Every year I am amazed by the number of anglers who pack up their fishing gear and call it a season at the start of May. Boats get locked in the garage and snapper are all but forgotten as the winter months roll in. Keen Western Port addicts, however, realise that the cooler period can produce some sensational fishing options. Large gummy sharks enter the port at this time of year and the whiting fishery peaks with bags of thumper whiting over the 45cm mark.
Although it is possible to catch gummy sharks over 10kg all year, your chance of tangling with a real brute of 15kg or more escalates during the cooler months. At this time of year, large females migrate along the Victorian coastline and enter Western Port to drop their pups. Like many fishers I don’t specifically target the breeding females, however the average size of the species in winter is noticeably larger than the summer run of fish.
Obviously this is a CPR fishery (Catch, Photograph and Release!). Big gummies are very poor table fare, their flesh being rather coarse and somewhat dry. Keep a smaller one for a feed, but please let the big girls go.
Gummies will readily take squid, cured eel and most fish baits fished as fillets. Tuna, salmon, mullet and trevally are a few standouts.
When anchoring, look for drop-offs and tidal scours which will naturally channel the fish along the seabed. Cast baits back into the deep water as normal but don’t forget to leave one tasty morsel on the edge of the drop-off or steep bank. Feeding gummies will often move up onto these banks in search of small crabs that become exposed as the tide washes over them.
The areas between Buoy 17, Sandy Point, Buoys 13, 14 and Cowes are all excellent starting points. This represents a large junction where the Western Channel meets the North and East arms. Have a look at the topography on a decent nautical chart before rushing out to fish blindly (Aus 150 or 151 are perfect).
The elephant fish have been fairly slow this year by most reports. They spread throughout the port, reaching as far north as the Tooradin and Bouchiers channels, but not in the numbers as seen previously. Charter skipper Steve from Ace Fishing Charters told me that he found small schools of elephants in around 6m of water in Coronet Bay. Robyn Gray of Peninsula Fishing Charters pulled some from the drop-offs adjacent to Tortoise Head Bank in 8m. On several occasions both skippers found the elephants amongst some lovely King George whiting.
King George whiting, one of the tastiest fish in the sea, have been caught in fantastic numbers recently. The beaches of Somers, Balnarring and Cat Bay seem to have been most productive, with plenty of big, fat fish nudging the 50cm mark. Most have been in the 35-45cm range.
These areas have one major advantage over other typical whiting haunts: they can be fished from land as well as by boat. The fish often move into very shallow water looking for a juicy bass yabby or marine worm for lunch.
Corinella Pier was the venue for a notable capture last month. One lucky angler landed a 10kg mulloway on a cured eel fillet during the late afternoon. It just goes to show that these strange and majestic creatures can turn up at any time.
The surf fishing will start to fire up soon as the salmon move along our beaches chasing schools of whitebait. Generally, salmon will come within casting distance of the shore during a flood tide. The change of light is the most productive time so check your tide guide in advance to find a time when the flood tide coincides with sunrise or sunset. For example, on the weekend of Saturday May12th/Sun 13th the high tide for local surf beaches occurs between 6 and 7am. If the weather is kind, these could be ideal times to try for a salmon or two.Reads: 519