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Early or late will be best
  |  First Published: December 2012



It’s certainly busy around Port Stephens so it pays to be on the water early or late to optimise your chances of finding a few fish.

This is the beginning of the sensational marlin fishing that Port Stephens is famous for and already things have started well. As I write the water along the continental shelf is a cobalt 24° with plenty of bait.

Usually you find schools of slimy mackerel around a mile or two just short of the edge and with a quality sounder you will be able to mark bait and the marlin.

The ever-popular Carpark can be a consistent spot 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 down into the bait school is a sure-fire way to a hook-up.

Expect other species to be hunting around the bait. A favourite is the mahi mahi and the Fisheries FAD has already this season produced some great fish topping 15kg.

Be sure to get there early and troll large hard lures or smaller soft ones but for best results cast live baits close to the FAD.

The inshore reefs are fishing well with some cracker kingfish hunting along 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 slimies or squid, especially on a downrigger.

Also try the Sisters, which also produces hoodlums and it can be great fun watching big fish hunt down your surface lure.

North of Broughton around the Big Gibber, plenty of trag can be caught early morning or into the evening but it pays to anchor on the edge of the reef with a tankful of livies. You will also nail the odd decent jew and snapper.

The Twenty One and the V reefs offer much the same and are more easily accessed from the island or Port.

Big Island and Little Island are fishing well; trolling the washes early morning for decent bonito and tailor.

Floating pilchards back down a berley trail is your best chance of getting a few snapper and in the typical north-east winds of Summer, both islands offer protection.

ESTUARY

It’s a bonanza in the estuary as flathead have moved downstream. Soldiers Point to Shoal Bay and anywhere in between is the place to be for lizards.

Tossing frog-mouthed pilchards on small gang hooks is a good way to attract the attention of a dusky early in the morning but soft plastics and shallow-running hardbodies also do the job.

On the sand and weed flats you will encounter plenty of sand whiting of all sizes. Blooping small poppers on a rising tide should nail some quality fish, as will live tube worms.

There are some cracking jewfish, particularly around the two bridges on the Karuah River and the western side of Middle Island. Live herring seem to be the bait of choice and small bait jigs worked around the wharfs and jetties will secure enough bait for a session. Be sure to fish the tide changes.

It will be also worth slowly trolling live bait around the breakwall at Nelson Bay, where some decent kings patrol on the incoming tide.

Some great fishing can be had on the local beaches with plenty of whiting along Stockton down to the Signa wreck. Live beach worms or tube worms are by far the best baits but nippers pumped from the estuary are also great.

Some good jewfish are also in the same area but after dark is the go.

Rock fishing is a little hit 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.

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