With Jim’s Bait and Tackle

Craig from Island Offshore Charters put a smile on his clients’ faces with this great haul of bluefin tuna.

THE situation with COVID-19 at the moment is a little like fishing – it’s anybody’s guess what tomorrow will bring.

While it’s difficult for everyone to change their routine overnight and go into a lockdown, especially those who can’t work, spare a thought for the owners of food businesses who often have no choice but to throw hundreds and often thousands of dollars of food in the bin. We, like many, had to close but that was all we had to do, shut the door and go home for a few days.

Now we just spend the rest of the month trying to break even and move on. At least we don’t have fresh produce we need to dispose of, so thanks to the many that sent through messages of support.

It was, however, great to see so many people in town over the weekend supporting the eateries in San Remo.

Is fishing for whiting with alternative baits something you have thought about? If so, now is the time to think a whole lot more seriously.

Pippi farming in Australia is a little complicated at best and for the last few seasons, the supply for the bait industry has been reducing. This year is no different and with a reduction of quota and a growing food market, bait supply is getting close to being over for this year, until October, (commercial pippi season is closed from June to October). We are looking at some alternatives for next season in case the full quota goes to the food industry but for now, start looking at squid strips and pilchard fillets as alternatives.

We were all limited with fishing days because of the lockdown but everybody made up for it on the weekend with plenty out in boats and off the land.

The weather was much better than the forecast and those out fishing found plenty to make their trip worth the effort. Offshore was the place to be and once you got past the frustration of not being able to hook the tuna, just being there seeing the huge schools in the water made the trip worth it.

There was, however, plenty caught over the last week and although working out exactly when they were going to bite, which seemed to change every day, how to catch them didn’t change much. Small skirts, colour overall didn’t make a difference with a dozen successful customers telling us the best colour or best lure, all different of course, trawled between 8 and 12 knots in 40m or less of water, around 25m the most productive, and somewhere between Cape Schanck and Cape Paterson.

There were, as there always is, a few reports that were totally different to the above but above is a summary of the majority of the reports we had.

Kingfish was often a by-catch of the tuna and several customers told us they caught both in same trawling run.

There were also a few very big salmon swimming with the schools of tuna and kings all taking the same sort of lures.

We have started to get reports from in the bay of decent-sized pinkies, 36cm to 40cm in amongst the very tiny undersized ones. No pattern to where they are being caught and just seem to be with the schools of small ones, Elizabeth Island to Gardners Channel, across the corals to Cleeland Bight where we saw a couple of quality snapper during the week. A lot of little gummies, with a handful of respectable ones caught from in the channels; this week’s full moon might help to improve the reports. Lots of bait fish in the bay still and a couple of schools of salmon as well with the odd trevally amongst them.

Whiting were a bit patchy and while the odd customer had a good bag, most were lucky to have double figures. It didn’t matter if you were deep or shallow, the reports were much the same and everybody was complaining about the number of toadies around. The quality was average but not too many undersize so mostly all keepers, just one of those weeks where the tides or moon weren’t quite right.

Like many customers, we are finding it impossible to work out the calamari this season and give the right advice. It just seems to be more a case of luck than knowing what you are doing or having the right gear. It’s not that we aren’t getting any reports, it’s just they are all over the place and often not making any sense. The one thing that has continued right through the season has been the calamari have all been big. The best advice just at the moment is keep trying in all the spots and times you would normally go and do and eventually it will be your day.

It’s time for us to start thinking Easter and that means, barring any lockdowns, running our Good Friday Appeal Easter Fishing Competition. Unfortunately, last year’s comp had to be cancelled due to COVID but, hopefully, this year it can go ahead.

It’s very simple to enter and 100 per cent of the entry money is donated to the Good Friday Appeal. There are heaviest weight categories for adults, juniors and small fries, secret weight prizes, early entry prizes, kid’s show bags (first 50 kids’ entries) and over 30 random entry lucky prize draws with the major lucky entry prize a flight donated by Phillip Island Helicopters. If you are looking for a competition with $1000 reels for first prize, this one’s not for you, but if you want a comp designed for the whole family to have a bit of fun together over the Easter break while donating to an excellent cause, then this is perfect. More information and entries in store or on our Facebook and web pages.

Better boat ramp at Cowes

ANOTHER upgraded boat ramp is on the way for Phillip Island with design and planning commissioned to improve boating facilities at the Cowes boat ramp.

Minister for Fishing and Boating Melissa Horne said the upgrades would make launching and retrieving easier and safer at the popular ramp.

The Cowes boat ramp upgrade, delivered by Better Boating Victoria (BBV), will be undertaken alongside ongoing works at Rhyll.
The current facility includes a single-lane ramp, jetty, about 30 car and trailer parking spaces and is managed by Bass Coast Shire Council. The existing Cowes ramp is impacted by sand accumulation, making launching and retrieving vessels difficult.

BBV has commissioned AW Maritime Pty Ltd to provide a report and functional design options for an upgrade of the boat ramp to improve its safety and functionality.

Concept designs will be progressed in consultation with key stakeholders and will then be made public for further feedback. Once a concept has been agreed upon, BBV will work with the council to progress the next stage of planning.

Concept designs for the ramp upgrade are expected to be finalised by May 2021.

Bass MP Jordan Crugnale said the process to consult and develop designs at Rhyll with the community showed early engagement was key to successful outcomes.

“We look forward to similar consultation as planning commences for improvements to the ramp at Cowes,” Ms Crugnale said.