You can feel it in your bones, smell it in the air – it’s action time.
This is the season I wait for: Predictable warm water, clear skies and heaps of fish. Port Stephens is swinging out of holiday mode and now it’s just the smiling diehards who are carrying a fishing rod and a bucket.
We now have the greatest number of species available, with every fish and its dog turning up. Outside the Heads now you can catch snapper, jew, kings, cobia, pearl perch in increasing numbers, along with big nannygai and a whole heap of others.
We don’t normally get mangrove jack, mackerel or tuskfish here but we’re hoping the mackerel just might pay us a visit this year after a long absence. And we haven’t even talked about the game fish like marlin and mahi mahi, which are at the peak part of their season right now – so what are you waiting for?
Family groups are concentrating their efforts inside the Port, where trumpeter whiting provide non-stop entertainment for the kids. The little trumpeters are swimming proof that kids don’t need to catch big fish to have big fun.
They are spread right throughout the system, from Middle Harbour around Corlette, west up into the backwater and feeder streams from Lemon Tree Passage to Karuah. Trumpeters have the bonus of performing particularly well in the kitchen.
Big lazy bream have gathered inside the Nelson Bay boat harbour along the breakwall and are cruising under the oyster racks that fringe the port.
Flathead arrived early last Spring and are still crunching plastics off Corrie Island, Tilligerry Creek and right up the Karuah River. Monster duskies have snuffled into the sand underneath the trawlers in Nelson Bay. A mate dived down to check a mooring and came face to face with a giant fish and my mate didn’t stop swimming until he was half-way up Teramby Street!
Sand whiting have hit their straps on the beaches inside the port. You can see them while you are having a swim at Shoal Bay or Fly Point. They bite best near the top of the tide early of a morning.
Among the Port Stephens must-haves are squid jigs and a few witches’ hats, as the blue swimmers are hyperactive west of Soldiers Point and squid have gathered over the seagrass in Shoal Bay and around the moorings in front of the pub.
Off the rocks squid up to a frightening 1.5kg are gathering in the out of the wind and swell. There is a growing band of committed squidders around here who don’t give two hoots if the fish are biting as long as they can catch a squid.
Cracker snapper are swimming through the whitewater when the sea lifts, particularly around Boat Harbour and Fishermans Bay. I bagged four super snapper between 3kg and 5kg fishing out of Stinkpot, my 3.2-metre tinny during a recent big swell. It was less than a five-minute ride from the beach and I reckon I used a cupful of fuel.
Magnificent sand whiting are on all the beaches from Stockton to Fingal. Jewfish, the odd bream and of course salmon are never far away.
Snapper are still all the talk outside. Squid heads, pilchards, slimy mackerel fillets and king prawns are the best baits but, as is happening everywhere else, the big movement is towards soft plastics with catches up to 30 and 40 snapper released on the rubbers.
The local butcher ate one of the soft plastics . “A bit like jelly snakes,” he told me and he reckons they taste far better than pilchards. (Don’t think of doing the same – soft plastics contain some rather toxic substances! – Editor)
The local fishing community and businesses that rely on angling are a bit edgy lately because of the marine park process that’s under way at the moment. It’s a massive issue and deserves everyone’s full attention because what happens now influences what will occur down the track.
Community consultation is taking place and we are aware that up to 20% of our best fishing zones may well be lost. At the moment we’re negotiating with authorities so that the outcome will inconvenience as few anglers as possible.Reads: 691