Winter is the best time of the year to hit the surf beaches in search of salmon around Victoria. Salmon an iconic bread and butter fishing species that school up in big numbers and when that school comes within casting distance the action is frantic and fun. Salmon are a underrated powerful sports fish which punch well above their weight. When hooked they produce strong bursts of speed, powerful runs, vigorous head shakes and often put on an aerial acrobatic show as the attempt to spit the hook. This is a truly underrated style of fishing, its a lot of fun but very different to other forms of fishing styles, heres a few tips to get you started.
Selecting a bait rod
One key difference from Surf fishing to other styles of fishing is the rod length. The usual fishing rod when fishing from the surf is generally between 10 foot and 15 foot in length. I have always found 12 foot to be about the sweet spot depending on where your fishing. The logic in using a fishing rod of this size is to allows you to keep your lines high above the crushing surf and to allow you to cast longer distances with heavier sinkers.
These days long fishing rods are becoming increasingly lighter thanks to new graphite technology improvements. This means you can go for a light 5-10 kilo or medium 8-12 kilo fishing rod which will still cast a mile and provide tremendous strength without weighing you down. There are also heavier rod setups from 12-20 kilo and beyond which will also work and allow you to also target gummy sharks and mulloway.
Currently I'm using a Penn prevail surf rod which is a comfortable 12 foot in length and a 8-12 kilo capacity which feels great. Its light enough for salmon but big enough for bigger bycatch species.
Selecting a lure rod
Before selecting a suitable lure rod you first need to spend some time considering what weight lures your likely to be casting. For instance if your looking to cast metal lures over 60 grams in weight then only certain rods on the market are designed to handle that capacity without a snapper rod tip and vice versa you don't want a stiff heavy rod if your looking to flick lighter lures and plastics.
These rods in recent years have also benefited in technology advancements getting lighter and thinner without compromising on strength. For anglers it means you can cast all day without getting tired quickly and that your going to have more bringing in the fish.
If your looking for a great general purpose rod that will give you great casting distance and cover a whole range of lure options then I would suggest picking a rod between 9-11 foot in length and 5-10 kilo class. I'm using a Daiwa sensor Sandstrom 10 foot 6-10 kilo rod which works a treat. I have it spooled with 10 pound braid and it casts a long way whilst not being too heavy. There are plenty of good options in this range covering many different budgets so give some though to your desired lure weight and they will put you in the right place.
If your looking for a new surf rod then we would suggest you look at the following options
Daiwa Sensor, Daiwa Sensor Sandstorm, Samiki Zing, Daiwa Seajigger, Penn Prevail, Wilson MT series, Shimano Auerowave, Shimao Revolution Coastal fishing, Shimano Raider Surf, Shimano Maikuro, Daiwa Seabass, Daiwa Lateo, Shakespear Ugly Stick platinum, Live Fibre light surf, Aird 106MHFS/4000 combo
When bait fishing for salmon we believe the best setup is a Paternoster rig with a star sinker as shown below. This gives you 2 separate baits at different heights and you could also attach a surf popper if you wanted to further increase your chances.
Another great variation is is to present 1 full bait with double snelled hooks. This rig is perfect when your target multiple species such as salmon, mulloway and gummy sharks
By far we believe the best baits are Blue Bait & Pilchards. When you come across a big school there likely to take just about anything but we would always go either Blue Bait or Pilchards.
Catching salmon with lures
A really fun way to target salmon is with lures. Theres something special about turning up to a beach only with 1 rod and a couple of lures. Typically when targeting pelagic species sch as salmon you would go with 1 of the following available options.
Option 1 is a simple metal lure or metal slug. This is by far the most popular and affordable choice. These come in different weights, colours and sizes but typically they are cheap to purchase and cast a mile. You simply cast out and as soon as the lure hits the water you close your bail arm and start a constant retrieve at a fast or medium pace depending on the lure weight and water depth. A metal lure will start as light as 10g but go all the way up to 80 grams. Just make sure to check the specs on your fishing rod as not all rods are designed to handle heavy metal lures and doing so on a rod to light might mean you end up with a snapped tip on your fishing rod.
Option 2 is a minnow style lure. These are generally more expensive come with a bib at the front and come in a whole range of colours and patterns to imitate a natural looking minnow or bait fish. These can be retrieved constantly like a metal slug or you can add pauses and lifts to make it imitate a wounded bait fish.
Option 3 is minnow style soft plastics, the big problem if your fishing at the surf is you wont likely be able to cast your soft plastic long enough to reach the right areas. However if you happen to be fishing on a pier, boat, kayak or estuary were salmon are then any bait or minnow imitation soft plastic will work a treat. Cast and medium retrieve will work wonders.
It's hard to go past long casting metal lures and minnows, heres some of our favorites. Most which imitate a pilchard or bait-fish
Savage Gear Missile, Halco twisty, Ecogear Teibo, JM Gilles pilchard baitfish, Rapala X-Rap SXR, Lazer spoons, Zman slim swimz, trick swimz, Halco laser pro
Keep and eye out for gutters, these are patches of deeper water which Salmon will swim through in schools. These are generally identified by a darker colour of water. This is a very important component of targeting salmon that can mean the difference between a productive and quiet day.
If your fishing with bait then we would recommend keeping the rod in your hands so you can feel any bites. This can often be quite tricky if the rod is in a rod holder as the waves crashing around your line and moving your bait around
If you do plan on using a rod holder then use one which elevates the rod high. The logic here is that its keeping the slack line above the crashing waves allowing you to better identify nibbles and to stop your bait from moving around to much
If bait fishing and the bite is quiet add a surf popper and see if that can help trigger a bite.
Surf hotspots around Melbourne & Victoria
Gunnamatta, Lorne, Kilcunda beach, Torquay, Apollo Bay, Phillip Island ( Cape Woolamai ), seasonally they can be found all around Port Phillip Bay
Most productive times
Salmon are often in an aggressive mood on sunrise and sunset, but if you find the gutters or the schools then the time of day really wont matter that much.
Final word from the author
I love fishing and I'm happy catching any type of fish regardless of the size or species. I love targeting salmon, they truly are a underrated sports fish. Remember to always check fishing regulations and catch limits in your area. Where possible practice catch and release you don’t need to hit your bag limits just keep a couple for a feed.
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