Hidden secrets of kayaking at Lang Lang

Lang Lang may seem like a muddy and featureless expanse of water, but the sunrises are beautiful.

• by Tom Wilson (first published November 2021)

Lang Lang, at the top end of Western Port Bay, is a rough diamond. A muddy and featureless expanse of water, it is not a fishing spot that generates visual excitement for the uninitiated. However, looks can be deceiving and Lang Lang is actually a fishing favourite for kayak, land-based, and boat anglers alike. Of all the spots that I fish from my kayak, Lang Lang is the one that most consistently provides a table sized gummy shark, all year round.

A decent pinky snapper caught in 2m of water.
Setting baits at dawn.
Meeting a few banjo sharks is inevitable at Lang Lang.
Releasing small fish quickly and taking only what you need for tonight’s dinner, will help gummy stocks in the future.
Lang Lang is like a shark nursery, so don’t expect big sizes.
A great sized gummy for Lang Lang.

Kayak Fishing Paradise

      Lang Lang has long been a popular kayak fishing destination. On any given day I would expect to see fishing kayaks outnumbering motorboats three to one – the old concrete boat ramp is barely capable of delivering a small tinny to the water at high tide, which might have something to do with it. Less important than the rustic charm of the boat ramp is the fact that quality gummy sharks and possibly snapper are just a short paddle away.

      Timing the tides at Lang Lang is crucial to planning an enjoyable trip. The soft, muddy edges are almost impassable at low tide so launching and retrieving within a few hours of the high is a must. There are two ways to approach a Lang Lang session in my opinion. One is to fish the low tide, focusing your efforts in and around the channel. The second is to fish the high tide, targeting fish that venture up onto the mud flats to feed. 

      There is a vast range of species that can be caught at Lang Lang. School and banjo sharks are always prevalent, snapper and elephant fish come and go, but the species that most anglers are there for is the gummy shark. I should mention at this point that this is not a spot where you are likely to break a gummy shark size record. Lang Lang is more like a shark nursery, where fish ranging from undersized to about 1.2m live a sheltered existence before heading out to the sea. Keep this in mind when you fish here and treat the little guys with respect. Releasing small fish quickly and taking only what you need for tonight’s dinner, will go a long way in preserving a special ecosystem.

Gummy Hunting

      Finding and catching gummy sharks in my kayak took me some time to figure out. I never expected to find success in 2m of muddy water at the top end of Western Port Bay, but that is the way it played out. I mentioned previously that there are high and low tide options for fishing Lang Lang and my preference is certainly the high. My theory is that gummies rise out of the channel at high tide to search the mud flats for tasty morsels. When these big predators leave the safety of the channel to cruise the shallows, they are there to eat!  

      All the usual gummy baits, such as eel, squid, and pilchard could work here but the secret weapon is a big prawn. Juvenile sharks spend a lot of time foraging for mantis shrimp and crabs around Lang Lang so the scent of a juicy crustacean sets them right off!

      You don’t need anything fancy in terms of a rig for this kind of fishing, a running sinker with two snelled hooks at the end is what I use. The snelled hooks provide a little extra hooking power and they also help to hold a large bait in a presentable position. Another key factor to consider is sinker weight. Make sure that your sinker is just heavy enough to keep your rig to the bottom when the tide runs.

      Gummy sharks hunt with their noses and this is well demonstrated in their ability to sniff out a prawn in murky waters. Because of this I try to position my baits in a way that strategically maximises the scent radius. I like to picture each set bait as having an invisible scent ring surrounding it. If I cast two baits at opposite 45º angles from the front of my kayak, the invisible circles overlap giving me a large scent presence in the area. A little bit of chopped berley thrown in to drift away on the current helps too. Once the trap is set it’s time to settle in for the waiting game. Given the quality of this location, I wouldn’t expect to wait long for a bite!

Snapper Surprise

      Lang Lang has always been a spot in which you can be surprised by a big snapper, but I never rated it highly as a snapper targeting destination. However, the number of great fish caught there recently has forced me to rethink this assessment. Not only have snapper been circling Lang Lang in big schools, but they show up at times when other spots are producing nothing better than a 30cm pinky. It might be warm water temperatures in the shallows or some other factor that I’m missing, but something makes Lang Lang special in its ability to produce snapper outside of the recognised season.

      In all honesty, many of my Lang Lang snapper catches have been by-catch when I was targeting gummy sharks. Snapper hunt across the same mud flats at high tide, and the same rigs and methods are effective. The only adjustment I make if I sense that snapper are in the area, is that I will swap a prawn bait for a slimy mackerel or a pilchard. In the upcoming season I plan to target snapper with soft plastics and hardbodied lures. Lure fishing is not common practice at Lang Lang but when snapper are feeding in the area, I’m convinced that I can make it work!

      Whether you fish from a kayak, boat, or land-based, do yourself a favour and wet a line at Lang Lang. The fight that you’re in for when you hook a good gummy in 2m of water is not to be taken lightly!