Land-based game anglers rejoice – March is usually the start of pelagic action from the stones and so far all the signs are good, with the odd longtail tuna taken from spots around Port Stephens.
Tomaree Headland is the most popular and for good reason. The headland acts like a big fish magnet, with deep water licked by the warm currents from the north, but its biggest attribute is that it’s the entrance to the port.
Every day the tide pushes out nutrients from the estuary, feeding the tonnes of baitfish such slimy mackerel and yellowtail.
And what feeds on them? Anything, from longtail and mackerel tuna to cobia and some big whaler sharks.
The walk over the top of the headland is a 20-minute leg burner but it’s even worse if you have carry back a big fish.
But it’s worth it, and many an angler has caught that fish of a lifetime from this headland. Back in the 1990s Phil Atkinson captured it all on video in what I think is one of the best rock fishing movies ever made, Land Based Addiction.
But there are plenty of LBG spots other than Tomaree and to the south you can explore One Mile Point and Boat Harbour, which seem to turn up some impressive longtails and the odd cobia each season.
Offshore fishing is still the talk of the town and rightly so, with some impressive catches from the continental shelf to the islands.
Out at the shelf there’s no excuse for not finding a marlin. Some above-average blacks are harassing the slimy mackerel schools with fish up to 180kg surprising anglers trolling skip baits or livies.
Striped marlin are also in action with plenty of boats releasing several fish daily and some switched-on crews targeting them on lighter tackle. The crew on local boat Diversion has captured two pending Australian records, with an impressive 62kg fish caught on just 2kg line.
Nathan Plunkett, 10, captured a pending small fry record black marlin of 72kg on 15kg.
Trolling smaller skirted lures in the same area is a good way to find some decent mahi mahi which are always tasty welcome by-catch.
The inshore waters are offering plenty for a feed. The northern reefs from the Big Gibber to Broughton Island are offering plenty of snapper, trag and jewfish after dark plus some good kings on live bait.
The closer islands are also offering good fish. Set up an early-morning berley trail around Big or Little islands to target snapper from 2kg to 4kg. Don’t forget to set out a live bait for a decent king or cobia.
Flathead are the prime targets in the estuary with some big lizards lying in ambush behind the oyster racks in Tilligerry Creek, the Karuah River and around Tea Gardens.
A dusky rarely misses an opportunity to grab a brined pilchard slowly rolled above the bottom but if you go one step further and get some live poddy mullet, they are almost a certainty to nail a big fish.
Sand whiting are in plague numbers and those using live worms are getting quality fish above 40cm long. Shoal Bay and Jimmys Beach are the most productive and are accessible land-based areas.
Head west for those big bluenose bream hanging out under the oyster racks in the Karuah River. Plastics or hardbodies are most effective and the new Gulp Crabby has been a standout, especially on a light jig head cast parallel to the structure.
Blue swimmer crabs are out in force with Tilligerry Creek and North Arm Cove the prime areas to target.
Remember to work those witch hats over the last two hours of the high tide and bait them with fresh mullet frames.Reads: 2872