Port Fairy is an unimposing historic seaport between Warrnambool and Portland. While it might come across as a sleepy, seaside resort, Port Fairy always seems to attract exciting piscatorial headlines.
During the 1960s and ’70s, the headlines were about sharks – great whites to be precise. The first time I heard of Port Fairy was in November 1964 when Melbourne skindiver Henri Bource joined one of the world’s most exclusive clubs: those who have been attacked by a great white and survived. Henri lost a leg to a shark while diving in Dinghy Cove on the northern face of Lady Julia Percy Island, 16 km to the south-west.
A decade later saw the release of the movie Jaws, which boosted the popularity of gamefishing for great whites. Port Fairy became a gamefishing port and for a short time it attracted people like film star Lee Marvin and country singer John Denver. Fishing for white sharks (now illegal) soon went out of vogue and this historic seaport faded from the fishing spotlight.
In the spring of 2005 the township was back in the news with big mulloway, that enigma of the Victorian angler, being caught in the Moyne River in an area known as Belfast Lough. Apparently a few of the locals had managed to keep their secret stash of mulloway quiet for some time.
On 29 March 2006, Port Fairy hit the headlines again. This time it was a whopper: an 85 kg southern bluefin tuna. At the time it was the biggest southern bluefin caught by an angler in Victorian waters. The tuna, which took Ken Hines and Cameron Ordner four hours to land, was caught in 550 m of water 40 km south-west of Port Fairy. As if to prove it wasn’t a fluke, a few days later another bluefin of 60 kg was caught.
Most anglers who fish at Port Fairy chase smaller fare. Offshore anglers can catch mako, blue and thresher sharks. The inshore reefs are home to the likes of snapper, King George whiting, sweep and yellowtail kingfish.
The boat ramp is situated in the Moyne River and the entrance to the sea is safe.
East Beach can produce some excellent whiting fishing and, during winter, salmon to 4 kg are often caught. For estuary anglers, the Moyne River is better known for its bream, mullet and silver trevally than for mulloway. The Garden St Bridge is a popular spot, while the breakwater at the entrance can produce snapper, whiting and salmon.
Port Fairy is near several other favourite fishing spots. To the east is Killarney Beach, where you can launch a small boat. A short drive west brings you to Yambuk Lake, a highly regarded bream water. Yambuk is well signposted. After taking the turn-off, follow the road through the caravan park to the boat ramp and picnic area. Bream are caught upstream and downstream. The main lake, which is 500 m upstream of the ramp, is shallow in many areas. Access to the river is difficult. Anglers in the lake generally fish from boats 50–60 m out and cast back towards the shoreline.