Fishing and Boating in Shark Bay
Shark Bay is one of Western Australia's premier recreational fishing destinations and this massive protected marine embayment offers excellent fishing opportunities for small boat and shore-based anglers. There are innumerable fishing sites around the bay but it is important to be aware of the different zones and regulations in place before heading out to catch yourself a feed. Both the Department of Fisheries and the Department of Parks and Wildlife have regulations and marine zones in place that you must be aware of or risk a hefty fine. Read below for more details.
|Click here for a copy of the full
Shark Bay marine reserves brochure
with a zoning map.
Get this map of the zoning boundaries by
Where Can I Fish in Shark Bay?
A large part of Shark Bay is protected as marine park yet there are relatively few areas where recreational line fishing is not permitted. No line fishing is permitted in the Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve or within these sanctuary zones: 18 Mile Beach, Mary Anne Island, Gudrun Wreck, Surf Point, Sandy Point, Big Lagoon, Disappointment Reach and L'haridon Bight.
Each zone in the marine park have different restrictions on what you can and can't do. To familiarise yourself with the zones and get a copy of GPS coordinates for each zone download the map or brochure at right.
The wide expanses of water in Shark Bay make it an attractive destination for boaters. Whilst most parts of the bay are accessible by boat there are some important points to be aware of:
- In summer the southerly winds can be fierce. Always check local conditions before heading out.
- Generally the water is shallow across the bay so keeled boats will have difficulty navigating through some areas.
- Boat access is restricted in certain areas to protect sensitive habitats. For example the Gladstone Special Purpose Zone is closed to boat access at certain times of the year to protect the breeding dugongs that congregate there. Similarly access to the Dolphin Interaction Area at Monkey Mia is restricted to protect the feeding dolphins. Visit our interactive marine zone map for details on each zone and their relevant regulations.
Be prepared! There is always an element of risk when boating. Manage the risk and you will have a great trip. Check this website
out for everything you need to know about recreational fishing safety.
There are numerous boat ramps around the World Heritage Area to suit all boat and trailer sizes. Fully formed ramps suitable for large boats are located in Denham and at Monkey Mia. A boat ramp is also located at the Nanga Bay Resort on South Peron.
At some remote locations boats can be launched straight off the beach. The small tides and shallow slope of most beaches make this option attractive for small dinghies and 4WD’s with high clearance trailers. Boats can be launched off the beach at Gladstone and Bush Bay on the Wooramel Coast, all campsites in Francois Peron National Park and at Shelter Bay near Steep Point. Download our Shark Bay map to locate these sites.
There are a number of excellent fishing sites around Shark Bay and too many to discuss in detail here. We’ve picked some of the more popular spots to provide an overview:
Steep Point, False Entrance and South Passage
Famous for its cliff fishing for mackerel and other pelagic species, Steep Point attracts hard core anglers prepared to use special equipment to land prized fish. This is not your normal fishing however as helium balloons are used to float bait offshore and special gaffs are required to haul fish up the cliff face. The late summer months are the best time for catching pelagics from the cliffs but camping spots are in high demand during this time so book ahead.
Further south is False Entrance, which like Steep Point offers cliff fishing for mackerel and other pelagics. The limestone rock in this area is very jagged however and can be demanding on your footwear; bare foot fishing is not recommended! Camping is possible here at informal sites near the beach.
During the winter months the winds drop off and camping at Steep Point is focussed on the beautiful beaches inside South Passage. Boats can be launched straight off the beach so you can access the waters of South Passage and, if conditions are right, the waters outside of the Zuytdorp Cliffs and Dirk Hartog Island.
Going Rock Fishing at Steep Point or Dirk Hartog Island?
Fishing from the steep cliffs along Shark Bay's western edge is a thrilling yet dangerous pastime. Serious accidents can and do occur! To make sure you are fully prepared and aren't putting your life in danger grab a copy of our information sheet here
and be prepared!
Fishing off the cliffs at Steep Point requires
specialised equipment to haul the fish
up the steep rock face
Going rock fishing? Get a copy of our
rock fishing fact sheet here!
For all camping at Steep Point, Shelter Bay, False Entrance and South Passage you will need a 4WD and have a permit. For all the information on preparing for a trip to Steep Point including how to get your camping permit go here.
Dirk Hartog Island
The waters around Dirk Hartog Island are quickly gaining a reputation with anglers as the place to land some mighty fish. Like Steep Point the island has some spectacular cliff fishing and anglers seek out sites on the western coastline to try and land some hefty pelagic species like tuna, mackerel and kingfish.
The flow of warm water from the north, known as the Leeuwin Current, can also bring gamefish close to shore, with sailfish and marlin being sought after species.
Land based fishing on the sheltered eastern coastline is also fruitful with tailor, flathead and even giant trevally being caught.
The staff at the Dirk Hartog Island homestead
are able to assist with planning a fishing holiday and can organise a vessel for day or overnight charter. Visit our Dirk Hartog Island visitor guide
for all the information on access, accommodation and permits.
Francois Peron National Park
A popular ‘get away from it all’ destination with easy access to a number of quiet coastal campsites, this park is perfect for a relaxing fishing holiday. Shore based fishing is less demanding here than over at Steep Point and with relatively little effort you can catch a feed of whiting, flathead and tailor from the numerous beaches. Access to each of the coastal camping sites is by 4WD only and if you wish to fish further offshore in a dinghy make sure you have a high clearance trailer. The tracks are notoriously sandy so let your tyre pressure down! For all the details on Francois Peron National Park see our visitor guide.
