A lot of the fishing at this time of year is hard to call because there can be cold, green water or barren current running in close to the coast.
But some rich, cool water came through in mid-Winter and the tuna went crazy from Sydney to Newcastle and further north. But after that explosion of fish all went quiet and it was back to bread-and-butter fishing once again.
Drummer and luderick are going to be species that will be in huge numbers in coming years. The schools of luderick seen around the Hunter recently pay testament to this and drummer also are in good numbers. As I keep saying, the nutrients that flow from rivers, pipes and drains into our harbours and along the coast are making algae like green weed and cabbage grow out of control so this these fish are exploding in numbers.
Not that anyone is complaining. Drummer pull like trains and are fun to catch, and luderick prepared the right way with the black gut lining removed (or killed humanely, bled and kept in an ice slurry before filleting and skinning – Ed), aren’t too bad on the chew at all.
It doesn’t cost the earth to fish for either of these species, just a bit of time to prepare and collect your own bait and set out a float that’s weighted correctly. You can usually can get a bag of luderick and, if you can keep it away from the rocks, an odd drummer as well.
Bream numbers have been down lately but with a fresh flush of the systems with some rain, fish that have moved to feed higher up the rivers should return to the harbour area.
The flathead are still taking lures right through the whole lower Hunter River. I have heard of fish taken up near Hexham and around Raymond Terrace as well as in the harbour area around Fullerton Cove. It’s only been the wind and cold that is stopping most anglers getting into them.
Flounder have been taking baits drifted over the mud and sand right down to the bridge at Stockton.
Some school jewfish have been taken as well and few anglers in the know have told me over the years that when the river is rough and dirty, bigger numbers of jewfish appear.
September to November can produce some westerly winds that can come through and blow like demons down the river. It’s at this time that some big jewfish are taken on live bait, usually yellowtail, tailor and squid. Slimy mackerel aren’t around until warmer times.
Year after year I have seen big jewfish taken in the harbour around now.
A good boat and a sounder to find the edge of the shipping channel and you’re in with a chance. The bottom falls from around 20’ down to over 100’ in areas and this edge is where you want to be.
Get out the breadcrumbs and lemons, the squid are back in town and the numbers I have heard of are amazing.
There are a lot of places around this area where you can get into these yummy little morsels.
If I had to put them in order the top spots around the Hunter area would be these.
The area off Moon Island in the Swansea Channel on a run-out tide can hold arrow and large green eye (calamari) squid in good numbers. Pink and green jigs work well here.
Off Fingal Bay over the kelp beds in Port Stephens would be a second pick for numbers of squid.
The area around the Soldiers Pool under Fort Scratchley, the rocks around Merewether and the close reefs such as the Pines, the Marbles, North Reef, the Stockton sailboat wreck and the Oyster Barge Reefs just off Stockton wall are all great, too.
Squid hang in this area all through Winter and Spring and now is the right time. Also try just after Christmas when the prawn run is on.
Just cast a jig and slowly retrieve it, letting it sink and rise in the manner a prawn would underwater. Once a squid’s weight comes on the jig and it attempts to escape, just retrieve it carefully so as not to pull the jig out of its legs.
Remember not to lift your catch out of the water, use a scoop net because their two long grabbing tentacles (‘candle legs’} tend to break under their weight.
And, most importantly, wear old clothes because they sometimes squirt a great amount of black ink which is near impossible to get off clothes without bleaching heavily.
A lot of undesirable fish have moved in. Leatherjackets have returned in large numbers, as have a lot of small nannygai, trevally and sweep on the close reefs.
Small snapper have also been the norm although things can change fast and the big reds can come on. An early Spring run would be great.Reads: 2022