A good time to thaw out
  |  First Published: September 2007

September in Port Stephens signals the start of the good times and brother, do we need it. I don’t know what conditions have been like in your region over the past three or four months but here in the Water Wonderland, the weather has been just plain lousy.

Our most notable on-water event, in fact our only on-water event, has been the beaching and subsequent salvaging of the bulk carrier Pasha Bulker. Wouldn’t it have made a sensational artificial reef?

Too early for the Summer species, this month should provide us with at least a reasonable opportunity to get out there and have a crack at the heaps of fish that are eagerly awaiting our arrival.

All the talk has centred around bream, luderick and drummer, with snapper off the rocks just entering the equation.

The bream season has been an absolute whopper for commercial and recreational fishers. Magnificent schools of snowy-white, broad-shouldered travelling bream have been regularly cruising around Fingal and the local beaches on their annual northern movement.

But it’s the resident bream that have been causing all the excitement. Port Stephens, for those who haven’t visited, is jam-packed with oyster farms, racks built into the water’s edge that provide the perfect habitat for bream to shelter and feast.

Right now the ‘full house’ sign has been hoisted over every rack.


Luderick have taken what little space the bream have left inside the Port, notably along the Nelson Bay breakwall.

Not being an avid luderick fisho, I marvel at the persistence and stamina of those able to stare at a float for five hours a day. I have heard that some of the keener types are attaching glow beads to their floats so that the ritual can continue into the dark. I’ll bet they see those floats in their sleep.

The drummer boys are equally as focused, figuring that if they use bread for bait off the rocks then there is every likelihood that they will snare an odd luderick or bream, which they do. Boulder Bay, Rocky Point and Boat Harbour are the favoured spots for local champions Ben Lamb, George Trinkler and Greg Harrison.


As previously mentioned it’s time to target snapper off the rocks.

Catching thumper snapper off the rocks must be one of the most exciting and rewarding forms of fishing that I know.

Rockhopping for snapper isn’t for the inexperienced, particularly as the big red fish are keener to bite when the sea is grumpy. Fortunately for us, around Port Stephens snapper will attack a bait all year round if the sea conditions are suitable.

The No 1 concern for all rockhoppers is safety: Keep an eye on the sea, find a dry rock and be aware of the tidal movement. A fishing mate, a buoy attached to a length of rope and non-slip footwear are all assets when the going gets rough.

It’s ideal to have the wind at your back to give maximum value when casting so that your bait will travel over the close-in kelp onto the sand, white rock or gravel which is the country preferred by the snapper.

In a boiling sea snapper will eat just about anything but a well-presented fresh or salted bait will surely be accepted.

Sliced tuna, bonito, mullet and whole squid are proven baits on a 4/0 to 6/0 hook. Avoid soft baits like unsalted tailor or bonito fillets, which will fly off in the other direction under the pressure of a heavy cast.

The most common technique is to use rods around 3.7m long, line around 12kg and suitable weight up to 4oz to toss the required distance. Tossing floating pilchards just behind the suds on ganged 4/0 to 6/0 hooks also attracts big reds along with bream, tailor, the occasional jewfish and salmon.

Snapper will swim around all rocky headlands and outcrops in search of a feed but not all rocks are suitable to fish from. The best and safest rock structures can be found at Boat Harbour, Rocky Point, Boulder Bay and Fingal Island.

I always know when it’s September – that’s when my fingers thaw out.

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