New season unfurls
  |  First Published: October 2013

Plenty of happy fishos around here as a new season unfurls, some water with a little more warmth hits our part of the coast and it’s time for the snapper to move inshore.

Over the past month there have been days that were so cold and windy that fishing was at the bottom of the list for most of us, but I think I would be truthful in saying we didn’t get that bad a Winter this time round.

We had some mild days with gusts and some strong westerlies but all in all, it hasn’t been so freezing cold and windy that we couldn’t find somewhere to fish.

Luderick have been the most prominent fish around lately, with fishos spending great deal of time pursuing them. The fish have been very healthy, averaging around a kilo, too.

Stranded weed has been the best bait and I am sure the fish will still be around in great numbers this month, especially in Newcastle Harbour and from Stockton up to the entrance.

Bream, small snapper and salmon have made up the inshore catches. Out wider, there have been blue and red morwong, including some really big ones, as well as nannygai.

With the cost of fuel still a real issue for most, the number of boat trailers sitting in the car parks at local boat ramps shows that we still have plenty of passion for our sport. There’s testament to this on a typical weekend at ramps at Carrington, Stockton, Raymond Terrace and Morpeth, with few parking spaces left at some.

Some fishos have told me they aren’t trolling all day much any more and most hit the closer reefs unless they are assured by others that the trip out to the wider areas is really worthwhile.

I have also noticed a few ‘for sale’ signs on 4WDs and bigger boats – funny how this happens when fuel prices go through the roof. A lot of owners are looking to downgrade to smaller boats or smaller motors.

I’ve phoned around and asked local boat dealers if the fuel costs were an issue on purchases of large-horsepower motors. They said a lot of anglers with running costs in mind are going straight to four-strokes, often of the minimum horsepower they can get away with for their boat, and who can blame them.


The snapper should be moving in closer this month, and I am sure a lot will be out targeting them with some of the new lures that hit the shelves this season. I still believe a live bait will get most of the larger reds and also kings and jewfish if they’re around.

Until the slimy mackerel show up in numbers, a cigar-sized yellowtail dancing around on a paternoster rig is rarely ignored. Then the slimies become the best bait for most fish, snapper included.

Covering ground by drifting often works better than anchoring, unless you find a small reef or a pinnacle where the bait has to gather.

Most reefs off Newcastle are big enough so that drifting is a great option.

Many anglers believe that the Newcastle area doesn’t produce big snapper and this is pretty right.

At times you can hit schools of fish around 2kg-3kg, great table fish and they stay around this size for months on end. Then suddenly one or two schools of really reds show up.

This happens a lot over the Dumping Grounds, the reef system out from Newcastle Hospital that’s easy to find. It’s large enough to drift over or anchor on and holds a good variety of fish, especially big sand flathead, squire and some big snapper at times. School kingfish and school jewfish are often there and, if the water is cool, a lot of nannygai and trevally are in numbers.

Bumping along a large Gulp, Storm, or any medium-sized soft plastic is a great way to hook up. Jig the lure up and down on the drift or straight up and down under the boat at anchor.

A live bait under a float can get kingfish and sharks that hang around here also.

The Dumping Ground has rubble and gravel and there’s a lot of silt on the edges. It rises and falls, but not sharply.

A good sounder can find the fish, which often school on the outer edges on the southern side of the reef.

Sand flathead are also around the outer edges. Drifting a little off to the sides of the reef with cut fresh mullet or yellowtail is a great way to connect to the sandies, as well as morwong and bream.

Sergeant bakers and rock cod can be annoying at times but with persistent effort you will usually get good fish from this area.

So this month I would be hitting the wharfs and piers in Newcastle Harbour for large luderick, bream and school jewfish.

Try inshore for red and blue morwong, snapper and school kingfish.

For sand flathead, try a safe distance off Susan Gilmour Beach drifting fillets of fresh fish. Another area is close around the Mud Hole in Stockton Bight.

Don’t forget the crabs, with blue swimmers prevalent and some mud crabs around in the in the backwaters.



Ensure if you’re fishing at night to have proper lights that are working properly. We had a near miss coming through Swansea Channel a while back when we didn’t see an unlit small tinny until we were almost on top of it. It had no lights and we were on the plane at the time.

The skipper had the nerve to say we were the problem! It doesn’t matter how slow or safe you think you are being, over the sound of your own motor you can’t hear small engines and if the boat doesn’t have any lights, that’s a recipe for disaster.

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