Eastern Bass Strait is a haven for ocean fishers, boasting a variety of desirable species in its cool and fertile waters. While the ocean floor in large sections of Bass Strait consists of sand and mud, there are significant areas of heavy reef and gravel at various depths, particularly in closer to the shore up to approximately 40 metres. These provide environments for an impressive list of fish to thrive, including snapper, flathead, gurnard, gummy and school shark, morwong, whiting, salmon, bluefin tuna, yellowtail kingfish, squid, and even giant broadbill swordfish.
Navigable inlets are few and far between, with the distance between ports and boat ramps growing further as you venture east. This can pose challenges when trying to access certain areas, with long runs at sea often being the only option. Thus, being well prepared in a capable boat and an experienced skipper, is of utmost importance.
Accessing the ocean from Lakes Entrance is possible by crossing the bar after launching inside the more protected waters of Lakes Entrance. The bar is a maintained and busy entrance, servicing a large commercial fishing fleet, but it can be treacherous in poor weather, particularly when a run-out tide hits a southerly swell. Only competent ocean boaters should attempt the crossing, and even then, only when conditions are favourable.
Drifting in 30-50 metres over sand is a great approach for flathead and gummy sharks once offshore. Snapper fishing out of Lakes Entrance is also a highlight. Pinkies are consistent year-round, but from October to about April, some of the biggest snapper in the state are caught out from Lakes. Pasadena, the Six-Mile and Eight-Mile Reef, all the way to the 'Pipes,' which is the pipeline from the offshore gas rigs, are the go-to areas about 25 kilometres west of the entrance. The great snapper fishery is thanks largely to significant areas of reef, although snapper are often caught on the sand just away from the reef too. Aside from snapper, these reefs host morwong, nannygai, leatherjackets, gummy sharks, and even kingfish in some years.
Further out, wide of Lakes Entrance, are a network of offshore gas drilling rigs. When the right oceanic conditions prevail, the plateau on the edge and inside the continental shelf can attract marlin and tuna. The Bass Canyons further afield have developed a name for broadbill swordfish, possibly the best in Australia. Before heading out to the rigs, it's essential to talk to the local coast guard about fishing in the area for the most up-to-date information.
Cape Conran / Marlo
The Marlo and Cape Conran area offers some great fishing for the offshore fishing enthusiasts, with good access for most trailer boats available at the recently upgraded Cape Conran boat ramp. This ramp is located east of Marlo on the Marlo-Conran Road and as it provides a direct launch point into Bass Strait this ramp is exposed to the southerly and westerly winds and swell so it’s essential to launch only when conditions are favourable, access to the ocean via the Snowy River mouth at Marlo is not recommended.
Fishing enthusiasts can expect to have a great time fishing this area, particularly in summer. The Marlo Reef, situated right in front of the Snowy River mouth, has a great reputation for yellowtail kingfish. One can also expect catches of flathead, gurnard, pinkie snapper, morwong, and gummy shark by drifting the sand patches away from the reef in 30 – 50 metres of water.
For those who want to venture further east, Tamboon Reef is an excellent spot to target kingfish in summer, although it is a 40-kilometre run. Those wanting to specifically target gummy sharks should anchor in 15 – 25 metres off any sandy beach, where there is usually sand crabs. They are the primary diet of these sharks. Create a light berley trail and the sharks will be attracted to your bait.
The entrance to the Mallacoota Lakes closes up, but when open is mostly used by the professional abalone fleet. The entrance channel leading into the inlet is shallow and changes position and depth, making navigation dangerous without local knowledge. At nearby Bastion Point though, an excellent dual lane boat ramp and breakwater exist which, apart from swell surge and sanding over at the entrance, is a lot more suitable than the bar.
Offshore fishing from Mallacoota is excellent with consistent catches of tiger flathead, sand flathead and gummy sharks. Quite often these catches are supplemented by gurnard and morwong on the same ground. Fishers regularly find the quality of the tiger flathead is well above average here, sometimes reaching 70cm or more. The 40 to 50 metre depth is consistent for good catches from Gabo Island and back towards the west to The Aerials, near the Mallacoota airport.
Most summers, yellowtail kingfish make an appearance if the water is warm and clear. Try Gabo Island, Tullaberga Island, The Aerials and down to Little Ram Head. Sometimes they are right at Bastion Point itself, which is also a great place to gather live-baits before you start fishing.
Being Victoria's most easterly port, Mallacoota provides access to the waters of the East Australian Current, which can see marlin and yellowfin tuna out wide if the water licks around from Eden in summer. In good years, this can provide great fishing out at the New Zealand Star Banks, a massive offshore reef system wide of Ram Head. Mallacoota is an alternative port to reach the Bass Canyons and swordfish grounds. Fishers sometimes choose this over Lakes Entrance, depending upon ocean conditions.