A small, long, slender-bodied fish with a protruding lower jaw which forms a spear. The body is silvery in colour with a light blue to greenish back. A silver stripe along the sides of the fish is distinctive. Small fins are set well back along the body. Scales are easily dislodged as a result of handling.
Garfish are found in large schools in open water and travel and feed between the surface and mid-water. Garfish are more common during the summer months but can be caught at other times of the year, and are often attracted to structures such as wharfs and piers. Garfish are found throughout all areas of Port Phillip Bay and Corio Bay, as well as adjacent coastal areas.
The average size of the Southern sea garfish in Port Phillip Bay and Corio Bay would be between 100 and 250 g. Larger fish up to 400 g may be encountered at times in the bays and are more common in coastal waters.
Fishing techniques and tackle
Garfish are a small species and only light tackle is required, although as the jaw of a garfish is abrasive, a heavier trace is recommended. As garfish are not bottom-feeders, the use of a float to keep the bait suspended below the surface is required. A quill float (which offers little resistance to the fish) is ideal and readily signals a fish taking the bait below. The float should be balanced by attaching one or two split shot below it and size 10 -12 long-shank hooks are recommended. When hooked, garfish put up a spectacular little fight often jumping clear of the water several times. Garfish can be caught at all times of the day and tide, however using a berley of breadcrumbs (which can be soaked in tuna oil) is essential to attract fish and keep them in the area when fishing.
Baits need to be cut very small and fish will take pieces of most common baits such as pipies, prawn, squid, sand worm, and fish flesh. Garfish can also be caught on bread dough and maggots.
Garfish are attracted to structures such as piers and are a good land-based fishing option. Piers worth trying include Brighton, St Kilda, Station Pier, Kerford Road, Mornington, Portarlington and St Leonards. Garfish can be caught from a boat in most areas of Port Phillip Bay.
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.