Port Phillip Bay Fishing

Port Phillip Bay Fishing

Port Phillip Bay is one of the largest inland seas in the Southern Hemisphere.

Connected to Bass Straight and the associated Southern Ocean.

This beautiful bay operates, as far as fish species are concerned, like a giant estuary. That means the fish we like to catch, such as snapper and whiting, migrate into the bay for breeding during the summer months.

Nearly the entire shoreline of the bay encompasses the city of Melbourne and its bayside suburbs. Including the regional city of Geelong.

The Piers

A favourite of land-based anglers is pier fishing Port Phillip Bay with some wonderful piers to choose from.

It is sad to see that in recent years Parks Victoria are seemingly not choosing to maintain the piers. While some communities in Victoria have managed to raise funds to save their piers many have not. Some look set to close forever. I do not know if this is political, economic or poor management. Though I’d welcome your comments below if you have a view on this.

Port Phillip Heads

The heads are narrow leading into a shallow, broad and very beautiful bay. It is its size and shallowness that result in conditions that can change rapidly from calm and docile to life-threatening when it comes to small boats.

The heads are geographically interesting as they were in fact where the old Yarra River estuary met Bass Strait millennia ago.

This bay is in effect an enormous estuary. Thousands of years ago, as reflected in geology and aboriginal stories, the bay suddenly filled with water. Previously being drier ground with swampy terrain. The Yarra River flowing out to Port Phillip Heads.

Boating is very popular on the bay and a number of boat ramps are available.

One of the most sought-after species in Port Phillip Bay is the Snapper.

Snapper Fishing

Snapper are a highly prized fish that are known for their delicious taste and fighting ability. They can be caught year-round in the bay, but the best time to target them is during the warmer months from October to May.

The most common method of catching snapper is by fishing with baits such as pilchards, squid, or pipis.

Anglers can also use soft plastic lures and jigs to target snapper, but bait fishing is generally considered to be the most effective method.

Australian Salmon

Another popular species in Port Phillip Bay is the Australian Salmon.

These fish can be caught year-round, but are most commonly caught during the summer months.

They are known for their high-energy fights and can be caught using a wide variety of methods, including trolling, casting lures, and bait fishing.

Australian salmon are a versatile species that can be caught using a wide variety of baits and lures, including pilchards, squid, and metal lures.

“Sambos” as some fisherman nickname them can be an acquired taste for some. However, they make great bait strips if their taste doesn’t appeal to you (I like them, when prepared properly.)

Other Fish Species

The Bay also offers a variety of other species such as Gummy Shark, Flathead, Elephant fish, Barracuda, and Whiting.

The Gummy Shark is caught using baits such as squid and fish heads, and are commonly caught in the deeper waters of the bay.

Flathead, on the other hand, can be caught using a variety of baits and lures, and are commonly found in the shallow waters of the bay.

Elephant fish and Barracuda are commonly found in the bay during the summer months.

Whiting, a common species in the bay, can be caught using baits such as worms, pipis and Bass yabbies.

Fishing in Port Phillip Bay can be done from a variety of platforms including boats, kayaks, and land-based locations.

Boats offer anglers the ability to reach the deeper waters of the bay where larger fish such as snapper and gummy shark can be found.

Kayaks, on the other hand, offer anglers the ability to fish in the shallow waters of the bay where flathead and whiting can be found.

If your feet are planted firmly on the ground and your’e not interested (or can’t afford) a boat then Land-based fishing can be done from a variety of locations such as piers, jetties, and beaches.

Port Phillip Bay is a prime location for anglers looking for a diverse range of fishing opportunities.

Whether you’ve been around the block a few times or just starting out fishing, Port Phillip Bay has something to offer for everyone.

Don’t be “that guy” or “girl” and remember to always follow the rules and regulations, and practice sustainable fishing practices to ensure the continued health of the bay’s fish populations.

Sample of Port Phillip Bay Fish Species

Fish SpeciesQuick Info
Snapper Snapper
Mugilidae sp
Much more prevalent during warmer months. This name applies to juvenile specimens of Snapper.
Bait: Bluebait, Chicken Breast, Flathead Fillets, Mullet Fillets, Mussels, Pilchards, Pipis, Prawns, Sandworms, Squid Hoods, Squid Tentacles, Whitebait, Whiting Fillets
Garfish Garfish
Hemiramphidae sp

