The fishing doesn’t have to be bad to put you off climbing out of bed and shivering early in the morning, but that’s what happens to a lot of anglers.
The action on this part of the coast doesn’t usually gear down until around August and even that month can throw up a surprise or two, so it’s still worth getting out there.
Despite the initial shock, a morning session can be rewarding and there are a number of species still hanging around this part of the coast that make it worthwhile. Drummer, luderick, bream, tailor and trevally are worthwhile and for those that venture farther offshore, tuna come into the game.
June is also the start of the dreaded leatherjacket plague. Until about September, a lot of the closer reefs and rocks are packed with them.
I am not putting the old leatherjacket down, I just hate it when you’re on a good bite of bream and squire and they home in on you and eat everything you send down to the feeding schools of better quality fish.
I know anglers who go out and target the jackets and love eating them as much as some of us love prawns and squid.
I have eaten them barbecued and I was very impressed by the smoky wood-fire flavour. A charcoal barbecue does make all cooking taste better than a gas burner model; add some spices and lemon and a good-sized leatherjacket isn’t too bad on the plate.
We just don’t like them because they show up in droves and spoil our fishing for more preferred species.
But you can be surprised at some of the fish that show up in Winter.
A few years ago, Spanish mackerel showed up here in June and July in very cool water that they shouldn’t have been in.
Boaties couldn’t believe their luck. Bottom-bashers reefs pulled up and started trolling around the North Reef buoy and hooked up big-time, so never say Winter is a dead loss.
Flathead played ball all through last Winter in certain parts of the Hunter River, mainly around Sandgate, Tomago and Hexham.
I am going to predict a cooler Winter this year, with cooler water attracting a fair few tuna offshore. I say this with a bit of confidence because I saw a boat with two yellowfin aboard not long ago.
It’s early times for these fish so let’s hope we get a good run of them.
Bonito, tailor and big bream are hanging over the kelp and reefs out from Nobbys Headland and I expect these to stick around for a while. I’ve heard of a lot of bonito and tailor schools way south of us so they should move through this area eventually.
Sand flathead can be taken by the bucketload in around 15m-25m of water off the beaches at this time of year, with bites coming thick and fast. They seem to be there early in Winter and then disappear altogether.
Mullet strips or bonito with the skin on are the best baits because they aren’t torn from the hooks as fast. Flounder and even the odd whiting are taken on the same drifts.
The deeper reefs off Newcastle will hold kingfish, nannygai, trevally and the odd snapper if you’re over the right marks.
The morwong isn’t a fish you read a lot about but the large blue models hold over reefs in this area all through Winter and many of the charter boats make good catches when bottom-bouncing the wider reefs.
Red morwong hang over white rock and kelp close to shore and are fair game to the spearfishers who brave the cold water for them.
The ‘tug-of-war fish’, drummer, are here from now on as well and ‘the tanks’, groper, hang off the Newcastle shoreline right in town where the rocks are shallow and very washy.
The local rocks hold plentiful turban snails, cunjevoi and crabs to attract the groper. A red rock crab as big as your fist is perfect bait for a big groper, just be sure you can legally gather the bait.
Most groper fishers here use Alveys spooled with 40lb-50lb mono, not braid, because it’s a war and can become expensive to lose so much line when fighting groper that dive through the rough terrain.
You can also get groper from the end of Nobbys Wall at times but bait has to be carried in; crabs on the two walls are nearly non-existent these days.
If you’re heading offshore, don’t forget to troll on the way out and way back because you can cross paths with stray surface fish.
Yes Winter can be daunting and hard to handle but once the westerlies start to blow, it’s usually a calm glorious day just offshore.
Quality bream such as this are usually around most of Winter in the estuary and close offshore. Note how silver this fish is, telling you it’s been in clean water for a while.Reads: 1926