Always have a live bait on hand
  |  First Published: January 2016

Over the school holidays, the population of Port Stephens doubles in size, making January one of the busiest months on the water. You’re going to have plenty of company out there on the water but, nevertheless, the fishing is always great in January with stacks of target options.

Inside the estuary whiting are a great species to focus on now and a fish that doesn’t seem to mind the crowds and activity too much. In fact if you get yourself some live worms and fish on the high tide you should be able to get stuck into a few even in the middle of the day on the Port’s busiest beaches such as Shoal Bay, Little Beach and Nelson Bay. Surface Poppers will work well on whiting but you will need to fish further up the system around areas such as Corlette, Mary and Taylors beaches.

If you’re after flathead there will be plenty around this month right through the bay from Jimmys Beach all the way to the bottom end of the Karuah River, but be sure to get out early before the waterways get too hectic. Soft plastics and hardbodied lures or even an old school slow rolled pilchard on a set of gang hooks will all do the trick on the lizards. Just remember, if you do catch a big girl over 70cm it should always be released back into the system.

While there are plenty of mulloway in the bay this time of year they are certainly one fish that will go into shut down mode with the amount of water traffic the bay is experiencing right now.

If you want to target them my advice is to wait until everything quietens down and fish for them late at night through to the small hours of the morning. The best areas to hit are the rock walls and Corlette Wreck.

From the surf beaches the whiting should be chewing their heads off this month, and as long as you have live worms or pipis you shouldn’t have any trouble catching a feed off any of the ocean beaches. It will also be worth fishing into the night, chancing your luck at a mulloway off the beach this month especially along Stockton, Samurai or Hawks Nest.


Offshore there are plenty of trag on the bite, predominately around sunset with the Big Gibber, 21,Vee and Uralla reefs all producing great bites. Kingfish to an impressive 25kg are cruising the shallow reefs around the Islands reeking havoc on schools of yellowtail, slimy mackerel and garfish. The best way to get connected to one of them is to slow troll live bait around the bait schools. Mahimahi are thick on the FAD, however get there early as they tend to shut down after a few boats go through them and they see their mates start disappearing.

While it’s still a bit early for the small blacks to be caught in any sort of numbers, there might be the odd one around if we get a good push of warm water in close. On the edge of the shelf things really start to heat up in January as striped and black marlin start to show up in proper numbers, as well as the odd big blue over the edge.

While there’s no doubt trolling lures will catch marlin, the preferred method by most out of Port Stephens is skip or live baiting, which yields a far better hook up conversion rate when compared with skirts. Most boats will cover the ground using skip baits looking for schools of bait on the sounder, but always have a live bait or two rigged and ready to pitch at a fish that comes up on a the skip bait but just wont commit or hits the skips but doesn’t hook up. Rigged live baits will also come in handy if the skipper thinks they’ve marked a marlin on the sounder feeding on a bait school.

In this case the bait is bombed down to the desired depth with an 8-16oz snapper lead attached via elastic band, which hopefully results in bite!

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