Offshore, estuaries star
  |  First Published: July 2011

Now for those mornings when the cold cuts right through you and you can sometimes see only 100m in front of you as the fog sits right on the water.

Winter has hit with a vengeance on the Hunter Coast this year and the thermometer has rarely passed 10° through the nights and early mornings. It’s been snowing on the Barrington Tops and we have had some of the coldest mornings recorded for 45 years.

So when you mention fishing to a mate you nearly have to twist his arm or blackmail him to join you.

All is not lost, though. Despite the cold the fishing has been pretty good offshore and in the estuaries.

Bream still seem to be the most prolific fish around and the luderick have moved into the estuaries. And over most reefs off Newcastle there are snapper, tailor, kingfish and nannygai.

Most anglers know that this is the time of year you can get into some heavy-duty action with two of the toughest fish in the sea – drummer and groper.

Both are at home around the rocky ledges and are easy to find and hook up to – it’s landing them that’s the hard bit. You need solid gear, heavy line and a good rod to handle these brutes.

Fresh red crabs are a must for the groper and fresh prawns for the drummer.

A few loaves of bread for berley, just a bit of swell to make a washy, sudsy area and you are in with a chance.

Both these fish hang right in close to the rocks and can be right under your feet.

I won’t use anything else for these fish but an Alvey reel, the perfect tool for hand-to-fin combat. The Alvey is great because you can palm the spool and put as much pressure on as you need.

Mono line around 15kg or braid around 24kg is the go. Schneider is still the yardstick for mono line off the rocks because it will take abrasion over the rocks very well.

A small pea sinker, the smaller the better, allows the bait to wash in the waves and look as natural as possible.

You need to keep in contact with your bait as it washes around and you have to be lightning fast on the uptake because both these fish will bury you in a second.

After the hook-up, just pull hard and hope that the fish doesn’t bury you in the kelp or the rocks.

Cod, leatherjackets and a lot of the wrasse family also love the rocky, washy areas as well so expect a few of these between the good fish.


The estuaries have been fishing OK but it’s been a lucky dip. One day it’s great then the next nothing is biting.

The fluctuating barometer and the dramatic cold changes don’t help much.

I was told that garfish were in close in huge schools just off Horseshoe Beach and in front of the Lions Park at Stockton. They’re great fun to catch on light line and a float and are great on the plate.

Nobbys and Stockton walls have been fishing well bream, long tom, and a few flounder over the sand patches and there is always a chance of good squire off the walls at this time of year.

Tailor are swimming the lengths of both walls, just look out for the diving gulls and terns. Chrome lures are great for the choppers because you can get the distance you need to reach them.

I have been told by a lot of anglers that squid are so thick everywhere that if you can’t catch one you should give up fishing. The run-out tide at Nobbys is best.

If you’re over the close reefs, drop a jig over the side and let it bob up and down by itself; you can usually get a few this way.

I see most anglers are now wearing their lifejackets to comply with the law that came into effect a while back. The rules can be found in the new Maritime booklet which will be posted when your licence or boat registration is due.

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