Winter Fishing Options

31 May 23
Winter is now upon us but that doesn't mean the end of fishing for the season here in the south-west! If you're well prepared and target the right species, winter fishing can be just as action-packed as any other time of year. Let's take a look at what species are best targeted during the cooler months locally, and how you can find yourself a few.
  • Salmon
Unfortunately the salmon haven't turned up in big numbers yet for 2023, nor did we experience a good run during 2023. Still, it's not too late and there's plenty to get excited about. Any of the open surf beaches along the coastline can experience salmon runs, but hotspots include Peterborough, Levies, Killarney, Port Fairy (golf course), Yambuk and Cape Bridgewater/Discovery Bay. Offshore winds aren't essential but you'll find the fishing to be much easier with a tail wind and it'll also make the beach much easier to read, and fish more visible. Fishing the cleaner green water, especially around deep water gutters, is the preference of most experienced anglers. A rising tide will also help bring the fish in. Both lures and bait can be used locally. Bluebait on a paternoster, with a star sinker and surf poppers, is a proven old school tactic which is easy to do, and still very effective. This tactic seems to work better on the more open and exposed beaches, and you can spread rods out to cover water and wait for the fish to come to you. Most anglers these days are switching to lighter 9 foot rods and casting lures, a great way to cover water, find active fish and have a blast whilst doing it. Pick your lure size/weight to suit the conditions- usually 20-60g cast weight in either metal lures or stickbaits will be preferred. Lure fishing often works best at the calmer, clearer beaches like Killarney and you can even troll bibbed minnows, skirts or cast a popper when you find an open water school.
  • Sharks
Winter is go time for big sharks locally. The large gummy and school sharks move closer inshore to breed and can offer some excellent fishing in less than 50m of water, making them accessible to a greater number of boats. All the same tactics work as summer- drifting or anchoring with berley, and using large fish baits (wrasse, salmon, mullet, mackerel) or squid on a double paternoster rig. Just note that a lot of these sharks will be pregnant females, and it's suggested to let these ones go to keep the shark populations strong into the future. If you do wish to keep a large shark, be sure to check for live pups before you leave, and let them go. It's better than finding out hours later at the cleaning table! Beach fishing for large sharks is also popular for the same reasons- just don't forget to rug up and it'll be bloody cold!
  • Tuna
Whilst tuna have (thankfully) become a year-round target here in the southwest, winter is still the time of year they're easiest to catch. With baitfish in abundance, the fish can be spotted visibly feeding and when they're doing that, they're not so hard to catch (like summer fish!). You will have to travel out to slightly deeper waters (40-60m) at times to catch them. For school fish, just your normal divers (Zerek Speed Donkey, Halco Laser Pro, Nomad DTX) and skirts (Black Magic Jetsetter, Pakula range, Jaks Barrel Bullet) will work well trolled. And of course, the barrel run will continue for a few months too to keep you excited!
  • Trout
Winter is definitely trout time in the southwest. Many local anglers only target trout in the cooler months; for most people, it's just so much easier and more productive than summer. The spawning season gets the big brown trout of the Merri and Hopkins rivers really fired up, and will attack lures with gusto. The size of these fish can be incredible at times and really does rival the fishing anywhere on offer in Australia. Take the Merri for instance; when launching your boat you can be hooked up to a 3kg fish within moment of the boat ramp! And you'd be amazed just how many big trout congregate under the road bridges- you're probably driving over big trout every day! Still, these fish can be tricky, and there's a few techniques to make sure you get a few. Fishing early and late, casting your hardbodies upstream, using the current to your advantage, targeting rocks and foamy currents and walking to find unpressured water can put you ahead of most anglers. During winter the larger lures work more effectively than the rest of the year. Top picks include the Daiwa Presso range, Rapala F7 or F9, Zipbaits Rigge 7cm, Daiwa Double Clutches and Smith Panish 7cm. The lakes also fire up, especially Bullen Merri and Purrumbete. Bigger fish come right up to the shoreline and closer to the surface, making them more accessible for land based anglers and flat line (no downrigger) trollers.
  • Estuaries
The estuaries generally don't fish as well during winter but there's still plenty of action to keep you busy. The bream and perch school up in preparation for spawning over the coming months, and whilst it mightn't be as exhilarating as summer time surface fishing, fishing blades and soft plastics through these schools is really good fun. Big catches can be had and the river is far quieter compared to summer. The Curdies, Hopkins, Fitzroy and Glenelg can all have great deep water fishing. At the moment though, and for the next few weeks, there's still shallow edge bite water fish on offer. Try a 1/12th oz jighead with a 2.5" soft plastic (Bait Junkie, Hurricane or Z-Man) or a dark coloured 35mm blade. Don't discount a mulloway; they'll hang around the same areas.  Bait fishermen should try scrub worms after rain (we are well stocked in the Tackle Shack), or cut mullet with plenty of scent to appeal to big, deep water winter bream.