October is one of my favourite times to fish the estuary of Port Stephens. The days are longer and the sun has started to warm the water, triggering some species into hunting mode.
Flathead are by far the most prolific at this time of year as they begin to congregate for the start of their spawning cycle.
I like to concentrate my efforts in the back half of the system. The Karuah River, Tilligerry Creek and the Myall River are all flathead haunts at this time of year.
Lure fishing is by far the most effective method of chasing lizards and soft plastics and hardbodies will be snaffled.
Try fishing the mangrove-lined flats at high tide with hardbodies and as the tide falls, fish the drop-offs with plastics.
A few flathead can be caught closer to Nelson Bay by walking the many beaches, such as Corlette or Jimmys, at high tide armed with a brined pilchard on a gang of 4/0 hooks.
As the water reaches about 20° bream start to feed on the surface and there’s nothing better than tossing a few surface lures about early morning and late afternoon on a rising tide.
I prefer the walk-the-dog lures that can be slowly tweaked across shallow rock bars or oyster racks. Watching a bow wave follow your lure in centimetres of water always gets the heart racing and October is just the start of the good surface fishing.
Sand whiting are patrolling many of the flats throughout the port and it’s just a matter of drifting or anchoring on a rising tide and casting live nippers or worms. Be sure to use fluorocarbon leaders of around 4lb-6lb and you will increase your catch rate tenfold.
The beaches are fishing well with Hawks Nest proving to be the most consistent. Good tailor have been there at dawn and dusk, with brined pilchards the pick of the baits.
If you’re after some more exciting action I suggest casting a few pencil poppers in the gutters for exciting surface bites.
A few jewfish have also been caught after dark but fresh baits are the key, especially tailor fillets or squid.
It’s much the same action further south with Stockton beach producing tailor and salmon with the odd sand whiting. Jew have been about with smaller school fish after dark but as we head into Summer these fish will become more prolific.
Rock fishing remains reliable with bread-and-butter species such as bream and luderick caught along the ledges around Fingal and Boulder Bay. A berley trail of chicken pellets will keep the fish hungry and can make a big difference in catch numbers.
Drummer are still prolific with some crackers up to 4kg caught around Boat Harbour and Fishermans Bay.
Those who enjoy throwing metal slugs will find plenty of tailor, salmon, bonito and the odd king around the headlands, with One Mile Point the pick.
In the often-calm conditions of Spring it’s good to target blue groper. Toss a whole black grab among the kelp and boulders and it will sometimes take only minutes to be eaten. Be sure to hang on!
Fishing around the nearby islands is proving productive; the snapper have really come alive. You don’t have to travel far because Fingal, Big and Little islands all hold fish.
A good way of prospecting to find where the fish are holding is to cast plastics into the washes on sunrise. Anchoring and getting a good berley trail going is always effective but make sure you float your baits down with limited weight.
The wider reefs such as the Big Gibber to the north are fishing well for snapper, the odd trag and kings, while the gravel patches east of the port in 40 fathoms are producing snapper and the odd school jew.
The tuna fishing has been a little sporadic but those willing to put in the time and look for those temperature breaks are being rewarded. If you plan your day to drift a current edge with a consistent cube trail then the yellowfin should co-operate.
Fluorocarbon leaders are a must when cubing; I like to use 60lb but it’s tough when the odd Mako joins the party.
Allmark Mountain is still fishing well for kings but as the current pushes south it will be harder work to get those jigs down, so take advantage of it now.