Flinders sand ramp launching

By: Paul Tuzson, Photography by: Paul Tuzson

Why does this fisherman launch his boat from the Flinders sand ramp when he could use a triple-lane boat ramp at Crib Point?

Matt Hawthorne lives just a couple of minutes away from a modern triple-lane ramp at Crib Point on the western side of Victoria’s Westernport Bay. However, we found him launching off the sand ramp at Flinders about 20km further south. Why? Because that’s where his winter quarry, whiting, tend to school.


Beach launching at Flinders pier sand ramp
To launch from the beach you need a decent 4WD. This is especially the case at Flinders, at the entrance to Victoria’s Western Port, where the build-up of weed can be quite deep.


Launching from the Flinders sand ramp

Like everyone, Matt likes to get out to the water as quickly and easily as possible. That’s one reason he likes the sand ramp at Flinders, because even in peak season there aren’t many people around. His launch technique is simple: go backwards really fast and stop suddenly. Then, when a bit of a wave rolls in, it’s pretty easy to push the boat around and out a bit further, scramble over the side and get on with it. A roller-rocker trailer helps the process.

For retrieval, Matt fits the stub-mounted spare wheel to a second jockey wheel clamp, pushes the trailer out to get the boat on, hauls the trailer out with a rope and then re-hitches it. It sounds like a lot of trouble but he says you get used to it and it’s worth it for the lack of crowds and the whiting. "Besides, I’ve seen people have more trouble at concrete ramps," he said.

Looking for whiting often brings Matt close to shore, which creates an obvious hazard considering this region is known for its surf spots. Matt recounts one time when he was preoccupied with what was happening under the water and suddenly felt the boat lift more than he was expecting. He looked over the stern to see a huge wave bearing down and about to swamp him. Fortunately he had the engine running and he managed to turn the Streaker into it just in time. It started to break just after he went over the top. Modesty may be a virtue but sometimes it’s better to go over the top.


Whiting fishing

Matt says the whiting in this area are big, and it’s not uncommon to catch a 45cm fish. They’re plentiful too, if you know where to go. He’d been out the previous day and had no trouble pulling in the bag limit of 20 in just two hours. This particular day, however, was a bit of an embarrassment. He got none. Worse still was the fact that he had with him a rank amateur who actually snagged a 46cm specimen. And as if being out-fished on his own boat by a beginner wasn’t enough, the guy then had the audacity to throw up because he couldn’t handle the swell. At least he had the decency to get his head over the side before he let go. Giving something back, so to speak.

Although there’s no minimum size limit in Victoria for whiting other than King George, Matt says he rarely keeps fish under 30cm because it’s fairly easy to find larger ones. The biggest he has caught was 48cm, and although he chases the species enthusiastically, a 49cm fish still eludes him. He saw one presented in a competition in March that weighed in at 990g which, frustratingly for the angler involved, was just short of the kilogram needed to claim a $1000 bounty.

Matt reckons the trick to finding whiting is to move around rather than sit and wait. If he doesn’t get a nibble fairly quickly he moves on and tries somewhere else, persisting through the tide changes. He does use a finder to locate fish but not by spotting them directly on the screen. Rather, he uses it to examine the bottom and find the sand beds favoured by whiting. "I’m always looking for the thin, clean line that represents the bed I’m after," he said.


Fisherman at Flinders sand ramp
Matt Hawthorne had his Streaker 4.58 Cuddy for five years.


Learning the ropes

Although Matt has fished virtually all of his life he didn’t get his first boat until about 17 years ago. That was an older-style ski / fish Stejcraft powered by a 1985 two-stroke, red-band Mercury outboard motor. He says this combination was good for learning how to fish and served him well for his first 12 years on the water. The Streaker 4.58 Cuddy shown is his second boat and he’s had it for about five years. He explained that TrailerBoat reviews were fundamental to his choice of the Streaker, and added that although he thoroughly enjoyed his pier-based fishing, it just doesn’t compare to fishing from a boat. These days he’s addicted and gets out almost every day or two, weather permitting.


Originally published in TrailerBoat #286, September, 2012. Why not subscribe today?



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