Sand flathead might not be the hardest fighting fish in the sea but they are fun to catch, predictable and perform excellently in the kitchen.
First-time fisho Vicki Hudson, pictured hereabouts, reckons she caught the fishing bug just south of Broughton Island where she landed cracker sandies to 2kg. “I was always left behind on fishing trips in the past,” Vicki said. “Not now. The best way not to become a fishing widow is to join the crew. The only problem that I have experienced is that the boys don’t like to be beaten at their own game.”
There are acres of quality sandies outside the heads on the wide, sandy expanses in around 35m to 45m of water from north of Broughton to Birubi. The technique is simple: Drift with two 4/0 hooks set 1m apart over a 4oz to 6oz lead. Bait up with cubed pilchards, fresh bonito or mullet strips and lower it all to the bottom.
If you haven’t experienced a bite in five minutes, wind up, move a couple of hundred metres and repeat the exercise.
When you have caught a feed of sandies it’s time to motor over the reefs and use the same rig and bait to target teraglin. Trag, as they are commonly called, are magnificent fish that look very much like a school jewfish and can be told apart mainly by their concave tails and yellow mouths and gill covers. Best results are recorded around the full moon on live slimy mackerel.
Marlene from Coombsey’s Bait and Tackle at Karuah tells me that the fishing is red-hot for flathead and bream around the oyster racks on plastics. Fay Mason is the champ with a monster bream off the pool.
The bream have gone nuts with reports of great catches of cracker fish to 1.5kg right throughout the port. Soldiers Point is the home of bream and they have gathered in droves around all oyster-covered rocks and under the oyster racks. Dom Smith bagged 19 bream and a couple of flathead while Wayne Coles landed 48 bream to 1.2kg and another 37 on recent outings. All fish, caught on plastics, were released.
Jonathan Charsley locked onto a thumper 1.4kg bream on mullet gut. Mullet gut may be a difficult bait to use but bream love it threaded on a 2/0 hook with no lead if possible. I’m sure plastic tossers will be horrified at the very thought of using mullet gut. Wait for a rising tide into the dark and just hang on.
Karuah, Lemon Tree, Corrie Island, Nelson Bay breakwall and the Tomaree Torpedo Tubes are hot spots inside the port. Outside the heads, thumper bream are swimming through all the washes, around the islands and along the beaches. My favourite spot is the Grit Hole on Fingal Island.
Paul Lennon and Ben Doolan worked Fingal Beach for jewfish at the back end of the mullet run, walking off with fish to 23kg and 27kg respectively. Anyone who tells you that beach hauling is impacting on mullet numbers should have visited Fingal Bay during the run. The schools were huge and they kept coming – very healthy signs for the future. Tailor, bream and salmon are lining up on Stockton and Fingal Beaches.
Outside the heads jewfish and trag have gathered in excellent numbers over all the popular reefs. The hottest have been the Gibber, The 21, The Vs, Tank and Uralla.
Snapper have returned after a short break. The Curtis brothers, Paul and Chris, had a picnic on the snapper with six reddies up to 3kg taken around Big Island. Tom Wade and his mate Ross Duffy returned from Broughton Island with a fantastic bag of flathead, trag and snapper.
Rockhoppers will be pleased to hear reports of schools of bronzed luderick moving along the rocky coastline. It’s time to wipe the dust of your favourite float and check out the weed and cabbage growth.
I don’t know whether this is good or bad news – the leatherjackets are back! There are swarms over the outer reefs and the best tackle tip is fencing wire!
Late news: I just received a call from a fishing crew at Catherine Hill Bay telling me that 400 tonnes of salmon are resting just off the coast and expected to head north when the weather changes. Where is that fish cake recipe?Reads: 1999