Last month we looked at three of the six top fishing locations in Western Port. This month we are exploring the rest of this massive waterway.
Corinella is one location that must be seen on a low tide before venturing out, especially if you have never fished in this location before. This tidal mud flat is home to many species including gummy sharks, elephant fish, snapper, whiting and mulloway. Australian salmon, trevally and barracouta can also be caught and often become a welcome by-catch when whiting fishing.
Whiting tend to be caught in the Coronet Bay region. Right along the edge of the bay in 5m of water is a good starting point. You will notice it is quite weedy and you’ll need to locate the sand holes to find the whiting. A light berley trail is required which will also bring calamari into your fishing location.
Early in the snapper season, especially around September, the top end of Corinella around Lang Lang produces some quality fish. Providing you find fish with your fish finder, you’ll be right on the money.
Each season is different but you will notice a bite trend in combination with the tides. This can either be two hours before or after a high or low tide change and it will be up to you to figure it out.
The entrance to Tenby channel is also productive during the early season. Just inside the mouth of the channel a small reef holds good numbers of fish right up until December.
Gummy sharks are mainly a by-catch while fishing for snapper and mulloway but if you’re keen to target them, the most prolific locations are the southern side of Snapper Rock and Pelican Island, the Barge Hole and in Mosquito channel.
Gummy sharks are also prolific in the upper reaches towards Spit Point and Stockyard Point. Fishing this high up requires anglers to set anchor on the edge of the channels during the run-out tide. Just like in the Top End, when the fish swim off the banks they will look for deeper water. Any berley trail will attract them to your fishing location.
The one fish on every angler’s hotlist is the elusive mulloway. While difficult enough to catch, it is the preparation behind catching them that is intense. Countless hours spent on the water is just part of the equation but if you’re willing to follow local reports and speak to those in the know you’re bound to paint a picture of where to begin the search.
There is no X marks the spot for mulloway, rather it is the bait presentation, tide and time that will see success.
Of course, the majority of mulloway caught are in Mosquito Channel, around Pelican Island, Elizabeth Island and near the Corinella hole. What all these locations have in common is shallow water, a continuous supply of food and places to hide.
One of the most difficult locations to fish due to the tide strength is the Western Entrance. From Buoy 16 to the Fairway Buoy, this highway holds some of Western Port largest fish as well as supporting an extensive variety of species. As with Crossroads in Part 1, correct anchoring procedures are mandatory otherwise you will find yourself not being able to hold bottom along with possibly drifting into other boats.
The majority of the Western Entrance ranges 20-30m deep with the sides of the channel varying right up to 2m of water along the Phillip Island coast. If it is whiting you seek, then pushing up close to the beaches is productive.
Along here, I like to look for sea grass beds with surrounding sand patches. Just in from of the Cowes Pier, Mchaffies, Hen and Chickens, Tyro and Flynn reefs and inside Cat Bay are all prime spots. These locations fish very well at least two hours either side of a tide change, especially when berley is used. There are also some very productive calamari locations along here with Cat Bay and Ventnor beach the most productive.
The Western Entrance is well known for its gummy sharks and is the location that you will catch the largest versions the Port has to offer. Many anglers are often deterred by the strength of the tide in this location but it is a location worthy of trying your luck. You will require a wide range of sinkers from 10oz to 20oz. If you haven’t the desired weight your baits will not be on the bottom and thus not catch any fish.
This location is more of a highway for fish rather than a location that holds them, meaning anglers need to source a spot where they will pass by. Features I like to look for are contour lines that create what looks to be a road where the water pressure will funnel potential food through.
If you look at a Navionics Map picture, you will notice in white colour this feature from Buoy 6 to Buoy 8. On the Phillip Island side in Blue colour from Buoy 7 to Buoy 11 is also a similar highway. When fishing for gummy sharks, anglers must be aware that this is not just a two hour fishing session to be successful. A standard gummy shark session should be around 6-8 hours depending on the tide.
I have found the most productive times to be two hours either side of a tide change. School sharks are also a common catch but more are busted off or bitten off than landed. Wire rigs are a no-go but rigging with a 30cm length of Kevlar cord to the hooks works a treat.
