Geelong & Bellarine
Boat and kayak fishers can access any of the Bellarine Peninsula from St Helens or Limeburners, including the north side of Corio Bay. Within the inner harbour, there are several great options which can also be sheltered if strong westerly weather conditions prevail. Exceptional protection is offered by Point Henry, allowing the deeper edges of the channel to be explored for snapper year-round. The edge of Stingaree Bay’s spoil ground can be great for whiting and flathead too.
The Geelong area offers exceptional shore based and kayak-based opportunities. The semi-industrialised shoreline provides for deep water channels, structure and fish attracting lights which all attract baitfish.
This iconic pier dates to the 1850s. It is a significant structure that stretches 350 metres out into Corio Bay, accommodating a good number of fishers and access to deeper water. It is also popular with tourists given waterfront restaurants, cafes, and walking trails nearby. The pier is well lit at night making it a safe and productive fishing platform. It fishes well for snapper, whiting, salmon, trevally and flathead, and some calamari after dark. Fishers who drop a line down the side of the pier’s pylons may also catch bream, leatherjackets and garfish.
Rippleside Pier has been upgraded and the works, completed in December 2019, include better seating, new decking and access ladders. This spot is a family friendly one, making it easy for fishers without boats to target King George whiting, silver trevally, salmon and pinkie snapper.
Geelong fishers are fortunate to have a 440-metre-long walkway built to reduce wave impact on the Royal Geelong Yacht Club. The structure provides exceptional access to productive water. Fishers catch bream and pinkie snapper fishing vertically down the pylons with soft plastic lures and lightly baited outfits. Plenty of flathead are caught by casting out over the mud bottom.
Clifton Springs is serviced by its own boat ramp, which has some protection from northerly winds, a toilet block and an undercover fish cleaning table. The car park fills fast during summer and on weekends.
Clifton Springs has multiple zones to target a variety of fish. Inshore, whiting and calamari grounds can be found between the Alcoa Pier all the way back to Curlewis over seagrass beds. The spoil ground just wider can be a hot spot for big snapper at the right time, usually in low light or in rougher weather. There are weed and mussel beds out from the ramp where calamari and whiting are often caught. Pushing a little wider to the shipping channel edge are snapper with gummy sharks a welcome bycatch. Snapper fishers particularly favour the bend in the channel directly out from the boat ramp. Fishing on the landward side of the channel is good territory for flathead on the drift. Whiting can also be caught. Large salmon schools can pop up anywhere off Clifton Springs, so it pays to have a casting rod handy rigged with a small soft plastic or metal slug.
Click here for information on Clifton Springs boat ramp.
Clifton Springs is a great spot for shore-based fishers. The jetty has had a significant renovation which has doubled its length. That gets fishers casting into habitat for whiting, calamari, garfish, pinky snapper, flathead and even mullet. The breakwall is good for Australian salmon on a rising tide.
The Bellarine Peninsula is a crossover zone between the ocean and the confluence of Port Phillip and Corio Bay. Its proximity to Port Phillip Heads means Portarlington is subject to strong tides, especially in deep water. Situated on the western side of Port Phillip, the area includes Indented Head and St Leonards and provides access to a wide range of fishing opportunities.
The Portarlington area is well placed geographically for early season snapper. There is a lot of focus on snapper in Port Phillip, however whiting and calamari are also popular in this part of the bay. The area is well serviced by boat ramps at Indented Head, Point Richards and St Leonards.
Portarlington’s inshore waters feature extensive seagrass and broken ground interspersed with sand patches. This area is amazing for calamari, whiting and flathead. Depending on the tide’s strength and direction, fishers can position themselves at various depths for calamari in slower water and whiting in faster water. Popular spots are off Grassy Point Road, around Governors Reef and anywhere off St Leonards. Some of the biggest squid in the bay are caught in Swan Bay, especially in spring, however it’s vital to understand where you can and cannot fish as there are exclusion zones. The Swan Bay channel provides hot action at times for silver trevally, pinkie snapper and flathead. In spring, snapper in the early stages of their migration follow a predictable path and reports of catches come in from Queenscliff, Mt Martha and along the Mornington Peninsula. Many fish are often taken in deep water off Portarlington around to the Prince George light, or in closer whenever the water is dirty or after dark. The Coles Channel near St Leonards, deep water behind Mud Island, and the Symonds Channel are all hot spots. Gummy shark fishing is popular in this part of the bay, the deep tidal waters off Portarlington, behind the mussel farm at Portarlington, in Swan Bay and the Coles Channel. The gummies seem to bite best on the tide changes.
