by Jarrod Day
As the water withdraws and the formation of a wave starts to build, a small white foam ever so slightly appears. Quicker than you can blink, a wave breaks apart on the shallow reef covering the exposed seaweeds and crustaceans that inhabit the intertidal zone. As the marine organisms detach from the rocks they are pulled back into the water where trevally, salmon and wrasse fight for the slim pickings until the next wave repeats the process.
Fishing from the many rock platforms can lead to good catches of salmon.
Along the rugged coastline of Phillip Island, this scenario is occurring constantly. Fish pick food off the rocks and wait in the depths for larger baitfish which may wander by. For anglers, this is an ideal situation in which to find out where fish are located. Many fish can be found under the white wash that surrounds the numerous rock formations and flicking a lure into the deep can result in a great battle of tug of war.
Starting the search:
It was back in 1998, Moto GP weekend, when Mick Doohan flew home to take out the race points and win the championship at the Phillip Island GP Track. Well apart from that memorable weekend other entertaining ideas were rushing through my mind. I was sick and tired of going to the local piers and decided to pack a small bag of odds and ends to take off in search of that holy grail of a fishing spot.
All the beaches fish very well around the island but they are quite rocky.
I began around the Newhaven area and headed southwest towards Cleeland Bight. With golden sands and crystal clear water this was the place to start my journey.
Clutching light 7ft spinning outfit I began to cast the ugliest looking metal lure I had, complete with rusty treble hooks that I’m sure contained tetanus.
From that day, I have been drawn back to Phillip Island. Its many beaches can be explored by anglers keen to try new locations, as well as the large variety of species on offer.
With the list of species ever ongoing, the most popular are flathead, snapper, whiting squid, leatherjacket, salmon, barracouta, pike, wrasse and the not so often spoken about yellowtail kingfish. But don’t get your hopes up kingfish are as rare as hens teeth to encounter when land based but still a possibility. Only a select few have locked horns with these highly prized southern sportfish. I, to this day am still looking forward to the fierce battle they put forward.
Spinning from the surf can lead to good catches of salmon
When you walk into a tackle store it can be so overwhelming with the amount off hooks, sinkers and other assorted tackle the shop walls contain. Sure they all might look interesting and everyone would love to have a fair selection of lures but when walking the coast, the last thing you need is to be lugging a heavy tackle box along with you. Basically, when I go walkabout, my kit contains a small box of assorted soft plastics and jig heads, a bunch of metal slugs, a few hard body lures and of course spare terminal tackle including swivels, lure clips, spare leader line and braid scissors. Taking the necessary items will make the day much more enjoyable and should you overload yourself too much you’ll not just wear yourself out but you may not reach places that might hold fish due to becoming too tired to continue on.
When embarking on such missions, keeping your tackle in one small and easy to access bag is recommended. Ideally, a small bum or waist bag which won’t be over bearing.
While bait fishing is a very popular affair from the land, exploring hard to reach locations with bags of bait can be difficult.
Taking a selection of baits usually requires an esky or some sort of bag to keep it cool. If baits go off, then the fish can quite often turn their nose up and lugging heavy items can turn a great day into a very tiring and painstaking one.
Lures on the other hand are light, affordable, easy to use and of course don’t go off.
These days soft plastics are becoming more 'fish like' in appearance as well as being scented. This attracts fish, and for those wanting to get into soft plastics, there has never been a better time. Some of these scented plastics are 400 times smellier than the average soft plastic. These can obviously be cast and retrieved, but many don’t think to cut them up and use them as a substitute for bait.
Cat Bay is well known for its gummy shark and snapper fishing from the shore.
Where to start:
Why is it so important to look for structure in the water? Well as most should know, structure attracts fish. Structure comes in many forms such as deep channels, seaweed, mangroves, rock and run down piers. Even a floating log can have fish schooling around it. Simple structures attract small baitfish, crabs, shrimp, and a host of other potential food for bigger species. This in turn attracts larger fish which feed on the smaller ones and so on down the line. Once found, one or two casts may not secure a fish. You will need to put in the time and work the area carefully. Look for potential holes or small channels, these may house flathead. Take notice of the waters surface, are there small baitfish feeding there? If so, then salmon or barracouta could be lurking below. All these signs mean one thing, fish. The more carefully and thoroughly you work an area, the more likely you will encounter some quality fish. In some areas, the structure may be under the water and not visible from land. Using a pair of polarised sunglasses will aid you to find structure under the water. Spotters Photochromic lenses adjust to light intensity, during low light conditions they increase definition making the conditions brighter and in high light conditions, the glare is reduced allowing the angler better visibility into the water.
Cleeland Bight is a top location for catch calamari from the beach.
Areas such as Kitty Miller Bay are a classic example of where rock structures below the surface provide shelter for a variety of fish species. To the right of the beach is a huge rock structure spanning out into Bass Strait. Here, many fish can be found relatively close to the rocks such as sweep, garfish, silver trevally, wrasse, salmon, snapper, whiting, leatherjackets, gummy sharks and a host of others.
Right around the coast many areas exist that are very similar where rocky outcrops exist on either side of the beach or they span across the whole beach. Cat Bay is another location that springs to mind. There is a significant amount of reef within an easy cast and rigs will be lost. In saying that, the area fished very well of snapper and gummy shark during the night for those wanting to park themselves in the one location to fish with baits. For the lure flicker, metal slugs and soft plastics will catch the attention of silver trevally and salmon which are in abundance throughout most parts of the year.
Garfish can also be taken from the many piers.
The search always continues:
When I first started searching locations around the Island, I thought that one day my legs would actually look like Mr Universe thanks to the miles and miles I have walked through sand dunes, along sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and thick scrub.
Being able to find a practically unfished beach was the highlight of a days hard work, next was to actually find fish.
Many locations that you may stumble across will actually become a so called 'golden spot'.
It’s the one you venture back to time after time and produces fish that you keep dear to your heart. One true favourite of mine is without doubt Cleeland bight.
This are has produced some excellent fish for me over past years. Salmon, barracouta, pike, pinkie snapper, whiting, wrasse, red mullet, gummy shark, flathead and squid are some species I have encountered on both baits and lures.
I have had best success with soft plastics over the past few years and advise this area worth a look if venturing onto the island for a short holiday.
Even to this day, I’m still looking to find a better spot, that I think is human nature. There is always something or somewhere better to look for…………