Melbourne is a great city to visit, many people visit yearly to see the city and enjoy the vibrant culture of outdoors activities along with dining experiences and generally getting to know the culture. While the city gets many visitors, what a lot of people don't realise is Melbourne is also a great place for recreational fishing. In fact, recent government data suggests that around 12.7% of the local population are engaged in recreational fishing, with around 20% of the population under 60 years old partaking on a regular basis.
Fishing in Melbourne, either freshwater or saltwater, can be very productive if you know where to look, so for the sake of this article, I am going to present to you my top three favourite fishing destinations in or near Melbourne.
1: Albert Park Lake
Albert park lake is most famously known around the world as the home of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, however when the event is not being held, the park is open year-round for recreational use, and is regularly full of families and individuals partaking in a wide range of sports and activities. Fishing has become popular at Albert Park in recent years, as the Victorian government has stocked the lake with 2 very popular fish in Australia, these are known as the Yellowbelly or Callop, and the Estuary Perch (close relative to Australian Bass).
Fishing for Yellowbelly is fairly easy, however bait is best bought from a live bait shop. Local fishing tackle shops will be able to advise where to purchase live bait, and the best bait to use for both estuary perch and yellowbelly is what Australians call "yabbies". Yabbies are actually freshwater crayfish / crawfish, and can either be caught using a bait trap and some chicken, placed in the water for 2 hours or so prior to fishing, or for around $1 each from live bait shops. Discounts on purchases of more than 20 at once also are often provided, bringing the cost down a little.
To fish with 'yabbies', all you need to do is place a large hook through the tail, and cast them into the water. The yellowbelly and estuary perch found in Albert Park are predatory fish, meaning that the best place to find them is not in open water, but in areas with lots of weeds under the surface. You will find many places for this around Albert park lake.
If live bait isn't your style, the other best option is soft plastic fishing lures, however you want to use weedless fishing hooks, so that you can consistently throw the soft plastic lures into the weed beds, where these two fish are most commonly found.
If you are fishing with kids and want a more relaxed experience, there is also some trout stocked in the lake, they are best found by placing a few pieces of corn on a sinker, and left to float in the middle of the water column, often you can catch a trout every hour or two using this method.
The Docklands in Melbourne is a small section next to the river which was first used as the official shipping docks for around 50 years, since then however, the area was incompatible with modern container ships, the containerships now dock in St Kilda which is a little further down the river.
Docklands however is located closer to the central business district, and is full of modern restaurants and nightclubs these days. The best place to fish here is right along the old docks themselves. Here you can target a few different species of fish, however the most common is what is known as the "flathead". These are lizard looking fish with a flat head, be a little careful when holding them though as they have a small spike behind the gills which can cause pain for a few hours if you get stung. These fish are predatory and hence normally spend most of their time under the piers waiting for a fish to pass by. They can be caught using soft plastic fishing lures which are dropped straight off the edge of the pier, all you need to do is let the lure hit the bottom, then jig the lure up and down about 20 centimetres each time before hitting the bottom again, do this fairly rapidly to attract nearby flathead. Other fish can be caught with this method too, and fish such as the "snapper", "bream" and "trevally" can be found here too.
If you prefer live bait, then find yourself a live bait shop that sells what is known as "sand yabbies", these are salt water crayfish / crawfish. Alternatively they can be found at any local beach, you will however need to use what is known as a sand-pump, also available at local fishing tackle shop. To use the sand pump, you simply walk into the water about a metre from where the tide ends, place the pump in the water and then filter it out through a sieve to collect your own sand yabbies.
3: Patterson River, Carrum Downs.
About a 1 hour drive from the city is a river known as Patterson River in the town of Carrum Downs, and it is home to a very small docking port used by recreational fishermen and local home owners. The houses here back onto the river, hence the river does get very busy with passing boats.
You won't catch almost anything in areas where the boats are passing regularly, so the trick here is to walk to the furthest point from the sea, which is a bridge about 1km from the the river mouth at the beach. Keep in mind you want to fish only on the side which is facing the sea, not the other side of the river, as the other side is freshwater and there isn't a lot of decent fish there. The salt water side however, is where 90% of the river fish migrate to when the boats begin to head out from about 6am to 2am every day.
Fishing in these areas is relatively simple and you can use basic frozen baits available at service stations (petrol stations), the most popular baits are shrimp, squid, pilchard or whiting. When this area is not heavily affected by tides, you can float fish here, at other times however you may prefer to sink your bait, or simply cast it into the middle and set up a chair and a few cold beers while you wait for a bite.