Cowes to Cat Bay

Cowes jetty, Steve Cooper

Cowes to Cat Bay, along Phillip Island, is a popular area for anglers chasing whiting, squid, snapper and gummy shark.

Cowes jetty, a favourite with holidaymakers, is a productive platform that often produces elephant fish (in season), gummy sharks, couta, pinkies, squid, Australian salmon, silver trevally and King George whiting.

Further west, the Phillip Island ramp is shallow and can be difficult for drive-on trailers. The ramp is sheltered from east or southerly winds but exposed to winds from the north or west. It lacks mooring jetties and most locals use 2–3 m extension arms on their trailers. Better boat ramps are at Rhyll, which is a 5 km run by water to Cowes, or Stony Point on the mainland.

About a kilometre west of Cowes jetty is a yacht club. In front of the club a drop-off line goes from 5 m to 10 m, and is ideal for pulling in squid and King George whiting on the last of the ebb tide.

Further west, near Ventnor, are two lollipop markers about 200 m apart on the beach. Fish between these for whiting and squid in shallow water on a rising tide, or on the 10 m drop-off during the latter part of the ebb tide.

In the deeper drop-offs in Western Port, always put baits out at varying distances from the boat. Cast onto the bank and let the bait fall down it, or cast into the deep water and let the bait sink back to the bank to attract the whiting.

Just to the south-west of Ventnor is a rough set of eddies, part of McAffies Reef, but the turbulence lasts for only 500 m.

Moving on towards Cat Bay, you can fish inshore of the 10 m drop-off in about 5 m of water and less. The area has plenty of weed patches harbouring whiting. Fish in closer to shore for squid, but give all the points a wide berth because of reefs. Cat Bay produces squid in good numbers and has a well-earned reputation for big King George whiting.

The most productive whiting water is about 400 m off Cat Bay beach, in about 7 m. There are many weed beds and it is easy to be hooked up in the weed when the boat swings, so use two anchors to keep the boat stationary. Unlike many areas of Western Port, Cat Bay doesn’t have strong currents so you can spread rods around and get away with about an ounce (28 g)  of lead.

For anglers seeking bigger fish, the channel edge in about 15–20 m  of water from Buoy 11 to Buoy 1 produces snapper and big gummy sharks. Use a depth sounder and fish just off the hard bottom in the softer ground to avoid wrasse and other pickers. School sharks are often caught between Buoys 1–5, so many anglers employ clear, nylon- coated wire to avoid being bitten off, and also catch snapper on the wire. Swell against tide, particularly the last three hours of the ebb, can cause problems in the deeper water. The incoming or flood tide is normally the calmest, when the swell and tide are going in the  same direction.

Be aware of tides. During spring tides, the run out can be very strong and you are likely to encounter rough conditions. The period from the first quarter to full moon and the last quarter to new moon are normally slower tides. A couple of days of south-west winds can cause a delay of up to one hour in the tide change, as the swell forges in from Bass Strait.

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