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mulloway - catching them in victoria with geoff wilson
Geoff Wilson
Dated: 22 November, 2002
Success at Mulloway fishing in requires a major philosophical shift away from the average Victorian angler's approach, to which catching as many fish as possible on each and every outing, seems pivotal. Only those willing to put in more than a few fishless trips need apply.

The Glenelg
As a youngster, I recall the recognized place to catch Mulloway in Victoria was from the Glenelg River at Nelson and upstream. A handful of anglers, like Bruce Proudfoot and Watkin Pell, virtually became institutions on the Glenelg, their catches legendary. A favoured method of capture was slow trolling a live mullet or small salmon behind a rowing boat, usually - but not always - just on dusk, or within an hour or two after dark.

In those days before metrication, they sometimes caught fish over fifty pounds (22.7 kg). Presently, most Mulloway taken from the Glenelg River are juveniles of 3 kg (7 pounds) or less; undersize if taken in the vicinity of Donovans Landing where the river bends into SA. Why large Mulloway are now rarely represented among anglers' catches from the Glenelg is hard to say, theories abound, but they don't warrant discussion here.

Glenn Bitton and Sean Brodie with a couple of 22 kg specimens from the Barwon estuary
Slow trolling a live-bait from either a rowing boat, dinghy with an electric motor, or from an inboard diesel powered craft with a low pitch propeller, as some Mulloway enthusiasts use, is still a popular method on the Glenelg River. However, many are caught at anchor, both on live-baits like those mentioned, or on other baits like shrimp and worm by anglers fishing for Black Bream. Whatever method is used, evening is the best time to fish for Mulloway on the Glenelg.

Portland
Mulloway are to be caught from boats along the North Shore at Portland once more. They have made a remarkable recovery since netting was banned from this area during the mid 1990s, a recovery resulting in their inclusion among eligible species in Portland based fishing competitions after a long absence.

Bob McPherson of Portland understands the improving Mulloway situation here better than most. His tactics are to first ensure a good bait supply by trolling up a bucket of Australian Salmon for bait and berley, then settling in for the evening over a promising signal.

A low tide in the evening is best says Bob, but you do need to find the fish on the sounder and be prepared to berley them into the right frame of mind to take your baits. That may sometimes take an hour or two, and you do have to make the most of the bite when it starts because it may not last very long.

Yana De Martini with a 12 kg specimen from Narrawong Beach
Narrawong Beach
Narrawong Beach is at the mouth of the Surrey River near Portland and has excellent Mulloway potential. Those who fish Narrawong regularly, most particularly of an evening and into the dark, often take Snapper to 3 kg or so and Mulloway to maybe twice that size. Every now and again, somebody catches a fish much larger than this.

Narrawong Beach, like the other beaches I have mentioned, is not a location to be visited once or twice in the hope of catching a worthwhile fish. However, for the angler prepared to persist with evening and night vigils at Narrawong, using fresh bait, the rewards are there.

The Hopkins
The Hopkins River at Warrnambool, like the Glenelg, is frequently closed to the sea and this affects where fish are located within the river, Mulloway included. Some of the more adventurous Mulloway seekers from Nelson, back in the 1940s and 50s also tried their hand at slow trolling for Mulloway in the Hopkins. I once saw a photo of Bruce Proudfoot with a fish, which allegedly weighed 80 pounds, suspended against a Warrnambool boat shed door, a most impressive catch.

Nowadays, although an occasional fish is taken by slow trolling a live-bait, usually downstream near the bridge, most Mulloway taken from the Hopkins are accidental captures by bream fishermen. Of course their use of light tackle, and the number of coral outcrops within that estuary, ensures there are stories aplenty of those that got away.

Ocean Grove
Ray Millman with a 10 kg specimen from the surf
The flat, and fairly shallow beaches from Ocean Grove to Collendina, produce Mulloway to anglers prepared to put in the time and effort with large fresh baits. The best time to fish here is in the evenings, particularly during those evenings when the tide drops far enough out to enable access to the edge of the sand shelf.

Although Mulloway may be caught from this beach at virtually any time of the year, the best time to fish is from late spring through early summer: October to December say. This is when the evening low tides completely drain the beach due to the diurnal inequality at this time of year.

Ocean Grove, whether you fish at the W19 car park - which was my favourite spot back in the 1980s, and occasionally in more recent times - or up toward Collendina, is a flat and very wet beach at low tide. You need waders and a chair or tripod on which to place your tackle to keep it dry.

The Barwon
As a youngster living in Geelong, I would cut out any pictures of large Mulloway from the Barwon that were published in the Geelong Advertiser, and past them on the wall of my bedroom. I wanted to catch a big Mulloway as well and they were my inspiration. After a number of disappointments I did. I caught quite a few in fact including an ANSA line class record (31 kg on 10-kg tackle, May 24, 1980).

I could say much about the Barwon estuary, but - for the novice with little or no experience at Mulloway fishing, whether land-based, fishing from a boat, upstream or down, night or day - my advice is to fish the last hour of the outgoing tide, low slack water, and the first two hours of the incoming tide with the freshest bait possible: I cannot make it any simpler than that.

