Great expectations along the Hunter Coast
  |  First Published: July 2012

I have started every report in the last three months griping about the rain. You can’t blame me, it was so consistent, but thankfully now we have had some great weather and pretty good fishing and I am expecting it to continue.

Big bream, tailor, drummer, groper, leatherjackets, squire and salmon have been the main focus on our part of the coast.

The mullet run is in full swing, with 40 or so fish bins, a forklift, two tractors and jet boats out on the beach at Swansea Heads as I write. All this machinery and boats that can fly around in about an inch of water – what hope do the fish really have?

In the estuaries school flathead are still roaming around in a big enough numbers to be targeted. Most anglers have been catching them on the drift with prawns and pilchards in the northern channel of the Hunter River from around Kooragang Island up to Mosquito creek and along the area just past the rail bridge at Sandgate.

With the weather cooling down I can’t promise they will be around much after this month. However, in past years they have been taken all year round so here’s hoping.

Tailor are still entering the river and the Harbour, munching on the large schools of blue sprats and whitebait in the shallows around Stockton.

Blade lures in blue have been great but you could also try silver, dark green and black or small chrome lures. After dark, switch to bait and hang on; there have been some big fish caught.


Fillet a tailor of legal size (30cm) and drift the bait over the drop-offs in the shipping channels for school jewfish.

Fish around 12kg have been co-operating lately, try the faithful spots such as the Pilot Station hole at night or in front of the tugboat wharf. But be sure you don’t block the paths of these boats because they make a lot of movements day and night.

Other spots include the end of Dykes Point where the wall meets the Basin and the end of Nobbys and Stockton walls. Try the top of the tide or the first of the run in.

Bream have been taken further into the system. Hexham around Iron Bark Creek and up to Hexham bridge has been producing but the fish will most probably move downstream this month so try the Harbour proper.

Diving hardbodies have been the best lures. Graham West and his offsider Stewy were flicking lures for flathead when they found a patch of bream all around 1.5kg. They had a great session, landing 11 in about two hours – not bad in the middle of the day.

They said they lost a few real big models on what I consider a freshwater lure, the Down Under Boomerang. I expect the curve in the body of these lures made them look a lot like big prawns and the bream smashed them with glee.

Flounder, sharks and long tom have also been around. These leaping, crazy, snake-like were reported to be over 1.2m long and taking small baits under floats.


If you want some really great fishing this month you should get onto the sand.

Big tailor, bream, flathead and dart have been caught on Stockton Beach. Dart are unusual catches for this time of year but they were there, caught on pipis just in a gutter south of the Sygna wreck.

Tailor have been the drawcard for anglers driving in just before dark, while salmon have been taken through the day.

Bream have been a by-catch, taking rigged pilchards meant for the tailor.

I got out myself and tried my luck not long ago but walked away defeated by tailor that threw the hooks and two salmon that leaped to freedom in the waves. I didn’t invite Murphy, but he was sure alongside me.


We have had some large swells at times but during periods of good weather and small seas boats have gone out and hit the local reefs with great rewards.

Let’s hope the fishing offshore stays just the way it is for a while.

Some squire have turned up over the wider Merewether reefs and those reefs off Stockton.

Just legal kingfish have been around but a lot are under the legal 65cm by just a freckle.

I saw this happen last Winter, when heaps of just undersize school kingfish provided great catch-and-release fun on light gear, especially for kids and learners who hadn’t caught fish that can pull so hard.

Looking back in my diaries reveals the current can get savage over the next month, and the rate of knots it can travel uphill to Queensland can really put a downer on a day out wide.

The reefs can be covered in sweep, or Newcastle bream as they are known. Why are sweep called Newcastle bream? Because we seem to get so many in this area.

Another fish that can be a godsend or an enemy on your day out is the leatherjacket and they are starting to turn up. Use long-shank hooks to catch them before they carve up everything you have in your tackle box.

They sometimes are so thick that you catch nothing else but on a plate they aren’t too bad.

Nannygai and trevally figure in the usual catch this month also. Both take baits readily and both can fight hard.


A friend came and borrowed a few reels and ended up going early morning and fishing for groper on 80lb braid. I wont say exactly where but it isn’t far from Newcastle Baths.

Anyway, he was busted up so many times he ended up going into hand-to-hand combat with an Alvey reel spooled with my 80lb braid from another reel.

He used fresh live red crabs that he took the time to catch and ended up landing two blue groper around 12kg. He released both unharmed and told me they were so pretty and looked intelligent, so he had to let them go. I won’t tell anyone his name but he should have replaced the 80lb braid, it isn’t cheap.

Along with the groper there have been some bream, drummer and tailor off the rocks.

Afternoons have been best. Try floating a pilchard under a bobby cork, or use fresh prawns or mullet gut. Let it wash around the foamy edges and hang on for the drummer and bream.

Don’t forget mullet gut and chicken gut, these very messy baits work well in the washes because the scent travels a long way and bits break off, making them great attractants for all sorts of fish.

Take an old towel to wipe your hands and maybe another to drape over the car seat – the smell can linger and it isn’t pleasant.

Fresh crabs, both red and rock, are great bait this time of year for groper and bream.

Green weed is great for luderick, which are also taken on the rock ledges and these are usually bigger fish than those in the estuary. They also taste better because they are not so weedy.

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