Western Port bay, is located under 1 hour southeast of Melbourne. WesternPort is one of the most underrated fishing destinations in Victoria.
Snapper, King George whiting, gummy shark, mulloway (jew fish), Flathead and the elephant fish are all fishing options in the waters of Western Port. No matter the time of year Western Port has something to offer the Fisherman!. Many people are put off fishing Western Port Bay because of the large tidal range and flow. There are many sand and rock banks in Western Port, these should not be looked at as boating hazards but fish holding structures! It’s simple, stay in the chanells and get on the hot spots!
The purpose of this article is to educate you on the wonderful fishing that can be had on Western Port. Western Port will reward the anglers willing to listen, learn and fish the tides. To be a catch more fish in Western Port you need to use the right tackle. The fishing gear and tackle used in Westernport depends on what you want to catch. If your fishing for whiting, flathead and similar smaller fish use light rods such as a nibbletips or quivertips in combination with a small threadline reels. Spool these reels with 8-10lb mono, or for those with braid rig up with 6-15lb. A running sinker is always best with a sinker clip (Ezy Rig), however a Paternoster rig will also work quite well. I prefer to use a size 4 hook but anything between 6-1/0 is fine, but remember to match your hook to your bait. Snapper, Gummy Shark and Mulloway fishing is done with either 10kg mono outfits or for those using briad, anything from 20-60lb, spinning or overhead outfits are fine and rods should have a fair bit of power not only to lift large fish but also to lift the sometimes heavy sinkers required. Braided line is my choice when fishing Western Port, braided line is finer in diameter and has no stretch, this not only lets you use less lead but also helps you feel more bites!
Step 1: an Ezi-rig (sinker clip) is threaded onto the main line;
Step 2: a quality ball bearing swivel (don’t use barrel swivels as they are only line joiners and do nothing to reduce line twist) is tied into the line. Black swivels are best as they don’t attract as much attention from Barracouta. the best swivel sizes are a 3-4.
Step 3: Tie the trace to the other end of the swivel. I like to use a mono trace in the 40-80lb range. While flurocarbon is best a high quality monofilament with abrasion resistance is fine. A trace should be about 1-1.5 meters long, but don’t make it so long you cant manage it!
Step 4: The hooks should be between 3/0-6/0. I use Chemically Sharpened high carbon nickle hooks. These are very sharp straight out of the packet and if left in fish that are released rust out in days.
Step 5: Sinkers all depend on the tide, sinkers will range from 1-12oz! Best styles are all dependant on the bottom fished, I tend to favor Snapper Leads, however Bomb, Bank and Ball can all be used!
Salmon, Tailor, Pike and Barracouta all bust up from time to time keeping the resident bait fish on their game. To target these critters a silver lure, skirted lure or piece of Mc Donalds Straw will do the trick. If Tailor are about you will need a wire trace. Snapper: Snapper enter Western Port from late August/ early September, and can stay as late as early May. Fishing is best in the channels, Gutters and over the reefs. A fish Finder and a GPS are very useful tools as they help you position the boat in the correct areas and locate schools of fish. Snapper are grazing feeders and are best baited with pilchards, squid, garfish, red rockets, scad, tuna, mackerel and silver whiting. A varity of baits is always best as it can help you pick the right flavor for the day! Burley is great when snapper fishing, over the years I have gone through 100’s of different brews, but a simple burley block is as good as anything.
Remember if your going to kill it, chill it! Snapper should be bled by running a sharp knife through the top of the gills and cutting down to the bottom of the gills. Then put it on ice
Mulloway: Now more of a target than ever, the elusive Mulloway is fining itself more often in anglers sights. Mulloway are best in the Autum months but they can be caught all year round. They are more often a by-catch of Snapper or gummy Shark anglers and while most fish are in the 3-7kg range the odd 30kg monster lurks. The gear for mulloway is the same as that used for Snapper and Gummies however for best results live baits of salmon, mullet, squid and tummy ruff are best.
Mulloway are best fished for at night, however offer the right bait in the right place at the right time and sucess will be yours! Gummy and School Shark: The gummy and School sharks is often caught by people fishing for snapper and vise versa as they then to favor the same environments. Most gummy and school sharks caught weigh between 3-10 kilos, but there is always a chance of a 30kg big grey sub. Gummies and Schoolies fight hard and will eat the same baits as snapper with the inclusion of eel. I tend to find that the best bait of all is fresh squid and salmon. Gummy sharks are the ones with the blue spots and no teeth, School Sharks are the ones that look like Gummies but have no spots and sharp teeth. School Shark is the only other fish that can be legally sold as Gummy Shark in the fish markets.
Gummy and School Sharks should always be bled and Chilled, to bleed a Shark make a cut on top of the head just behind the eyes through the spine. This not only kills the shark but bleeds it as well making for a very humane capture.
King George Whiting: The King George whiting is one of the most sort after fish in Western Port. While they can be caught all year they are best after Christmas till May. Whiting are most prolific in shallow sandy areas with weed beds. Whiting are best fished for in water of 1-4 meters however I have caught them in depths of over 15 meters. Light rods with soft tips are perfect and hooks of either wide gape for mussel or pipi baits or longshank for squid or worms are perfect, and if you can get Bass Yabbies (Nippers) they will be fine on either style. As a tip a bit of red tube or some red beads above your hook can really bring the fish on the bite! Once again if your going to kill it, chill it! Whiting are one of the best table fish in Oz so don’t waste them.
Squid (Souther Calamari)
Are caught all year round on the weed beds and reefs and are best in Spring and Autum. Squid in Western Port can reach over 4kg and are fished for with both baited jigs and artifical jigs. Burley can be very helpful in bringing them to you and getting them on the chew! The best depth to catch them in is between 2-4 meters. Whiting tackle is fine or you can go old style and use a handline!
The elephant fish is often called a shark but it’s closer to a ray. Elephant fish are visitors to Western Port Bay during Autum. Elephant fish are not fussy and will eat just about anything however: pilchards are best, burley is the key to sucess and a running sinker rig with a 3/0 hook is prefered. Elephants are great fun on whiting tackle. Elephnat fish are good on the plate but take care with the spine on the top of their back where their dorsal fin is!
Again they are best stored on ice so if your going to kill it, chill it!
Western Port Bay has a lot to offer anglers. For the best results always fish 2 hours either side of a tide change. There are so many species to catch you never quite know what will come up next. Western Port Bay is a complex marine system with so much to offer, Mangroves, Weedbeds, Sandbanks, Channels, Gutters, Reefs and Islands make this a truely amazing fishing experiance! So get out there and get on the water and experiance what Western Port Bay has to offer!