Goodbye Christmas, hello fishing
  |  First Published: February 2017

The Christmas period is fantastic in many ways. However, on a personal level I hate the crowds and look forward to nothing more than the end of the holidays and seeing the kids head back to school and the crowds head on home for another year.

And there is another reason I’m a little excited for this time of year. The fishing in our part of the world is red-hot and should remain so for the next couple of months, regardless of whether you’re chasing estuary species or heading to the wide canyons and beyond. There is plenty on offer for all at the moment.

Offshore fishing is really on the improve as we head into the season proper. We should see a sharp increase in marlin numbers and with that we should see plenty of nice by-catches in the form of some very respectable mahimahi captures. One thing I suggest to any crews heading offshore at this time of year is to ensure you have a few live baits in the well, and on your way offshore I’d suggest a quick stop, and drift a livie past the FAD. It’s a great way to see if anyone is home – and the next livie to be taken at the FAD by a passing marlin won’t be the last either. Even if the marlin are not on the chew, a nice mahimahi will certainly be a very welcome addition to the esky, as there aren’t many fish better for the table.

However at this time of year and in our part of the world, offshore fishing is really about one fish and one fish only: marlin. Many crews wait all year to fish hard off Lake Macquarie, and the marlin fishing can be sensational to say the least. As with every season you will have some crews who love to bob around a bait ball and soak a live bait, and others who enjoy the challenge of working a spread of lures and searching for good numbers of good fish. Both methods work and both have their place. Both methods may look simple enough, but there is always more to it than meets the eye, and the crews that are good at either option are so because of countless seasons and many hours perfecting their chosen method.

It’s no secret that for anglers wanting to target the fish in numbers, the Car Park off Port Stephens is the place to be. Although it’s a little more crowded these days, it’s not so bad if you can squeeze your trip in mid-week and outside of holiday periods. The key is to slow troll live slimies around these bait balls – often one surface bait and one weighted bait is your best option until you work out a pattern. When fishing locations such as the Car Park, ensure you keep an eye on other boats around you, not only for the safety of all, but also out of courtesy for others who are hooked up and fighting.

For those that prefer trolling lures, I would suggest a spread of quality lures in the 6-10” range at this time of year – and don’t forget to mix it up with colours. Run your larger lures closest to the back of the boat and then the outside lures further back in the spread. Four to six lures are ideal if you can manage that. You will hear plenty of options on what colour lure has to be where in your spread, but I assure you the fish don’t read the books. Mix it up and you will soon find your go-to lures and positions.

One thing I will say is that if the warm waters are reaching the inshore grounds then by all means spend some time working these grounds. So many anglers head far and wide in search of marlin, when the fact is that during peak summer periods, and when the currents are in close, the marlin are in close too. Often depths of 30-60m are very productive, so don’t think it’s all about the canyons and the shelf at this time of year.

Estuary anglers also have plenty to smile about, with mulloway season in Lake Macquarie never ending these days. It seems they are growing in numbers and size, and if we manage this fishery correctly, it should keep getting better as the years go by. Many anglers are scoring good numbers of fish when live bait fishing with squid. It’s a very productive method and a live squid is hard for any mulloway to pass up. Me personally, I love chasing these silver beasts on lures. It is the most rewarding type of fishing I have done, and I just love the feeling of a nice mulloway on light line hurting my arms. I suggest 1/4oz-1/2oz weighted jigheads with a 2/0-3/0 hook size. I like 4-6” soft plastics, and many colours work, but I do lean towards the white and silver colour options.

Bream anglers are also having a great time at the moment. Lure anglers are seeing some great fishing with a good run of fish this year. Mix it up a little, as some days and obviously at certain tides they’re going crazy on the shallows, but other times are seeing really good numbers of fish in deeper waters. Shallow running hardbody lures are producing good fish to 40cm+ over the flats, and blades, plastics and deep diving hardbodies are all working well off the edges in the deeper locations. For hungry anglers looking for some yummy food then you’re in luck as well. The old blue swimmer crabs are about in good numbers for those in the know – with 3-4m areas throughout the lake being very productive, with some really good bags about. There’s nothing better than sitting back at the end of a hot summer’s day with a cold beverage and a fresh feed of crabs.

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