After a couple of slow years, 2021 has really stood out as the year of the salmon. With hot action at times right along the coast, both numbers and sizes have been well above average. Many anglers have enjoyed stocking the bait freezer, the food fridge or just enjoying some catch and release sports fishing. Both bait fishers and lure casters have been crossing the dunes and casting into the wash to get amongst these rockets. Sound like fun? Keep reading to find out how it’s done.
What do you tie onto your rod; and what rod do you even use? The most popular choice is a 4000 spinning reel, matched to a 9 foot casting rod, with either a 20lb braid or mono line. With this set up, bait anglers are best off with pilchard or blue bait on a surf popper paternoster rig, and a star sinker on the bottom. Lure anglers are best off with a 30-60g metal lure, with the smaller lures used on calmer beaches with a northerly wind. Increasing numbers of anglers are switching their stock treble hooks to single assist hooks, which means more fish hooked, more fish landed, and less damage to the fish for release. Personally though, I use a 7’6 or 8 foot rod, with a 10 or 15lb braid and a 2500 or 3000 reel. This lighter set up means much further casting distance with smaller lures, including stickbaits, which are much more fun than metals on calm beaches and rarely used. I’ve had no trouble on fish to 3kg with this light rod, and it makes those smaller fish a bit more fun.
Where do you go? In south-west Victoria, we have a few options. Peterborough Main Beach, in the east, fishes well and often produces some very large fish. Moving east, the beaches around Childers Cove can produce fish at times. Warrnambool has Levies and Logan’s beaches, both can produce good bags of salmon as well as gummy sharks at night. Killarney Beach, whilst sheltered, often holds some really good sized salmon both in the boat and off the beach. Port Fairy East Beach behind the golf club is one of the most consistent spots locally and is well worth a look during winter. Finally, Yambuk Beach at the river mouth is another great choice on calm days, as it is very exposed to the ocean. In summer, salmon often turn up in the open bays locally, especially at Portland, feeding near schools of tuna or kingfish, and can be sighted on the top, making them a great target for boat anglers.
This season, Killarney has been the number one location for Warrnambool anglers. The sandy point just to the left of the boat ramp is generally where the action has been centred. With sporadic runs of fish from January all the way through until now (October), it’s always worth a look if you’re keen!
And how do you catch these green backed rockets? An offshore wind with a swell of less than 2m is best on any of our beaches, especially when fished either side of high tide. Winter is the most consistent time for salmon, but each year varies when, or if, the fish even show up. Smaller fish can be taken all year round on any of the beaches with larger fish typical seasonal. In past years, big salmon have shown up in numbers on the beaches anywhere from January to November, but the months of May to September are typically best. Fish the gutters, or green water, on the beach. These are best spotted with a trained eye, but are sections of deep holes in the sand. Look for areas where waves aren’t breaking, or for areas of green/blue water in amongst the foam. Once you’ve found a likely looking hole, or an area with a few anglers fishing close by, simply cast out into that hole, and retrieve your lure at a fairly brisk pace, no pauses needed. Bait anglers are best to check baits fairly regularly to ensure crabs haven’t removed the bait. I tend to give each spot 5-10 minutes before walking along.
Salmon aren’t known as a great eating fish, but make great fish cakes! They also make a great bait for mulloway and sharks. If you don’t have any use for the fish however, release them, sadly too many anglers take these fish for granted and kill them needlessly and the fish simply get wasted and dumped. Put your fish to good use or release it to fish another day. The fish are running right now, so get out there before they’re gone (and they’re sure quick to move!).