With Jim’s Bait & Tackle

If the wind is too strong for the bay, head to the rivers.

The second week in January, the week where winter made a return to Westernport Bay, rain, cold and let’s not forget the wind!

As bad as the weather has been this week, it is nothing like we had last year and as inconvenient as the rules around COVID have been, it is insignificant compared to the devastation of January 2020. Although we haven’t really seen a lot of hot weather yet, looking back through diaries, unsettled weather is nothing new to this time of the year and as most know, the best weather around this area is generally from the end of January through to May.

The week wasn’t all bad with a few nice days and patches during the week to head out for a fish. There were still plenty of fish reported. Some may have noticed a recall on the Plains Wessex Flares recently, the same as we sell. The recall doesn’t affect flares sold in Victoria and was only those in Western Australia.

Tuna this week were most likely still there, just the opportunities to chase them weren’t and the reason we only had a couple of reports. If you are heading out for the tuna, almost all our reports so far have come from skirts and not hard bodies. White, pink, and blue mixtures seem to be the best.

Two mistakes those unsuccessful seem to be making, lures too big and heading out too wide. A couple of reports have come from 150mm skirts, but the best have been 120mm and 100mm ones. Depth has been as shallow as 12m and as deep as 40m and by now you would have seen the video of the tuna school off Cowes/Ventnor in the bottom end of the western channel. Keep your eyes open from the minute you leave the trailer and never assume, also don’t drive over marks on the sounder without checking them out, after all that’s why you put all that money into getting a good sounder.

The reports from hard bodies have come from those who were on their own and able to find a school on the surface throwing mostly stick baits or poppers into them. My suggestion is learning how to run a set of lures. Outriggers are an advantage if you have them and know how to use them but not necessary. You can easily run five or six without them, takes a little skill and practice. Mix up your sizes and colours and set them at different lengths behind the boat, get it right and you will be surprised how tightly you can actually still turn.
We had a few more reports of kingfish with customers able to trawl along the headland at Woolamai, they were only rats and most too small but still kingfish and where there are small ones the bigger ones aren’t too far behind. We finally have had a couple of mako reports which were typical size for this time of the year, caught around Cody Banks. The gummies have been good and again we saw some big models from down near the windmills and a couple of smaller ones from other customers fishing offshore. Flathead reports have been OK but with the majority of people targeting other species at the minute there aren’t as many chasing flathead as there would normally be. We have had plenty of reports of baitfish, couta, yakkas, mackerel and then salmon and silver whiting.

As always over the holiday period, we get plenty of land-based reports and with the windy weather this week keeping the boats on the trailer several people decided to head to the jetties and other land areas to try their luck. We had some good reports from the Powlett of bream with a lot of smaller ones but a couple that were also very reasonable. Calamari were caught off most of the jetties as well as the beaches at Cleeland Bight and Ventnor but not in big numbers. Some quality in size but at times a long wait between catches and a mixture of colours needed for those using artificial jigs. Boats and kayaks that did get out on the water did better, especially with a lot less traffic on the water the calamari were not quite as flighty.

Salmon reports always get better over the holiday period with considerably more people fishing on the surf. We often get the question about salmon asking, “I know they are a winter fish but are there any around”, we see salmon all year round and I think the, it’s only a winter fish, comes from how many people fish for them when. Many years ago, I remember dad driving us down to Kilcunda at 3am in the middle winter during a howling wind just to be able to get a good spot on the beach and we would do that many weekends over the winter but never in the summer. You don’t see those packed winter days on the beach anymore, but you do see people fishing all year now and I think that’s where the whole theory of them only being a winter fish comes from.

We see as many caught during the summer as we do through the winter and if you took boats into the catches we see far more in the summertime. The other thing I think people need to remember is salmon are a fish that will swim by in a school looking for food and keep swimming if there is none. They don’t have little tide watches to tell them its high tide and they need to head to the shallows of the beach. Our reports come from all year, all parts of the tide and all times of the day.

Haven’t seen any big snapper in the bay lately but we are still seeing some quality pinkies still and the tiny undersized ones haven’t gone anywhere either. We have seen a couple of bigger snapper from offshore which was a surprise to those who were chasing a gummy, towards Kilcunda the best. There is plenty of other activity in the bay with quality whiting not running out yet. The numbers at times haven’t been there but when they are around the 40cm mark, six or 10 make a very good feed. Not too many areas that haven’t fired and most places are consistently producing good fish.

We have lost count of how many reports we have had from people catching whiting while looking for gummies or snapper in the deep channels. There hasn’t just been the odd one from the deep with most who caught them, while not targeting them, catching several and those who are actually targeting them in the deep having no problem getting a good bag to take home. Whiting from the deeper water, 10m and above, tend to be on the bigger side and you don’t seem to catch those small undersize ones.

Gummy reports have been good in the bay as well and while not as big as offshore they are still a reasonable size and worth the effort, the best reports have come from just off Elizabeth island and Gardeners channel. We have lost count also of the reports with several different species in them, generally from the one spot as well as the different spots people are fishing.