Welcome to the Port Phillip Bay Fishing Guide. Port Phillip Bay is a world-class fishing location famous for its annual snapper run between October and March. It’s the largest bay in the state of Victoria spanning 2,000 square kilometres. The entrance of Port Phillip Bay leads out into the bass straight. Starting from Point Lonsdale, Queenscliff, passing Geelong, Werribee, Altona, Port Melbourne, St Kilda, Frankston and finishing on the opposite along the Mornington Peninsula such as Sorrento and Portsea. The majority of Port Phillip bay consists of a flat sandy bottom with the shallow areas around 8 meters in-depth and the deeper sections reaching a maximum depth of 24 meters.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for Port Phillip Bay which was once completely over dredged for its scallops. Commercial scalloping greatly affected the natural ecosystem with native vegetation and fauna almost destroyed. This also greatly reduced snapper numbers and thanks to local pioneers such as Rex Hunt Port Phillip Bay is once again thriving. In fact, it’s buzzing between the months of October and February with local anglers looking to catch a prized snapper. Boat ramps are heavily congested during these peak times of local anglers wanting to get into the snapper action. Outside of peak fishing times, it offers year-round fishing for flathead, whiting and squid and seasonal runs of salmon and gummy sharks. The fishing possibilities are almost endless for boats, kayaks, jet ski’s and land base anglers.
There is no doubt that snapper is one of the major highlights of Port Phillip Bay
Fishing Port Phillip Bay
Port Phillip Bay is a world-class fishing location famous for its annual snapper run between October and March. You can read more about fishing for snapper this season by reading our Snapper Fishing Guide this article contains lots of tips and techniques to help you catch a big red or town around Port Phillip Bay this snapper season. This, however, is a year-round fishing destination. Many of the fish species are seasonal so gummy sharks and salmon will be more active in the cooler months and snapper pinkies will be more active in the warmer months. bread and butter species such as squid and flathead can be caught all year round. In Port Phillip bay you’re likely to come across Snapper ( pinkies ), flathead, whiting, salmon, squid, Gummy sharks, gurnard, snook, mulloway, bream, trevally, garfish, and leather jacket.
Sometimes massive schools of salmon make the fishing chaotic as this video highlights
The best lures and bait for fishing Port Phillip Bay
Soft plastics such as grubs, minnows imitations, and paddle tails work really well in Port Phillip Bay. Flathead and Pinkie Snapper respond really well to these. When chasing snapper upgrade to larger jerk shads in 4 or 5 inches. If you can find a school of snapper on your sounder then these will work really well jigged off the bottom whilst drifting over them.
There are many bait options and you will need to choose a suitable bait for the fish species that your targeting. We have had success using pilchards, silver whiting, squid, garfish, salmon, scad, bonito, raw chicken, mullet, pippis, prawn. Often using a berley pot at the back of your boat full with pilchards, pellets, and oil are a great way to encourage fish to your boat.
Check out our full-length video on the best soft plastics and lures for Port Phillip Bay
Rod, Reel and line setup for Port Phillip Bay
There are literally so many options and it really depends on the species of fish that you’re targeting. For bread and butter species such as flathead and whiting a 2-4 or 3-5 kilo rod that’s between 6 foot 6 and 7 foot in length coupled with 2000, 2500 or 3000 size reel spooled with 6-10 pound line and equivalent leader. You can also use a similar outfit when targeting squid however you may choose to go to slighter longer rod and slighter heavier line and leader.
When targeting snapper a rod between 7 and 8 foot in 4-7 kilo class is perfect. Coupled with a 3000, 4000 or 5000 size reel spooled with 12-20 pound monofilament line. Bait runners are an excellent choice for snapper fishing and should be an item you consider. When rigging for snapper go with single or double snelled size 5 or 6 hooks. You can fish these with a very small sinker or completely unweighted. We like to simply use pre-made snapper rigs which work great in this area. Often I will use pre-made rigs and simply run a very small size 1 ball sinker on the inside of the leader. This would also be a suitable outfit for targeting small gummy sharks. However, if your chasing bigger model gummy shark then we would recommend a heavier outfit. Perhaps a 7 foot 10-15 kilo rod spooled with 20-40 line and equivalent leader.
What will I need on my boat when fishing Port Phillip Bay
There isn’t much better than fishing Port Phillip Bay by boat. There are necessary items on your boat to ensure you are safe and can maximise your fishing opportunities. The first item is a quality sounder or fishfinder with GPS. Having a GPS is essential, it will help you navigate your way around and maybe essential item to getting yourself back to the boat ramp. I can attest to severe fog or change in conditions were making it back would have been incredibly challenging without a sounder with GPS. Sounder is also key for finding fish and marking locations where you have caught fish. Here are some GPS marks that we have found over the years.
Other key safety items include are marine radio so you can call for help if needed, working lights should you choose to fish at night or during dusk and dawn. Life jackets are essential for those on the boat, even if your boat is over the minimum boat size. Of course, don’t forget to have an active boat license onboard, set of unexpired flares, and a working torch that floats.
When fishing Snapper racks in Port Phillip Bay are essential, generally one on each side of the boat. A bait board to cut up your baits and berley for chumming. An esky with ice to keep your catches fresh. An anchor is essential and those lucky enough to have an electric winch to bring up the anchor have a big advantage. And of course, your family or some good mates to have an enjoyable day out on the water.
There is certainly no shortage of flathead in Port Phillip Bay
Kayaks and Jet ski fishing Port Phillip Bay
It’s not just the boats that get to have all the fun. Fishing from a Kayak or Jet Ski is thriving. For kayakers, you don’t have to go too far out to chase flathead, pinkies, whiting or squid. On occasions, you’ll even tangle with some big snapper. Especially if you have a larger and more stable kayak such as a 14 foot Hobie pro angler. I recall catching snapper up to 7 kilos on my kayak from Altona back in 2017 and 2018. Jet ski fishing is also growing in popularity and Port Phillip Bay is a great location to take ski-out fishing. On calm days you can zip across from one side of the bay to the other or in windy days you can stay in a little closer. Recent fishing jet skis are designed like a boat hull and handle exceptionally well.
This video highlights us bagging out on squid around Clifton Springs on a Sea-Doo Fish Pro jet ski
Known hazards at Port Phillip Bay
In Port Phillip Bay there is no shortage of pest species which can be quite dangerous. These would include stingrays, toadfish. Flathead is the most common catch and you will need to be careful when handling them due to their venomous spines located behind their heads. Other fish with venomous spines that can be caught in Port Phillip bay include gurnard and scorpionfish so do handle with extreme caution.
Always be careful when out on the boat ensure you take all the safety precautions and show mother nature the respect she really deserves.
I must also stress that often the biggest hazard is impatient people at boat ramps. I have seen countless fights at boat ramps around Port Phillip Bay. This is especially disturbing when you have your young kids with you watching on. If everyone could show a little patience, and mutual respect to other anglers it would go along way. Also, make sure you give each other enough space to fish safely. Too often during snapper season, you see boat anchor right next to someone who has caught fish. Or other anglers getting aggressive because you’re near there marks. No one owns the water and everyone should treat others on the water with respect.
Map of Port Phillip Bay
Additions and corrections of this location
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