With a fairly quiet week on the fishing front I thought I would give you some ideas and options for fishing in the South West during the colder months to get you somewhat motivated. Some anglers put their boats and fishing gear away for the winter but there’s usually some red hot fishing to be had anyway.
Saltwater: winter is go time for big bluefin tuna otherwise known as “Barrels” due to their roundness like a barrel. Hundreds of boats flock to our waters in search of one of the hardest fighting fish in the ocean. These fish are generally targeted mostly out of Portland and Port Fairy but late in the season last year there were some big fish caught down to the east of Warrnambool closer to Port Campbell. So how do you target these fish? Unfortunately for your pocket these fish are typically one that you’ll spend lots of fuel driving around searching for the giveaway sign of fish busting up on the surface. On a typical day you could drive 250km+ just searching for life before you even put your lures in the drink. The lures to use can be a very wide variety but if you keep it simple then you’ll be on the right path. 4 set ups with a different colour lure or diving depth will give you a great start. Typically larger skirts are the choice of most anglers down our way. 8” and over is the preferred length of skirt but as the old saying goes “Elephants eat peanuts” so mixing it up on the given day will give you more chance. On the diver side of things a deep diver that will swim to 30ft can be troller in short behind the engine/s and will entice a bite also. Depending on the day you can even run a shallow diver on the long corner too which won’t blow out of the water unlike the rough days where you would stick with either a heavy bullet head skirt or a deep diver. The other species that anglers get excited about in the winter is the big Gummy Shark that frequent our waters for spawning. Generally we see fish over 20kg become quite common during this time of year which makes for some great sport and also great eating. If during this time you get a big fish and you think it may have pups on board then you need to check the stomach and release them back into the water. On the other hand you can just release the whole shark too but it’s completely up to you if you want to do that or not. If you do decide to keep one then you must immediately bleed the shark by cutting the top if the head and place the shark into an ice slurry to chill the meat down. By doing this you’ll get some premium meat that will taste awesome regardless of the way you cook it. The last species that anglers live for during the cold months is the Australian Salmon which can be targeted from the beach, a pier or in the boat making it an easy and accessible species for everyone. Casting metal slugs from the beaches and piers is the preferred technique as it provides great exercise and visual fishing. If you’re wanting to use bait then a simple double paternoster rig with pilchard or blue bait will get you bit. One trick when using soft baits such as pilchard is to wrap them with bait mate thread which will hold your bait on for longer if the small fish are around.
Estuaries: The Glenelg River is spot number 1 for our estuaries during winter as the annual migration of Mulloway make their way along the beaches from the Coorong and then into the river. To target these fish properly a lot of time is required to be successful which means most of the time you’ll be fishing through the night. With night fishing comes some more challenges including being unable to see your rod tips to detect bites or just not being able to see at all obviously so a few small things will make your night so much easier. One thing that I never go without if fishing for Mulloway at night is some small glow sticks and either cable ties or some good tape to stick them to the rod tip. Doing this will allow you to spot even the smallest bites but be warned staring at these all night will make you fall asleep so a loud drag is a must otherwise you’ll be missing a rod in the morning. A good quality head light is also essential when targeting these and any fish at night. These will allow you to bait your hook correctly and if you are lucky enough to hook a fish you’ll know exactly where it is during the fight. The last piece of essential equipment is some warm clothes as you’ll need them regardless how tough you are. The last couple of seasons has seen most anglers trolling big hardbodies down deep for them due to the dirty water but if the water is clearer, then trolling and fishing live mullet will be an A1 option. Typically areas such as Taylor’s Straight, Donovan’s, Sapling Creek and the estuary are all prime areas to start looking.
Freshwater: the cold months in the south west mean only one thing for the freshwater and that’s “Trout time”. The rivers and lakes in our area are alive and well this time of year and with this comes trophy fish. Lake Purrumbete is a major hot spot to target the double figure trout and Chinook Salmon on a variety of different techniques including live baits, trolling lures on downriggers and also the technique that has really taken off over the past couple seasons is casting bent minnows at the weed beds. A very visual technique that certainly gets the heart pumping watching a trout follow your lure up and then crunching it. A hop skip and a jump away from Lake Purrumbete is Lake Bullen Merri which is more known as a Rainbow Trout and Chinook Salmon fishery. There are brown trout in here also but the majority of captures are Rainbows and Salmon. Trolling Tassie Devils on downriggers and lead core lines will be your best option for fishing this lake. Pinks and Silver tassies have always been a favourite for the anglers who frequent this lake over the years. With winter comes rain and this is when our local rivers really begin to fire up for the big brown trout we see every year get caught. The best thing about targeting our river trout is you get some great exercise doing it by walking for kilometres. Casting shallow hardbodies and lightly weighted soft plastics into the rapids is the go to technique as the trout will sit there in behind rocks and wait to ambush the prey or your lure. Due to fishing in fast flowing water with larger than average fish you’ll need to beef up your leader to 8 or 12lb which will stop bust offs. A good pair of gumboots with some great tread is essential to stop you from slipping over on the often wet banks.
If you have anymore questions regarding winter fishing options then stop into the Tackle Shack and we can point you in the right direction to help you make the most of your time. Until next week tight lines and best of luck