March your best bet
  |  First Published: March 2007

This is it – the month of March is your best chance of catching a fish in Port Stephens. The water is consistently warm and the surface is boiling with baitfish, which in my opinion is the very best indicator of what is underneath.

Inside the Port the flathead have moved out of the feeder streams, that drain the mangrove forests, into the wide expanses of the Port. Year after year they move into the same areas, and with the right conditions, flathead anglers know exactly where they are.

So what are the right conditions? Flathead love warm, calm water regardless of the depth. In the early mornings on an in coming tide, lizards cruise out of the channels up into the shallows where they lay motionless waiting for unsuspecting juvenile whiting, mullet, bream and squid to swim past their noses. The predator generally chooses an area that attracts small fish such as rockwalls, jetties, moorings and bridges. Then he settles himself in the shadows and waits.

When it comes to flathead fishing I’m a bit of a dinosaur – I still choose to toss and slowly retrieve a white pilchard on a gang of three 2/0 hooks. My hotspots include the Groynes at Corlette, Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay beaches, Jimmies Beach and Kiddies Korner at Fingal. I get the shivers when I toss an unweighted pilchard along the shore line just as colour is entering the sky, no breeze and no current. You will find that the first two or three casts are your best.

Whiting are in sensational numbers on the beaches inside the Port. Even when you are swimming, the whiting dart around within metres of you. To cover all bases I generally set a whiting line with a live worm on a No. 4 long shank hook, using a rod in a plastic tube driven into the sand. Then I concentrate on the flathead. It’s crab season and it seems that no one is missing out. Blue swimmers are right throughout the system. The biggest problem for locals and visitors alike is sticking to the bag limit. Oddly enough, for some 20 crabs are not enough.

Regardless of what some would have you believe, in the aftermath of the Marine Park, Port Stephens is on a roll. The fishing options available to all styles of anglers are fantastic and the community has developed an extremely positive attitude to the future.

The final plans for the Marine Park will be implemented this month and of course you will be required to comply with the plan. However, because of the complexity of the zonings I’m sure that there will be a period where a fair degree of tolerance will be displayed.

Like many locals in Port Stephens I have lost my hottest fishing spots to the Sanctuary Zone. In fact I’ve lost my best three or four spots. However, the way I see things, if losing my best fishing spots is the worst thing that happens to me, I’m a lucky man. I am actually looking forward to the challenge of finding new snapper and jewie holes. My sounder will be working overtime in search of new hotspots and I’ll share them with you when I find them!

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