The current situation
  |  First Published: April 2017

This month should see the sea change direction, with the water running back up the hill again to banana bender territory. Additionally, the fish that moved down on the warmer currents way down south will pass us. This makes April a great time to fish around the whole Hunter Coast, especially the rocks and beaches.

I have been bending a rod or two lately, and with moderate success. I have found the corner of the beaches and the headlands and rocks to be the best places to land a bait or spin with lures. Tailor are moving through, and of course salmon have been around as well. I have seen stray salmon all through summer this year – the numbers of them have been that great lately.

Luderick are schooling and entering the river as well. They must be passing the bream as they school up, tending to go on their spawning runs, so there should be fish around the two break walls and close to the harbour mouth now.

It’s also not a bad month to livebait for mulloway off both of the walls, especially if you can get a live squid, legal tailor, a slimy mackerel or yellowtail. Sometimes herring school around under the wharves through April, and with the smallest livebait jigs on the market you can fill up the livie tank pretty quickly. A handful of mashed bread can entice them to move closer to your boat if they’re well under the huge shipping wharves, or if you’re standing on the wharves themselves. They are a great bait for mulloway and large flathead. Cut fresh they will also take bream, flounder and tailor.

A few big sergeant bakers were caught off the Stockton wall while I was there not too long back. These are usually a deep sea reef species, but I think the warmth of the water had brought them in close. Myself and the angler who caught them thought the first one was a huge flathead. He was pretty disappointed and released them. They’re not great on the chew, even though they are white fleshed and large.

Drummer should be turning up now in the suds, and if you like doing battle with these hoons of the crevices the end of Stockton wall will give you some. When I say ‘some’ I mean the ones you can actually get up to the net or gaff. The end of the wall is so rugged it makes for a hard slog when battling these brutes. Heavy gear such as large Alveys and 40lb line and sometimes even heavier line is the best way to nail them. A berley mixture of bread, sand and a bit of strand or cabbage weed also helps.

Groper hang here too from April through to winter. If you get some red crabs on the spot, the same gear can get these blue and red balls of muscle as well. Newcastle anglers use Alveys a fair bit when chasing these big, hard-pulling fish as you can hand cup the reel and actually get some leverage on the fish. You can go one-on-one without a drag system that may slip halfway through that powerful first run for the rocks, and you can lift them up as they make their deep dive. The rougher the water the better, but be careful and choose your spots wisely.

Offshore has been hit and miss. Some lucky anglers have returned with a lot of sand flathead, squire-sized snapper (3kg is the best one I have seen in the past few weeks), teraglin and school mulloway. Some sizeable sharks are also over the reefs and in Stockton Bight. Late afternoon and early morning have been the best times, as well as tidal changes through the night.

This is probably going to be the last chance you will get to chase marlin, mahimahi and other pelagics. With the water cooling, the marlin have been an on-and-off affair. Some days a few have been caught, and then nothing for a week.

The inside reefs usually fill with school kingfish, nannygai, red and blue morwong and squid in April, so this is an option for those who want to dart out for a quick fish before or after work. This is also the last month for blue swimmer crabs, so drop a few pots on your way out through the river. If the fish aren’t on, a feed of sweet crabs might put a smile on your dial.

All in all, I really think you should get on the water this month as it sees the changing of the guard from summer to winter species. The fishing won’t be the same later in autumn.

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