by Jarrod Day
While the almost arctic temperatures roll in over Victoria’s south east, the land based brigade gear up ready to hit the beaches in search of Australian Salmon. Though us Vic’s may not get to experience runs of fish like that in South Australia and the rest of the southern coastline, what we do get to experience is non stop fishing action after the fish begin to infiltrate the surf zones.
When your targeting big salmon, ensure you have the right gear to tackle them.
Victoria’s surf season generally begins around April but before the fish enter the surf, they are found in huge schools busting up bait on the surface in both Port Phillip Bay and Western Port. This seasonal event occurs from January through to April then ends suddenly when they all but have seemed to disappear.
It is at this point that surf anglers begin to explore the sandy beaches eager to get tight to a fish.
Although there are literally hundreds of beaches all worthy of producing salmon, Victoria’s south east has five main beaches which become extremely popular amongst surf anglers and continue to deliver some amazing fishing.
Most of these beaches are only separated by a short drive which allows anglers to search for fish driving between one another rather than spending a day at one and not getting a bite.
Located some 130 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD, Venus Bay is a popular fishing location that can deliver some very productive fishing. Venus Bay is comprised of 5 beaches all accessed by their individual car parks. Most of this area is quite flat and shallow but throughout the winter period is very productive. The only problem with Venus is that when the fish show up they constantly move between the beaches depending on where the bait is. Often, they can be at beach one when the next day can be at beach four but when you do locate them the fishing can be simply sensational.
Tackle and tactics:
Due to the shallowness of Venus Bay it is imperative that anglers fish a rising tide to ensure that the fish push in closer to the shore break. Often the fish can be a little scattered throughout the beach and while there are no deeper gutters to keep them holding in the one area, berley is necessary. Successful berley methods generally consist of utilizing an onion bag filled with chook pellets that have been soaked in tuna oil over night. This concoction can be secured to a surf rod holder and left to lie on the sand. Each wave that pushes up the beach will wash over the bag taking a constant flow of fine berley particles with it. If the berley is setup on arrival to the beach, once rigged up the first cast should result in a fish. One thing to note, that the longer you fish for the closer into the shore you should make your casts. The more berley that is dispersed, the more fish will move in towards the shore break. Many anglers make this mistake and continue to cast as far as they can limiting their chance at consistent success.
When fishing for salmon the most suitable rig is a paternoster with two droppers. This allows the use of either two hooks or a single hook and a surf popper. When the salmon are about, a paternoster rig will allow two fish to be caught at the one time which can stimulate the fish into a feeding frenzy.
Paternoster rigs should be tied from 15lb fluorocarbon leader with size 1/0 bait holder hooks.
Heading back towards Melbourne from Venus Bay, Williamsons beach is located at the end of Lower Powlett Road in Wonthaggi. Williamsons beach is arguably the producer of the largest salmon caught right along this section of the coast but not to give false hope; if they aren’t there they won’t be too far away. Often, just a little berley is required to bring them in from the back of the surf breaks. Williamsons beach contains the deepest gutters which is why the fish seem to hold in good numbers. When it fires, it really fires. From the sandy path onto the beach, there are two main gutters, one to the left and one to the right. Each is as productive as the other but anglers will have to do some research to find where the fish are holding on that day.
Tackle and tactics:
While Williamsons beach has two main gutters almost directly in front of the walking path, more gutters can be located further to the left. It is important to fish during a rising tide and well into the beginning of the run out tide as the gutters can often be calved deeper stirring up the sand. This tends to bring fish closer in towards the shore break and with a combination of berley used; the fish will find the trail and hold in your chosen gutter. There are many different ways to berley effectively but for a constant flow without having to remember to toss in a handful, use an onion bag and secure it to a rod holder. Knowing that this beach can deliver salmon in the 6-7lb range, pays to upgrade the rig to a heavier leader strength. A paternoster rig is still the most effective but should be tied from 20lb fluorocarbon with 2/0 sized bait holder hooks. This beach can experience some very strong side wash due to its depth and anglers will require a five and six ounce star or grappling sinkers to hold bottom. If berley is being used and the side wash is considerably strong, a five or six ounce bomb sinker should be used to slowly drift with the berley trail. If you’re casting baits out and noticing the berley washing to the left or right you will find you won’t get much action. Staying in the berley trail is the key to success on any beach.
Kilcunda is comprised of two beaches, Kilcunda main beach and Cemetery beach that is located a few hundred meters to the left.
These two beaches receive most of attention during the winter period mainly because of their easy access points from along the Bass Hwy. Kilcunda has two main gutters to the left and right of the stairs with a large rocky point also on the left. Cemetery on the other hand also has two main gutters which are quite deep.
These two beaches fish considerably well during a westerly blow but can become quite weedy making fishing a challenge.
Tackle and tactics:
During the season, Kilcunda and Cemetery beaches can be descried as 'standing room only' for the reason that they can be absolutely packed on weekends. These two beaches always fish well throughout the winter and while they aren’t known for numbers of big fish, are still very consistent with fish ranging 300 grams to 2kg.
Due to the weed which can effect the fishing, it is suggested that the paternoster rig be tied from 20lb fluorocarbon leader to offer some abrasion resistance and strength against the bunches of kelp which you may become tangled in. Hook sizes for salmon should still be a 1/0 bait holder although a 2/0 circle hook also works well.
Salmon will respond well to a variety of baits but most fish tend to be taken on blue bait, white bait and pipi. When fishing with either blue bait or white bait, use them whole as smaller fish tend to pick at baits. The larger bait will be more difficult for them to remove. Another technique is to wrap the bait with bait mate elastic. This is also to aid in keeping the bait on the hook for a longer period. I find that using berley is also an effective method to keep the fish confined to the gutter your fishing. Often, anglers will fish the beach and just cast out a single bait. While they will catch a fish or two, using berley will bring in the whole school.
Kilcunda is also a good beach to spin from with metal lures if you’re into lure fishing. This style of fishing allows you to cover more ground by walking from gutter to gutter until you find the fish. Though you may have to put in a lot of casts, it is worth it when the fish are located.