Estuary topwaters rule
  |  First Published: November 2011

It’s about time Port Stephens had some good weather. The only plus side to all the rain we’ve received is that the fishing will be good through most of Summer because plenty of nutrients will push down the estuary and out around the offshore islands.

It’s taken a while but the water in the estuary has finally warmed and now is the perfect time to use those surface lures.

The trend these days is to use walk-the-dog lures but I still prefer those smaller cup-faced poppers that emit plenty of noise; they’re like beacons to any bream, whiting and even flathead.

Fishing the shallow flats at high tide is the domain of this technique and the local area offers plenty of that.

I like to concentrate further up the Port, especially around Tahlee, Karuah and Lemon Tree Passage.

Low light periods seem to be best for surface luring and early mornings will be productive and you will beat those stiff afternoon nor’-easters.

Mulloway are on the prowl in the estuary during November and areas such as the two bridges over the Karuah River or the back of Middle Island near Soldiers Point are your best options.

Spending time getting your baits will pay big dividends. Be sure to gather the freshest bait possible, especially live squid, yellowtail or slimy mackerel.

If you’re into fun fishing then casting small surface poppers off the Nelson Bay breakwall on the tide change will have you tangling with some decent kingfish and there’s also the chance of bonito and salmon.


Late Spring and early Summer always produce some great beach fishing.

Sand whiting are probably the main targets and are also the tastiest. Be sure to arm yourself with live worms and fish the incoming tide with chemically sharpened hooks and 8lb fluorocarbon leader.

Focus your efforts along Samurai Beach, Fingal Spit and the southern end of Box Beach.

Some good tailor can be caught at this time of year and as the water temp increases, the salmon thin out and give you a better chance of hooking a greenback.

Of course, ganged pilchards or garfish fished early morning or evening will give you best results.

Also spend the time after dark chasing a jewie; they often chase the tailor schools.


The offshore fishing scene is now starting to hot up and as the East Australian Current pushes down harder, more summer species will cruise with it.

Along the continental shelf striped marlin can be found wandering the edges of the current but I must admit there is plenty of water between them.

The first influx of warm water usually brings with it some exceptional mahi mahi with some early -season fish better than 20kg. Trolling skirted lures is your best way of finding the larger fish but you can also try drifting a live bait past the FAD.

Allmark Mountain keeps producing some impressive numbers of kingfish, especially on jigs.

Depending on the current, knife jigs from 300g to 400g work well but if it’s slow, go to plan B and drop a live slimy mackerel to the bottom and hang on.

Closer to home will yield a mixed bag of snapper, trag and the odd jewie around the 21-Fathom Reef and The V, while drifting the edges of the reef will yield sand flathead to 60cm and more.

If you enjoy trolling then I suggest getting out the smaller skirted lures and bibbed minnows because there are plenty of bonito, tailor and even kingfish about in the washes.

The eastern side of Little Island is always a favourite; so too the front of Fingal Island, where the current often pushes hard against the rocks and forces plenty of baitfish towards the waiting predators.

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