For those of us who love nothing better than spending a day chasing large pelagics, this is the start of what Port Stephens is famous for – the game fishing season.
Black, blue and striped marlin should now be prolific along the continental shelf but the key to being successful is to find the bait.
Usually you will find schools of slimy mackerel around a mile or two just short of the edge and with a quality sounder, detecting the bait below can be easy. It’s a little harder to find the marlin!
The ever-popular Carpark can be consistent but it’s a big ocean and more often than not it can pay to find your own patch of bait north or south.
Drop a couple of skip baits over or a spread of lures and search for your honey hole.
It may pay to have a few live baits ready, especially if you mark a fish on the sounder. Stripping a live bait back into the bait school is a sure-fire way to get a hook-up.
Other species should be hunting around the bait schools, including the favourite mahi mahi. The Fisheries FAD has already produced some great fish better than 15kg this season.
Be sure to be there early and troll larger hardbody lures but for better results, cast live baits close to the FAD.
The inshore reefs are fishing well with some cracker kingfish hunting along the edges of the drop-offs and bommies.
Cod Rock, on the western side of Broughton Island, is a favourite kingie haunt and it will be worth slow trolling live baits such as slimies or squid, especially on downriggers.
Also try The Sisters. This area also produces hoodlums and it can be great fun watching big fish hunt down your surface lure.
Plenty of teraglin can be caught early morning or into the evening to the north of Broughton, around the Big Gibber. It pays to anchor on the edge of the reef with a tankful of livies.
You will also nail the odd decent jew and good snapper. The 21 and V reefs will offer much the same and are more easily accessed from the island or Port.
Big Island and Little Island are fishing well; troll the washes early and you will easily find some decent bonito and tailor.
Floating pilchards back down a berley trail is your best chance of getting a few snapper and with the typical north-east winds of Summer, both islands offer protection.
It’s a bonanza in the estuary as flathead have moved downstream in numbers, with Soldiers Point to Shoal Bay the hot spot for lizards.
A good way to attract the attention of a dusky is to toss frogmouth pilchards on small ganged hooks early in the morning but soft plastics and shallow-running hardbodies also do the trick.
If you’re fishing the sand and weed flats then you will encounter plenty of sand whiting of all sizes. Blooping small poppers on the rising tide is great way of nailing some quality fish, but live tubeworms still work well.
There are also some cracking jewfish in the estuary, particularly around the two bridges over the Karuah River and on the western side of Middle Island off Soldiers Point.
Live herring seem to be the bait of choice and small bait jigs worked around the wharfs and jetties will secure enough baits for a session – be sure to fish the tide changes.
Some great fishing can be had on the local beaches with plenty of whiting along Stockton Beach between Birubi and the Signa wreck. Live beach worms or tubeworms are by far the best baits but nippers pumped from the estuary are also another great bait.
Some good jewfish are also in the same area, especially after dark.
Rock fishing is a little hit-and-miss but you will still find tailor on One Mile Point and the southern end of Box Beach.
A few kings can be caught at Boulder Bay on surface lures and as the inshore water warms, other pelagics will be caught from the stones.Reads: 2268