by Peter Jung •
East Gippsland is full of great holiday destinations that have a fishing twist. One such locale is Marlo and the Cape Conran coastal area, which is a short drive via the Orbost turnoff on the Princess Highway coming from Melbourne or by the Cabbage Tree-Conran road if you are coming from Canberra or Sydney. There is plenty to explore but most importantly, it is a great place to relax and to make some memories with the family.
Although the fishing in the Snowy River, Brodribb River and the waters off the Cape Conran coast is great to explore from on the water, having a boat is not a necessity. There are numerous areas for land-based anglers and families to fish and explore. It can be as simple as purchasing some bait, pumping or digging your own (the kids love helping out) and using that or packing a few hardbody and soft plastic lures to fish the numerous flats in the area.
Brodribb River boat ramp
The Brodribb River boat ramp is at the end of old Marlo Road. The ramp itself was recently upgraded and is now a great place to launch a boat and explore via the water. The area also has a great expanse of grassy bank with easy access for land-based anglers.
This area lends itself to bait fishing. Local sandworms and bass yabbies are my favourite options but the smaller bream and pickers that reside in the area can make short work of them, so it can pay to have a couple of flesh baits handy. They tend to last a little longer and give the bigger fish a chance to grab your bait.
Bream and estuary perch are the main target species, however luderick and tailor are also common captures. Lure fishing is not out of the question with the water’s edge accessible downstream from the boat ramp.
This is a great place to take the family and the facilities include a filleting station to clean your catch and a toilet block.
Marlo jetty and Beach Road
A very popular location for locals and visitors to wet a line, the Marlo jetty and Beach Road offers very accessible fishing options. It is a very busy place with the main boat ramp also located there.
Like Brodribb, this place lends itself to bait fishing. The flats along Beach Road are a great place to cast lightly-weighted baits out and retrieve them very slowly across the sand. Whiting, flathead and bream love this presentation and are present in good numbers, especially on a building tide. The best baits to use are local sandworm and bass yabbies.
Fishing from the jetty itself can be very productive. Worms and bass yabbies again are great bait options but flesh baits, prawn or pilchard pieces are not out of place, as tailor and bream can be thick at times.
The area can also be very productive for lure anglers. Small hardbodied lures like a Zerek Tango Shad, a Strike Pro Bass X or a Jackall Chubby slowly rolled over the sand flats has every chance of being eaten. In a similar vain, surface lures like a Strike Pro Hot Dog or Zerek Trail Weaver twitched over the shallows during low light periods can be super effective. If the fish aren’t quite committing, then try a Bent Minnow. One or the other will work.
Deeper water is best reached from the jetty. Casting metal slugs as far as you can from the ends of the jetty and retrieving them at a steady pace is a good method to catch a few tailor. Rolling or hopping soft plastics in the deeper water is also a good option. It is not unusual to pick up estuary perch or flathead like this too.
Snowy River esplanade
There is a walking path that leads down to the river opposite the Marlo Ocean Views caravan park. Most of the river is a large sand flat but it does have pockets of slightly deeper water. It is best fished on a rising tide and the fishing methods that are most effective are the same as the flats at Beach Road.
I have seen some huge flathead caught from this area, but a great species for all the family to catch is the humble mullet. Set up a little berley trail of bread, use bread dough as bait and rig it under a float for hours of fun. They are not bad eating when cooked fresh.
Of all the shore-based fishing options in Marlo, Mots Beach is the one where the more effort you put in, the bigger the reward may be. To get there, head north along Marlo-Conran Road. There is a sign posted parking area adjacent to a walkway that takes you down to the Snowy River. Make sure to put on insect repellent, as the mosquitos can be full on.
This area really lends itself to lure fishing in the form of wading and casting either small hardbodied or soft plastic lures. The water in general is quite shallow and isn’t suited to fishing baits. It is not that there is no deep water, it is just a bit of a walk north to get to it or you can wade across the river and head south. However, it is a great area to take the family and pump for bait in the shallows.
I go for lures to target bream and flathead. The three lures I always take are a Jackall Chubby, a Bent Minnow and a few colours of the ZMan 3” Slim SwimZ (with 1/4oz jigheads to suit). If I have the time, I will wade across the river at the base of the walkway and head towards the river mouth. There is a great mix of shallow and deep water and I work it over thoroughly using those lures. You can walk all the way to the mouth of the Snowy River if you want to. It is not difficult walking but water, hat, sunscreen and sunglasses are a must.
