Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is a Pandora’s Box of fishing adventure, ranging from rivers and estuary to surf and offshore. One of the State’s most popular tourist destinations, this 300-kilometre stretch of bitumen runs from Torquay to Warrnambool.
On the first leg, from Torquay to Apollo Bay, the road clings to the coast, separating steep verdant hills covered eucalypts from pristine surf beaches and craggy rock ledges. Along the way, there are estuaries, townships and many neat fishing holes.
After Apollo Bay, the Great Ocean Road stays further inland, snaking its way through the lush Otway Ranges before coming back to the coast near Princetown, and then following the Southern Ocean through to Warrnambool.
It’s a neat part of the world. Anglers who come here seek out everything from brown trout and bream to snapper and sharks and, despite the route’s popularity with tourists, the fishing pressure has not been extreme.
Every route has to have a starting point and a finishing point. In this case, the direction travelled at all times will be from east to west, that is from Torquay to Warrnambool.
The best surf fishing is in autumn and winter for Australian salmon, gummy shark and mulloway. Best time to fish these beaches for salmon is sunrise and sunset, but for the bigger predators fish at night. A high tide coinciding with dawn or dusk can be productive. Look for gutters and channels and remember, the best fish will be in the clean water away from the froth and sand being stirred by the wave action. Productive baits include pilchard and pippi for the salmon; squid is excellent bait for the bigger fish but fresh salmon fillets take a lot of beating.
Some of the more productive beaches from Torquay to Cape Otway include Fishermen’s Beach at Torquay, Moggs Creek, and Eastern View near Fairhaven, and Wild Dog Creek and Marengo Beach at Apollo Bay.
Most of the beaches are shallow. The outstanding deepwater beach was Pt Addis. The best deep-water beach along this stretch of coast produced gummy sharks to 20kg, mulloway to 30kg, snapper, tailor and salmon. Alas, this beach was lost to anglers when it was declared a Marine Park in the noughties.
Once you past Cape Otway the next most serious beach fishing location is Aire River at Hordenvale, about 20 minutes drive to the west. The surf fishing is equal to anything in the state with big runs of salmon, snapper and gummy sharks and a few mulloway. The best fishing is from late spring through to May. A little further on is Castle Cove and then Johanna Beach, all of which will produce fishing similar to Aire River.
There is also good fishing to be had at Princetown, Gibsons Steps a few kilometres further on, and Newfield Bay, near Peterborough. At Warrnambool, Levis Beach to the west of the city and Logans beach adjacent to the Hopkins river mouth, both produce good catches of salmon and yelloweye mullet. The latter named beach can also produce mulloway.
Lorne, Apollo Bay, Port Campbell and Warrnambool offer fabricated platforms; all of them can be productive, but sometimes suffer from being too popular. This is the case at Lorne where it can be hard to get a spot to fish when word leaks that the fish are biting. On weekends and holiday periods, it can be hopeless. If you want to fish the end of the pier, get down on Tuesday; by Saturday you might be where you want to be. The pier was purpose-built for fishing from and to allow tourists a clearway without the groups colliding. It is rightly regarded as the best fishing platform in the state, and certainly one of the most productive as well.
Apollo Bay offers pier and breakwater fishing. The harbour can produce barracouta, salmon, mullet and warehou (trevalla) at times. Port Campbell is a small commercial fishing pier in a cove, but enjoys good runs of barracouta, salmon, trevally and pinkie snapper at times. The Warrnambool breakwater is another popular venue and most of the fish taken here include yelloweye mullet, King George whiting, salmon and barracouta.
Anglers expecting to find rock ledges jutting out into seriously deep water had better think again. Most of the ledges along the Great Ocean Road do not drop off into the deep blue, rather a shallower green. Many otherwise good ledges suffer from large growths of bull kelp and weed or, like Mt Defiance, are difficult to the point of being hazardous to access. Nevertheless, the species taken from rocks can make the effort worthwhile.
Most of the reasonable ledges are between Fairhaven and Apollo Bay, beyond that pickings are slim. Eastern View, Cathedral Rock, Jump Rock, just before you enter Lorne, the ledge at Jamieson River and Artillery Rocks ledge a little further on and the Rifle Butts at Marengo, are among the more productive and popular rock ledges east of Cape Otway. To the west heading for Warrnambool rock ledges are even fewer, at least those that are easily accessible anyway and the best of those available is Moonlight Head. Many people simply park on the roadside and decide to fish from the rocks. In most cases, they are not fishing decent ledges and the catch is more likely to consist of sweep and parrotfish than anything else.
Fish you are likely to encounter from the ledges recommended include sweep, silver trevally, couta, snapper, mullet, garfish and salmon. Spinning with metal lures can produce salmon and couta. Many anglers prefer to fish under floats for their salmon, trevally and mullet while bottom rigs are best for snapper. Productive best baits include pippi, squid, pilchard, bluebait, and salmon fillets.