Looking surprisingly promising
  |  First Published: June 2007

Traditionally June fishing has been a bit of a shocker with big seas, wild weather and bone-chilling breezes. This year I’m predicting a real improvement.

I don’t know whether it is my hidden talents in long-range weather forecasting or it might be that I am an eternal optimist but this is going to be a great month.

Why? The water has remained warm, the baitfish are busy and the professionals are gearing for a flat-out season on luderick and bream. Jewfish are still very interested and tailor are making a welcome return.

Snapper can be caught in and around Port Stephens all year round and the big bream that live under the oyster racks inside the harbour don’t know if it is Summer or Winter. I suggest that you take the same approach.


Port Stephens has recently survived what can only be described as a blue swimmer crab invasion. Not in the 30-odd years, that I have fished the Port have I witnessed such numbers of the biggest, well-conditioned crabs simply pouring out of all the feeder streams, rivers and creeks into the open waters of the Port.

On my most recent trip up Tilligerry Creek the sight was pretty weird. The surface was littered with literally hundreds of empty milk bottles – floats for witches’ hats. Each float represented one witch’s hat or a conventional crab trap.

Weaving through the obstacle course were dozens of boats of all shapes and sizes. One boat I saw was loaded with mum, dad and six kids allowing, that crew to legally set 40 witches’ hats and take home 160 crabs – which they probably did.

It was regularly reported that bag limits of 20 were being reached in less than an hour. These crabs were giants with the best reaching a remarkable 78cm from claw tip to outstretched claw tip. A mate who owns a local bait and tackle outlet sold 340 witches’ hats in one week, plus 200kg of mullet, which was the preferred bait. Thankfully the start of the annual mullet run along our beaches lowered the price somewhat.

Unfortunately, being the creatures that we are, some of us are unable to control our excitement or greed and the bag limit of 20 was not enough. I did hear of one champion up inside the harbour who chased crabs all night and ended up with around 200 by the time the sun rose.

Others doubled their limit or caught their bag limit, then deposited their catch on shore so that they could return to load up again. Still others are going out day after day. There are numerous stories, if only half are true it is a very sad state of affairs.

I do not blame the Fisheries officers one bit because they are stretched to the limit over a huge area. In fact, with limited resources they do a remarkably good job. Maybe we need to talk about this one.


On a happier note, popular local Ben Doolan cleaned up this years Trailerboat Tournament fishing by himself in a beat-up 4.2m tinny driven by what his mates call a Mixmaster. Competing against 1100 other super-keen entrants in high-tech boats with a full compliment of four fishers, Ben returned to the weighmaster with the best tailor at 3kg, the best tuna at17kg and the top cobia of 22kg.

For his efforts Ben won Champion Angler and his crunched-up tinny won Champion Boat. Numbers of competitors were down on last year’s numbers by around 300. Some say this was due to the late availability of entry forms, others blame the fear of an impending Marine Park.

It will be interesting to see next year’s numbers as this will be the first time that the competition will be run when park sanctuary zones are being policed. I don’t think it will make any difference because there still remain plenty of great fishing spots unaffected by the zoning. Just ask Ben Doolan.

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