February is an exciting time to be fishing Port Stephens. The estuary is teeming with life, the beaches fish well, and the game fishing season really kicks into gear.
The NSW Interclub Tournament is also fast approaching, being on the 20th of this month, and by the way things are shaping up it’s going to be a cracker. Striped marlin have already been tagged in good numbers for the past month on the shelf. In fact, just as I’m writing this, I received a report that local boat Seaka caught 5 from 9 fishing the Car Park, as well as a couple of cracker mahimahi.
There’s also been good reports trickling through of black marlin from in close around South West Rocks through to Foster, which means it's only a matter of time before they show up here. Pelagic species such as longtail tuna and the odd cobia also shouldn’t be too far away either, so it's all about to happen.
Outside the heads, big kings have been cruising the shallows around Broughton Island, with a slow-trolled squid or live slimy mackerel your best option for getting connected to one. There has also been a few solid kings come from the bommies off Fingal Lighthouse. Speaking with divers in the area, there are plenty of them.
Snapper have been a bit hit and miss, but local anglers Al Wilson and Noel Martin have been doing well fishing the shallows around Cod Rock with unweighted baits.
The whiting fishing off the beaches has been as good as it gets, particularly on Stockton and Fingal. I fished Stockton through the week with good mate Chris Drake and it wasn’t long before we had enough for a feed, with it just about being a fish a cast. We were about 7km down the beach and as we were heading home I stopped to talk to a few other anglers and it seemed as though everyone was having similar success, which was great to see.
On a more unfortunate note, Zenith and Wreck beaches (also great whiting spots) are now off limits as sanctuary zones, with no fishing of any kind permitted. To the delight of both visiting and local anglers, these beaches were re-opened to shore-based line fishing in March 2013. This amnesty has now ceased, with many other areas up and down the coast suffering the same fate.
Inside the estuary, the surface fishing has been red hot. Bream gun Andrew Stubbs has been catching some thumping fish on the surface, mainly around the oyster racks and rock bars from Soldiers Point through to the mouth of the Karuah River. Whiting have been just as hot on the top, with the flats around Taylors Beach, Pindimar Bay and Tea Gardens all producing on the high tide.
Still on whiting, there are heaps around Shoal Bay, Nelson Bay and Jimmys Beaches. The most successful method here is 4lb leaders, long shank hooks and a live worm or yabby. High tide is prime time.
There’s stacks of dusky flathead throughout the system this time of year, with 10-12cm plastics proving lethal on the run-out tide around North Arm Cove, Karuah, and the Myall River areas.
If you're land based and want to chase flathead, you shouldn’t have too much trouble cracking a few around Corlette Groynes and Wanda Head. Both the bridges at Karuah have been holding school mulloway, particularly around the tide changes. Nothing beats a live bait, especially on mulloway, but paddle tail plastics rigged on 1/2oz jigheads work really well in these parts.
Blue swimmer and mud crabs have come on strong in the last month and should only get better from here on in. Tilligerry Creek and North Arm cove have been the hot spots of late for blue swimmers, while the feeder creeks and inlets up in the Karuah River have been holding muddies.Reads: 1027