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Working the Western Entrance
  |  First Published: May 2014



Amongst Western Port’s maze of deep channels and vast shallow flats is the Western Entrance, which runs from The Nobbies to Sandy Point, and is undoubtedly the most productive fishery in the Port, although it comes with its dangers. Fast running current, ocean swells and being exposed to all wind directions, the Western Entrance can be an angler’s nightmare but extremely productive at the same time.

Being the widest entrance into the Port, it is the main thoroughfare for all species that enter and this entices anglers to its waters.

As productive as it is, the Western Entrance does require some knowledge before fishing it. Understanding the tides in conjunction with the weather will provide you with the best knowledge of where you can access to escape the wind and or ocean swells that push in. Going out on a whim can be dangerous if you haven’t fished there before.

BOAT SETUP

Before fishing the Western Entrance it is imperative your boat be setup correctly. At different times of the month tide strengths can vary, so it is vital that the correct anchor setup is used. Many boats come standard with a sand anchor and while these may suit some scenarios, they are not going to the job when attempting to anchor in the Western Entrance. Due to the force of the current, using the wrong anchor can cause a few problems, such as not digging in or grabbing that will cause you to drift. This can be dangerous particularly if you’re heading towards another boat, channel marker or towards the Middle Bank where the ocean swells break on the shallow sand bar.

Anchors, such as a Plough, Sarca or Mud Magnet, come highly recommended when used in conjunction with a minimum boat length of an 8mm chain. Although you can have the right anchor, if you haven’t enough chain, the weight won’t keep it dug in, especially if there is any swell action.

Even so, you also need to have enough rope. Most rope lengths come standard as 50m lengths but when fishing in 30m of water with swell, you’ll need to let the majority of this so I suggest doubling it to a 100m length.

Manually lifting an anchor of this weight can be back breaking work, especially when the tide is running, so to make the job easier use an anchor retrieval buoy or, if you’re lucky enough, an electric anchor winch. Either of these will make the job a whole lot less work.

FISHING OPTIONS

The Western Entrance abounds with a rather extensive variety of fish species. From the highest prized being gummy shark, school shark, snapper, whiting and calamari, seven-gill shark, kingfish, thresher shark, bronze whalers, yellow-eye mullet, leatherjacket, salmon, silver trevally and elephant fish the most common. Depending on the species you’re interested in catching, fishing specific locations will give you a better chance at catching them.

GUMMY SHARK/SCHOOL SHARK/SNAPPER

Gummy sharks roam the deep waters of the entrance and are available year round; larger females are abundant from January to April. Snapper are available from September to March and school sharks can be caught from September to December.

Gummy sharks, schoolies and snapper are more common in the deeper sections of the entrance with specific attention paid to the areas between Buoys 16 and Buoy 8. These are the red coloured buoys that run up the northern side of the channel.

Another popular location for sharks is at Buoy 5. There is an oval shaped contour that rises 4m from the bottom. Fishing the run-out tide seems to be more effective in the winter months.

A running sinker rig is recommended with a size 6/0 circle hook or snelled 6/0 suicide hooks. School sharks will take a bait on mono and shy from wire, but when using mono you will be bitten off when you get a fast high speed hook up, so take is easy and try to work the fish to the boat. Go hard and he will bite you off.

Snapper will prefer softer baits, such as calamari rigging, on the same running sinker rig. Heavy sinkers will be required as the current runs very fast through this section. Favourite gummy baits include salmon, yellowtail scad, silver trevally and calamari.

WHITING

Whiting can be caught along the edges of the entrance particularly on the Phillip Island side. There are some very productive locations spread right down the entrance and the area is quite thick with weed and sand holes. From Cowes Pier to Mchaffies Reef, the fishing is very good and fishes its best on a run-out tide. Providing conditions are calm, fishing on the southern side of Mchaffies Reef to Cat Bay is where you’ll find larger models.

Whiting can also be caught in the same locations that you’d fish for gummy shark and snapper, although you will need to wait until 30 minutes either side of a tide change. The current won’t be as strong and you will have a short window to catch a few.

Whiting in the deep water are quite big and you can expect to catch 6 fish, which will all be over 45cm. Pipi baits are by far the most effective with a paternoster rig recommended due to the thick weed growth.

CALAMARI

Over the same ground as you’d find whiting, calamari thrive. During the high tide, they are more active in the shallows, especially along Ventnor Beach and around Red Rocks Point. Behind Mchaffies Reef lies Hen and Chickens Reef, this is a very productive calamari location during the months of September and October along with Tyro Reef and inside Cat Bay.

Calamari respond well to artificial jigs and while the calamari are not heavily targeted in the same rate they are in Port Phillip Bay, their size is much bigger. Size 3.0 and 3.5 jigs work best in a white or red foil belly colour.

Bait fishing for calamari is another effective method when silver whiting suspended under a float are used. In calm conditions, anglers can anchor, set a berley trail of mashed pilchards and fish the silver whiting in the trail on a squid prong. This is a very effective technique that often gets the larger models.

KINGFISH

Kingfish are almost an elusive species but throughout the summer months have become more frequent than ever before. Kingfish can be caught inside Western Port from the Fairway Buoy to Buoy 2. Most are unexpected catches when fishing for gummy shark but certainly welcomed.

To be specifically targeted, the most effective technique is to troll live baits around the Nobbies and Seal Rocks if you have the right boat and conditions are safe to do so.

Intriguing place

The Western Entrance is an intriguing location with hundreds of locations to explore. You could spend a lifetime fishing it and still not scratch the surface on the best locations to find fish. Providing you have your boat setup correctly and are willing to put in the time searching and finding new areas to fish, the Western Entrance should be the next location you begin to explore.

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