Elephant Fish

Photo: Preston Northcote Angling Club

Elephant fish (Callorhinchus miliii) are an unusual fish with an elongated body and a unique trunk-like tip on their snout. They use the sensory pores on their long snout to find prey, have silvery skin with irregular dark markings on their sides and fins.  While males have larger snouts than females, females grow larger in size. An elephant fish may grow up to 1.2 metres in length, weight around 7kg and can live up to 15 years. Their name is deceiving as an elephant fish is not actually a fish. They are a type of chimaera, a cartilaginous fish meaning they are related shark and rays.

While they are typically found in shallow waters during breeding season, elephant fish can be found at depths greater than 600m and predominantly live on coastal continental shelves. Elephant fish can be found in Port Phillip Bay and Barwon River Estuary, however, Western Port is known to be the most popular nursery area for elephant fish in southeast Australia.

Annually between March and May, elephant fish spend approximately 8 to 10 weeks spawning in Western Port. Female elephant fish produce eggs which hatch outside of the body, so the breeding fish enter the bay to lay their eggs in specialised nursey areas such as muddy or sandy surfaces. As elephant fish have a low reproductive rate, the females typically lays two eggs about a week apart. The eggs are left alone in shallow waters to develop and juveniles will emerge within 6 to 8 months.

There is no minimum or maximum legal size limit but elephant fish carry a 1 fish bag/possession limit in Victoria.

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