Janurary sparks the new beginning of the annual elephant shark run along South Eastern Victoria. Making their way from deep in the Tasman Sea, Elephants funnel into the South Eastern waterways to lay their eggs. By the millions they infiltrate each system searching out potential meals, decaying fish, crustaceans and Molluscs.
When the elephants arrive, anglers are separated into two groups, those that like to catch them and those that don’t.
The reason there are some that don’t is because they are often busy targeting other prized species like gummy sharks, whiting and mulloway. From February until May, elephants are quick to hone in on berley trails and take any bait on offer including mussels and pipi’s.
Those fishing for other prized species get frustrated fairly quickly when they begin hauling in elephant after elephant. For those that enjoy a bit of flake on the table, them it is during these times that elephants are in abundance.
There really isn’t much technical information required when fishing for elephants, rather knowing a good location is generally a good start.
When fishing for elephants from the boat, the right fishing gear is very important. Elephants aren’t known for their sports fishing capabilities; they are mainly caught on heavy tackle and winched to the boat. This is so because it is the easiest way for anglers to catch a feed of flake without the need for putting in hours on the water trying to find a gummy shark.
Your standard snapper fishing outfits are more than adequate but for a bit of a challenge, use your whiting gear. Once hooked, you won’t lose your catch but at least you get a good fight from it. In saying that, 10lb braid on a 4000 series reel is more than heavy enough. You will need to keep the leader material up around the 20lb mark for when the elephant rolls in the leader it won’t bust you off.
Elephants have quite a soft mouth and sharp hooks easily penetrate. I have found the Black Magic 3/0 KL circle hook the ideal elephant hook. This hook is the perfect size to fit in their small mouth, better yet being a circle pins the side of the lip eliminating hook-ups further inside the mouth or throat.
This means they are easier to get off the hook and will release just fine without the need for surgery from a completely swallowed hook. Considering your bag limit is now only one fish per person per day, you will be releasing quite a few if you decide to continue to catch them after landing the first, this is where the circle hooks will pay dividends.
Although any rig will do providing the bait is close to the bottom, a running sinker rig is best offered. Not only does it allow your bait to be near the seabed but it allows the fish to take the bait without feeling any pressure from the rod loading. Line will immediately peel from the spool and as long as you have your drag set, the hook will set by itself.
Elephants are partial to most baits but keeping them smaller in size will enable a fist bite hook-up meaning they won’t have to pick at the bait before eating, in mouthful it’s gone.
Half pilchards, squid strips and pipi’s are their most favoured and as long as you have at least one of these three baits in the water between Feb and May you’re in with an excellent chance.
Though they are not the most attractive looking fish in the sea, they are perfectly adapted to suit their environments.
Elephants have a type of trunk nose and it’s not there to discourage people from eating them. The nose or trunk is used as a plough to sift through the soft mud for food, as molluscs are their main staple diet, finding them beneath the mud is easy when you have a plough to sift them out. Knowing this should give a good indication as to where to find them. Western Port is so famous for its run of elephants that it has a location happily called the 'Elephant Triangle'.
This location is located if you draw a line from Rhyll to Corinella, then from Corinella to Tortoise Head and back to Rhyll. This huge triangle is mostly a 6 meter deep mud flat that is around 302 Kilometres, sure a few channels exist in it but for the majority it is flat silty mud, the ideal elephant habitat.
Elephants don’t just take up residence here though; Corinella and the mosquito channel are popular locations as are the channel in the top end of the port like Boucher and Boltans, Tooradin and up the North Arm. If there was just one location to try I would have to choose Gardeners Channel on Tortoise Head, this channel is small but continues to produce each year. When finding elephants, you’re not looking for anything specific on your sounder. Providing you’re on the mud or in the channel and have a good blend of berley to attract them with, you’ll catch them.
From the wood, sand or stones:
Elephants may be able to be caught by boat anglers but for the land based brigade, they are also plentiful from the shore.
Whether you’re targeting them from a pier, rock platform or beach a 10-12ft surf rod is recommended. This is mainly for the benefit of making a further cast than what you would with a short 7ft rod.
Elephants aren’t known for line screaming runs and knee trembling battles however you will encounter large sting rays, eagle rays, seven gill sharks and the odd gummy shark as a by-catch. For this reason, I would highly suggest using a 6000 series spinning reel loaded with either 20 or 30lb braid. At least with braid of this strength you won’t have to spend too long battling a ray but if you hook a giller or gummy you will still land it.
The rig is quite simple; a running sinker rig can be used but often is a little difficult to cast from the land. I have designed my own fixed sinker rig in which I make a heavy duty three way swivel from a split ring and three crane swivels. Of course you can use a three way swivel but you are going to encounter line twist. By using a split rig and three crane swivels this problem won’t arise. The mainline is attached to one of the swivels, the sinker on another and a meter of 60lb leader on the other swivel.
Most anglers would have heard or fished from Stock Yard Point located on the South Gippsland Hwy just past Lang Lang. This location is a huge sand spit and is very productive but must be fished only on a dead low tide. Tenby point near Corinella, the Corinella pier and Settlement Point adjacent to Corinella Pier are other productive locations in Western Port to target elephants from. Even so, Cowes, Stony Point, Newhaven and the Grantville jetties are also worth fishing from. Grantville jetty is very productive but only on a high tide; mind you it is very small allowing only one angler to fish from its end.
Land Based anglers often struggle around Western Port to catch quality fish unless they have previously put in the hours and know the best times and locations to fish from. For the weekend angler wanting to dangle a line in the hope of catching something, now’s you chance at hooking a beauty. With the Elephants about in huge numbers grab your gear and some bait and head to Stockyard Point, Corinella Tenby Point or Settlement Point for some hot fishing action you’ll never forget.
by Jarrod Day
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5:40 AM Wed 9 Jan 2013GMT
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