WEIRD, WONDERFUL AND OUT ON THE WATER
BAY FISH N TRIPS
Port Phillip Bay in Victoria has a surface area almost three times that of New York City. That's why you need a couple of quirky locals, with an extraordinary love for their boat, to be able to fish it properly.
WORDS JEREMY DRAKE
When you speak to Sandra Watt, there's curiousness in her tone that matches her unusual charter boat and the special fishing found only in Port Phillip Bay.
LOOKING OVER THE BOW OF THE MV PLOVER WHILE ON A GLASSY PORT PHILLIP BAY
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“[Port Phillip] is not just a big bay with a few different things in it,” she says. “It’s got hundreds of species of fish, it’s got soft corals, sea grasses and there’s also a pod of dolphins that live here, between Mount Martha and Mornington.” Sandra operates a family-owned fishing charter business with husband, and long time local, Stuart Maconachie from the Mornington Pier. The sheer size of Port Phillip Bay means you’re better off fishing here with some expert local help from the likes of Bay Fish N Trips in order to track down the plentiful pink snapper, King George whiting, flathead, gummy sharks, silver trevally and yellowtail kingfish that all swim here in healthy numbers.
SANDRA AND STEWART FROM BAY FISH N TRIPS FISHING CHARTERS AND TOURS
SANDRA AND STEWART ON THE MV PLOVER
DOLPHINS ON THE BOW TRAVELLING FROM SORRENTO TO MORNINGTON
Just like the hidden beauty of Port Phillip Bay beneath its water line, the metaphor also rings true for Sandra and Stuart's main charter vessel, the MV Plover. The beautifully appointed MV Plover (built in 1942) may be a classic vintage timber ship, but scratch the surface just a little and she’s carrying an array of cutting-edge equipment and fish-finding electronics to ensure guests are guaranteed a good day on the bay.
“It’s got hundreds of species of fish, it’s got soft corals, sea grasses and there’s also a pod of dolphins that live here, particularly between Mount Martha and Mornington.”
“She’s a World War two baby,” Sandra says with pride. “If her planks could whisper all her secrets, it’d be terrific.” According to Sandra, 600 other Australian Work Boats just like the MV Plover were built to transport produce, troops and machine guns during the war. Today, the decks of this boat are beautifully restored and contrasted against the hustle and bustle of Melbourne’s lively central business district just over an hour’s drive away.
THE MV PLOVER WAS ORIGINALLY BUILT AS AN AUSTRALIAN WORK BOAT DURING WWII
While Sandra started as a deckhand working alongside Stuart, she’s now focussed on the day-to-day operations of Bay Fish N Trips. But uniquely, this business prides itself on only having female deckhands working with their guests out on the water. “The clientele for us has really changed over time. We used to do the common bucks parties, it was very blokey. But over the years we’ve realised that we don’t have to do that,” Sandra says. “Having female deckhands encourages other women to come onboard with us too. We get a large percentage of women with their kids or by themselves, or even on their own too.” Bay Fish N Trips provides its guests with a full range of quality fishing tackle (although you’re most welcome to bring your own) and they also carry the best bait available. The crew will happily bag and ice your catch should you wish to take a delicious meal with you at the end of the day.
THE MORNINGTON PENINSULA COASTLINE IN VICTORIA
However, for Sandra and Stuart, a day out with Bay Fish N Trips has always been so much more than just catching a big haul you can take home and BBQ. “It's a full experience with us,” she says. “We want [guests] to learn how to do everything. There's boats and charters out there that will set up the rigging, they'll set up everything and then they'll just give you a rod. Whereas, we get them to bait. We get them to catch and we get them to dispatch. We get [guests] to learn the whole experience.” And when she’s asked about her favourite spot for either the perfect sunset or the perfect catch?
“Anywhere along the Mornington coastline, it’s all perfect down here.”
GREAT FISHING ADVENTURES OF AUSTRALIA
The diversity of Australia’s fishing experiences is as vast as the country itself