Bait: Maggots, Whitebait or Bluebait Pieces, Bread Doung, Pipies, Prawn, Squid pieces, Sand worm.
Gummy Shark Gummy Shark
Mustelus antarcticus
Larger species are caught in Port Phillip & Western Port during April to July. With the Peak Month considered too be May.
Bait: Flathead Fillets, Mullet Fillets, Pilchards, Squid, Squid Hoods, Squid Tentacles, Whiting Fillets
Flathead Flathead
Platycephalus sp
But much more prevalent during warmer months..
Bait: Bluebait, Chicken Breast, Flathead Fillets, Mullet Fillets, Mussels, Pilchards, Pipis, Prawns, Sandworms, Squid Tentacles, Whitebait, Whiting Fillets
Flathead Flathead
Platycephalus sp
But much more prevalent during warmer months..
Bait: Bluebait, Chicken Breast, Flathead Fillets, Mullet Fillets, Mussels, Pilchards, Pipis, Prawns, Sandworms, Squid Tentacles, Whitebait, Whiting Fillets
Australian Salmon Australian Salmon
Arripis trutta
Common for schools to move through, chopping up the water before moving on. Can be common during cooler months.
Bait: Bluebait, Chicken Breast, Flathead Fillets, Mullet Fillets, Mussels, Pilchards, Pipis, Prawns, Sandworms, Squid Hoods, Squid Tentacles, Whitebait, Whiting Fillets
Whiting Whiting
Generic Name for a number of Whiting Species found in Australia.
Mullet Mullet
Mugilidae sp
Can sometimes be the only game in town during cooler weather.
Bait: luebait, Chicken Breast, Earthworms, Mussels, Pilchards, Pipis, Prawns, Squid Tentacles
Southern Black Bream Southern Black Bream
Acanthopagrus butcheri
Can become less active during Winter. Activity picking up in late August. Active during warmer months.
Bait: Bluebait, Chicken Breast, Crabs, Earthworms, Mussels, Pilchards, Pipis, Prawns, Sandworms, Whitebait
Tailor Tailor
Pomatomus saltatrix
Common for schools to move through, chopping up the water before moving on. Can be common during cooler months.
Bait: Blubait,Pilchards,Sandworms,pipis,chicken,squid,whitebait, hard bodied lures, soft plastic lures.
Leatherjacket Leatherjacket
Oligoplites saurus
But much more prevalent during warmer months..
Bait: Bluebait, Chicken Breast, Flathead Fillets, Mullet Fillets, Mussels, Pilchards, Pipis, Prawns, Sandworms, Squid Tentacles, Whitebait, Whiting Fillets

Port Phillip Bay Map 10,000 Years Ago

Source Wikipedia

Port Phillip Bay Fishing

Map based on topographical surveys of the Port Phillip Bay seabed.

The original mouth of the Yarra River emptied directly into what is now Port Phillip Heads.

The area, which is now the bay, was believed to be variations in drier ground and swamp land.

You’ll notice from the map that other rivers – like the Werribee River and Little River – flowed directly into the Yarra River.

This would have made the estuary system of the Yarra quite a wide stretch of river, with significant water volume.

It is believed that after the last glacial period ended the sea level rose to such an extent the bay was inundated and became the bay we know today. Others have suggested that this inundation is in fact cyclic. That is to say, storms alternately close and open the bay to the sea in periods in excess of a thousand years.

It would be fair to expect significant fish stock chaos during these periods. Where indigenous people would find themselves having to adapt to major changes in fish species and landscape. Perhaps causing food shortages – or altered dependency on foods – after the changes.

What fish occur in Port Phillip Bay?

Port Phillip Bay fish species are as abundant as they are varied. From small “bait fish” through to game fish like Snapper, several shark species, including the excellent table qualities of the Gummy Shark.

Popular fish often targeted by anglers include Flathead, Snapper, Whiting, Australian Salmon, Tailor, Silver Trevally, Gummy Sharks, Calamari (Squid), bream, mullet and garfish.

Do you require a Fishing License?

Yes, a fishing license is required in all Victoria waters. There are fishing license exceptions to this including persons under 18 and over 70, certain pensions and indigenous persons.

Please check with the Victorian Fishing Authority website for more information.

What are the main estuaries in Port Phillip Bay?

The Yarra river mouth is the largest estuary flowing into Port Phillip. The is joined upstream from the mouth by the Maribyrnong River. Making one larger estuarine area.

Other notable estuaries include Mordialloc Creek, Patterson River and Werribee River. There are a few smaller creeks that flow into the bay. These are not generally targeted for fishing.

What Weather conditions affect the Bay?

Port Phillip is subjected to a wide variety of weather patterns.

While it is often calm it can change dramatically in a very short space of time.

The influence of Bass Straight and associated weather patterns from the Southern Ocean is a significant driver of weather and bay conditions.

However, it is also affected by inland weather conditions that can be equally variable. Strong northerly winds can make boating riskier at times – including producing sudden summer squalls.

Because of this, a keen eye on the weather conditions is a must – whether you are fishing off a boat or a pier. As even the piers can, in some circumstances, be dangerous. There’s a simple guide that may help you make a decision that I’ve written here: Wave Heights Port Phillip Bay Boat Guide.

Also – the Weather Bureau’s website is a must as it provides regular updates on bay conditions and should be consulted before – and during bay activity particularly if you are boating.

Pier Fishing On Port Phillip

For land-based fishos, Pier Fishing on Port Phillip Bay is one of the easiest ways to get into some deeper water and try bigger fish.

Catches of flathead, bream, calamari, whiting, pinkies and snapper are all possible.

Plus – piers can be a great place to take the kids, to get them fishing. Taking due care to keep the smaller ones safe.

Are There Sharks In Port Phillip Bay?

