A new year and I’m guessing with Christmas just gone a lot of you will be keen to get out and try all the new fishing gear Santa left under the tree. Given the conditions we have been experiencing lately, it should be a great time to fish and the next 3 months will produce some of the hottest fishing of the year.
The Hunter River has come to life with good catches of flathead, bream, school mulloway, and bass upstream. This is due to the prawns that have come down from the upper reaches. Making them the bait of choice is a great idea, or using soft and hard plastic imitation lures is a good second bet.
I stopped off to check the salinity around the Hexham and Raymond Terrace area not long back, and was surprised to see it had risen from near fresh to very salty. With a strip of mullet fished right on sunset as the tide changed, I was hoping for a jewfish or some nice bream. I wasn’t disappointed and got a nice plate-sized bream that was keen on the fresh bait.
I caught it right at the junction of the two rivers that meet at Raymond Terrace, the Williams and the Hunter. A fair few boats were around the area and I saw some others that had big bream also. Most were taken on boats anchored along the body of water in the middle of where the flow from both rivers actually meets. A good hole and dropoff has formed here and it’s pretty well known for sharks, mulloway, and huge eels at times. Bream, the odd tailor, as well as bass all visit this area during summer, so if you’re up that way it’s a good starting point for fishing the river.
Another area that is well worth a look if you’re in a boat is the rocky shoreline along the Hexham edge, just north of the two bridges. As the tide comes in, it pushes you along, allowing lures to be cast close into the rocks. You never know what you may hook along here, although big flathead are the main target.
Downstream in Newcastle Harbour proper, the warm water is pouring in, with good numbers of big whiting feeding over the sand and weed spots up to the Kooragang Island intersection of the north and south sections of the river. This is also a hotspot for big flathead through January and February; the deep sandy bottom drops down to over 100’ in places and the big fish sit right on the edge. Hookups on sharks and stingrays can be annoying, but large mulloway love this sort of terrain as well, so a live bait sitting on the edge of the shipping channel will always get taken by some large predator. Heavy gear is a must though.
The beaches are firing, with big sand whiting in the gutters along Stockton and Redhead beaches. The latter is a bit of a problem if you’re four-wheel-driving in though, as they are running the pipe from the Swansea Channel dredge behind the Belmont Golf Course. This is leaving the beach a deep, sandy, muddy mess and hard to drive over. Avoid this area if you can, and come onto the beach to the north or south of it. The whiting are taking worms, pipis, and peeled prawns, and as darkness falls the bream should come into play in the holes. Don’t be surprised if you get a few sand flathead on the rising tide — they have been taken of a morning and evening.
I can’t go past fresh pipis or worms for beach baits, although I must admit I am not the best at catching them. I always end up with a handful of worm heads, and get frustrated at seeing other anglers get 2’ long specimens — God it does my head in!
Off the rocks I have seen crews live baiting in the hope of longtail tuna or kingfish. A balloon floated out with a livie dancing underneath is the best method, but it requires a lot of patience. In the meantime, bream usually cruise the washes, as do big tailor, and bonito are about in plague proportions. Pick a good day and you should be in with a shot either spinning chromies or using live bait. Don’t forget to pack a squid jig and all bases are covered.
Offshore is where the real action is taking place. Marlin, mahimahi, kingfish, bonito, mac tuna, as well as tailor are out there just waiting for a trolled lure, live or dead bait to come past them. The FAD is usually a good place to try, as is the weather buoy off Newcastle and the North Reef buoy. Shiny silver, pink and blue skirted lures are my favourite colours to run around these areas.
The deep reefs have been fishing well, with morwong and nannygai still being taken, along with a lot of plate size snapper, I haven’t heard of any big knobbies moving in close yet, but they can turn up at any time. Teraglin and mulloway are feeding over the reefs at night also.
All in all, I can see a great few months ahead of us, as the water temperatures are lifting quickly. It went from 19 to over 20° in a small period of time and the current is streaming past, bringing multitudes of baitfish ,which is dragging the bigger fish with them.
A nice plate-sized bream taken on a strip of mullet from the Raymond Terrace region where the Williams and Hunter rivers meet. Salinity levels are high and a lot of fish are pushing up-river to feed on prawns.
The rocks are fishing well. Areas such as this kelp-covered bottom hold big squid over summer on calm days. Try jigs in pinks and greens, and use Razorbacks if you have them for better holding power when a big inker comes along.
Whiting, both sand and trumpeter, have moved over the shallows in the Hunter River. Try drifting with peeled prawns or worms.
Tailor are about offshore. This pair grabbed a small pink skirt trolled close to the weather buoy off Newcastle.Reads: 707