Port Phillip Bay Fishing - #1 2022 Awesome Melbourne Spot Port Phillip Bay View ElwoodPort 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.

Altona Boat Ramp

Altona boat ramp is a great place to launch a boat. Be it a fishing boat, tinny or even kayak. Excellent bay access to some equally excellent…

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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.

Sample of Port Phillip Bay Fish Species

Fish Species Quick Info
Australian Salmon
Arripis trutta
All Year Round
Common for schools to move through, chopping up the water before moving on. Can be common during cooler months.
Black Bream
Acanthopagrus butcheri
All Year Round. But much more prevalent during warmer months.
Blue Spotted Flathead
Platycephalus caeruleopunctatus
All Year Round
More commonly caught in warmer months. But can be caught year round in many places.
Dusky Flathead
Platycephalus fuscus
All Year Round
More commonly caught in warmer months. But can be caught year round in many places.
Platycephalus sp
All Year Round
Gummy Shark
Mustelus antarcticus
All Year Round
Larger species are caught in Port Phillip & Western Port during April to July. With the Peak Month considered too be May.
King George whiting
Sillaginodes punctata
November to April
Known to migrate from Victoria to South Australian waters during cooler months.
Mugilidae sp
All Year Round
Can sometimes be the only game in town during cooler weather.
Pinky Snapper
Chrysophrys auratus
All Year Round. But much more prevalent during warmer months.
This name applies to juvenile specimens of Snapper
Chrysophrys auratus
All Year Round. But much more prevalent during warmer months.
Adult specimens often come closer towards shore to feed on reefs during rougher weather in warmer months.
Sepioteuthis australis
All Year Round.
Best fished when waters are clear with little turbulence. Top times can be during June to September.

Port Phillip Bay Map

Port Phillip Bay Map 10,000 Years Ago

Source Wikipedia.

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.

Port Phillip Bay FAQ

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.

What Are The Most Popular Port Phillip Bay Fish Species For Fishing?

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.

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