Fresh sets up the Summer
  |  First Published: December 2005

A whole new year to get into the fishing and judging by the weather and the offshore currents, it’s shaping up to be good.

There has been a vast amount of rain and the Hunter River has experienced minor flooding. It being prawn season, no wonder the fishing in the estuary as well as on the close reefs has been good. On dark moons after rain millions of prawns wash down out to sea.

This makes for some great fishing along the river and on the close reefs. Bream, flathead and whiting all love a feed of prawns and a lot of fish lay up near the harbour entrance when the tide is pumping prawns out.

The stained brown water from the river can be seen flowing way out to sea after flooding. Drifting around this water can pay off with great catches. Trolling along the interface of dirty water with clean is another great way to find fish, especially tailor.

The river has been fishing well with some nice bream around the Lee Wharf pylons late in the afternoon, as have a few school jewfish.


Spinning for jewfish is becoming a favourite throughout the river and you can understand why: There is so much deep water and the fish congregate in brightly lit areas at night around bays, channels, wharfs and rocky fingers.

Mullet, chopper tailor and all sorts of small baitfish sit in the lit water and spook easily when you approach in the boat. If they are in good numbers, odds are the jewfish and large bream won’t be far away.

Most locals kill their motors a fair distance from the lights and paddle or drift into the areas and work with lures, large soft plastics and nose-hooked tailor or mullet retrieved slowly. Live baits are becoming a must for night fishing this way and I must admit it wasn’t until sitting next to a boat and watching an angler do this that I had any thought of casting and retrieving livies.

I usually sit at anchor, waiting for the fish to come to me. There is a knack to casting out a livie – too briskly and you’ll rip them straight off the hook, so easy does it, even on the retrieve. Most locals toss the livies up against the pylons or walls and let them sink.

Bream have been targeted by the night crews and a Summer night roaming the harbour casting to the edges of ships or wharfs (where permitted) has resulted in a number of big bream. The Basin is a popular spot and around the trawler wharfs bream lurk in good numbers. Remember that in murky water lures of brighter colours work best. Don’t forget fresh prawns or strips of mullet.

Boaties who spend the night out must ensure their boats have the regulation lights. Without them it is dangerous, especially in The Basin area. There are lights on the market that take batteries and just stick to the hull so you don’t need fancy wiring to be safe and legal.

Whiting are about in the river and a lot have been taken at the end of Kooragang Island by drifting prawns . You must use quality hooks because a good flathead can jump on at times and cheap, flimsy hooks lose a lot of flatties.

Whiting are also in the South Channel down from the Toule Street bridge. These sand flats fish well all Summer and are a great place to drop a few witches-hat nets for blue swimmer crabs.

Flathead have been slow to come on with a few turning up earlier than usual then becoming very quiet. Usually after Christmas they are all over the river and we can only hope they show up.


Out on the reefs the fishing has been pretty spectacular with squire and snapper over most reefs with a few around 3kg to 4kg from the Dumping Ground and off the Redhead reefs. Unfortunately these are a big hike from Swansea or the Hunter River but Redhead fishes very well and the shallow reefs hold good numbers so in good weather the run is worth it.

Squid have been in the shallows off Merewether and behind the ocean baths. Some of the Stockton boys found them when light-lining for bream and they weren’t disappointed with a box of fresh squid to eat and use for jew baits.

North Reef has been quite and Mecca for squire and bream, with a few anglers fly-fishing for tailor, kings and salmon around the buoy. Barry Gamer and Kelvin Oldham trolled around it recently and triggered a kingfish flurry. They hooked a few from 5kg to 8kg, but you can expect bigger fish to turn up when the water warms more.

My favourite spots for January are the sand flats west of Stockton bridge for flathead spinning and drifting along the edges for whiting with prawns or bloodworm baits. Try The Basin for bream spinning and bait fishing and the first few kilometres of river from the mouth for jewfish, especially the drop-over off Nobbys and the Pilot Station. The Southern Channel should be good for blue swimmers.

No 1

The sand flats around Stockton hold a great number of prawns during the dark of the moon. Run-out night tides are the best and pick calm nights so you can see through the water with a soft light.

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