How to fish Port Phillip Bay
The experts tell how to lure the catch of the day.
When it comes to fishing on Port Phillip Bay, the world’s your oyster. Some of Australia’s big names in seafood, including red snapper and King George whiting, lurk in these waters. There’s gummy shark, mulloway and garfish, flathead, trevally and bream, along with more squid than you can poke a jig at.
From Portarlington to Portsea, everyone from larking families to elderly fisherfolk in search of their beloved cephalopods for a Mediterranean-style feast can be seen dropping a line in from historic wooden piers. The bay’s dedicated anglers all have their secret shore spots (no, they ain’t telling). But to really feel the undercurrents of this 1930-square-kilometre body of water encircled by Melbourne’s growing suburbia, nothing beats heading out on a boat for a day.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessary to rise before dawn to catch a fish, although lifelong fisherman Shaun Furtiere, of Think BIG Fishing Charters, has fun with a complete newbie when he suggests a 5.30am cast-off.
Suitably caffeinated and dressed in layers (to ward off the chill) and sunblock (to ward off the sun), it’s the far more civilised hour of 8am when I meet Shaun on his boat at Martha Cove on the Mornington Peninsula. Joining us is Ashley Davis, chef-owner of Copper Pot Seddon and Messer in Fitzroy – a bloke who knows his seafood. Our mission: to dispel some myths, catch some fish, and score a delicious dinner. Easy.
Choose your quarry.
The red snapper is the hero of the bay, which is easy to understand. It’s tasty and looks great held aloft in an Instagram photo. But today we’re after squid and whiting. And that means choosing very different spots and very different tactics.
“Don’t make it hard for yourself and chop and change,” says Shaun. “Fishing here is very species-specific. You can’t go shopping. It’s the people who want a bit of everything who go home with nothing.”
Why squid and whiting? Because: delicious. “Whiting is my favourite eating fish,” says Ashley. “It’s so sweet, you don’t really have to do much to it when you’re cooking, just keep it nice and simple.”
It’s getting warm as we roar off to one of Shaun’s favourite squid hunting grounds. It’s important to find a current and let the boat drift while using a squid jig with vertical prongs, and to keep the jig moving in the water by jerking the line every three to five seconds.