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Snapper season in Melbourne is generally associated with huge hoards of boats anchored on top of each other from Carrum to Altona with boats experiencing world class fishing as the snapper move up and down Port Philip Bay on their annual migration each Spring.
While some great fish are caught during the traditional months, people who put the time in chasing snapper in the colder winter months can be rewarded with a much better class of snapper.
Western Port Bay, and in particular the shallower top end and eastern side of French island can hold water close to a degree warmer than PPB and makes for a great home for big resident snapper.
The colder water certainly has an effect on their habits and feeding patterns which requires some extra attention and understanding when fishing for them. Fish will feed less, be less active, and as a result have a lot less energy. Even the bites will be lazy.
Like any form of fishing in WP bay, the tide plays a major role in when and where the fish will bite. The end of a tide, as the flow slows and nearly stops is certainly the best time to get a bite, and often the only time you will get a bite through an entire 6hour tide.
Unlike later in the season where the prime bite time is usually sunrise or sunset, winter fishing is often best done in the middle of the day while the barometer is highest, which is also a lot more pleasant for the fisherman!
Fresh squid is the gun bait for WP, and fished as a squid ring pinned with a single circle is dynamite for big reds as it sits in the current without spinning, and is an easy mouthful for a lazy winter snapper.
The best tides to fish the shallow banks of the channels and feeder channels along the area from Joe’s Island, along to Boucher and Boulton Channels, or over at Spit point is the end of the flood, into slack water. The snapper will get right up on the bank feeding on crabs, small fish and surprisingly a favourite of big snapper is the poisonous toad fish! So much so that old snapper long liners talk of using toad fish as their preferred bait for their long line hooks!
Some key points when targeting winter snapper:
-Fish light drags or ‘bait runner’ mode as bites are often soft
-Fish the last hour of a tide, right into the slack water
-Use the lightest lead you can hold bottom with
-Fish a rising, or high barometer
-Try and avoid being too close to any other boats
-Sit it out! You won’t get a lot of bites but the ones you get will be good fish