two estuaries that really fire up in the winter are the Glenelg River and Hopkins Rivers. The dirty water that usually flows down these 2 systems makes the fish push out to the deeper sections of water trying to find the oxygen and salt water underneath the fresh. When the fish do this it’s often a blade or vibe style lure will work best due to the sharp action and the ability to get down to where the fish are holding. Black and brown seem to be the colours that are most productive in these colder months. If using blades isn’t your style of fishing then using a Gulp sandworm will definitely be a great option for you. A slow almost no action retrieve is the best way of getting the fishes attention this time of year allowing the Gulp scent to draw the fish in from a distance. The Ski run is always the hot spot for the spawning bream and perch to set up under the fresh water so start your efforts there and work up the river using your fish finder to search that bottom part of the water. The Glenelg River is a very similar scenario but has the possibility of landing a mulloway on the same techniques as the bream. Anywhere from the bridge to the mouth will have loads of fish stacked up spawning and looking for that saltwater like the Hopkins. I have also done well up river around Dry Creek when the fish drop off the edges to the deeper sections. If your sounder is reading fish in 6m or more then these fish are going to be the hardest fish to tempt and are often the ones that don’t want to have a go. If I see this I will move off to find slightly shallower fish willing to eat. If using bait is your style then try lightly weighted shrimp on the bottom or cut mullet which has been a great couple of baits for years. The key is to use the smallest size sinker you can on the given day.


This weekend looks to be a good one for offshore fishing with some slight northerlies predicted so we should see some more tuna reports and more great fishing in the Hopkins River. Until next week tight lines and best of luck.