Strange goings on in the Port
  |  First Published: June 2007

Last month at Cranbourne Tackle World we received several unusual fishing reports that have inspired me to write a slightly different Western Port update this month. Now, before I continue, I must say that we will only ever print the most accurate reports from reliable sources. However, we have been inundated with some very fishy stories recently. Here’s a few to ponder…

Granger from the boat ramp at Warneet saw an angler return from a fishing trip in the top end of Western Port with a very strange critter. The angler was unsure what he had caught but the boys made a positive I.D. using a fish identification book. The fish was a deep-sea trevalla (or blue-eye trevalla). This is not the same fish as the snotty trevalla (or blue warehou) we often catch during the March-May period off Seal Rocks. Anyway, the deep-sea trevalla must have been lost, because he usually prefers reefs in 200-600m.

Customer Russ caught a shark with black-tipped dorsal fins at Crawfish Rock. Naturally, it was then called a ‘black tip reef shark’. Most of us believed that black tip reef sharks only live in tropical waters, however CSIRO’s book Australian Seafood, Domestic Species states that “more than 20 species of whaler sharks occur in Australian waters” and that “they are difficult to identify, even for specialists”. So, Russ may have been correct. The shark could have been a whaler of some sort with black-tipped fins, which would put it in the ‘black tip reef shark’ category. The only problem is that school sharks can also have black-tipped fins. In fact once while fishing with Andrew Pawsey of PD Marine we caught a gummy shark that was absolutely black all over. The colour did begin to fade but we were quick enough to take a photo and the darkest gummy I have ever seen can be viewed at Cranbourne Tackle World. It weighed 18kg and we boated it in 20m off Cape Schanck.

Several anglers reported seeing boats with tuna to 30kg return to the boat ramp at Hastings over a three-day period. Sure, the unidentified anglers could have caught tuna in Portland, driven them back to Melbourne, launched the boat and claimed to have caught them locally – but would it be worth the effort? Did you know that many years ago Southern bluefin tuna were caught in Port Phillip? Other anglers also reported seeing a few isolated tuna busting up around a saurie school off Cape Woolamai the week prior… coincidence?

Yet another angler reported that he caught a small yellowfin tuna on a squid strip off Phillip Island. The fish was reportedly followed to the boat by a much bigger fish of the same species. After more investigating it turned out that the fish did indeed have yellow fins, but was a yellowtail kingfish. Now, I know that caused a ruckus, but the angler in question was genuine and simply made a mistake. It happens. (I carried on like a twit some time ago believing I had landed my first yellowfin tuna in Western Australia, only to find when reviewing the video that it was a longtail that had perhaps caught the sun. How embarrassing.)

Three professional fishermen believe they saw a small marlin of 20-30kg jumping near their pilchard nets in Port Phillip Bay. (Sure, it’s not Western Port, but let’s run with the theme.) These guys know their stuff and have no reason to tell porkies. Unfortunately, there are no photos (or so I believe) but the guys were working, not taking happy snaps.

Anyway, I understand that some things are hard to believe, and I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told that anglers are catching 1kg whiting in Western Port. If climate change really is occurring and causing water temperatures to increase, is it that unreasonable to think that there may be some truth to these unusual reports? Perhaps I’m just an optimist. (See also the May VFM for a report of a cobia caught on 90 Mile Beach and page 8 of the current issue for details of dolphinfish captured off the southeast Vic coast – Ed.).

There certainly are a few lessons to be learned. First, take a camera on every fishing trip to save any confusion. A picture really does say a thousand words. Second, don’t guess weights or lengths of fish. Record them. You can pick up a good set of scales from around $30, which is money well spent. Third, Shimano distributes a brilliant product called a ‘brag mat’ that makes measuring fish a breeze. The photos of fish look great against a ruled background and serve as a constant trophy for years to come. It’s not called a ‘brag mat’ for nothing!

If anyone can shed some light on any of these reports feel free to drop us a line at Cranbourne Tackle World on (07) 5996 6500. Finally, did I ever tell you about the time I caught a barramundi off Warneet Pier on a pipi…

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