October is the prime time to be out on Port Phillip Bay hunting for snapper. The migration has begun and those anglers that were drooling about chasing reds have already been soaking baits and hooking up.
While the bay is well and truly full of fish, few anglers are still having trouble in having success.
The main reason behind this is due to the lower water temperatures causing the metabolic rate of snapper to be quite low. This has the fish feeling lethargic and very slow with their feeding patterns. Those that are having success are fishing during the prime times which include fishing first light in the morning, fishing a rising tide and being on the water when the barometer is rising. These three keys are the deciding factors to whether or not you will have success over the next few weeks.
Launching Ramps: With Port Phillip Bay encompassing some 250km’s of coastline which is around 35 times that of Sydney Harbour; there are hundreds of good launching facilities right around the bay providing anglers with short travelling distances to get into the action. In saying that, when the weather is fair, congestion at the ramps can be havoc. It is common to wait three hours just to launch the boat from 4am and there really isn’t much you can do to avoid this. Altona, Mornington and Carrum boating facilities are the best around the bay with multiple boats to be launched. Carrum takes the cake in this instance with up to four double lane ramps and car parking to support up to 150 cars and trailers. Still, it can be busy in the peak of the season.
Locations: One of the bonuses of fishing out from Carrum is that you’re right in the thick of the main snapper spawning sites. Although the bay is relatively set out like a shallow soup bowl, the largest concentrations of snapper tend to school up in this area.
While this is still a huge area to find fish, small reefs hold fish in good numbers. It pays to speak with local charter operators and anglers to find out where they have found fish to give you a starting point when heading out. Locations known as the aeroplane, yacht, inner and outer artificial reefs are all worthy locations to be sounding up fish. At this time of year the fish are holding on the reefs more so than spreading out on the mud as they will begin to do in the coming weeks. Stick to sounding the reefs to find the fish then begin your berley trail.
Berley: Berleying is essential at this time of year due to the slower more lethargic fish that they are. While there are many different berley techniques, the simpler you can keep it the better. Cubing is one of the more popular styles to employ and is highly effective. Simply cut a block of pilchards into one centimetre and toss a handful of cubes over the side every five minutes. Continually doing this will create a sturdy consistent trail that will bring the fish into your area.
Baits: The freshest baits are always going to give you the upper hand on fussy. Silver whiting, garfish, squid and yakka’s are downright deadly but the humble pilchard is still a bait that can’t be forgotten. More snapper are caught with pilchards than any other bait but providing you have a few different options, your chances at being successful will be greatly increased. Baits should be fished whole. Snapper are a scavenger and do enjoy engulfing big baits so don’t be shy when it comes to threading on a whole silver whiting or pillie.
Rigs: In the upper reaches of Port Phillip Bay, tidal influence doesn’t enter the equation. With this in mind, anglers can fish their baits almost unweighted. Ideally, a running ball sinker on the mainline followed be a swivel, a 50cm length of 30lb leader and a pair of snelled Black Magic C hooks is the perfect set up. Once baited and cast, the bait will slowly sink towards the seafloor in the berley trail where it will be taken without hesitation.
The snapper in the bay are on the chew and while they still may be a little slower, the coming weeks will be more like a trout farm. If you are heading out now, do some research, fish the right tides, a rising barometer, use the freshest of baits to experience early season snapper action at its best.