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

Baits Port Phillip Bay

  • pilchard
  • pipis
  • blue bait
  • silver whiting
  • garfish
  • salmon
  • raw chicken strips
  • prawns
  • maggots
  • silverfish
  • squid
  • mussels

Lures and soft plastics for Port Phillip Bay

Tips 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 do I need on my boat 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

Targeting Snapper at Port Phillip Bay

Snapper

We encourage you to read our detailed guide on how to catch snapper. Snapper season locally starts around October and finishes after March. The big reds migrate inshore during this time of year because water temperatures have increased providing ideal spawning conditions. With dawn and dusk are generally considered the best times to be on the water. The most common snapper rods are 7 foot 6 inches in length with a weight class of 4-7 kilos paired with a 4000 or 5000 size reel spooled with 15-30 pound braid or mono and 40 pound leader. You can choose to fish lighter or heavier. Recommended bait options include pilchards either full or half, silver whiting, squid, garfish, mackerel and mullet.

The best soft plastics are large jerk shads, whip baits, curl tails or paddle tails. Most between 4 and 7 inches in size generally coupled with a ½ or ¼ ounce jig head. Some good options include Savage Gear Fat Curl Tails, Daiwa Bait Junkie Jerk shads & Berkley 7 inch turtleback worm, Zman curl tails.

Targeting Gummy Shark at Port Phillip Bay

Gummy Shark

We would recommend targeting gummy shark with a 7 foot 8-15 kilo rod paired with a 4000 to 6000 size reel spooled with 20 to 40 pound line. Finished with a strong leader ranging from 40lb through to 60 pounds. Ideal rigs include a running sinker rig to single or double snelled rig or paternoster rig. You can use an Ezi rig attaching a sinker to the clip then tying on a pre-made double snelled rig. Octopus or circle hooks from 5/0 to 7/0 are preferred for presenting chunks of salmon, trevally, squid, mackerel, Eel, mullet, pilchard, yakka’s, & garfish.

Targeting Flathead at Port Phillip Bay

Flathead

We encourage you to read our detailed guide on How to catch Flathead. Flathead is a year-round prospect which can be caught at any time of the day. They are an ambush predator that waits in disguise for smaller fish to swim buy for an easy feed. This highlights the importance of keeping your baits and soft plastics towards the bottom. If fishing from a boat or kayak we would recommend drifting around the sandy flats until you find a good patch of them. Also, keep an eye for depth drop-offs which is a great location for an ambush predator to be waiting.

We recommend targeting flathead with a 7 foot 2–4 or 3-5 kilo fishing rod paired with a 2500 or 3000 size reel spooled with 8-12lb braid and equivalent leader. You can go lighter, but flathead has bristly teeth that can compromise your fishing line.

Flathead is not fussy and will happily have a go at many various soft plastics and lures. We would highly recommend reading our detailed guide on the best lures and soft plastics to catch flathead. Top choices include worm and yabby imitations, paddle tail soft plastic, curl tail soft plastics, deep diving hard body lures, vibes, swimbaits, and blades.

If your targeting flathead with bait, we recommend using a paternoster rig or running sinker rig. Using a small ball sinker to swivel, then 50cm of 8-12 leader to a size 6 long shank hook. Good baits choices include pilchards, mussels, squid, chicken, whitebait, Pipis, blue bait and prawns.

Targeting Squid at Port Phillip Bay

Squid

Squid is a frequent catch on the pier towards the front and mid parts of the pier. Just look for the squid ink which is a great indicator of where to target them. Anglers do well-suspending squid jigs with the use of a float. Targeting squid is a fun form of fishing growing in popularity with the reward of fresh calamari. Squid can be caught all year round, you will find them in shallow weedy areas and they respond well to jigs in clear water conditions.

