Location: Portland North Shore (Fishing Guide)

29 Nov 23
Mention the North Shore to any south west angler and their head will fill with visions of monster kingfish tearing down a stickbait, schools of tuna so thick you could walk across them, and shallow reefs where whiting, snapper and gummies abound. While these images may be an exaggeration of the fishing most of the time, it's still one of Victoria's most productive fishing regions during the summer. Let's take a look at some of the North Shore's most common species and how you can go about targeting them this summer.

Kingfish: By far the most popular, and sometimes difficult, species on the North Shore is the kingfish. Once the water temps spike in November (which hasn't happened fully yet this year), these fish will move in close. Early season fishing with glassy conditions, quiet boat ramps and monster kings is as good as it gets, but is very hard to plan and also hit/miss fishing. For most anglers though, king season is December through to March, with January being the most productive (Australia Day weekend is always a peak). During February, south-easterlies usually hit hard, bringing cold, nutrient rich water in and slowing the fishing. A hot, flat day is ideal, fishing early in order to be able to spot the big fish cruising on the surface. So you know when to go, but how to you target them? The most reliable method is trolling the stretch behind the Yumbah abalone farm, a couple of hundred metres back from the beach (although fish can be right in on the waves occasionally). Slow troll a couple of 12" Slug-gos, in chrome or white, and also a popper being worked by hand, and live baits if you can get them. A strip teaser with flashy mirror finish is also a trick employed by the gurus. A mix of techniques like this will raise any king school, and they'll just grab the lure or you'll see them back in the spread going wild. Cast a stickbait or livie back in there and hold on! Other techniques for these kings include using livebait or squid under balloons fished at anchor and casting poppers/stickbaits at schools visually sighted. They'll also turn up unannounced whilst whiting or snapper fishing so always have a rod rigged and ready to cast.

A few must have lures include the Slug-Go 12" (chrome/white), poppers (Halco Roosta, Williamson Jet Popper, Nomad Chug Norris), and stickbaits (Rapala Skitter, Nomad Riptide 155, Maria Loaded).

Tuna: School tuna remain a popular target for those fishing the north shore, although people seem to be getting sick of catching them these days compared to a few years ago! December sees school fish move in, forming thick schools which can be easily seen on a calm day. Often fish are just milling on the surface; it's rare to see workups on bait in close at North Shore. Still, keep an eye on birds working but you're usually looking for dark, rippled patches or broken water. Casting a small stickbait or popper into these schools is usually the best method to try, but you can also troll them up with small (4") skirts or diving minnows staggered out in a spread. Troll a bit faster than you would for kings. The area further offshore at 'The Anchorage' (ship anchorage) is the most reliable; often a line trolled between that general area to the shore should see some action. You don't need to fish super heavy for these tuna as they're usually under 20kg, but if you are releasing fish it's best to use heavy tackle to ensure the fish isn't worn out before release.

A few must have lures include skirts (Black Magic Jetsetter, Pakula Micro Uzi), poppers (Maria Pop Queen), divers (Nomad DTX, Halco Laser Pro, Zerek Speed Donkey) and stickbaits (Nomad Riptide 105, Molix SB120, Amegari Flavie 110).

Snapper: Pinkies are easily taken at any time during summer over the north shore. Use your sounder to find some likely reef, anchor up, send down a berley trail, cast out half a pillie lightly weighted, and hang on! Casting soft plastics either anchored or under electric motor power is a very fun way to fish this area, using plastics 4-5" in length with a 1/6-3/8oz jighead. You'll also get plenty of by-catch including flathead, trevally, and small kingfish. 10-15g slow jigs fished vertically or down a berley trail will also be a fun way to fish with light gear. Bigger snapper also haunt the north shore but aren't often taken; you're better off heading out deep or fishing the Lee Breakwall for those.

Sharks: The North Shore is home to a lot of sharks, and good variety too. For those bottom bashing, gummies and schoolies can be taken over reef or broken rubbly ground (use your sounder) in any depth, but 20m onwards is usually best in the daytime. Berley helps but can attract stingrays too. Black Magic Snapper Snack/Snatcher rigs are always very popular for gummies and usually outfish a standard, non flashy rig. When berleying, don't be afraid to send a bigger bait such as a salmon, mackerel or tuna fillet out the back under a balloon; thresher and bronze whaler sharks are pretty common in the area. They'll also grab lures intended at kingfish or tuna and are a real surprise; you'll be in for a fight with one of those.

Others: Whiting are a popular catch in the area with the productive fishing season a little longer (October through to April) than the larger predatory fish. Big whiting are often caught by those targeting snapper on the reefs, but shallow sandy reefs in close (10m or less) are where the bulk of the fish are. A light paternoster rig (such as the Black Magic flashy Whiting Snatcher) baited with pippy, and a 10g sinker, should have you sorted. Try tide changes, low light and with berley for the best success. Don't cast too close in to the reef as you'll just find wrasse. 
Another species which haunts the north shore, although rarely seen these days, is the mulloway. This area used to be very popular for mulloway anglers with some finding a dozen in a night session; but they aren't often caught these days which makes you wonder if they're gone, or just forgotten. The Lee Breakwall and Narrawong Beach still see a few caught so there's at least a remnant population there. Finally, the shallow reefs also are ideal for squid; which make a perfect bait for literally anything, but are also very tasty! A natural coloured size 3 or 3.5 jig fished over shallow reef on a calm day will work well.