The calm after the storm
  |  First Published: February 2007

If I was asked to select my favourite fishing month, the answer would be February.

It’s a bit like the quiet after the storm, the storm being the mad Christmas rush and the school holidays. Living in a tourist haven such as Port Stephens, dealing with crowds becomes a way of life but that doesn’t mean to say that I’m not glad to see them go!

Beaches that swarmed with holidaymakers and kids digging to China have gone. 4WDs full of flashing cameras and fishtailing through the soft sand have thankfully returned to the tarred city streets.

I look over Fingal Beach and as I write there is not one soul for 2km and I know with the rising tide that the whiting are snuffling through the sand under the breaking waves. Huge jewfish move on the moon and are taken year after year on live whiting a couple of hundred metres from the now deserted surf club.

Stockton Beach has undergone the greatest transition, from a race track, smash-up derby to a magnificent stretch of fishing beach with whiting, jewfish and flathead the main targets. I’m sure that the huge pipi population along Stockton is breathing a very big sigh of relief that the rumble is over.

Every day on the waters of Port Stephens over the holiday period is like a regatta with boats of all designs going flat out to some unknown destination. PWCs, water skis, thunder boats, water taxis, dolphin-watchers, sailing racers and show-offs have all gone.

Huge flathead have cruised down stream from the rivers and tributaries that feed the open waters of the port. Magnificently-conditioned fish with broad shoulders glide into calm, protected corners where sand meets rock or on the lee side of jetties, breakwalls and bridges and lie motionless until an unsuspecting prey, or your bait or lure, passes their nose. Whammo! A huge cloud of sand and you are in business.

Karuah, Tilligerry Creek, Lemon Tree Passage in the west harbour and Corlette, Corrie Island and Shoal Bay nearer the heads are the hottest of hot spots.

Bream and whiting are spread right throughout the system, as are blue swimmer crabs. Jewfish have been hyperactive since November and they are still at it. Right now thumpers are swimming under both bridges that cross the Karuah River, around Middle Island off Soldiers Point, over the wreck in Corlette Bay and along the breakwall in Nelson Bay.


Outside the heads the action is thick and fast and all the talk is, unsurprisingly, about snapper. Reddies to a frightening 12kg are crunching baits and plastics right around Broughton Island, Boondelbah Island and further south to Fishermans Bay.

Kingfish are sizzling over Esmeralda Bommie on Broughton and through the whitewater around the shallow reefs in front of the Outer Light on Fingal Island.

If you have ever harboured a desire to tangle with a massive jewfish, this is the time. In the Port, along all the beaches, around the headlands and islands and over the reefs, jewies are in full swing and I’m not talking wrigglers under 20kg, I’m talking absolute shoulder-dislocating thumpers to a staggering 35kg to 40kg. Fish that can straighten the prongs on your anchor. Don’t laugh, it happened to me.

If you think that I am excited you are right. Out comes Stinkpot and I’ve got the ocean all to myself. There is plenty of room if you want to join me…

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