Lakes Entrance Local Fishing Advice: Offshore Fishing
August 15, 2017 • Corey Grigg
12 min read
Situated on the edge of the Gippsland Lakes and the Bass Strait, Lakes Entrance is a mecca for Australian anglers, renowned for its great fishing all year round. From casting off the Esplanade's many jetties to travelling across the bar to Six Mile Reef, Lakes Entrance is a fishing wonderland that should be on any angler’s bucket list.
Lakes Entrance is arguably one of the most popular tourist destinations in eastern Victoria. Many Victorians are able to recall taking the pilgrimage up to this coastal town on family holidays in the past. We sure do at least.
Being located on the fringe of the 400 square kilometre Gippsland Lake system and the Bass Strait, Lakes Entrance is commonly known for its fresh fish and chips, large array of watersports and abundant fishing locations. Moreover, the amount of fishing spots in the ‘Lakes’ area can be overwhelming – with a multitude of land-based and offshore fishing options available to the public.
So, how do you best spend your time fishing in Lakes Entrance? We talked to Daryl and Sandi Kate-Hutchins from Prime Tourist Park about the area and fishing in Lakes Entrance.
The Eastern Harbour is a popular fishing spot for land-based anglers
Peak and Off-peak Times
It’s worth mentioning the tourist seasons of Lakes Entrance before we jump into learning where to fish. Although Lakes Entrance is fairly busy all year-round, according to the Kate-Hutchins, from about mid-September to mid-April it becomes a tourism hotspot and enters what many businesses call ‘peak season’, a term which you would have likely heard before. Many travellers across Victoria, NSW and greater Australia drive to ‘Lakes’ (the affectionate name given to the town by locals) to enjoy the warm weather, watersports and nearby activities.
So how will this affect you?
Peak season means more people – and more people means more competition for prime fishing spots. This makes it all the more important to get up early and stake a claim on your little patch of waterside land. You may have to change your tactics when you fish too. Fishing in the night or early morning, avoiding popular spots and venturing further out are all things you may need to do to avoid the crowds.
Most Cunninghame Arm jetties get pretty busy during ‘peak season’
Other aspects to consider when coming to Lakes Entrance in peak season with the sudden influx of people include:
- Accommodation being fully booked, so be sure to book months in advance for the best deals
- Parking around town, at the jetties and near the boat ramps being limited
- Seating at cafes, restaurants and fast food places being limited
- Popular beaches filled with swimmers and PWCs making it difficult for surf fishing
Going in off-peak season provides different challenges for anglers, but you don’t have to deal with lots of people snatching up all the good locations.
Offshore Fishing in the Lakes Entrance Area
Offshore fishing in Lakes Entrance is the best way to escape the crowds. You can access areas of the Gippsland Lakes and the nearby Bass Strait with ease and target different fish species that are not found around the jetties or beaches. However, you will obviously need a way to get onto the water, whether that be bringing your own boat, hiring one from one of the many providers in the area or hopping on a fishing charter. Popular spots include; inside the North Arm, Reeve Channel and Six Mile Reef.
If you are looking for more great advice about land-based fishing in Lakes Entrance, check out part two of this series!
Lakes Entrance Offshore Fishing Spots
Between the local Gippsland Lakes, or further out to the local reefs and offshore oil rigs, you are presented with a wide variety of fishing spots depending on which fish you want to target. Be sure to bring food, water, plenty of fuel and spare rods to make the most of your time while out on the water.
The North Arm is a large channel that expands off the Mississippi Creek and winds down to connect with The Narrows near the Lakes Entrance Bar. It can be found on the western side of town and can be accessed easily from any of Lakes Entrance’s boat ramps or nearby Kalimna.
Typically, most anglers tend to fish further up the North Arm away from the hustle and bustle of the township. Although there is good fishing to be had towards the Reeve Channel end, this is a high-traffic area for incoming boats which disturbs the fish. Small inlets and coves along the North Arm provide plenty of space to drop anchor and catch fish as they come down the arm from the river.
The North Arm runs from The Narrows to Mississippi Creek
The North Arm boasts a good variety of fishes. However, according to the Kate-Hutchinses, offshore North Arm fishing is slightly less popular as there are less fish in the area compared to around Bullock Island or Reeve Channel. Yelloweye mullet, flathead and bream can also be caught seasonally.
The largest of the channels near Lakes Entrance, the Reeve Channel runs from the Lakes bar, alongside the mainland above Rigbys Island, McAuliffs Island and Flanagans Island to Bancroft Bay near Metung. Due to its size and moderate current, Reeve Channel is popular for drift fishing. It can be accessed by heading north then north west past Jemmy’s Point through The Narrows.
Pretty much all of Reeve Channel is a fishing gold mine. Either drift fishing towards the Lakes Entrance Bar or dropping anchor when you find a hotspot are the two most common methods. Most anglers tend to stick closer to the banks where many deep gutters are located but good catches can still be found near the middle of the channel.
Reeve Channel is the largest channel in the Lakes Entrance area
Flathead is the most common catch in this area of Lakes, with Australian salmon, luderick, bream and trevally being popular too. Whiting can also be found in the seagrass beds and deep gutters near the rock wall towards Kalimna in the Reeve Channel.
