The countdown has begun. It is now just six weeks until our annual fishing trip to Portland to chase southern bluefin tuna.
Located on Victoria’s south-west coast, Portland is one of the oldest shipping ports in Victoria and the tuna tend to move close inshore as they make their way along the coast to the north, feeding as they go and hopefully taking the lures that we will present to them.
Rod Lawn, from Adamas Fishing Charters at Queenscliff, relocates his boat to Portland at this time of the year to fish for tuna.
He stays there until the start of the snapper season back at his home port around the head of Port Phillip Bay about September.
Why do we travel so far to Portland just to go fishing? Let me say there is nothing like a multiple tuna hook-up to get the adrenalin pumping — the scream of the reel as these feisty fish strip line, then the back-wrenching battle to bring them to the boat as they try their hardest to pull you into the water with them.
In my opinion, they are second only to kingfish for their fighting ability.
There are a couple of ways to fish for tuna: trolling lures, which can be the hard-body style or skirted lures; or angling baits.
The most popular method is to troll, with up to five lines in the water at various depths and using a variety of colours.
Finding the fish is usually reasonably easy. You look for the sea birds diving on the bait schools being chased by the tuna.
A rule of thumb for guessing the depth at which the fish are feeding is the height the birds are diving from, but I usually leave all the whys, hows and wherefores to the experts.
While there is no size limit on tuna, there is a strict bag limit of just two fish per angler and this applies to the various species, including yellowfin, big-eye or albacore.
Fresh is best
While most people have eaten tuna only from a can, let me say there is nothing better than fresh tuna, lightly dusted with seasoned flour and pan fried. The flavour and taste is magnificent.
In our region, fishing in the Goulburn River continues to be slow as the release from Eildon continues to keep water temperatures low and flows high. In fact, I have not had a bite in the past week.
Redfin appear to be providing the most action at present and both Eildon and Waranga Basin have been fishing well for them.
Even the irrigation channel has been worth a try, using bladed and hard-body lures as well as bait including worms and yabbies.
A trip to the high country to fish for trout has also been providing plenty of action for those prepared to rug up against the cold, although this weekend there could be a light blanket of snow to contend with.
This will make wading the water a little less inviting, but trolling at Dartmouth or fishing from the bank is still worth the effort.
The water level at Mulwala is continuing to drop and this is making it tough to get to the water to fish, but there can be good rewards for those who can get a line in the water.
Last weekend, Queenscliff’s Rod Lawn reported plenty of snapper, calamari and flathead while fishing off the mouth of the Barwon River. Salmon are still schooling around the heads feeding on krill.
He said fishing inside the heads for whiting was being done mainly on dusk around the White Lady mark near Swan Bay.
In Western Port, some nice gummy shark have been caught in the deep water around dusk. Fresh fillets of trevally or salmon were the best bait.
I had a long chat with John Liddell at Eden this week and he said Freedom Charters’ Mark was still hauling in plenty of snapper on the inshore reefs from Boyd’s Lookout all the way to the light house at Green Cape.
He said it had been the best snapper season since the fish traps were removed.
John said anglers were also catching plenty of good-sized kingfish, both off the shelf trolling lures and using knife jigs close inshore where the schools of fish are located.
At Narooma, Graham Cowley said it was a similar story with jumbo-sized flathead being caught along the sandy bottom near Montague Island.
He said snapper, morwong and other reef fish were being caught by anglers using bait and soft plastics.
Graham said kingfish were also being caught by anglers trolling skirted lures as well as by jigging and using live bait.