What is this thing? After reporting fishing around Port Stephens for close to 25 years, I thought I had seen it all, then along comes a photograph of a fish caught by Sydney visitor Anthony Cicuto in the deep water around Middle Island, just off Soldiers Point.
Targeting jewfish using squid for bait, Anthony and his mate were confused when this 2.5kg character was pulled over the side.
There have been a few strange happenings of late with a monstrous 6kg snapper dragged onto the rocky breakwall that surrounds the Nelson Bay Marina, deep inside the Port. Chased into the calm waters by rough conditions along the coast, big snapper and schools of kingfish to 8kg are taking refuge along the breakwalls, much to the delight of the fishing hordes that frequent the Marina.
Local spearfishing champ Dave Kable surprised us all with another rare visitor to our waters, taken in the shadows of Boondelbah Island. The fish was identified as a blue-barred parrotfish, which ranges from Rottnest Island in Western Australia through the northern Australian region and along the Great Barrier Reef. Juveniles, we are told by Grant’s Fishes of Australia, venture as far south as Noosa in Queensland. It seems that this parrotfish has decided to holiday much further south.
Salmon schools continue to grow in amazing numbers, attracting the interest of great white sharks, particularly along Stockton Beach. Being a popular surfing beach, the growing numbers of great whites is obviously of concern to the board riders.
The sharks, I’m told, get increasingly aggressive when then the salmon move north. Aerial photographer Ray Alley reports seeing between 30 and35 great whites around one school of salmon.
The most recent report I have received was from Stephen Black, who slowly cruised in his boat behind the shore break along Stockton towing a mahi mahi he had caught around the FAD. His eyes all but popped out when three huge sharks fell into line, following the dead fish. I’m informed by a shaky Stephen that watching the sharks swim through the green swell makes the heart skip.
Safely inside the Port, the action is frantic with sand whiting snuffling through the sand on every beach, the most popular being Shoal Bay and Nelson Bay.
Flathead are right throughout the system and are crowded into Tilligerry Creek, the Karuah River, Lemon Tree Passage and on the north side from Pindimar to Jimmies Beach. Blue swimmer crabs are tap-dancing from Karuah to Corlette.
Snapper are on the boil from Fishermans Bay north to Broughton. Plastics have taken over with fewer, including me, still clinging to bait. Cod Rock, inside East Head and North Rock off Broughton continue to produce quality reddies in the washes.
The town is full of visitors and I think just about everyone is carrying a fishing rod and they all seem to have smiles on their faces.
Ah, yes, the mystery fish. Did you recognise it? It is a slate bream, blackall, thicklip bream, bluey, painted sweetlips or painted blubberlips, it all depends what reference book you read. Whatever you want to call it, the fish has travelled a long way because it is a local on the coral reefs way up north.Reads: 2028