Clifton Springs

Two snappers at nearly 8kg each caught at Clifton Springs, Steve Cooper

Clifton Springs is a sheltered harbour with a double boat ramp, mooring jetty and toilets. The facility is well signposted. To get there, take the Portarlington road out of Geelong and turn left at Jetty Road just before Drysdale. Most anglers use this ramp to reach areas in Corio Bay outer harbour and western Port Phillip that are a bit far to reach from Corio Bay.

Snapper and King George whiting are the most sought-after species, but anglers also catch flathead, garfish, snook, gummy shark, elephant fish and squid.

The southern shore, from Clifton Springs through to Point Richards to the east, is home to extensive mussel farms. The hundreds of ropes hanging down with clusters of mussels growing on them are a big attraction to the fish. You are not allowed to fish in the farms, but you can fish near them.

Most snapper anglers fish along the channel edges. As you move away from the channel, the bottom is heavy reef that is hard on terminal tackle. To overcome this, most anglers anchor away from the channel and throw back towards it, as the banks along the top of the channel offer easier terrain. On a southerly, anglers fish the southern side of the channel; on a northerly they cross the channel and drop anchor to face the south.

One of the most popular areas is the bend that marks the junction of the Wilson Spit and Point Richards Channels. Better known as the elbow, this area attracts a lot of boat traffic when the snapper are on the go. The mark is the former flashing channel marker – the current one has been moved about 150 m along the channel towards Portarlington.

The north side of the channel, west of the Commonwealth Explosives Pier, is excellent ground for snapper, gummy shark and whiting. Whiting are found in areas where the weed bottom is interspersed with sand patches. These fish tend to move around so it may take a few drops to find a school.

If you motor west along the Wilson Spit Channel towards Geelong, you will come across the Wilson Spit Bank. Well regarded for its snapper fishing, the bank runs from the north shore of Corio Bay outer harbour to the southern shore near Clifton Springs where it meets Curlewis Bank. Buoy No. 5 on the north side and No. 6 on the south side of the channel mark the western edge of the bank; buoys 3 and 4 mark the eastern edge. On the west side, the bank drops into about 8 m of water, on the east side it is about 6 m. On the south side of the channel, the bank averages about 5 m, but drops to about 9 m before Curlewis Bank, which runs out about 300 m from the shore.

The average depth of Curlewis Bank is 2–3 m, all the way back to Point Henry.

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