Santa stocking the waterways
  |  First Published: December 2013

Christmas is here and by the looks of it Santa has gifted this area with a lot of great fish and some unreal water temperatures, which should have this month firing on all cylinders. Pelagics offshore, inshore reef fish, beach fishing, bay, lake and river fish are everywhere. Some new fishing gear in your stocking, and who could ask for more?

First the good news is the sheer amount of schools of tuna, being stripies, bonito, small yellowfin, and a few big eye tuna that aren’t too far off the coast at the moment. As you read this, the fish will be even thicker as we have very warm water in very close. The amount of bait that has travelled down from the north is another reason the fishing is so great.

Offshore there are marlin on the shelf and a few big blues have been spotted as well as landed in the past few weeks. Black marlin are in closer to shore and the sizes are all uniform, around 80-150kg.

They are taking lures and slowly trolled mullet, garfish and slimy. The mullet are being stitched up into a butterfly with the fillets flapping as an enticement. The garfish have been trolled with pink and purple skirts over their nose as a further attractant, and the slimy mackerel are best trolled alive at a very slow speed. Lure colours and size doesn’t seem to be making much difference at the moment as the marlin are jumping onto all sizes and colours.

Some large bull mahi mahi and a few oversize travelling kingfish have crashed lures as well. Don’t be surprised to see a few northern visitors such as Spanish mackerel, cobia and wahoo as the water is so warm. Most boats have told me they are using mirror teaser decoys to attract the fish around and lift them up to the surface.

Close inshore the reefs are firing with school kingfish and the odd snapper. Once again, the number of pearl perch are up; these fish are great eating and turn up in numbers every few years when the temps hit peak in this region.

Mulloway, teraglin, nannygai, bream, tailor, school sharks, mahi mahi and bonito are all hovering over the reefs. Trolling the edges deep or on the surface should see some hook ups. Live baits at night will connect to sharks and the mulloway. Don’t be surprised to see bigger than usual kingfish around the pinnacles of reefs, and snapper and flathead on the gravel beds.

This month get the prawn nets and crab traps out as both are around in pretty good numbers. If you can get a feed for the Christmas table you will be popular with the family I’m sure. Try up around Raymond Terrace and the sand flats near Tomago or the flats along Kooragang Island, remember though the Island has been completely fenced off, it’s only accessible by boat. The small beaches where the large ship boilers are sitting are great for prawns at night.

Blue swimmer crabs are travelling into the river proper and are up around Sandgate and Hexham. However, you don’t have to travel that far for a feed, the sand flats along Stockton near the wreck and down near the bridge give up good numbers of crabs at times. Try luderick, mullet, crushed slimy mackerel for bait, or even some old steak; crabs aren’t that fussy when they are around in good numbers, as they have been lately.

In the Harbour at Newcastle the walls at Nobbys and Stockton have been fishing well. Bream have been taking half pilchards that are being fished for tailor around sunset, and flathead are grabbing any slab baits landed away from the rocks a little. Try the moons for mulloway, you can get live baits here on the spot. Use slimy mackerel on both sides of both walls and live squid on the beach side of the Stockton wall. Don’t forget the beach side of Stockton wall gives up some decent whiting at this time of year; try worms, peeled prawns or small red lures, add red tube to your baits as they love the colour red and this can enhance your catches.

The beaches will be busy all over Christmas, so take care and slow down as kids are everywhere and can run from a camp in the dunes or out from other 4WD.

There are a number of gutters that have formed from the wind and area producing well. Large bream and whiting and the odd salmon have been taken during the day. Tailor and school mulloway have been coming in at night, and flathead are being taken early morning on the rising tide.

Make sure you have an up to date beach pass. Park up near the dunes and not in the centre of the beach where everyone is going back and forth; this pushes you into really soft sand and it can be a problem for really heavy trucks.

Up river the bass are around the Williams River along the rock walls and in the Upper Hunter River. The rock walls work well trolled with medium deep divers, casting spinnerbaits near snags. Cicadas are about so surface lures will be working in the evenings, they are deafening in the river lately.

Don’t be too astounded if you hook some mulloway and bream while trolling as we haven’t had the rains, which has made the river very salty and the fish have travelled well up into the hinterland looking for a feed. You should be able to take bass and bream all the way to Morpeth until the rains set in and flush the system.

This month won’t be all about technique or special spots, as long as you have a line in the water somewhere you will be in for some great fishing. The water quality should see to this!

Merry Christmas everyone, have a great fishy one.

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