Portsea to Sorrento
On the eastern side of Port Phillip, Portsea and Sorrento are the closest area to The Rip or The Heads, where the bay empties into Bass Strait. This part of the bay is extremely tidal. There is an excellent boat ramp at Sorrento although parking is limited in the height of summer. Inshore, there are extensive seagrass beds, some reef and extensive boat moorings. Out towards the shipping channel, there are patches of weed and extensive sand banks. The main shipping channel runs directly in front of Portsea and Sorrento. Beyond the shipping channel, Chinaman’s Hat, The Great Sands, Mud Island and the Pinnace and Symonds channels all await. Fishing success in this part of the bay relies on matching the season to the target species, and understanding the tide cycle.
Excellent flathead fishing exists throughout this area, on both sides of the shipping channel and especially out towards The Great Sands and Mud Island. Snapper fishing is patchy at this end of the bay. Most snapper swim through the main shipping channel as they move up the bay and don’t seem to hang around for long. An exception is the area out back of the mussel farms at the top of Symonds Channel where big reds can be caught at times. There is excellent whiting fishing to be had just outside the Point Nepean Marine Park on the run-out tide, amongst the moorings, out from Portsea Pier or in the sand patches between the weed beds throughout the area in water depths less than 6 metres. Portsea and Sorrento are great areas for calamari, amongst boat moorings, weed beds either side of the main channel, and on the east side of Mud Island. The bay between Portsea Pier and Point Franklin often produces very big squid. Gummy sharks are an excellent target too along channel edges and drop offs.
Click here for link to Sorrento boat ramp.
Portsea Pier is well-known for its calamari at any time of year. Reaching around 4m depth at its end, the pier provides access to calamari of all sizes including very large specimens after dark. The best fishing is usually two hours either side of a tide change because the current runs very hard. High tide is best. Whiting and flathead can also be caught from the pier at all stages of the tide. A hot spot is from the west end of the pier towards the many sand holes. Gummy sharks and snapper catches aren’t common, however pinky snapper are caught by whiting fishers at times.
Sorrento Pier is a great fishing spot and the boarding spot for the Queenscliff ferry. As a result, there is a deep dredged channel in front. The area has plenty of weed beds and quite a bit of reef too, which is great habitat for calamari and a host of fish species. The current doesn’t run quite as hard here as Portsea which allows for a longer fishing window. Calamari fishing is excellent and bait fishers using light tackle, small hooks and a light berley, can expect to encounter whiting, pinkys, leather jackets, Australian salmon and garfish.
Rye to Rosebud
Located mid-way along the Mornington Peninsula, Rye and Rosebud are home to popular foreshore camping areas that open from the start of the summer holidays until the end of Easter. This influx of tourists sees this part of the bay alive with boats during the warmer months. Rosebud is on the edge of the bay’s ‘extremely’ tidal zone at its southern end, making it easier to fish for newcomers. Rye boasts an excellent boat ramp as does Martha Cove. Secondary ramps are suitable for small craft only at Tootgarook and Safety Beach. All Mornington Peninsula ramps get busy over summer and parking for cars and trailers can be challenging.
The waters off Rye and Rosebud feature extensive seagrass beds, patchy reef and numerous boat moorings towards Blairgowrie. Out towards the shipping channel and beyond, there are patches of weed, extensive sand banks and a couple of wrecks. The main shipping channel runs directly in front of Rye and Rosebud and beyond it are The Great Sands, The Middle Ground and the South Channel Fort. Fishing success in this part of the bay usually relies upon carefully matching the season to the species and tide cycle.
Rye and Rosebud are fantastic areas for big numbers of calamari! The abundant weed beds, small patches of reef and boat moorings at Blairgowrie provide great habitat. To the east of Pinnace Channel there’s even more dispersed ground as well as extensive inshore grounds towards Dromana. There is good flathead fishing in the shallows and around the fort on the drift. In spring, snapper fishing can be patchy but efforts concentrated on deep water in Capel Sound, the Pinnace Channel and north of the Hovel Pile is productive, and there’s always a chance of a gummy shark as by-catch. Whiting fishing can be good on the middle ground between weed beds and in front of Rye Pier and Rosebud Reef. It pays to berley heavily and move around. Flathead are a welcome secondary species and delicious just like whiting. Gummy shark fishing is supreme in South Channel out from Rye within two hours of a tide change. Alternatively try the backside (north) of the middle ground as the sand drops into deep water on a rising tide. Snapper, Seven gill sharks and snapper are all a possibility. The shallow sand banks from 4 to 6m and deeper between Blairgowrie and Rosebud are excellent territory for scallops and each summer many scuba divers and free divers take advantage.
