Steve Hunt returns to one his Yorke Peninsula childhood haunts to find the fishing brilliant. Photos of Port Victoria by Steve Hunt and SA Tourism.
I must admit that Port Victoria, half way down the western side of SA’s beautiful Yorke Peninsula is a place I have somewhat neglected. I had fished there a few times years and years ago with my late father and his mate Dave Foster who was at the time the state amateur fishing champion. We had always done very well fishing around nearby Wardang Island.
King George whiting were our main target and the fish rich waters of mid Spencer Gulf certainly provided many excellent catches on the broken ground and ledges that surround the island.
Snook were always very plentiful during the summer months in those days and we mainly trolled lures on paravanes. We also caught the odd snapper or two when we ventured outside.
Those early trips were well over 25 years ago and until recently I had not returned to Port Vic. Not for any particular reason, just perhaps there were so many other great fishing spots on the rest of Yorke Peninsula that kept my attention.
However, after a couple of recent fantastic trips to Port Vic I am now a great fan of the place. Fishing seems to be every bit as good as I remembered and so I’m certainly returning soon.
Situated 190 kilometres from Adelaide on good sealed roads Port Victoria is easily reached after a couple of hours. Known as the ‘Last of the Windjammer ports’ it was once alive with sailing ships exporting grain which was the lifeblood of the community to places as far away as England. The purpose built jetty remains today and produces very good fishing in its own right.
The town overlooks Victoria Bay which is protected offshore by the huge expanse of Wardang Island to the west. In 1802 Captain Matthew Flinders mistook Wardang for part of the mainland and named it Point Pearce. It wasn’t until 1839 when the area was being properly surveyed that this mistake was rectified and the area named ‘Victoria Harbour’ after their schooner.
On the first of my two most recent fishing trips to Port Victoria I realised just how much I had been missing over the last 25 years. After checking in to one of the luxury cabins at the well-appointed Gulfhaven Caravan Park I immediately fell in love with the place. Especially when from our cliff top position the waters of Victoria Bay were set on fire by the setting sun.
The caravan park is centrally located to everything in town with the productive L-shaped jetty just a stone’s throw away. The local hotel which was the first building to be built in town in the late 1870’s is within easy walking distance. It is also close and handy to the main street with its shopping and take-away shops, but most important for trailer boaters the ramp is not far away either.
Launching your boat at Port Victoria is now a breeze when compared to yesteryear. The boat ramp is situated just south of the town and is deep enough to handle any size trailer boat at any stage of the tide. It is a dual lane, all weather ramps with floating boarding pontoons. You pay a small launching fee via a ticket machine, but there is ample parking and the ramp pretty good.
The ramp is where Gary and I met Clayton Smith of Port Victoria Fishing Charters (0427 917 687) at 6.30 am the next morning. We eagerly loaded our gear onboard the eight metre aluminium vessel then reversed back down the ramp. The twin 115hp Yamaha four-stroke motors broke the serenity of the morning as we blasted off to the northwest on a cold, overcast morning.
Clayton threaded his way past Rocky Island, Little Goose and Big goose Island and the north-eastern tip of Wardang Island for our first drop of the day. Unfortunately this spot did not produce but our second drop certainly did. The plan was to mainly target whiting today as it was early September and it had been cold, wet and miserable so it was touch and go whether the snapper had arrived.
As I released my paternoster rig to the bottom with twin size 6 chemically sharpened hooks loaded with small pieces of squid it soon became clear that they had! My Saltiga Bay Jigging 64XHS rod slammed forward as something big smashed the little morsel as soon as it touched the bottom. Ten pound Power Pro braid whistled through the runners as the little New Certate 3000 squealed.
This was no whiting! I immediately went into survival mode and backed off the drag just a tad to relieve the pressure on the tiny little size 6 hooks. Once I had achieved this I felt very comfortable that the quality little Daiwa outfit would win out as long as the hooks could hold on. After several more frantic runs and some serious head banging a lovely snapper of around 6 kilos was led to the waiting net.
GOING SNAPPER HAPPY
“What a great start!” I thought to myself as I released the little hooks to the bottom once more and hooked up on another snapper immediately. That’s when the abuse started from Gary and Clayton. “You arsey bastard,” Gary let rip from the port side as he quickly changed outfits to get in on some of the snapper action. I just smiled to myself and listened to the sweet sound of the screaming Certate.
