If the weather stays the same as it has been this past month, only the diehard fishermen will be braving early morning fishing sessions. Yes, winter has hit this region with vengeance! The water has turned cold and the wind has whipped the sea into a frenzy, making it hard if not impossible to fish.
I am going to put this month down as a great time to fish the rivers, estuaries and lakes, as the winds are picking up and becoming more frequent and wild. In saying that, there are still some fish about, mainly bream, luderick, drummer, the odd tailor and a heap of salmon. A few anglers have even taken some plate-size flathead in the upper reaches of the Hunter River where the water is a little warmer.
In the Harbour itself the two rock walls are a godsend in giving shelter if you get down on the side where the wind can’t get at you. Bream and a few tailor have been taken, as well as a lot of luderick, especially off the Horseshoe Beach rock wall. Luderick seem to love this area as the weed growth is vast and covers all the pylons from the pilot station down to just under Nobbys Light. The rocks along here are covered in the green slimy stuff, both strand weed as well as the cabbage variety. If you chase luderick seriously, you’re in for a big winter.
As I mentioned before, the beaches have been wild and blown out. However, conditions may change and, as we all know, the fishing can turn on and off like a tap. Salmon – mass schools of them – moved through last month and they are still coming. I spotted a huge school out from Merewether, the dark blotch in the ocean being a dead giveaway, as were the wheeling terns and seagulls diving into it. I know some anglers don’t like salmon much, but at times these fish can be fun, especially for kids and people who don’t fish often. It’s rewarding to get someone hooked onto a 5kg salmon and watch the smile spread across their face as they battle the jumping, hard-pulling bullet.
Bream are still around, and most have been taken along the rock walls on the Stockton side of the Hunter River around where the soccer ovals are, and down toward the bridge. Both soft plastics and bait have been effective.
Squid are still around in good numbers in those smaller bays out of the wind. Look for an area of kelp or seagrass and flick a squid jig over it. I like the Jarvis Walker Razorback squid jigs. I’m not plugging them, I just like the extra barbs on their back. They help to hold the squid better, and I think it’s a pretty good idea.
This really is the time of year for catching those big green-eyed squid, and I don’t know many people who don’t love catching them. I have met anglers at Carrington boat ramp and the Stockton boat ramp who have given the day’s fishing away after coming across mass squid in the close reefy areas or small bays. Once these anglers had their bag limit of squid they were happy to head straight home and fire up the BBQ. At times you can get some nice squid off the ends of the walls in the harbour as well, so that can be worth a try.
Rock fishing should be great this month as the white water is smashing the rocks, knocking crabs, cunje, and all sorts of food into the washing machine. Drummer have been about, and I recommend that you deploy heaps of good bread berley and then hold on tight! These fat, strong brutes love to try to dive into the rocks the same way you are pulling them. A great way to fight them is to sit in your boat outside the wash zone and pull the fish towards you, away from the rocks. Just be sure to leave your motor running and be very careful. If your motor is a bit rough running or the sea is big, don’t try this. It can potentially be a dangerous way to fish so you really have to pick your days.
Prawns, crabs, worms, squid and weed are the best bait for wash fishing. Tailor, huge bream, snapper, teraglin and mulloway jewfish sometimes hunt in the white water as well. I have taken lovely snapper while targeting drummer in the washes and was surprised by mates who have pulled up nice jewfish the same way, but it makes sense when you think about it. Fish hunt where they are covered and able to get an easy feed, and washed areas (if deep water is close or there are undercuts in the rocks) harbour all sorts of fish. It’s a way to get away from the leatherjackets if they are all over the reefs out wide.
I saw something a little unusual the other day. Some anglers were holding 3ft of 100lb monofilament line tied to a 6” piece of broom handle, with a 4/0 hook on it and a piece of mullet fillet for bait. They were letting the bait go into the rocks where the water was covering them, and started pulling out huge moray eels. These anglers said they were taking the eels home to put in a smoker. They swore they were great eating if you add different flavours. It just goes to show you’re never too old to see or learn something new in the world of angling! I would have been curious to taste their eel meal, but I contented myself with watching them pull up angry morays with their broomstick. Amusing to watch, but as far as I’m concerned they can have that sort of fishing all to themselves.
Eels aside, my tip this month is to fish around the edges, flicking both small diving hardbodied lures as well as bouncing soft plastics. Put them right up against the rocks in the Hunter River, or around the pylons and wharfs and under the ships that are moored on the deep wharfs. Alternatively you can try for squid off the rock walls or small bays that are sheltered, drift baits in the upper reaches for flathead, or on calm days fish the washes and rock shelves for the drummer that are about in good numbers. Happy fishing!Reads: 2184