Welcome to the Yarra River Fishing Guide. The Yarra River is an urban icon of Melbourne a well-recognized location as the river has the backdrop on Southbank to crown casino and in the CDB opposite the MCG and Flinders street station. The river is home to annual Moomba events, birdman rallies and dragon boat events. It’s a popular spot for boat cruises appreciating Melbourne’s nightlife, sporting arenas and light up buildings. The lower parts of the river along the city of Melbourne were built in 1835 it then flows 242 kilometres past the Yarra Valley and wynds its way through Melbourne before reaching the open seas of Hobsons Bay of Port Phillip Bay.
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However, it does also offer exceptional fishing opportunities for local urban anglers. It’s a big stretch of river but close to town is a great family spot with so much to do and not far to travel to throw in a line.
Check out this video of us targeting big bream opposite the Warmies in front of the West gate Bridge
Things to do The Yarra River
The Yarra River has a strong aboriginal history as it passes birrarung marr which means flowing waters cultural leaders have called it the upside-down river due to its brown or muddy colour. The river flows through the city of Melbourne and is a great place for recreational water activities, walking, jogging and cycling along with the pathed trials, and scenic photography opportunities as the river flow through many iconic bridges. There are many cruise ships that can take you for an enjoyable ride along the river to see the sight which is spectacular at night time with the CBD buildings lit up. Here there are plenty of restaurants, bars, shops and iconic places to visit such as the MCG, Royal Botanic Gardens, Eureka Towers, Crown Casino and much more.
Fishing the Yarra River
The water close to the city is highly populated and quite polluted. We would caution you not to eat fish from the CBD area. In town, you can target bream, estuary perch, mullet, and mulloway. Basic baits such as worms and maggots are very effective bait for Bream in this area. Perhaps because the water can be muddy and murky a bait that has similar colours fishes well. I have also seen other anglers do very well using Pilchard strips, Bass Yabbies & Chicken strips. As you go further upstream you can target redfin, carp and Murray cod. Soft plastics and Blades are great in this area, where you can accurately cast your lure of choice very close to the structure and strike zone. Be prepared to get snagged up occasionally but the river has a great structure that you can target which is usually home to many Bream. The Yarra offers seasonal fish species such as tailor, snapper ( pinkies ), flathead, Snook, Australian salmon, mullet, mulloway, bream, Gummy Sharks, trevally, and whiting. When fishing for saltwater species with bait we suggest using pilchards, raw chicken, squid, maggots, scrub worms, and mullet which are all good options. A paternoster rig works well with sinker options to suit your desired casting distance.
In winter when the pumps are running downstream near Newport pelagic species such as salmon and tailor come through in big numbers during these times small slugs and metal lures will also work well. You can cast them far and retrieve them with a medium to fast pace. Soft plastics also work really well in this area if you can avoid getting snagged. Soft plastics work really well on flathead, pinkies, bream salmon and other species.
The choice of lures is almost endless to make things easier we created a detailed video on the best lures and how to use them.
For gear selection, it’s a little bit of a mixed bag fishing here. One day you’ll catch bream the next day maybe a big snapper or Mulloway. So it really depends on what you’re fish species targeting. If you’re targeting species such as pinkies, bream, mullet and flathead then a light rod setup is best. We would suggest a 2–4-kilo capacity rod coupled with a 2000-3000 reel. Something nice and sensitive to feel the bites and inquiries. If you targeting bigger fish including snapper, mulloway or Gummy Sharks then you’ll want a heavier fishing outfit. You might start with a 7 or 8 foot 4-7 kilo fishing rod coupled with a 4000 size reel spooled with 12-20 pound line keep moving up to a 10-12 foot rod if you feel you need longer casting distance.
If you plan on casting metal lures for salmon then we would recommend it. A 9 or 10-foot rod in a 6-10 kilo class coupled with a 3000 size reel. Spooled with 10-14 pound braid and equivalent leader is ideal. The peak hype of fishing the Warmies is those few days of the year when the pumps are turned on. This creates a mass of warm water which brings in salmon and tailor in big numbers. This is where you are likely to see anglers standing side by side in masses trying to get into the action. In general, the Warmies is a good place to fish in the early morning at high tide. We just seem to catch more fish in those conditions. You get a big run of pinkies between January and March. You also get a big run of Salmon between June and August. If you’re brave enough to fish through the night then you’re a decent chance to catch a mulloway.
