Christmas at Port Stephens is one big party. Fishing, boating and barbecues, the action is flat out.
The beaches are jam-packed, the boat ramps and adjacent car parks are overflowing and the water traffic reminds me of those motor bikes on the Asian roundabouts. Business is brisk and everyone is having heaps of fun.
It’s the time of year that I step back and let the masses take control. I’m sure that all fishing writers along the east coast would know exactly what I’m talking about.
Thankfully, the fish have joined in the spirit and are biting like crazy with whiting providing the most entertainment. The local sea worm trade is on the boil as visitors are charging around town with a bucket in the hope of buying a dozen or so worms for the following day’s visit to the beach.
Stockton Beach is a bit of a madhouse. With unlimited beach access to 4WD vehicles it’s a worry, as far too many drivers are inexperienced and drive flat out on hard tyres.
The safest place is in the water and sometimes I’m not so sure about that. My suggestion is to take the family to vehicle-free beaches like One Mile, Kingsley or Fingal for their whiting expeditions. There are heaps of cracker whiting snuffling just behind the shore break and you don’t need to continuously look over your shoulder for a runaway Toyota.
Samurai Beach is a really good whiting beach but it has been designated a nudist beach and you may feel a bit out of it with your pants on – and the kids might ask difficult questions!
For boaties who wish to target snapper and jewfish on the reefs and around the outer islands, or sand flathead over the sandy expanses, the trick is to be on the water early, and I mean early. Aim to drop your anchor or start drifting well before sun-up.
Organise your crew so every minute on the water is spent fishing, not rigging lines and thawing bait. Anyway, it’s the very best time to be fishing and you can expect to be back at the boat ramp just before the swarms descend.
Evenings are just as good. Push off in the late afternoon and return shortly after dark. The message is, avoid at all cost the midday boat ramp scrum which generally starts about 9am to 10am and settles between 3pm and 4pm.
Consider launching off the beach if your boat is under 4.5 metres. Fingal’s southern corner, Boatharbour and Fishermans Bay do provide beach launching but I suggest you spend an hour or so watching others as there are many tricks to be learned.
The beach sites mentioned are convenient as top snapper and jewfish reefs are close by, saving valuable time motoring and even more valuable fuel.
The fishing throughout December is great so don’t let the crowds frighten you off. As I said before, it’s the same in every coastal town.
The feeder streams are pouring dusky flathead, whiting, bream, jewfish and crabs into the harbour while the beaches are alive with Summer whiting and big jewfish on dark.
You will be amazed at the number of pipis on Stockton Beach, kilometres of shellfish that lift out of the sand as the tide drops. There is a total ban on the removal of pipis more than 50m from the high tide line but they can be used for bait to catch whiting and bream on the beach.
The best spot to take the kids fishing is the Nelson Bay boat harbour and breakwall, better known as the Fishermans Co-Op. The area is protected from the wind, is close to toilets, parking is close by, safe and there is always a chance of catching a fish, particularly a bream or big, lazy flathead.
The waters of Port Stephens are family-friendly so make every effort to get the kids onto the water these holidays. It’s an experience that they will never forget.Reads: 569