Baitfish pave the way
  |  First Published: November 2008

I think we are in for a great Summer of fishing, one which should exceed a lot of people’s expectations.

As I write, the estuaries and harbours are filling with baitfish and one can expect the predators won’t be too far away. They should be herding the bait into the warmer shallows and into places where anglers in small boats are able to find them.

Whitebait, herring and miles of sprats are combing over the sandflats and around headlands. Flathead should be shrugging off their lethargy and feeding freely on them by now, as should the bream and jewfish.

We have had an unusual number of reports of good jewfish lately. The Hunter River, the mouth of Newcastle Harbour and along both breakwalls have been producing fish to about 15kg with a few smaller ones as well.

Rain in previous months has helped a lot and with the influx of bait these most sought after-fish are improving. Although a few good Winter captures were recorded that season didn’t stand up to prior years.

It’s no wonder DPI Fisheries is taking a lot of interest in how many we actually catch. I can see a DPI-initiated survey to monitor capture rates next year – remember the mass Fisheries survey exercise back in the late 1990s when they had volunteers on every ramp over a week asking about captures of all fish? It was the precursor to new size and bag limits.


Most bream taken haven’t been bad. Fish around a kilo have entered the systems and are roaming the headlands and beaches. This month around the larger tide cycle is a very productive time. As we near Christmas the prawns run on the darks and bream feed more freely at night.

Whiting have failed to show in huge numbers at this stage but there are enough around for those who want to seek out these tasty little fish. The beaches are best, especially closer to the estuary mouths where there are numerous sandbanks.

The warmer the weather, the more whiting will come on so pray for some nor-easters to push warmer water our way and with them will come the bigger schools of whiting.

Luderick seem to have become so thick around this region that they are a year-round option. We were just off Horseshoe Beach when schools of them travelled past us just below the surface, including some models up to 2kg. It was a shame we had only lures on board.

So this month I’m predicting winds turning nor’-easterly at a good rate of knots, punching warmer currents in to our shores. The amount of bait will definitely trigger some action and the fishing should be pretty good.

At the first sign of slimy mackerel, the pelagics should be lining up.

What ever happened to the hordes of bonito that used to set the scene for what was to come each season? I am sure they’re being canned somewhere for food or sliced as cheap sashimi; they have been a non-event around here for the past two years which is a shame; they were great bait and good sport on light gear.


Offshore fishing is picking up with the leatherjackets heading south on the current. Morwong have been plentiful and some good bags of squire have been taken around the Merewether Reefs all the way down to Redhead.

Tailor are still a good early morning option although this month they scatter a bit from now, but there are still a few around.

So this month a troll offshore for pelagics, a live bait on a drop-off or deep hole in the estuary, drift-casting with lures or bait for flathead, whiting and bream should pay off.

Along with flathead and bream, whiting don’t eat just worms. I get sick of anglers saying it’s no use unless you have live worms – a peeled prawn or strip of mullet also catches fish.

I think worms can make bad anglers look good and at over $1 each, you at times could have just paid that amount for a feed of fish, anyway. Don’t forget that the prolific mullet, white bait, sandy sprats and slimy mackerel can be either frozen salted or in a frozen slurry of salted ice water for use when the fishing really peaks.

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