One big memorable elephant season
  |  First Published: April 2017

Early last month the first signs of the annual elephant plague were quite noticeable, especially for anglers still searching for whiting around the port.

This is the time they usually appear and so far their numbers are stacking up to one bumper year. This is a good thing, despite the feelings amongst some anglers, but for the past few years it has seemed that their numbers had been dwindling. So far, things are looking up. It really doesn’t take much effort to get stuck into them if you know a good area to search.

Elephants are scavengers and bottom feeders that love searching the muddy areas within the port. Although the top end channels are profitable locations, Gardeners and Blakes Channel produce quality fish. In saying that, you can’t go past the ‘elephant triangle’ if you want to tangle with a few.

For those who are unaware of the exact area, simply draw an imaginary line between Corinella and Observation Point, Rhyll and back to Corinella. This encompasses the muddy bottom where they love to search for food and ,with a simple berley trail of mashed pilchards and pellets, you’ll be into them in no time.

Some anglers consider them a pest. This is mainly because they are busy searching out more highly prized species such as gummy shark, mulloway, pinkie snapper and whiting. While I understand their frustration, elephants are fun to catch on light tackle. While quite a strange looking fish, everyone has to catch one at least once in their life.

Even better, they are a cracking fish for kids, as their size is a challenge for them to bring in and they really aren’t that bad on the table. Elephants have a small mouth, so you don’t have to overload your tackle. A simple running sinker rig tied from 20lb fluorocarbon leader with a circle hook is a sure bet.

Elephants aside, the whiting have continued to be the most targeted species of late. One charter operator has had a stellar few weeks putting his clients onto great whiting fishing throughout the port. Most of the action has come from the southern end of the Middle Spit with plenty of fish still on offer in the Eastern Channel, Tankerton, Tortoise Head and around along the bank near the entrance into Hanns Inlet. He also did a recon mission with his good mate Sarkis and together the boys had a blinder of a trip, easily catching their bag.

Squid, mussels, pipis and live Bass yabbies have been the top baits, while we are seeing the cooler temperatures arrive. There will be a sudden change in how the fish of Western Port come on the bite in the coming weeks. What will be most noticeable is that fewer fish will be about. The ones that do stay in the Port will change their feeding patterns.

This is important to note if you want to continue to target species such as whiting throughout the cooler months. Whiting in particular will be very selective in what baits they take and how they take them. During this time of the year, it is best to loose the circle hooks and drop back to fishing an extended paternoster rig with a long shank #6 hook, so with every nibble, you can strike to set the hook. They won’t be aggressive enough to swallow an entire circle.

Just on the fact that we are getting closer to winter, next month is a top time to dust off the snapper gear. Throughout May, the resident reds come on the bite in a big way. Fish upward of 15lb are a common catch. While many are caught as a by-catch while fishing for gummy sharks, they can be targeted along the North Arm and vicinity of Buoy 12, SP Buoy and Buoy 15. You will likely encounter draughtboard sharks, stingrays, banjos and gummies. When you hook one, it will be a solid fish.

Recently, the land-based fishing scene has been the best I have seen it in years with gummy sharks being landed right along the coast from Flinders to Balnarring. These fish have been caught during the lead up to the full and new moons with a variety of baits working well, such as trevally fillet, squid and salmon fillet.

Local land-based angler Justin Blythe has been absolutely smacking them with some fish in the 15kg range. Fishing for gummies from the beach is not an easy task. If you put in enough time, you’re sure to be rewarded. More recently, the Point Leo area has seen fish up to 8kg regularly caught. Being a surf beach, you need to pick the weather, otherwise it can be a challenging location to fish.

I can’t believe just how much the fishing in Western Port has improved over the years. While the species have remained the same, their size and seasons have grown longer. Take snapper and whiting, for instance – they used to be just a summer species. These days, their numbers are far greater throughout the winter months than they ever have been before.

It just goes to show there is never a good time to pack up the boat for the season. You just have to rethink your priorities and put fishing first before football, soccer, golf, netball and every other boring sporting event throughout the rest of the year. Just kidding – in hindsight, Western Port is a top waterway and each year it is getting better and better with options aplenty.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Furtiere.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Furtiere.

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