Fishing is possible in the waters off Monkey Mia and from the beach areas adjacent to the resort. Although the water is generally shallow in these areas it is possible to catch some of the inshore species like whiting and flathead. Basic supplies are available from the resort.
Fishing at Bottle Bay
Common fish species
Given the wide variety of marine habitats in the bay you can catch most of Western Australia’s sought after species, often in good number and size.
Boat based fishing can provide catches of large pink snapper, groper, cod, mackerel and coral trout. Bluebone groper can be caught along with nor’ west snapper around rocky areas further into the bay.
|At Steep Point narrow barred Spanish mackerel are often the target species but sailfish, tuna, cobia and yellow tailed kingfish are also commonly caught, making this site one of the most exciting shore-based fishing destinations in Australia.
Beach based fishing in Francois Peron National Park and other areas around Peron Peninsula will land you whiting, tailor and flathead.
Pink snapper has long been an icon species for the area. In recent years, the popularity of Shark Bay as a fishing destination has meant that snapper populations in the inner gulfs have come under increasing pressure and require careful management in order to ensure their future.
Spanish mackerel are frequently caught at Steep Point
Visit the Department of Fisheries website
for fish species identification guides.
Rules and regulations
Whilst the fishing in Shark Bay can be very productive there is a fine balance between conserving fish stocks and ensuring there is enough fish for everyone to catch a feed. Fishing regulations can be divided into three areas:
- Bag and possession limits
- Shark Bay Marine Reserves zones
- Fisheries Zones (particularly for pink snapper fishing)
Bag and Possession Limits
Special bag and possession limits are in place for Shark Bay so as to better manage local fish stocks. In the inner gulfs of the bay for example it is illegal to fillet fish whilst at sea; only whole fish can be brought ashore. There are also daily bag limits of one for pink snapper in these inner gulfs. For all of the rules and regulations that apply to Shark Bay see the Department of Fisheries' Recreational Fishing Guide
for the region.
Shark Bay Marine Park Zones
The Shark Bay Marine Park was declared to conserve Shark Bay’s rich marine biodiversity while allowing public enjoyment of the region. A zoning system is in place within the marine park to appropriately manage the local marine ecosystems. These regulations not only protect fish stocks but also dugong habitat, seagrass meadows and stromatolites.
Click on this interactive map
for information on each of the zones in the Shark Bay Marine Park.
Fisheries Zones and Pink Snapper Regulations
Over and above the marine park zoning system there are special zones in place to better manage the local pink snapper population. Research has shown that pink snapper in different areas of the bay have limited ‘home ranges' and do not interbreed with each other, or the wider ranging oceanic population. For this reason these populations have suffered quite dramatically from overfishing in the past and now must be managed as separate stocks.
More information is available in the Recreational Fishing Guide for the Gascoyne Region
Commercial fishing charters and boat hire
Don’t have your own boat and want to go fishing offshore? Several charter boat companies in Denham can either take you on fishing charters or even hire out boats for you to use. Visit this search engine to find a charter company to suit your needs.
Caring for the marine environment
Shark Bay is one of our most significant natural treasures and a World Heritage listed site. Please help protect the area by doing the following:
- Reduce boat speed around dugongs, turtles and whales. Approach dugongs and turtles at slow speed and keep at least 50m away. stay 100m from whales and do not go within 30 degress either side of their direction of travel.
- Dugongs, dolphins and turtles frequent seagrass banks and are at high risk of being hit by boats. Each year animals are injured or killed by propellers. Note the location of seagrass banks and avoid crossing shallow areas.
- Propellers also destroy seagrass. These plants are the key ecological driver in Shark Bay and once removed, they can take decades to recover. If the tide is low and you cannot cross a bank without dragging your propeller through seagrass turn back and go around.
- Coral anchors cause severe damage to coral and seagrass and should not be used. Anchor only in bare sand.
- Shark Bay is rich in bird life, including migratory and breeding seabirds. It is also Australia’s most important nesting area for loggerhead turtles. Observe and conserve – do not disturb nesting turtles and seabird colonies.
- Fish for the future – Take only what you need. Observe statewide possession limits now in place. Quickly return undersize and unwanted fish to the water. Discard of all rubbish and fishing line appropriately.
When boating and fishing:
- Know zone boundaries and regulations
- Fish for the future - Fish for a feed, not for the freezer
- Watch for dugong, dolphin and turtles
- Dispose of litter responsibly, especially fishing line and plastic
- Catch and release your fish carefully
- Dispose of fish offal 1 km offshore
- Fish in sanctuary zones or the Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve
- Spearfish on SCUBA or hookah
- Cross seagrass banks at low tide
- Use coral anchors
- Disturb wildlife
- Camp on islands
For more information contact…
Department of Parks and Wildlife
Shark Bay District Office
63 Knight Terrace
Denham WA 6537
Ph: +61 8 9948 2226
Fax: +61 8 9948 1024
Monkey Mia Office
Ph: +61 8 9948 1366
Fax: +61 8 9948 1512
Mid-west Region Office
201 Foreshore Drive
Geraldton WA 6530
Ph: +61 8 9921 5955
Fax: +61 8 9921 5713
Western Australian Department of Fisheries