The fishing at Port Stephens is always good, but now is the time of year when things really start heating up. Over the past month there’s been plenty of action, from monster flatties in the estuary to some cracking big reds and kings outside. And the good news is that it’s only going to get better as we step into the marlin season as well.
Inside the estuary, the flathead fishing has been exceptional. Not just numbers either, but some real thumpers amongst them. I managed to wrestle a 97cm model out of the shallows on a plastic, and have heard of several other fish in the 90s being caught. The majority of the action has been in the back half of the bay from Soldiers Point to the lower ends of the Tilligery and Karuah river systems. You can expect these fish to spread out a bit from now on, with many pushing down the bay to haunt the shallows anywhere from Corlette through to Jimmys Beach.
Whiting have taken up residency along the Shoal Bay and Nelson Bay beaches, and can be easily caught on the high tide. Live worms are the best bait. With the water now well over 20° inside the bay, surface lures fished over the flats are also a very productive way to get a feed of them — and great fun too! Likewise, bream are smacking lures on the top, with local champs Chris Curtis and Peter Clark cleaning up by throwing poppers over any bit of structure between Soldiers Point and Garden Island.
Kingfish, from rats to 20kg hoodlums, have been patrolling the Nelson Bay and Anchorage rock walls. Live squid will be your best chance at connecting to one. Stickbaits and poppers are also effective, especially on first light if combined with a tide change. Tristan Rodriguez has had plenty of success on the kings this month, landing several using live baits and lures.
On the beaches, the whiting have been thick, particularly along Stockton, Fingal and One Mile. Live worms fished on the high tide are again the keys to successful whiting fishing. There have been good reports of school mulloway after dark along Stockton too. One angler I know caught 30 of them to 7.5kg in one session, with almost all being released.
Outside, the water has been up and down, chopping and changing between cold, dirty and green, to blue, clear and 20°-plus. This has made the fishing somewhat hit and miss, but from now on that water temperature should become more stable. The FAD has been producing plenty of mahimahi, with the odd 10kg model amongst them. Often, those bigger ones will be hanging a bit deeper, so it can pay to drop a live bait down about 30m for a look.
Marlin have been a tad quiet, however, it’s only early and I'm pretty confident they will be starting to fire by the time you read this. Snapper have been consistently good up around Edith Breakers, but just remember it’s a plastic area only. The shallows around Broughton Island are fishing well for reds, but you need to fish it correctly to have success. There’s no point rocking up in the middle of the day and drifting in 10-20m of water with a paternoster rig and a dirty big sinker. If you want to catch snapper in these parts, there are two ways to do it. Either anchor up and float unweighted baits down a berley trail, or drift, casting lightly weighted 5-7” plastics ahead of the boat.
For both methods one thing is critical, and that’s to fish either first light or late afternoon.
Some big kings have also been lurking around the shallows of Broughton, terrorising schools of slimy mackerel, garfish and yellowtail. A proven method to hook up to one of these bruisers is to slow-troll a live bait on minimum 24kg gear around the bait schools.
Quality whiting are suckers for surface lures at this time of year.
The author with an extremely fat 97cm Port Stephens lizard.
This month has seen plenty of big kings caught both outside and inside the estuary.Reads: 908