April is a fantastic month to fish Western Port. Stable, calm weather usually allows those fortunate enough to escape work during Easter to get out after several different species of fish.
The annual run of elephant fish is in full swing. These unusual looking critters leave the safety of their deep water homes to spend 8-10 weeks spawning in Western Port. A few early arrivals turned up some months ago, but the main schools are about in plague proportions from approximately mid-March through to mid-May.
In the tackle shop I am often asked whether elephants are a fish or a shark, so I spoke to well-renowned fishing writer Paul Worsteling for some clarification. It seems they are neither, but are actually part of the Chimaeroid family.
Without being too technical, they are a sort of a cross between sharks, skates and stingrays. Like sharks, they have no true bones, only cartilage. One major difference is that they primarily use their pectoral fins to swim, not just their tail. Elephants are one of the only Chimaeras that enter water shallow enough for them to be targeted by recreational anglers.
As the elephant invasion begins, an area known as the ‘elephant triangle’ springs to life. The triangle (so named by Paul) is situated between Newhaven, Tortoise Head and Corinella.
This area is mainly comprises shallow, reefy ground in between 4-8m of water. There are some deeper patches that also worth trying, particularly between Tortoise Head and Cowes. Elephants will, however, spread across the port and invade nearly every whiting mark and gummy channel at some stage.
Land-based anglers often enjoy success from Stockyard Point in Jam Jerrup or from Tenby Point in Corinella. Piers such as those found at Stony Point, Cowes or Corinella are also worth a look.
For best results, start a berley trail using pilchards, fish pellets and fish oil. When fishing from a boat or pier, drop a weighted berley pot to the bottom. If fishing from a shore-based location, simply throw a tight handful of berley to where you have placed your baits and keep casting into the same spot. Berley really helps attract the elephants and hold them in the area.
Elephants aren’t fussy eaters and will scoff any bait they come across. Squid, pilchard pieces and pipis are all good, with many anglers using two or more small baits to form juicy little cocktails that elephants can’t resist.
Those fishing the deep water near Cowes have caught some fantastic gummy sharks recently. Customers Richard Cousins and Chris Rhodes had a fantastic trip bagging three lovely fish of over 15kgs each. I saw the photo the boys took and the biggest of these whoppers was clearly pushing 20kg. The fish were taken at a secret location not far from buoy 16 in 19.5m of water. As usual, the biggest fish was landed on cured eel. The other two ate squid and pilchard baits.
The mako scene has been really firing lately with two anglers finding their first success with these fantastic game fish.
Customer Trev Stratton was fishing for barracouta with your average snapper-sized spin reel when a mako shot past the shark baits and ate the squid piece he had baited up with. Thankfully Trev had rigged up with some 90lb wire for the ‘couta and that was enough to ensure the capture of a mako of 60kg cleaned. What a fish on spin tackle!
Work colleague Vicki and I have battled the rather dismal offshore conditions nearly every Sunday for the last few months in search of her first mako. After being blown off the water countless times, we finally came up trumps. After 10 minutes of berleying a spirited little mako of 35kg swam up the trail. We grabbed the light outfit, a Shimano TLD 20 and Loomis hybrid stroker, and stripped line from the reel. The tuna head bait slowly sank and the line came tight. Suddenly the mako burst from the water three times in a fantastic aerial display. The shark was boated without incident and we still haven’t been able to wipe the smile off Vicki’s face!
Vicki and I would like to thank Keith Diprose and Patrick Neidhart who have dedicated many hours to helping Vic bag her first mako.Reads: 1955