Fishing for elephant fish in Western Port has become an institution. Anglers hang out for the first signs that the fish are starting to migrate into the bay. In general terms, the Elephant Triangle (GPS: S38.26.826, E145.19.165) is in the eastern side of Western Port, bordered by Rhyll, Tortoise Head and Corinella.
The first time I fished the Elephant Triangle was with Gordon Forrester. It was a move of last resort, having spent several days offshore for no reward. The season was early for elephants, but we pulled in a few on fresh squid. Despite the good weather, there weren’t many boats on the water that day. On my next trip, the elephant bite was in full swing and the water was as busy as Bourke St Mall on Boxing Day.
Elephant fish are sharks that ripple their fins to swim, much the same as stingrays work their flaps. Strange-looking creatures with a proboscis like an elephant’s trunk, they are long and silvery, have large teddy-bear eyes and a skin colour with a satin sheen. They fight well and are delicious into the bargain. They are found in the same terrain you would expect to catch gummy shark: mudflats, sand and rubble ground. A bonus for anglers fishing the triangle is that pinkies and sometimes mulloway are hooked.
Elephants in the triangle can be caught in water depths of 4–13 m. Most anglers fishing lighter tackle prefer to hook them in the shallower water as they fight better when they haven’t got depth on their side.
Elephant fish fight big for their size, often near the surface like an eagle ray. Most are in the 3–4 kg range – a 6 kg elephant is a good one. Despite their size, they can sometimes confuse you when you set the hook. The first run can be hard and fast, and you begin to wonder whether you have hooked a snapper or a ray.