Baits Yarra River
- blue bait
- silver whiting
- raw chicken strips
Lures and soft plastics for Yarra River
- Daiwa Baitjunkie 5 inch jerk shads
- Berkley gulp turtleback worm
- Savage Gear Fat Curl tails
- Daiwa Bautjunkie 4 inch grubs
- Zman slim Swimz
- Berkley powerbait grub
- Gulp 3 inch minnow
- Dawia Bait Junkie paddle tail minnow
- Zman grubZ
- eco gear ZX40
- Daiwa Double Clutch
- EcoGear SX40
- Squidges biotough grub
- Zman StreakZ
- Munroes 3.75 inch paddle tails
- Kietech swim impact fat
- Zerek fish trap
- Samaki Vibelicious
Tips for fishing the Yarra River
Soft plastics such as grubs, minnows imitations, and paddle tails work really well here. 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 you targeting. We have had success using pilchards, silver whiting, squid, garfish, salmon, scad, bonito, raw chicken, mullet, pippis, prawns. Often using a berley pot at the back of your boat full of pilchards, pellets, and oil is 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
Targeting Bream at the Yarra River
This is a great location to target bream with lures and soft plastics. The options available are almost endless so make sure you read our guide on the best lures to catch bream. Recommended options include crab imitation, shallow diving cranks, paddle tail soft plastics, curl tail soft plastics, minnow imitations, vibes, and blades. Also, try your luck with surface lures which is an exciting form of fishing with light gear. Bream is all about finesse fishing so you will need an ultralight spin outfit. We recommend a 7-foot rod in a 1-3 or 2-4 kilo class, paired with a 1000, 2000 or 2500 reel spooled with 2-6-pound braid and equivalent leader. There are so many amazing bream outfits on the market and budgets vary greatly depending on your skill level and spending habits.
Bream reside within the structure such as jetty pylons and stumps. Enticing them away from the structure onto your lure will take some time to master. Remember to work your lures and plastics slowly and mix up the retrieval techniques. If you are targeting bream with bait then we would highly recommend sandworms, maggots, scrub worms, mussels, yabbies, & chicken. A 2-4 kilo class rod paired with a 2500 size reel would be a great option spooled with 6-pound line. We would encourage you to read our detailed guide on Bait fishing for Bream.
Check out our detailed video guide on the best lures to use in this area to target bream
Targeting Snapper at the Yarra River
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. 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 are 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 Snook at the Yarra River
These toothy critters are fun to catch on light spinning gear. You will find them in shallow weedy waters often a bycatch for those targeting snapper, whiting and flathead. You can catch snook with staple baits such as pilchard, prawn, and squid. However, Snook loves natural-looking soft plastics retrieved at a medium pace including minnows, paddle tails, and grubs. Add scent to the soft plastics really seems to help. Snook also respond well to shallow and mid diving hard body lures in shiny colours retrieved at a medium pace. Metal slugs and blades trolled slowly also work very well. Do handle snook with care as they have razor-sharp teeth. Despite their sharp teeth it’s still best to target them with light gear that you would generally use for pinkies and flathead. We recommend a 2-4 or 3-5 kilo spin rod paired with a 2500 size reel, spooled with 8-12 pound line and leader.
Check out this video of a crazy snook session when kayak fishing.
Targeting Mulloway at the Yarra River
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 the 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 surroundings 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.
Targeting Gummy Shark at the Yarra River
We would recommend targeting gummy sharks 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 a paternoster rig. You can use an Ezi rig attaching a sinker to the clip and 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 Salmon at the Yarra River
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 its weight. When hooked they produce strong bursts of speed, powerful runs, and vigorous head shakes. Do keep an eye out for gutters which are patches of deeper water that Salmon will swim through in schools. These can be identified by the darker colour of the water. When bait fishing pick a surf rod between 12-15 feet 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 you are likely to be casting. We would recommend rods between 9-12 feet 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 mullet at the Yarra River
This is a great location to mullet a bread and butter species that school up in big numbers. They are fun to catch on light spinning gear and a great fish species to introduce beginners to fishing. Mullet respond well to berley, so berley an isolated area with a mix of bread, tuna oil and chook pellets. Good baits include bread, dough, live maggots, pilchard, and prawns. remember that Mullet have small mouth so remember to cut these baits up into small pieces. You can also use soft plastics small minnow and grub style soft plastic with a slow constant retrieve. Scents such as S-Factor or Procure certainly help. Most mullet are quite small therefore a 7-foot rod in a 1-3 or 2-4 kilo class, paired with a 1000, 2000 or 2500 reel spooled with 2-6-pound braid and equivalent leader.
Here are some helpful tips on catching Mullet with soft plastics.
Images of fish supplied VFA and DEPI. Header from Melb water. All other images and videos shown on the Yarra River Fishing Guide are Fishing Mad originals.
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