We recommend reading our detailed guide on How to catch squid around Melbourne. An egi rod between 7.5 foot and 9 foot in length is ideal and there are plenty of egi rods on the market fit for purpose. We recommend an 8 foot 3-inch rod paired with a 3000 size reel spooled with 15-pound braid. Squid jigs are prone to snags in this area, and we have found using slow sinking jigs in the smaller size of 2.5 and 3.0-gram jigs will help avoid this problem.

Cast your squid jig to allow time for the jig to sink then do a series of lifts and pauses to imitate a wounded prawn. The natural temptation is to strike Instead, a subtle lift to keep line tension and constant slow reel is all that’s required.

Check out this video a master class on Kayak fishing for squid in Melbourne.

Targeting Whiting at Port Phillip Bay

Whiting

Whiting is a bread and butter species which are fun to catch on light spinning gear and taste great. Whiting school up in big numbers and they respond well to berley, so berley an isolated area with a mix of chicken pellets, Tuna oil and pilchards.  Whiting fishing requires finesse, so we recommend a light 1-3 or 2-4 kilo spin rod around 7 foot in length. Coupled with a light 1000-2500 size reel, spooled with 4 pounds or 6-pound line and leader.

When bait fishing a simple running rig with a small sinker to swivel, then 40cm of 4-pound leader to a small baitholder long shank hook or a paternoster rig with 2 hooks and a size sinker depending on your conditions. Watch our 25-minute whiting masterclass as we guide you through on everything you need to know to catch whiting.

Targeting Salmon at Port Phillip Bay

Salmon

Winter is a great time to target salmon as they’re active and schooling up in big numbers. Salmon is a powerful sports fish that punches well above their weight. When hooked they produce strong bursts of speed, powerful runs, vigorous head shakes. Do keep an eye out for gutters which are patches of deeper water which Salmon will swim through in schools. These can be identified by a darker colour of the water.

When bait fishing pick a surf rod between 12-15 foot in length which allows for long casts with heavy sinkers and to keep your lines high above the crashing surf. These will be 6-10 kilo class. We recommend a Paternoster rig with a star sinker. Giving you 2 baits at different heights. You could also attach a surf popper above. Port Phillip Bay Fishing Guide

When lure fishing first consider what weight lures your likely to be casting. We would recommend rods between 9-12 foot in length in 5-10 kilo class paired with a 3000 size reel spooled with 15-pound braid. Good lure options include 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

Targeting Mullowat at Port Phillip Bay

Mulloway

Mulloway AKA Jewfish are a prized catch that sits on the top of many Victorian anglers bucket list. A stunning fish with a large mouth and distinctive silver or bronze colour. Patience and dedication are required to catch the elusive Mulloway which can reach up to 1.8 meters and 60 kilos. The minimum legal size is 60cm with a daily bag limit of 5 over legal size.

Live baits are a top choice when targeting mulloways such as mullet, salmon, and whiting. Pinning them behind the neck to allow the bait to swim freely. Other staple dead baits can include pilchard, trevally, garfish, prawns, chicken & squid. A running sinker rig to a single 5/0 – 8/0 hook or a double snelled hook to present the bait nicely. Soft plastics between 80mm and 100mm are also a great option. Good options include flick baits, shads, paddle tails and grubz. You can also purchase pre-made rigs and swimbaits which are designed to imitate a fish in its surrounding such as a mullet.

Choosing a Mulloway outfit Recommended gear to target Mulloway 6-10, 10-15 or 12-24 kilo rod paired with a 4000-8000 spin reel spooled with 20-50 pound line and equivalent leader.

Mulloway resides near river mouth entrances. They are often caught near structure such as bridges and pylons. Try to present your baits and lures as natural as possible or use live baits. Mulloway can be caught at any time of the day, but are most active at the night, during peak tides and moon phases. We have found that lures are quite productive during the day and bait more productive at night.

 

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. Port Phillip Bay Fishing Guide.

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

Port Phillip Bay Western Port

Acknowledgements

Images of fish supplied VFA and DEPI. All other images and videos shown on the Port Phillip Bay Fishing Guide are Fishing Mad originals.

Additions or Corrections for this location

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