Blairgowrie Pier is adjacent to the Yacht Squadron on the Rye side. It is a long and popular pier of about 280 metres with calamari the most common catch. Sometimes silver trevally, Australian salmon and garfish get amongst the pontoons on the inside too.
Rye Pier is famous in the Melbourne shore-based fishing scene and any day or night will see fishers out there, except in the worst of weather. Fishing from its end will see you casting into depths of about 6m, which opens up a lot of possibilities. Best known as a top-class calamari location because of extensive weed beds, low light and night time are best when pier lighting attracts to baitfish and the predators that love them, including calamari. Whiting, flathead, salmon, silver trevally, pinky snapper and garfish make up the majority of fish caught. Fish with a whiting outfit and keep your baits small. A light berley trail will help two hours either side of a tide change, especially at low light.
Rosebud Pier is mostly shallow until its last third where it deepens to a few metres. Calamari are the main catch after dark and a berley trail can attract salmon, flathead, mullet and the occasional King George whiting. Interestingly, every summer large bronze whaler sharks are caught from the pier at night by dedicated fishers targeting them.
Mount Martha is located in the south-eastern corner of Port Phillip and is significantly less tidal than further down the peninsula. It can be strong on the outgoing tide further out closer to the shipping channel. Mount Martha has an excellent (paid) boat ramp at Martha Cove. The public ramp at Safety Beach is good for smaller craft is favourable winds and the Mornington ramp is not far away to the north. All boat ramps on the Mornington Peninsula get busy over summer and parking can be challenging. Mount Martha has a range of attractive fishing options: weed beds, soft reefs, heavy inshore reef and some of the best snapper fishing, especially in winter. The main shipping channel turns 90 degrees at the Hovel Pile out front of Mount Martha, then runs directly up the centre of the bay. Excellent snapper and gummy shark fishing is on offer in these deeper waters.
Mount Martha is all about snapper fishing! As they enter the bay in spring, snapper that end up on the eastern side tend to fan out from Mount Martha. In the early season, the fish can be found in 15-20 metres, and 14-16m at dawn after they’ve moved closer in overnight. Rumour has it that shipping containers have fallen off as they round the channel corner and come to rest on the seabed creating amazing artificial reefs. Late in the season, Mount Martha fires up when the rest of the bay can be dormant for snapper. From February until the end of April is when this area fishes its best. Some fishers believe passing ships in the channel have a habit of getting the snapper to bite! With a ship approaching it pays to have fresh baits on your hooks and a close watch on the rods. Big gummy sharks are a welcome by-catch is if fishing over the far side of the main channel.
The Mount Martha rocks are one of the very best shore-based fishing locations in Port Phillip, especially on a rising tide. Extensive reef, rocks and weed beds provide amazing habitat for a range of species including calamari, whiting, pinky snapper, flathead, garfish and in the right conditions good snapper. A word of warning though, walking down to access the water can be hazardous, especially if it has been raining, so take care. The extensive habitat off the rocks is snaggy and can take a toll on fishing tackle so take spare rigs and squid jigs. It does pay to cast baited rigs to any sand gaps you can see to reduce snagging and wind in the rig quickly when retrieving to stay above the bottom. Fishing with a lighter whiting outfit is fine for the smaller species, but for snapper use a surf outfit and time your session after there has been a strong onshore weather system, which brings the snapper in close. Whilst usually on the smaller size, this region holds many calamari and is reliable as a shore-based location. Fish with smaller slow sink jig to avoid heavy losses on the weed and reef! This Mt Martha rocks are also popular with kayak fishers targeting calamari and snapper.