by Jarrod Day
Western Port in Victoria is one of the most prolific locations to regularly catch gummy sharks throughout the year but it is during the summer months the larger versions enter the port to breed. These larger females enter the port surrounding the full moon and hang around for some time in which they live bear their young before heading back offshore.
The author with a solid gummy from the Western Entrance.
It is during this time, that keen anglers follow the moon phases and tides keen to get out to catch and release these majestic sportfish.
Where: Although gummy sharks swim throughout the port, the most popular location in which anglers can regularly catch them is a location known as the Western Entrance. The Western Entrance is a main entrance into the port from Bass Strait. Basically every species that enters the port has to do so through this section of water.
Though it is a large area to fish, it isn’t a location to be fishing if you’re not a confident boater. This area is very deep averaging 25 meters and receives pressure from ocean swells and is heavily affected by strong tides. These contributing factors are what make it the ideal location to catch gummies but you need to be setup correctly to do so or you may run into problems.
Anglers new to the area can easily get caught up in the hype surrounding big gummy sharks and not be aware of the requirements to fish this area. While your rods, reels and tackle needs to be able to support heavy tackle, your boat also needs to be set up accordingly beginning with the right anchor.
Any boat fishing the area should have the right anchor, either a plough or sarca along with a boat length of at least 10mm chain. In this situation, an electric anchor winch helps as retrieving the anchor in a strong current can be very hard work for some. The tide can run at up to 8 knots depending on the strength of the tide and correctly anchoring can be extremely hard work.
If you don’t have the anchor setup right, you wont hold and could drift into another boat causing damage or just drift off your mark.
When the slower tides occur after a full moon, fishing the Western Entrance is a lot easier than the lead up to the full.
When: The prime time to be searching out big gummy sharks is from January through to March but keep an eye on the moon phases and fish the lead up and down to the full moon. It is when you have the slower run out tides that makes fishing this area a little easier and when you have more of a change to encounter such a fish. Fishing these slower tides allows you to use lighter sinkers along with allowing you to fish an entire tide cycle rather than just two hours either side of a tide change as you normally would at any other time of the months.
Fresh bait is the key to success. Make sure you have a good selection when on the hunt.
Baits: Gummy sharks are a scavenger and will take practically any bait offered but enhancing your chances can be done with fresh baits. Yellow-tail, salmon, mullet, calamari, pike, snook and trevally are all available for anglers to catch in the port and make very good baits for gummy sharks. They can be caught on the Middle Spit on your way down to the Western Entrance and can be caught with small hooks while using berley to attract them. These baits can be cut into various ways, but most success occurs when they are cut into round chunks. These will ooze the fishes oils when sitting on the bottom which will bring a gummy to the bait.
The setup: The main setup when fishing the Western Entrance surrounds the fact that heavy sinkers are required to hold your bait on the bottom. The force of the current can cause light sinkers to rise in the water column in which a gummy may not try to eat the bait because it is too difficult to try to catch while it is spinning in the current.
Knowing that up to 20 ounces of weight maybe required, rods need to be in the 8-12kg range with a 6000 or 8000 series reel capable of holding at least 300m of 50lb braid. Leader material should be a length of 80lb with an ezy rig sinker clip attached followed by a one meter length of 60lb for the bite leader. The hooks can be attached to the end of the 60lb and should be a single Black Magic KL 6/0 in which the chunk bait can nicely sit on.
Catch and release: These big gummy sharks are the breeders that keep the fishery sustainable and deserve to be released after capture. They are great fun to catch and put up a fantastic battle and although you are entitled to keep one for the table, a fish of this size is not very good on the plate. If I can just offer my thoughts, they are a beautiful fish that should be released after a few photos and left to finish their breeding cycle.
If you have ever wanted to catch and release a big gummy shark, the time is now. I suggest you pack your rods and get out amongst the action.