Time for snapper and tailor
  |  First Published: June 2007

As I write there have been birds wheeling and diving over baitfish which are being gunned down by the tailor in the Hunter and Lake Macquarie is filled with witches’ hats laden with blue swimmer crabs.

It’s time for the chrome brigade to prepare for battle with the tailor. Some good-sized fish are mixed in with a load of choppers so its hit-and-miss. But there are so many ways you can fish for these toothy critters that you shouldn’t miss out.

Trolling deep divers in Newcastle Harbour or Lake Macquarie is one of the best ways to locate a school, as is following swooping sea birds.

You don’t need a boat at times, either. Those on the evening shift, armed with floats and light sticks, will come away with some great captures from wharves and rock walls.


The squire have shown up close to the coast and this is a great time to try the Winter run of snapper. Newcastle isn’t known for its large snapper but the number of plate-size fish that frequent the close reefs means most smaller trailer boats can get at them with ease.

Leaving the Harbour, you can be on good reefy patches within minutes so it’s a safe way to fish in water from 4m and deeper.

North Reef would be the pick of spots. It’s a fairly widely-known ground and the guano-spattered shipping marker in its centre makes it easy to find.

Drifting over this reef covers more area and more fish are taken on the drift here than at anchor. At times you can tempt a few bigger snapper by chasing down the squid and yellowtail that are on site and using them fresh or live.

Fish around 3kg are the biggest most anglers will see on North Reef but with a 2/0 suicide hook you can easily bag out on fish just over a kilo. There is one downfall on North Reef: For every red there seems to be 10 sergeant bakers waiting to do battle with you.

Big Ben Reef, a mere five minutes from the boat ramp off Carrington, is another close ground which gives up good numbers of fish at times. You have to watch the swell here, though, because it can lift you onto flat plateau of rocks you may not see just under the surface. Avoid this area if you don’t know the layout.

Fishing with unweighted pilchards is by far the best way top tackle Big Ben because the bottom is plagued with rock cod and every other reefy critter you can mention. Tailor also prowl the whitewater close by so a floater will sometimes be snatched by a chopper before a snapper.

I anchor here for good results but many anglers drift – just watch the direction you drift to avoid the dangerous zone.

The shipwreck off Stockton Surf Club is another area where you will pick up good squire. Despite its reputation it isn’t just a bait ground. Anchor over the wreck, drop paternoster rigs down under the bait balls and get ready for bream, tailor, trevally and the squire.

Out wider, grim most reefs haven’t been fishing to their full potential but we all know this can change overnight.

Newcastle Harbour should kick into full swing this month as the run of bigger jewfish picks up until about August.

Bream will definitely be a drawcard for those light-lining with peeled prawns or flicking soft plastics under the ships’ lights at night. The same goes for the lit areas around the dockyard and along Nobbys Wall behind the motel.

Craig Hain from Belmont Marine Sports has been impressed with the number of blue swimmer crabs, mostly from Bolton Point down to Warners Bay. They are nice and full, too.

Craig said some kingfish have been in the Swansea Channel as well, especially on fresh channel squid. Lures would be an ideal second choice.

The luderick brigade should be out in full swing from now through the Winter. I am sure there are more luderick around all year now.

So this month don’t put the boat away – get out and try for snapper, bream and tailor . You could also try an estuary evening in Newcastle Harbour for larger jewfish and take along the light gear for some great bream.

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