February 9, 2009
Appears courtesy of South East and West Fishing magazine.
Written by John Cahill.
Mashing a handful of pilchards through the berley pot a nice stream of lightly chopped up pieces drifted behind the boat with the current. We had been repeating this process for about 15 minutes as the incoming tide started to really build up some momentum. Casting long behind the boat I paused while the soft plastic had time to drop the two or so meters we were fishing in to get to the bottom. Closing the bail arm I lowered the rod tip to water level and began to crank fast, about a second later the retrieve was abruptly stopped as a solid sambo took a liking to my offering! A typical stubborn fight followed with the usual jumps and strong runs – pound for pound I regard Salmon as the poor mans game fish! This session continued in a similar fashion over the next two hours as my fishing buddies and I tangled with well over 60 Salmon of various sizes. Braving the winter cold was certainly worth the effort to head out and chase some of these speedsters!
Wintertime is Salmon time – although they can be caught throughout the year, the schools are larger and they are more accessible than through the warmer months. The great thing about Salmon coming on during the cooler months is that it gives anglers a great excuse to not pack up their gear but keep on fishing year round.
Not discriminating against anyone, Salmon can be targeted from shore, beach and boat in the ocean, bays and Victoria’s many inlets! Although they are a semi-pelagic species, they favour haunts near-shore. They frequently hunt where there is plenty of white water, strong currents and cover. They often bite best when the wind and wave action is strong and mid to high tide.
Bait and lures
Salmon can be targeted using a variety of baits and lures that match their commonly eaten foods. Smaller pilchards (or cut baits), blue bait and pipis make great baits while metal slices, soft plastics and surf poppers are good artificial offerings. When locating Salmon from a boat it is hard to beat trolling a variety of lures that include at least one occy skirt and a jet head. Occasionally Salmon can become fussy and that is when they are zoned in on a particular food which is often very small bait fish, it then pays to have some smaller offering available to ensure you can ‘match the hatch’.
Tackle and Gear
Salmon don’t require sophisticated gear however the right gear makes them a lot more fun, allowing the fish to truly show their fighting prowess. Gel spun lines are a definite step in the right direction allowing a more direct contact with the lure or bait and ultimately the fish after hook up. For soft plastic work I favour 2 – 4 kg seven foot graphite rods and 2000 size reels. For the surf it depends on the conditions but a surf rod in the 9 – 14 foot range will catch you plenty of fish teamed with a 4000 size threadline spooled with 20 lb line once again preferably braid to keep contact with your bait when a cross current is present. Rigs are simple for bait fishing; a paternoster rig with two droppers is the recognised favourite with a suitable sized star or grapnel sinker to match wind and tide conditions.
Victoria is blessed with great locations to target these speedsters – far too many to mention them all, here however are a number of my personal favourites around Melbourne:
• The Rip
The entrance to Port Phillip Bay, known as the rip is a Salmon hotspot producing some of the states bigger fish, a recognised technique is to troll white occy skirts around just before and after slack water. Be aware this area is for more experienced boaties only and on good days.
• Cat Bay
Cat bay in Western Port is another excellent location where occy skirts can be trolled to locate schools of fish, be aware of Western Ports strong tidal influence this far down the bay.
• Beaumaris Bay
The Mussel leases outside the Beaumaris Motorised Yacht Squadron are a well known Salmon attracter. Most anglers wait for Salmon to ‘bust up’ then motor closer casting lures at the schools before they sound and appear on the surface again. Make sure you don’t drive over the school as this usually causes the fish to spook and disappear – not a good way to make friends!
• Mordialloc Pier
On cold winter days when there is a moderate to strong South West wind blowing you can almost bet a school or two of Salmon will be working near the entrance to the creek. You just need to rug up and be ready to cast a metal slice at a school when they show them selves.
• Williamsons Beach
Probably regarded as one of Victoria’s premier beaches for surf fishing, mostly due to the access to excellent gutters and deep water close to shore within casting distance especially on a high tide. This beach gets very busy when the Salmon are thick so get there early!
The narrows and other tidal channels at Inverloch in Anderson Inlet make a great place to cast lures or baits from the shore or set a burley trail from a boat. This is one of the locations that Salmon can be found year round.
Food and bait
Not renowned as great on the table, they make a reasonable meal if eaten fresh and an effort to remove the blood line is made. They improve quite a bit when smoked or used in a curry to dull down the strong flavour. To my taste buds they are not worth freezing for human consumption but are well worth it for next spring’s snapper baits however!
Get out there!
Whatever you do don’t let that boat and gear sit idle over winter, rug up, pack a thermos and get stuck into the Salmon!