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article: more winter reds of corio bay by geoff wilson
Dated: 17 June, 2009
Simon Olsen with a 9.5 kg snapper taken from Corio Bay’s inner harbour in early June.

Once you wouldn’t see a banjo shark or stingray anywhere in Corio Bay between mid April and mid September, but times change. You can’t blame global warming either because the water temperature is now down to around 11 Celsius, exactly what you would have found back in the early sixties when I began fishing here.

Nowadays, you do catch various rays and even sharks throughout the winter, and while they don’t prove to be the nuisance they can be during the warmer months they are still about, and can still stretch your line, especially when using light tackle.

In recent years, we’ve also seen large numbers of pinkie Snapper in the bay during winter as well. These are from say just under legal size to 60 cm say where they are tapping the bottom rung, as far as size is concerned, of the bigger fish we’ve come to expect at this time of year. I may be wrong, but that seems to be new. We rarely caught fish of that size during the sixties and seventies.

The big Snapper we seen during the colder months are still present, and as the years have rolled by since I began catching them back in 1961 we’d see the same faces catching them for a few years then, as their commitments change we’d see different folk at the boat ramp, and in some years, barely anybody at all.

That was the case this year. When a substantial pod of fish arrived during the first week of June there was only a very small handful of anglers ready to greet them, and even when the word was out, so to speak, there was still plenty of parking space at the boat ramps.

Of course there are still the Johnny-come-lately expert types who put a premium on secrecy; anchoring up with no lights showing even after the word is out and those with a tick on the calendar have already bagged out a time or two: A bad move considering that others of the same persuasion are quite prepared to roar along with eyes glued firmly to the sounder, and gain, often with no lights on.

Robert Coon with two nice fish taken in June.

So there are hazards as well as rewards for fishing on the bay at night. Over the years they have been collisions and other boating mishaps such as breakdowns as some folk have been persuaded to try their luck, often in very small, and in some cases, less than seaworthy craft because winter nights are often deceptively calm. But that can change quickly.

When to begin
Corio Bay's winter run of Snapper could be accidental because Snapper tend to move anti-clockwise around Port Phillip. This is from the time they first come through Port Phillip Heads in Spring, until they leave in Autumn. However, the full size range of Port Phillip and Corio Bay Snapper did not seem to be represented in Corio Bay during the winter because larger fish, those over 5 kg, seemed more common than smaller fish.

Or at least that is the way the situation seemed to be back in the sixties and seventies. There does seem to be a change of late with lure casting aficionados picking up Snapper from below legal size to maybe two, or even 3 kg right throughout the winter. Maybe these fish were there back in the sixties and 70s. Some years we did catch them but not every year we fished for them, not by any means.

But it begins before winter. We usually see the first lot of Snapper coming down from Port Phillip Bay in April. The Aproil full moon was certainly, and still is, a worth a tick on the calendar.

These fish that come down in April have often dispersed by May, but their numbers are invariably swelled once more by another pod of fish coming down in early June, making the Queens Birthday Weekend a calendar date for anybody serious about fishing for Corio Bay’s Big Winter Snapper.

Robert with his bag.

Of course they may be more fish moving down after those that arrive in early June, but April, June, then late August and early September are as the water temperature begins to rise are good times to try.

Where to Look
Assuming the Snapper follow the shipping channels, you’d expect to see them in the Rippleside St Helens area after following the Hopetoun Channel, and they do turn up there. You’d also expect to see them around Moorpanyal Park, the North Shore Rocks and Corio Quay, and that’s exactly where you are most likely to find them as if they’d followed the old South Channel that is no longer in use.

Sitting at anchor anywhere out from the old Tug Pier at St Helens, the Grain Silos, Corio Quay, and the edges of the Corio Channel off Moorpanyal Park is probably the best option when these fish first turn up. Of course you may miss out as you might do anywhere else, but that’s your best chance.

They are most vulnerable on their first arrival because instead of finding an exit from the bay they’ve reached a dead end. Confused, they sit around in pods, feeding occasionally, but sometimes just huddled up in the one spot making themselves relatively easy to locate with an electronic sounder, but not necessarily that easy to catch. Dawn, dusk and at the tide changes throughout the night are the times you are most entitled to feel confident.

After a week or so they tend to have dispersed and may be found anywhere from the Western Beach moorings between Cunningham Pier and Griffins Gully Jetty and right along the banks of the Corio Channel as far as Lascelles Wharf.

Later still they are to found under Geelong’s wharves and amongst the various boat moorings around the inner harbour, especially those off Western Beach.

Bill Athansslies of Live Now fish to the Max! with a goog sample taken over the Queens Birday Weekend.

For land based anglers, the reclaimed at St Helens, the rocks at North Shore, the platforms adjacent to Lascelles Wharf below the Esplanade at North Shore are a chance.

Likewise the beach and Jetty at the Grammar School Lagoon entrance are worth fishing as well. A high tide running off in the evening and a low tide change in the early hours of the morning are good times to fish here during the winter, but there’s not many takers nowadays, even though some good fish came from this area last winter.

For more detail on catching big Snapper in Corio Bay during winter, you hay care to read my article of last year that goes in sufficient detail for any capable Snapper angler to catch at least a few winter reds. That’s of course should anybody be interested.

Geoff Wilson Fishnet Pro Angler
Email :

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

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