Located on the west side of Rigbys Island, the appropriately named Rigbys Channel runs north-south between Reeve Channel and Hopetoun Channel. It can be accessed by either following the Reeve or Hopetoun Channel past Rigbys Island.
The higher than average sand-bars found at the southern end of the channel provide a good area to target flathead. Just keep in mind the size of your boat so as not to run aground. The area near Barrier Landing just off Rigbys Channel is a common shallow fishing spot too.
The sandy areas of the channel are home to flathead, while deeper waters can contain whiting, leather jacket, mullet, small-sized Australian salmon and tailor (which is one of the more common catches in the area). The best time to target any fish in the area is in the hours before or after the tide changes, as the current forces fish up or down the channel. Flounder can also be found in the shallow sandbanks but will require hand spearing to catch.
Found between the 90 Mile Beach sand dunes and the south side of Rigby Island, which connects the Lakes Entrance Bar and South Channel, Hopetoun Channel is used due to its close proximity to the township and lack of general boat traffic.
You can see Jemmy’s Point on the bottom side of the North Arm mouth
The entire length of the channel can be easily fished. However, if drift fishing, be sure to keep an eye on the tide and current, as there is a large bend in the middle of the channel. That being said the Lakes Entrance side of the channel is far busier than the South Channel side, making it worth heading further in to escape the water traffic.
Bream and seasonal Australian salmon fishing are the main drawcards for this area. Prawn fishing is also extremely popular at Barrier Landing and near Fraser Island along the Hopetoun Channel due to the shallow water and high sand banks.
Jemmy’s Point and The Narrows
Located just outside the mouth of the North Arm, The Narrows is an area which connects Reeve Channel to the bar. Jemmy’s Point is the northern tip of the North Arm’s mouth. It is easily accessible from boat ramps and is a short distance from the township.
The Narrows is a heavy traffic area which many vessels use to gain access to the Reeve Channel. However, if you stick to the mainland coastline, you will find seaweed beds and various species of fish abundant in this area.
Flathead and whiting are commonly found in the dark seaweed beds while fishing for crabs after dark is popular too.
Six and Eight Mile Reef
Located nearby in the Bass Strait, there are a number of coastal reefs with abundant fish populations untouched by commercial trawlers. However, getting to these areas requires special care and a competent boat, as you will have to cross the potentially dangerous Lakes Entrance Bar. It’s best to check with local authorities and read the Gippsland Port’s guide to crossing bars before heading out.
Keep in mind that hire boats are restricted to the Gippsland Lakes and are not equipped or designed to go into the open ocean. You will need your own vessel or hop aboard a fishing charter to visit the reefs.
Six Mile Reef is seen as the ‘main reef’ of the area due to it being closest to the mainland, while Eight Mile Reef is slightly further out. Other smaller reefs such as Pasadena Reef can be tricky to find without the right sonars or sounders, making them far less common spots for the average angler.
Six Mile Reef is located south by southwest from the Lakes Entrance Bar at a longitude of 147.99803 E and latitude of -37.98067 S. Eight Mile Reef is slightly further south than that, while smaller reefs are scattered to the east and west of Six Mile Reef.
‘The Pipes’ is another common area within the reef network, where the pipeline that connects the oil and gas rigs to the mainland run through it. This area contains fairly deep water of 30 to 50 metres and is a common spot for offshore anglers.
Around the reef, you will find an abundance of hefty snapper, flathead, gummy shark, leather jacket, tuna and other reef fishes. In particular, gummy sharks and large snapper are the reason most anglers come to this area, as they can be found around ‘The Pipes’ in deep water, while flathead can be found near the shallow areas of the reefs. According to locals, the best time to fish the reefs is in the morning around dawn when the water begins to warm up and the fish become more active.
You need to travel pretty far out before you reach the continental shelf or sea canyons
Oil and Gas Rigs
Not for the faint-hearted or those with little boats, Lakes Entrance is home to a fleet of oil and gas rigs scattered 40 to 80 kilometres out along the coastline. However, some of the area’s biggest fish can be caught here. Before heading out to the rigs, talk to the local coast guard about fishing in the area for the most up-to-date information.
The best ways to access the rigs are with either a sizeable boat that can handle fairly large offshore swells or a fishing charter. The latter is a safer option for those who don’t own a capable boat and wish to target monster fish.
The water surrounding the oil and gas rigs feature depths of 120m plus, with the deepest gutter being a whopping 400m deep. Anglers tend to target snapper at depths of 50m, while you’ll need to go deeper for swordfish and the elusive marlin – out from the oil rigs to the continental shelf and various sea canyons.
The oil rigs and further sea canyons are where you want to be if you want to catch any ‘big game fish’. Swordfish from 100kgs up to 300kgs and beyond, tuna from 40kgs, various species of sharks including mako and thresher over 250kgs and marlin have been caught in the area. However, if you do manage to get a big fish on the line, be ready for a long fight. Some anglers have reported fighting a 280kg swordfish for up to six hours straight.
In the second part of our ‘Lakes Entrance Local Fishing Advice Guide’, we discuss the best land-based fishing spots, specific tactics, baits and setups used to catch particular species of fish in the area and our custom-made interactive map, detailing all the fishing locations discussed in the guide and much more!