The snapper wasn’t as big as the first one but it still went a very respectable 3.5 kilos on the light tackle. Meanwhile, Gary who had loaded a couple of larger hooks with some chunks of tuna received a double hook-up on his Saltist 6500 and he was more than relived to go on the board. One of the fish was around 3.5 kilos and the other was undersized.
The small snapper then besieged this reef system and although they were good fun on the light outfit we moved on and headed to the deeper water further to the west. This area is legendary King George whiting water and we would not be disappointed, everywhere we went the KG’s were willing to play and our boat limit was achieved very early.
We searched for more snapper but it was still a little early in the year for the big reds to take up residence. Again there were plenty of smaller snapper on tap but we moved on to avoid injury to the little fish. I nailed a good sized Blue morwong and a much prized harlequin fish on one of the deeper reefs which again had the little New Certate screaming its guts out.
It was still a cold breezy, overcast day but it was good to be out on the water after such a cold, windy and wet winter in Adelaide. The sun would occasionally break through warming the bones for a fleeting moment before disappearing again behind the persistent cloud cover. Along with the other species we also caught plenty of medium sized trevally and big leatherjackets.
Clayton also had mentioned that we were always in with a chance of catching the odd School or Gummy shark in the deeper water and he was right on the money. Gary had been catching his whiting on a slightly more beefed up version of the paternoster rig with a size 1 hook and 25 pound mono trace after the snapper episode. This proved to be a very wise choice on his behalf.
After a rather innocuous bite Gary set the hook on something decidedly larger this time. Thirty pound braid sizzled from his spool at an alarming rate and following my lead from earlier in the day he duly backed off the drag system. Gary has learnt a lot over the last few years about the subtleties of fighting big fish on lighter gear. Previously he would have panicked on a fish such as this.
But he has learned that patience is the best virtue when fighting large fish, just take it easy and you will always win out in the end. The big shark went on several long runs before deciding to slug it out in mid water. When we saw colour for the first time it was clear that this was a very big fish. In fact when we finally got the beast on board it was clearly the biggest, fattest Gummy Shark I had ever seen.
It was a wonderful end to a fantastic day at Port Victoria and I can say that Clayton certainly has got this area wired. The magnificent fishing impressed me so much that as soon as I saw that the following weekend was going to be reasonable weather (compared to what we had been enduring), I hooked my boat on and booked in at the Gulfhaven Caravan Park once more.
Joining me were my mate Skinny, my son Brad and his mate Nathan for hopefully what would be a good weekend. However, the weatherman got it slightly wrong again meaning we were restricted to fishing the more sheltered inshore waters. Wardang Island protected most of the bay from strong onshore winds so we still fared very well.
YOUR DAILY WHITING
The fishing inside the bay proved to be excellent on the whiting with a daily boat limit of 36 whiting achieved on both days. Some of the whiting were better than 40 centimetres and bag limits such as these are the norm here especially during the cooler months. Add to this the extra bonus of inshore species like tommy rough, garfish and flathead and it is a very viable boating proposition.
This place is also a veritable Southern Calamari hotspot with huge numbers residing within the seagrass beds within the bay. After securing the boat limits of whiting each day we took some time slowly drifting these weed beds before heading in. We were duly rewarded with up to a dozen squid each day which once cleaned in the scaler bag presented a fresh, tasty seafood meal.
During our travels we also found a brilliant looking reefy area in just three metres of water that produced some kidney slapping whiting up to 43 centimetres. Every whiting that we caught in this great little spot were all well above average size and they fought like demons in the very shallow water. This was light tackle sport fishing at its best.
After introducing some pilchard pieces into the mix it really got the joint jumping. Brad was using my little Daiwa Sol outfit when it was nearly torn from his grasp as a feisty little snapper of 42cm grabbed his cockle baits and rocketed around the reefy bottom. It was the first of three small snapper as well as a blue devil and several big leatherjackets to be landed.
BEST CLOSE TO HOME
All in all we had a great weekend despite experiencing windier weather than had been forecast. We had some great times, great laughs, caught some excellent fish and we also dined like kings at the local hotel. And to top the weekend off we wandered down to the jetty and bagged five lovely squid before hitting the road back to Adelaide.
It simply reinforced that sometimes the best spots are right under your nose as I had been towing my trailer boat passed Port Victoria for years in pursuit of the ultimate fishing spot. I have now realised this is one of the best holiday/fishing locations within two hours of Adelaide. As a result I’m already planning a summer vacation there with the wife and kids. You too can enjoy the charms of Port Vic by visiting the website www.yorkepeninsula.com.au.
See you there!