Werribee River
Anglers who fish the Werribee River on Port Phillip Bay sometimes encounter Mulloway on baits intended for bream, just like they do in the Hopkins River at Warrnambool, and usually but not always, lose them for the very same reasons.

Yes, the Werribee River is another estuary with excellent Mulloway potential, but very few anglers who fish here seem to have the inclination to take advantage of this fishery.

10 kg Mulloway taken from the Colonial Stadium end of Vic Dock
Yarra River
Laverton resident, Steve Madden, alerted me to the presence of Mulloway within the Port of Melbourne several years ago. That was at the concrete loading ramp right up in the corner between the old 15 and 16 berths at the old Victoria Dock, now known as Docklands.

Steve caught several Mulloway to 10 kg or so by suspending a bait, usually a fairly large prawn or small live fish, just above the bottom, right in the very corner of the dock while he was fishing for bream. Steve told me that the most likely time for a Mulloway inquiry was between sunset and dark, a prediction he was willing and able to demonstrate for me.

Steve believed the Mulloway lived under the ramp and left to feed in the Moonee Ponds Creek nearby during the evening, and returned in the early hours of the morning. But Steve was content to fish for bream, and catch the occasional Mulloway, in that corner of the old Victoria Dock.

Catching Mulloway
Should your disposition be to catch a Mulloway or two, and you are prepared to put in the time and effort required to do so, then you must decide on an appropriate location and be prepared to log up some serious hours there.

Paul Raduka with a 33 kg mulloway from the beach at Point Addis which has now be closed to fishing through ideologically based legislation with no basis in fact or science.
Fishing the Surf
You may be inspired to fish the surf. If so, choose a beach where you know Mulloway have been caught, and preferably but not necessarily, under which conditions and at what time of year.

There is little evidence that the appearance of a beach gives many clues as to whether it will produce Mulloway or not. However, I suspect a good many more beaches would produce Mulloway if they were fished through the evening, and into the night, with large fresh baits.

Michael Reichler with a 23 kg specimen at Barwon Heads
Fishing the Estuaries
Each estuary poses different problems and these have to be dealt with and overcome. However, there are two basic estuary types which produce Mulloway, those which are open to the sea and severely tidal, and those which are periodically closed and show very little tidal movement.

When fishing estuaries with little or no tidal movement like the Glenelg River estuary in Western Victoria, concentrate on fishing the evenings and the first couple of hours after dark. Most anglers either fish from the bank or a boat at anchor for which the approach is similar. It entails casting out a suitable bait and waiting for a fish to come along and take it.

Of course you may troll live-baits from a small dinghy, just using the oars or an electric motor. Even diesel-powered boats get the job done as may be demonstrated on the Glenelg. However, outboard motors do not seem to provide a suitable means of propulsion, possibly because of their relatively fast idling speed and noisy, sub-surface exhausts.

Tidal Estuaries
Glenn Mitchell and son Tim with a 25 kg mulloway from the Barwon Estuary
Tidal estuaries are a more challenging proposition, and among tidal estuaries I include large bodies of water like Western Port where numerous small tidal channels provide the chance of catching a Mulloway.

For anglers who have already developed a strategy for fishing such waters there is little to be said. However, my advice to the novice is to begin fishing such channels from the last hour of the ebb, through slack water, and into the flood for as long as the tide trickles in gently. When the tide begins running fast, then I suggest it is probably time to pack up and fish for something else.

Remember, when fishing tidal waters, the low tide change is the important one to fish because, at this time, Mulloway are confined to the channels. When the tide is in they could be anywhere. This remains true regardless of the time of day or night this tidal situation may occur. However, a low tide change just on, or just after dark, is optimal when seeking larger fish.

Fishing from Structure
Mulloway are sometimes caught from bridges and wharves. These are often, but not always, structures that are lit at night, aggregating small fish to which Mulloway are attracted.

The angler who walks a lure along the edge of the shadow cast by the light is likely to take a Mulloway while the angler who casts his lure at visible fish will rarely be successful. Likewise, the angler who suspends his bait over the edge of such structure, is far more likely to take a Mulloway than those who cast out from it.

Should the structure from which you intend to fish be a jetty, wharf or pontoon on a tidal channel with a large rise or fall, then you should begin fishing from that structure at low tide, but while the tide is still running out.

Last Word
Mulloway are a species which has adapted well to both relatively deep and shallow environments, from totally saline to almost fresh. The anglers who seek them should also be adaptable and prepared to follow the cues.

Mulloway will take just about any living creature within estuaries, the intertidal zone, and offshore. However, I use the word "living" advisedly because the Mulloway is a predator. Your bait should be as fresh as possible, and - should the situation permit - alive and kicking.
Geoff Wilson Fishnet Pro Angler
Email : geoffw10@optusnet.com.au

Fishing reports may be sent by e-mail, or mail to Geoff Wilson:
PO Box 384,
Geelong 3220.

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