Estuary action heats up
  |  First Published: November 2007

While Stinker is away sipping French champagne and scoffing croissants at the Rugby World Cup, he has asked if I could let you know what is happening around Port Stephens.

I have to admit that this is one of the best months for estuary fishing in Port Stephens. The water temperature is steadily climbing and is fluctuating between 19° and 21°, which triggers many estuary species to be more aggressive in their feeding patterns.

Flathead have certainly made a big appearance so far this Spring. Some big female duskies have surprised many anglers tossing soft plastics, myself included. I caught my personal best flathead of 95cm, which weighed an impressive 7.6kg.

Lure choice is simple: Any shad-style plastic that is at least 100mm (4”) long with an appropriate jig head from 1/4oz to 1/2oz is ideal. Squidgy Shads in lemon chicken and evil minnow have been achieving the best results.

Most of my larger flathead have come from deeper water, from 3m to 7m. The big girls are also joined by a lot of smaller male fish from 1kg to 2kg in the deeper water, which may suggest that these might be breeding areas.

If this is the case, be sure to get a quick photo of the larger females and promptly return them to the water, ensuring that they can continue to breed. Anyway, the smaller ones are far better to eat.


Bream and whiting have been really aggressive lately with many larger fish being taken towards the back half of the estuary around the Karuah River.

It seems that local anglers have discovered the great success of surface-luring for whiting. The expansive flats around the Port are havens for big sand whiting so as the weather and water keep warming, the action should pick up.

Bream are always keen to take a surface lure, whether it’s hard or soft. The various oyster racks and rock walls always hold a good number of fish but it seems those exposed to some tidal run produce more and better fish. Fresh baits such as mullet gut and fillets have attracted larger bream while live beach worms and pink nippers are the key to successfully capturing large sand whiting.

Local anglers have also been targeting some terrific mulloway in the estuary. All the prime locations, such as Middle Island near Soldiers Point, the Wreck in Salamander Bay and the two bridges at Karuah have all produced quality fish including a couple of monsters. One was over 23kg and was caught on a Squidgy Slick Rig. Live baits such as slimy mackerel, yellowtail and legal tailor (30cm) have accounted for many quality jewies as well.


The offshore scene has been typically up and down for this time of year as currents from the north fluctuate. All is not lost, because the inshore waters at this time provide excellent opportunities to target big snapper, especially on soft plastics. Spots such as The Gutz at the back of Broughton Island, the Sisters and further south towards Fishermans Bay are all prime locations.

Is it just me or does it seem like everyone who targets snapper uses plastics these days? Fair enough, they are very effective and, to be honest, I have caught more quality and quantity then I had ever done using trusty old brined pilchards.

But I have to wonder how long will it take the snapper wise up to plastic offerings, or will a new technique be discovered? Speaking of new, make sure you get your hands on some of the new Squidgy Pro Range. The 90mm Stealth Prawn would have to be my favourite at the moment after landing a 5.5kg snapper on the third cast.

Drifting in 40m to 50m off Little Island and north of Broughton will provide an excellent feed of sand flathead. Their lack of fight sure doesn’t detract from their eating qualities.

But it’s not as simple as just sending down a dropper rig to the bottom. An old local legend, the late Dave Morrisby, had it down to an art form. It was common for Dave to have his bag limit of quality fish within a couple of hours and he even had precise marks of underwater sand flats that held better quality sandies. But the key was to constantly move between 40m to 50m to locate the bigger sand flathead.

Out towards the continental shelf, good yellowfin tuna to 40kg have been caught by those trolling skirted lures or cubing. Temperature breaks seem to be the key to success.

The odd striped marlin is also being encountered with solid signs of bait showing in the famous Car Park area. Ounce the water temperatures become more consistent it is sure to fire.

Bottom fishing out wide around Allmark Mountain has led to some great kingfish captures. Fish from 8kg to 15kg have been regularly taking jigs and live baits. Some excellent bar cod have also been caught in the same area.


Beach fishing around Port Stephens is just starting to fire. Thumping sand whiting are appearing in greater numbers on all the beaches, but Birubi would have to be the pick. Live beach worms, pipis and pink nippers are the top baits but an increasing number of switched-on anglers are starting to experiment with the Berkley 6” Gulp Worms with surprising results. Simply thread the worm onto a long-shank hook as if it were a natural bait, toss it out and wait for the bites – it’s that simple.

Salmon are still here in numbers and they also have taken a liking to the Gulp Worms. Salmon certainly offer a great introduction to newcomers to fishing and are sure to have any junior angler hooked.

You can still catch a feed of drummer from the rocks. A good berley trail of fresh bread is the key. Use some of the fresh bread for bait, make sure you have at least 30lb line and hang on.

Plenty of large squid are about so if you’re keen for fresh feed of calamari, grab a squid jig, head to a sheltered bay around Rocky Point and Boulder Bay.

As we head into Summer it only gets better from here, especially offshore.

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