Offshore hits top gear
  |  First Published: December 2011

It’s been a big year’s fishing around Port Stephens and the best is yet to come. Welcome to visiting anglers, it will be a busy time on the water but there are plenty of areas to escape the crowds and catch a few fish.

Offshore fishing will hit top gear this month and will continue all Summer.

It’s been an unbelievable inshore snapper bite over the past few months and it’s still going. Most reds have been found cruising the shallower reefs between 15m and 30m, with the western and southern sides of Broughton Island a standout.

Most fish have been caught around bait schools. The snapper are hanging underneath, ambushing the slimy mackerel and yellowtail from below.

Soft plastics, especially Gulp Jerkshads on 1/4oz jig heads will most certainly be eaten but so will a lightly weighted fresh fillet of slimy mackerel on a two-hook snell rig.

Further north, around Seal Rocks, it’s much the same but some kings over 10kg are following hooked fish to the surface. Have a live slimy on standby and hang on.

Wide of the same area, between 30m and 50m, some anglers drifting the edges of the reef are picking up pearl perch and sand flathead.

It’s also the start of our pelagic season and there are plenty of bonito zooming about the washes between Fingal and Little Island. Simple Christmas tree-style lures work best but you can also throw in a larger bibbed minnow for the chance of a kingie.

Towards the continental shelf, the first of the warm water is starting to trickle down and already a few striped and black marlin can be found harassing bait schools.

It can be a little harder to find fish at this time of your so cover ground with skirted lures until you find the bait, then switch to live or skip baits and keep an eye on your sounder for that telltale arch.

You will also have a better than even chance of getting some good mahi mahi.


The bay has cleared from the October rain and flathead are everywhere, but it’s crucial that you fish the tides and low-light periods of morning and afternoon.

Walking the shoreline and tossing bait or plastics, especially around Shoal Bay and Corlette, is a great way to find a dusky.

Be sure to use a decent fluorocarbon leader of at least 12lb.

If you’re in a boat, your options are endless. Head farther into the bay towards Tilligerry Creek and fish behind the oyster racks at high tide with 1/8oz and a Sébile 105 Magic Swimmer and you will brain them.

Surface luring for bream and whiting is in full swing and there’s nothing better than throwing a small popper or walking lure over shallow rock bars and oyster racks and watching a bow wave slurping at your offering.

With whiting the key is to punch the lure hard in towards the mangroves and keep it consistently blooping.

The pelagics have also reached the estuary. Kingies up to 10kg frequent the breakwall at Nelson Bay but they can be finicky, with live squid or slimy mackerel the bait to use if you want to tangle with a larger fish.

For the rats, break out the surface lures and have some fun on lighter spin gear.

Summer means beach fishing and there’s nothing better than soaking a live worm in the shallow gutters for a few sand whiting. Fingal Spit, One Mile and Birubi (Stockton) beaches are my favourites for whiting.

A chemically sharpened long-shank hook and light fluorocarbon leader are the go. Be sure to fish the change of tide and try to find some gutters with good wash.

Night is the domain of jewfish and there are plenty from Birubi to Stockton. Be sure to use the freshest bait possible such as Squid or Tailor fillets rigged on a two-hook snell rig.

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