My first experience of fishing in Marlo was at Frenches Narrows. It is a little further north along Marlo-Conran Road, where an initially steep path takes you down through the coastal reserve to reveal a beautiful piece of water.
This area can be fished at any time of the tide with bait or lures. The deeper water is generally on the beach side of the waterway with plenty of options to bait fish for all of the species already mentioned. Here it tends to be toadfish that can be a pest pinching your baits rather than tailor, so it pays to have plenty with you or a pump handy.
I have had good success targeting flathead here with soft plastics. I use a 1/4oz jighead and a 3” ZMan Slim SwimZ in calico candy with a hopping or hop wind technique. I never grow tired of feeling that tick in the line as a flathead comes and eats your plastic. They put up a great fight, especially when you are trying to manoeuvre them into the shallows to land them. I have seen some big models in the 80-90cm range in this part of the waterway, so it pays to use heavier leaders (10lb-15lb). Flathead are a great feed too; just remember the slot limit in Victoria is 30-55cm with a limit of 5 (dusky flathead).
It is also worth flicking a hardbody lure around, as there tends to be a few decent bream at the Narrows as well.
Mots Beach – the surf
The track that takes you through the Frenches Narrows coastal reserve also provides the best access to the surf side of Mots Beach. It is a very popular location for anglers to cast lures to the Australian salmon that frequent the area. They can be in huge numbers at times and generally are within easy casting distance.
Metal slugs are all you need to have a lot of fun in the surf. For bait anglers, a pilchard rigged using gang hooks is a dynamite way of targeting salmon and many other surf fishing targets.
Until my recent trip to Marlo, I hadn’t been to Yeerung River. This little body of water is a little over 20km north of Marlo via the Marlo-Conran Road. A left turn at Yeerung River Road takes you into the Cape Conran Coastal Park and to the car park at Yeerung River.
Access to fishing from the shore is limited to where the river would flow into the ocean (the mouth was closed at the time of writing) and along the section that backs onto the sand dunes. You could certainly fish more of the shoreline, but the scrub comes all the way down to the waterline and I wasn’t that keen to explore first time around.
There is also a kayak launching area just before you get to the main car park. A kayak would be a great way to explore this beautiful waterway. It has a good head of bream and estuary perch and as I found out, some juvenile Australian salmon. Any of the aforementioned hardbodied and soft plastic lures would be suitable.
The fishing doesn’t stop with the river – the beach looked very fishy. There were plenty of close in gutters when I visited and a decent school of salmon was visible in front of the rocks as you first get down to the beach. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to pack a slightly longer rod and some of those Surecatch Knights for a day at Yeerung River.
On a side note, the river was closed off from the ocean when I visited it but does open after rain. All the local anglers that I spoke to said to mention that care should be taken when it is open. The water may not be deep to wade across but the sand is very soft underfoot, making attempts to cross it dangerous.
Ask a local
Like with any fishing location, local knowledge can be invaluable. Other than the banter at the Marlo Hotel, two great options to find out what might be biting and where are the Compleat Angler in Orbost run by VFM writer Jim McClymont or the Snowy River Tackle and Cafe in Marlo. Both have a great range of tackle and fresh bait for sale.
I stopped in and saw Jim on my last visit. He gave me a few tips that were spot on and I really enjoyed the chat. He has been in the area a long time and is extremely knowledgeable.
STAYING AT MARLO
There are plenty of accommodation options in Marlo from lodge style set-ups to a couple of caravan parks. Marlo Ocean Views is the largest park in Marlo and offers every style of accommodation you could want. They have powered and unpowered sites, a number of cabin options and are pet and boat friendly. Les Heyne, who runs the park with his wife Kathy, is a wealth of knowledge about the area and has no dramas pointing you in the right fishy direction. They have made my visits memorable every time.
Marlo and the Cape Conran Coastal Park is a great place for the whole family to visit. It is the perfect destination to relax, unwind and scratch that fishing itch. Best of all, it can be done from the shore at multiple locations. There is every chance you will catch a fish and how much effort you want to put in is up to you.
Go and check it out!