Elephant Fish

We fish we care

Genus  Callorhinchus milii


Elephant fish are quite similar to sharks and are covered with a smooth shiny skin and lack scales. They are easily recognized by the peculiar trunk-like appendage extending from the top jaw.  Another distinct feature is the long spine which is located at the front of the first dorsal fin. Elephant fish are silver in colour with dark brown blotches. The pectoral fins are particularly large.



Elephant fish undertake an annual spawning migration into shallow bays and estuaries during autumn. Large numbers of elephant fish move into Westernport Bay during this time. At other times of  the year this species inhabits deep offshore waters.



Elephant fish caught in the Port Phillip region generally range in size between 1.5 kg and 3 kg, with occasional bigger fish to 5 kg or more. The larger fish are generally females.


Fishing techniques and tackle

Elephant fish are a fairly easy fish to catch and will take a variety of baits presented on the bottom using either a running sinker or paternoster rig. If fishing from a boat, a medium-action (4-6 kg) rod  of around 2.1 metres in length would be recommended. Hooks used will depend on the type and size of bait, but will generally be between size 2/0 and 4/0. Sinker weight will depend on the strength  of the current. Longer surf rods and heavier sinkers will be required if fishing from the shore where casting a fair distance is necessary.



A variety of baits can be used to catch elephant fish including pilchards, squid, octopus and fillets and strips of flesh from various other fish such as bonito, mullet and legal-sized salmon.



Westernport Bay is renowned for the numbers of elephant fish that are caught from boats each year between February and May. The most popular location is the area between Corinella, Tortoise  Head and Churchill Island, which is often referred to as the ‘elephant triangle’. Elephant fish can also be caught from the shore in this area at various locations around Lang Lang. Smaller numbers of  fish are caught in the Barwon River and along the Bellarine Peninsula from beaches such as Ocean Grove, Torquay and Anglesea. Few elephant fish are caught in Port Phillip Bay and are generally  accidental captures when fishing for snapper.



Sustainable fishing techniques

  • Hook damage is the most significant cause of fish dying after being released. Deep-hooked (gills, gut) fish are far less likely to survive.
  • Fish with a tight line so that fish are less likely to swallow the hook.
  • Increase the size of your hooks to prevent small fish swallowing them.
  • Avoid suspending fish on the hook.
  • Fish hooked in the mouth or lip have the best chance of survival.
  • Remove the hook with long nosed pliers.
  • If you can’t see the whole hook protruding from the mouth of the fish don’t try and remove it.
  • Cut the line and release the fish.
  • Wet your hands before handling the fish.
  • Avoid touching the gills and eyes.
  • Return the fish as quickly as possible.