During the cooler months, boards of Australian salmon enter the Port prior to making their way into the surf zones. When they are in the Entrance they can be found busting the surface. In this case, tossing soft plastics and metal slugs into the boiling masses is very effective.
Balnarring is a great location to fish around mainly due to its shallow water. Access is difficult as most of the launching facilities are from sand ramps allowing only smaller craft to be launched. If you have a large boat, the best launching ramp is Stony Point but expect a 10km run to the middle bank before you can get access into this area. If you are accessing from the Western Entrance care must be required as crossing along the Middle Bank can be treacherous in rough conditions.
Inside Balnarring, there are a few reefs that hold snapper in season but this area is well known for its whiting and gummy shark fishery. Whiting are spread right throughout but you will have to do some groundwork to find successful areas.
Like all natural whiting habitat, look for weed beds and sand holes. While there are gummy sharks to be caught, finding a holding location can be difficult. Where possible try to find deeper areas, say 7-10m down near Point Leo where they tend to be more prolific.
Further towards Flinders, around the Mussel farm the whiting fishing can be spectacular in season. This location also yields some of the largest calamari caught in the Port. Generally between September and October when the spawners arrive this location really turns it on.
Drifting outside the Flinders Pier in 10m of water is where you’ll encounter the majority of them.
Species time table:
Snapper: September to February.
Gummy shark: Year round with January to march the peak time for larger models.
King George whiting: Year round with the prime months being November till February.
Silver trevally: Year round with the best months being September and October.
Calamari: Year round with the best months being September and October.
School shark: The prime months are September and October but can still be caught up until March.
Seven-gill sharks: April to September.
Bronze whalers: January through to March.
Elephant fish: Mid February until mid may. Generally enter the port in large numbers after the February full moon and leave after the May full moon.
Mulloway: Can be caught year round with the warmer months more productive.
Warehou: March and April although they can be caught in the top end in September while fishing for whiting.
Garfish: September to January.
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RIGS FOR WESTERN PORT
Running sinker rig: The running sinker is the most widely used rig for gummy shark, school shark, snapper, seven-gill shark, elephant fish and mulloway.
Paternoster rig: The ideal rig for whiting, trevally, warehou and can be used for snapper.
Float rig: Suitable for garfish and bait fishing for calamari.
Fixed sinker rig: Used when land based fishing for snapper and gummy shark but is also useful when targeting bronze whaler sharks.
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Top baits for each species
Snapper: Pilchards, sauries, barracouta, tuna, cured eel, salmon fillet and calamari
Gummy shark: Calamari, salmon fillet, pike and snook fillet, trevally fillet, cured eel, yakka fillet and tuna.
King George whiting: pipi, mussel, bass yabbies, squid and whiting worms.
Silver trevally: pipi, squid and whiting worms.
Calamari: Silver whiting under a float and artificial jigs.
School shark: Salmon fillet, trevally fillet, tuna and calamari.
Seven-gill sharks: Calamari, salmon fillet, pike and snook fillet, trevally fillet, cured eel, yakka fillet and tuna.
Bronze whalers: Pike and snook (whole), salmon fillet, tuna (whole).
Elephant fish: Pipi, calamari and pilchards.
Mulloway: Calamari, pilchards and live baits.
Warehou: Pipi and calamari strips.
Garfish: Peeled prawn, bread/dough and silver fish.
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Fish size and bag regulations
Snapper: 10 per person, of which no more than 3 fish may be equal to or exceed 40cm in length
King George whiting: 20 per person, minimum legal size is 27cm.
Silver trevally: 20 per person, minimum legal size is 20cm.
Calamari: 10 per person, no minimum size.
Australian salmon: 20 per person, minimum legal size is 21cm.
Gummy / school shark: a total limit of 2 for gummy shark and/or school shark, minimum legal size is 45cm partial length.
Seven-gill, bronze whaler sharks: 1 per person, no minimum size.
Elephant fish: 1 per person, no minimum size.
Mulloway: 5 per person, minimum legal size is 60cm.
Warehou: 20 per person, no minimum size.
Garfish: 40 per person, no minimum size.