Sharks of Port Phillip Bay

    As we venture out on the fishing charter vessel Plover, from the Mornington Pier, excitement at the thought of a good catch is in the air. The crews’ intentions are to target Snapper, but low and behold the sharks are on the bite.

    Port Phillip Bay is home to a variety of shark species: Gummy, Seven Gill, Port Jackson, Thresher … just to name a few. Bay Fish N Trips have been fortunate to catch several of these magnificent creatures. Even though they specifically don’t target shark, as a by product, they can add much excitement to a fishing charter.

    The facial expressions on a person, young and old, bringing their first shark to the surface is great to watch. A smile soon turns to a grin. For some people, a happy exterior is masking an inner fear “SHARK – dangerous man eater”.

    Sharks can create havoc as they are reeled in. They turn somersaults and often entangle other lines, but the end result is always well worth the chaos.

    Plover’s crew unhooks and untangles each shark with care. They are a creature from the dark ages. They have roamed our seas much longer than man, with fossils from some of the oldest sharks dating back 450 million years. They also delouse them. Most sharks (and other fish) have an ability to attract squatters that attach to their fins, tails and tongues. These freeloaders include sea lice and leeches, both of which can do untold damage. They need to be carefully removed and disposed of especially on sharks returning to the water.

    Fish are grouped into three Classes - the cartilaginous fishes (sharks, skate & stingrays), the jaw less fishes and the bony fishes. A shark is a vertebrate (has a back bone) but it is made of cartilage, not bone. There are several species of sharks. Sharks are most common in the bay during the warmer months as the follow the migrations of fish into the warm water of Port Phillip Bay.

    The best baits are oily bloody fish flesh baits like Tuna, Trevally, Salmon and Pilchards but Squid has also enticed some of these creatures of the deep.

    The following is some information about shark species that have been caught or seen by Bay Fish N Trips on Port Phillip Bay:

    • Gummy – grow up to 1.75 m in length. Bronze to grey shark with white spots. A mother may give birth from 1 to 40 pups, but average 14. Legal size to keep is 45 cm between the rear of the gill slits and the base of the tail fin. Limit of 2. Most commonly called Flake in the fish shops. Lots of pups caught this year. Can’t wait till they grow up. Research indicates this could be just over 12 months.
    • Seven Gill – grow up to 3 m in length. Recognisable by its 7 gill slits (most other sharks have 5). The body and the fins are covered in small black & white spots. A mother may hatch 80 – 95 pups, each pup measuring 40-45 cm in length. No minimum legal size.
    • Port Jackson – grow up to 1.6 m in length. Harmless and gorgeous looking sharks. Were a protected species but it is now legal to keep 1 of no minimum size.
    • Thresher – grow up to 6.1 m in length. Usually found in deeper waters of Bass Strait but have been known to enter Port Phillip.
    • Banjo (or Southern Fiddler Ray) – not that tasty. Can be a lot of fun for people who have never fished before. Annoying for regular fishermen.
    • Hammerhead - grow up to 6 m in length. Several of this species of shark circled the vessel Plover for several minutes recently. Very unusual in the bay! Normally found in the deeper waters of Bass Strait and beyond.
    • Other species can include: School, Angel, Wobbegong, Blue, Mako, Bronze Whaler, Great White and Swell Sharks. Most are dangerous and many are protected. Always check a current Victorian Fisheries Authority "Recreational Fishing Guide" for fishing rules and practices.