Port Albert in South Gippsland has become increasingly popular with anglers looking for size and variety. The huge snapper that arrive every spring remain a major attraction, but they are just one part of the piscatorial equation. Other fish include excellent King George whiting, salmon, bream, snook, couta, trevally, mullet, cod and garfish.
The list goes on, with dusky flathead being caught in excess of 4 kg, particularly near the sand flats around places such as Manns Beach.
The Albert and Tarra rivers flow into the bay area on either side of Port Albert and both provide reasonable fishing for brown trout in the upper reaches as well as estuary perch nearer the entrance. As well as bait, the perch are susceptible to flies such as the Crazy Charlie. The Albert River is popular as an estuary fishing venue for flathead, trevally and salmon.
The Port Albert waterway is a conglomerate of islands surrounded by channels situated well inland at the western end of the Ninety Mile Beach. At high tide most of it is navigable for small boats but when the tide falls, many boats find it necessary to stay in the main channels. Moreover, while the waterway can offer sheltered water, strong currents can sometimes make it extremely hazardous so local advice should be sought before venturing out.
A two-lane concrete ramp is located at Port Albert and boats to 8 m in length can be launched here as the ramp drops straight into deep water at high and low tide. Smaller boats to 5 m can be launched at Robertsons Beach at high tide. Further east at Manns Beach, the locals and a few regulars have use of a tractor to launch their boats, while McLoughlins Beach has a concrete ramp, which is best at high tide for bigger boats.
Anglers heading offshore for snapper and gummy sharks sometimes prefer to head out through Shoal Inlet or McLoughlins Entrance. However, these are shallow exits and can be dangerous, particularly when the wind is blowing from the south.
Gummy sharks can reach serious proportions in this water, both inside the bay and offshore. Gummies in excess of 20 kg have been caught, although most are 3–5 kg. As the name implies, these sharks have no teeth; instead they have plates similar to rays and feed on much the same type of food as rays and snapper, which is why snapper anglers often catch gummies. Although not a difficult shark to land once hooked, gummy sharks try hard and a big one will run long and hard.
Fishing techniques are the same as for snapper, although gummy sharks are more partial to a solid berley trail and are found more often in shallower water than snapper. A running sinker rig with baits such as squid, pilchards, or fish strips works okay. There is no need for a wire trace but the leader should be about 10 kg breaking strain to avoid wear on the hard skin of the sharks’ backs.
Port Albert also has a reputation for better-than-average King George whiting, with many of the bigger fish taken in the deeper water and offshore. Because of the strong tidal influence, a paternoster rig with a single leader of up to 1 m is sometimes the most effective method. A pyramid sinker is preferred in the deeper areas where the current is very strong. Instead of casting out and leaving the bait to sit on the seabed, anglers drop their bait to the bottom and then lift it and allow it to drop a little further behind the boat. This is done several times before the bait is retrieved and checked. When the strike comes, it will often be at the top of the lift, the whiting having followed the bait.
Bass yabbies pumped from the flats are favourite bait in the deeper water while mussels also produce good catches but are best over the grass beds in the shallower water.