Portarlington Pier is popular in the holidays and productive year-round with shore-based and kayak fishers. Fisheries has installed an extensive artificial reef within easy casting distance, making popular species more available. Along with that reef, the pier itself is modern and comfortable. It’s also the base for many of ferries to the Docklands in Melbourne. Popular catches at Portarlington include garfish, salmon, flathead, pinkie snapper and after dark, large snapper. The beaches either side of the pier can be quite good for flathead and whiting. St Leonards Pier is also a great location with plenty of seagrass in easy reach on the inside. It is a fantastic spot to target calamari, King George whiting, salmon, pinkie snapper, flathead and down amongst the pylons, trevally and leatherjackets.
Just inside Port Phillip is Queenscliff, the closest town to the bay’s entrance at The Heads. It’s a highly tidal area that can be challenging to fish but rewarding when everything aligns. The tidal influence should be respected because ocean-like conditions are encountered the closer you get to The Heads. An understanding of navigational markers and channels is also important, as is knowing your whereabouts in relation to the marine park. In spring, snapper enter the bay and swim past Queenscliff. They can be challenging to catch given the strong tides, except for the change of tide when water slows for a period. The area is also home to King George whiting, calamari, salmon and yellowtail kingfish. The Queenscliff boat ramp is excellent and located in a safe harbour. The ramp’s car park is expanding to accommodate more trailers on busy days. Kayak fishers need to be careful of strong currents around Queenscliff and are advised to stay inshore in Swan Bay and the Lonsdale Bight.
Queenscliff is home to big calamari. Swan Bay and the Lonsdale Bight are calamari spawning grounds and specimens of several kilograms can be caught in numbers. Both these areas have marine parks fringing the fishing zone, so be sure of your position. The free VicFishing app from Fisheries can help here with a ‘can I fish here’ function that uses the GPS in smartphones.
Snapper in spring tend to shoal up outside in Bass Strait and move inside on the tides. The Lonsdale Bight can be reliable in the early season during spring. Within days of appearing in Lonsdale Bight, snapper will be caught along the eastern seaboard, indicating just how fast they move once inside the bay. Fishers launching from Queenscliff can concentrate their snapper efforts more towards Indented Head or St Leonards, fishing in 10 or more metres. Excellent whiting fishing can be had in the weed, sand and broken ground out from Queenscliff and all the way down the Bellarine Peninsula. Silver trevally show up every year inside the Queenscliff Cut and near the submarine just outside Swan Bay, which is also a great area for big flathead. Fishers targeting gummy shark will do best fishing Coles Channel, the Symonds Channel or around Buoy 2 on the main shipping channel over towards Portsea. Like snapper fishers, take lots of heavy sinkers to hold bottom in fast tides and try to fish close to a tide change.
In summer, kingfish can be caught inside The Rip on trolled baits like squid strips, jigs and cast lures. It is vital that fishers stay out of the main shipping channel and well clear of container ships entering the bay. It’s also important to have your wits about you in the powerful currents, along with an understanding of where the reef edges are as they aren’t always immediately visible. Salmon and sometimes southern bluefin tuna can be caught in the same area with similar techniques.
Click here for information on Queenscliff boat ramp.
The Queenscliff Pier provides fishers with good access to deep water and weedy habitat with a wide range of popular fish to target. There is also shelter for fishers in bad weather. Calamari, snapper, whiting, salmon, flathead, garfish, trevally, leatherjackets and gummy sharks can all be caught here. Fishing dawn or dusk on the incoming high tide is preferred for most species and snapper will bite best after strong winds have eased, especially at night. The Point Lonsdale Pier is inside a marine park, but fishing is thankfully permitted from the pier only. It has a magnificent setting at the base of the lighthouse with views across to Point Nepean. The pier is surrounded by heavy ground including kelp and seagrass, which can make for heavy losses of tackle. The pier is famous for big snapper, sharks, salmon, garfish and calamari. Whiting can also be caught from the sand patches that are visible on both sides of the pier. Bells Reef on the beach, inside Lonsdale Bight, can be a great spot to cast for calamari from the beach on a low tide, especially if a northerly wind is blowing because it clears the water.