Yes. For the most part, smaller and harmless species like Gummy Sharks, 7 Gill Sharks and Schooling Sharks. Gummy Sharks are common. Larger species such as Great White Sharks do come into the bay from time to time.

Great Whites ranging in size from juvenile to adult have been spotted. In 2009 a 4m specimen was photographed circling a small boat. Mako sharks also move in and out of the bay. Sometimes causing beach closures.

What Is The Best Bait For Snapper In Port Phillip Bay?

Pilchards are considered by many to be the best bait for snapper in Port Phillip Bay. However, snapper is often caught on other baits including whiting fillets, flathead fillets, squid tentacles and squid hooks. Some people also use chicken breast to great effect.

Increasingly people are catching good size snapper on soft plastic lures and of course, hard body lures account for plenty of snapper too.

The most popular Port Phillip Bay fish species include Snapper, Pinky Snapper, Flathead, Bream, Gummy Sharks, Australian Salmon, Mulloway, King George Whiting and Squid.

Where is Port Phillip Bay?

Port Phillip Bay is located in the State of Victoria, Australia. 38.1732° S, 144.8731° E. The state capital of Melbourne is located at the top end of Port Phillip. Most of the Melbourne metropolitan area extends hundreds of kilometres around the shore of the bay.

Port Phillip Bay Fishing Recommendations

Altona Boat Ramp

Altona boat ramp is a great place to launch a boat. Be it a fishing boat, tinny or even kayak.

St Kilda Boat Ramp

St Kilda Boat Ramp is part of the extensive St Kilda Marina complex. As far as boat ramps go this one can vary in terms of quality.

Mordialloc Creek

A lot of folks target bream in the estuary when Mordialloc Creek fishing. A lot of these folks eat what they catch.

Mordialloc Beach

During the summer months, Mordialloc beach fishing can be tricky as it gets pretty crowded. From swimmers, and sunbakers to the local beach volleyball clubs.

Mordialloc Boat Ramp

The Mordialloc Boat Ramp recently completed an significant upgrade. While I’ve not had a chance to check it out in person reports indicate improvements include:

Point Richards Boat Ramp

The Point Richards Boat Ramp Portarlington is located just outside of Corio Bay, directly onto Port Phillip Bay. While now free to use, sadly like so many other Victorian Boat ramps, Point Richards boat ramp could use some TLC.

Portarlington Beach

For the purposes of fishing Portarlington beach, we can divide it up into several sections. South of the Portarlington Pier and Portarlington rock wall.

Portarlington Pier

Portarlington Pier fishing is made pretty comfortable as it’s a good modern pier. Fish for Australian Salmon, Flathead, Pinkies and Snapper.

Portarlington Rock Wall

Portarlington Rock Wall forms a safe harbour for boats and adjoins the Portarlington pier. The Rock Wall has added a new dimension to fishing Portarlington.

Ferguson Street Pier

Ferguson Street Pier is close to the city of Melbourne, which means it can get a bit crowded during the peak season of warmer summer weather.

Mordialloc Pier

Fishing Mordialloc Pier offers a variety of fishing opportunities due to this length. Mordialloc Pier is a beautiful long pier extending 174 metres (570.

Gem Pier

Gem Pier in Williamstown is steeped in history. So if you’d like to try an awesome experience of mixing fishing along with some fantastic Melbourne history – give Gem Pier a try!

Kerferd Road Pier

Kerferd Road Pier fishing offers a simple, easy-to-access pier that produces the usual fishing species on Port Phillip Bay.

Lagoon Pier

Lagoon Pier fishing is considered to be all year round. Because it’s so close to the city it can get busy at times.

Station Pier Fishing

Station Pier is currently closed to the public for fishing. It is not known if the pier will reopen for this purpose.

The Warmies

The Warmies fishing hot spot is considered to be one of the finest spots for fishing in Melbourne, by many.

Werribee South Beach

The Werribee South Beach extends from the Werribee River mouth north to the rock wall at Wyndham Harbour. The beaches to the south of the river are off-limits due to Melbourne Water Board usage.

Werribee South Boat Ramp

Werribee South Boat Ramp A 30.0 Km Easy Drive From The City At the time of writing, boaties are calling on assistance to have the Werribee South Boat Ramp repaired.

Werribee South Pier

Werribee South Pier Fishing Werribee South Pier fishing (on the Werribee River Estuary) can be a challenge in the early part of the season.

Wyndham Harbor

Wyndham Harbor Fishing – New Cool & 28km From Melbourne Wyndham Harbour Rock Wall fishing is a relatively new option as it’s a pretty part of Werribee South.

Altona Pier

This pier is another casualty of a lack of maintenance by the Victorian State Government. It is closed, with no set repair time (if any.

St Kilda Pier

St Kilda Pier Fishing on a warm summer’s night was how I started targetting flathead and pinkies as a teenager.


Werribee Fishing Werribee Fishing opportunities include the Werribee South Pier, Beach and of course access to the Werribee River via the Boat Ramp.

Other Fishing Spots Near Port Phillip Bay