Things slow to thaw out
  |  First Published: September 2011

Many locals say this has been one of the coldest Winters for some time and who am I to disagree? Only the bravest fishers have ventured out and then mainly during the middle of the day.

And I can say with true honesty that the boat ramp car parks are near empty every time I pass them. Even in the middle of the day the wind chill isn’t good, but hopefully things have now changed for the better – they couldn’t have got much worse.

Sometimes the fishing just shuts down and I expect it to stay this way for a while unless the gods are kind to us and warm up the water a bit.

The offshore the reefs aren’t doing much. The cold currents are pushing up north at a tremendous rate some day. A few anglers have just given up and headed in to the close reefs or hit the estuaries. Leatherjackets, trevally, salmon and the odd big morwong (red and blue) have been the major captures.

Fishos who have gone out of their way to catch red rock crabs to drop over the shallow close reefs have been able to catch morwong as well as some thumping big groper. So if you’re into that sort of fishing, get the boat out.

The westerlies pounded us for a few days back in July and caused havoc, with boats letting go of moorings and some were even smashed into rocks or against wharfs.

Fortunately that should all be over by the end of this month.

The whales have been passing in large numbers and they have been in very close, I braved a trip with a friend to go spot a few. Unfortunately we only saw two and neither would dance for us, but just their awesome size really blows me away.

I never get sick of watching them, especially when they put on an aerial display, there’s nothing more breathtaking.

Off the rocks, drummer, groper and luderick are in the washes and there have been a lot of just legal bream taken, mainly on peeled prawns in the bread berley meant for the drummer.

The pigs have been there on the rougher days but they are still few and far between. Either the fish must have gone into a lethargic state or most fishers have.

You could always try a few of the well-known washes such as at the back of Merewether Baths, Newcastle Baths, the Boggy Hole rocks and the rocks out from Susan Gilmour Beach. Be there when it’s a little washy but if it’s too big, go home. As we have always said, no fish is worth the risk of a swim, especially up against razor-sharp oyster ledges where you can’t climb back out.

The beaches have been fishing OK but mostly for salmon, the very odd tailor and a few just legal (25cm) bream.

It’s salmon city this end of Stockton Beach and if you sit up near the hospital you can spot the schools passing by Newcastle. They have been busting into whitebait and some anglers have been reaching them behind the Newcastle baths with heavy chrome lures cast out on big beach gear. But most of the schools have been out too wide to cast to.


In Newcastle Harbour this is the time to live-bait for the biggest of the jewfish. The westerlies scream straight down the centre of the waterway but if you have a half-cab or a sizeable boat, this is the time to be there.

Over the past 15 years I have seen the biggest jewfish come in the worst of the weather, not heaps of schoolies but fish around 20kg to 30kg.

But you have to be keen and tough out the nights. Every year I see photos of huge fish taken from the end of August through to early November.

For the landlubbers they are also worth targeting from Stockton Wall. Try half-way down on the river side near the wreck of the Katoomba, or the Adolph wreck, it’s a bit more sheltered around there.

Obtaining live bait is a hard slog. Slimy macks have long gone, so squid or yellowtail seem to be the best.

Try spinning the length of the wall, you may pick up a tailor or two to use live. Just make sure they’re legal size (30cm), because Fisheries officers are well in the know that this time of year a few locals camp out and do very well on the jewfish so they brave the cold at times for spot checks.

Since it is big jewfish time, here’s a spot to try your luck for one. As you pass the Stockton Hospital, the first open field you can drive straight onto behind the first of the bushes there was an old trawler wharf.

A huge log and very small platform is all that exists these days.

You have to brave this small wharf and then get off it at high tide because the water creeps up behind you. When it does, fish from the small beach beside it, it’s only 6m cast to the drop-off from 3m to 15m of water and it’s even marked with a buoy.

It’s a bit snaggy so go light on the lead and let the live bait run around freely.

I have taken a few big flathead as well jewfish on fresh squid and small yellowtail, which you can get from the boat ramp a few kilometres up.

You can also take jewfish straight off the ends of both walls that shelter the boat ramp at Stockton. It is also deep water there and if there is bait congregating in an area it sooner or later will be visited by bigger predators.

There is enough room around both these places for everyone and for those without a boat they are some of the better places to try for that big silver beast.


My contacts in the Newcastle Port Authority and NSW Maritime have told me of a few rogue boaties have put themselves into serious danger lately.

Apparently one skipper thought he could run his boat across a ship’s path and on doing so, didn’t see the Stockton ferry on its crossing to Newcastle. Three boats all going in different directions doesn’t make for a safe passage for any of them, especially as the smaller boat was swerving everywhere.

You have to remember, even with tugs towing and leading these huge bulk coal carriers into the harbour these ships can take miles to come to a standstill.

The crazy boat was fast enough to avoid capture by the pilot boat, which actually pursued it for a while up the northern channel.

If you see any thing like this happen, take down the boat numbers, it’s clowns like this that give us all a bad name and in the end we will suffer.

Hopefully the next report will have better news and as the cold current slows we can get out there and chase some quality fish. You can bet there are some big snapper and kings out on the reefs that haven’t been touched for some time.

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