This is Club Marine Trailer Boat time in Port Stephens with all the action from April 7 to 9.
Now in its 13th year, this fishing tournament continues from strength to strength and has become recognised as the biggest competition of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
With close to 1500 anglers in town and an extra 500 boats, you can imagine that all the regular community facilities are under a fair degree of pressure – far more than when the competition kicked off in 1994 with 65 anglers and 24 boats. Launching ramps, parking facilities, camping areas and petrol stations are all going flat out with very few complaints from the community on the Tomaree Peninsula.
Oddly enough, every competition since 1994 has been won by a local, which only seems to make the visiting anglers more determined to return. With the visitors growing in numbers and getting smarter each year, it’s only a matter of time before the locals get knocked off their perch.
That’s not the way that local champs Graham Duffy, Noel Martin and Mick Dall see things. Between the three of them they have dominated in recent years and their secret for success is very simple.
They are all very good fishermen who spend every available hour throughout the year working the reefs and washes from Seal Rocks south to Yacaaba Head, so their knowledge of the hot spots and the numerous variables that control them is second to none.
Their greatest asset is that they have just about every species of fish worked out. Snapper is the most sought-after fish and the lads chase big reddies over the reefs that surround Broughton Island, where they float big baits of pilchards, slimy mackerel fillets or fresh squid heads down a heavy berley trail.
Kingfish are targeted around Looking Glass or over Esmeralda Bommie. Teraglin swim the outer reefs on the moon which, if you look up at this time of the month, is full and bright.
Drummer in the whitewater are next on the hit list. Now this is where the team really needs to work as a team.
Not every one in a boat can safely fish the wash together; someone must be declared the designated driver and nose the boat into the oncoming swell before slowly backing in close enough towards the suds so that a bait of cunjevoi, crab, abalone gut or a big prawn can be tossed into the strike zone.
The zone is as close to the emerging rocks as possible without hooking them. It’s never a surprise to hook a thumping bream in the same spot. This style of fishing should be left to the experienced only and is certainly not recommended.
Tailor are fierce in the washes around all the outer islands and are real suckers for a pilchard tossed in on a gang of three 5/0 hooks or trolling anything silver just outside the suds. It’s hard to miss out just as the sun pokes its nose over the horizon.
Jewfish have arrived on time and the guns focus on them north of Yacaaba. Live bait lowered into the deep drop-offs close to the sheer walls of any of the islands or over the reefs that surround Broughton always attract interest.
So the question remains. How can you beat these hot shots?
It’s not going to be easy. Unlike our local champs and a great majority of the competition fleet who head north when they round Yacaaba Head to Broughton and Seal Rocks, think seriously of concentrating your efforts inside the Port or heading south at Tomaree Head.
Remembering that all species are of equal value when it comes to point scoring, a luderick is worth the same as a huge snapper. Stay inside the Port and head for Winda Woppa on the north side to target luderick. While you are there, work Corrie Island for dusky flathead and the oyster racks for fat bream.
Middle Island, just off the boat ramp at Soldiers Point, has long been a gathering spot for jewfish, as is the old bridge over the Karuah River.
If you are keen to venture outside the heads, turn right when you pass Tomaree and head for the Outer Light off Fingal Island or the bommies in front of the Fishermans Bay beach-launching spot. Thumping snapper swim the washes and shallow reefs while cobia, kingies, tuna, tailor and cracker bream are all within casting distance.
This could very well be the year that a visitor takes out the Champion Angler prize and a visiting crew wins Champion Boat. I’m also predicting that the competition will soon be won using soft plastics only.
For those who intend fishing the waters in and around Port Stephens over the rest of April, you are in for a picnic. This is the best fishing time of the year and there will still be fish to catch when all the competitive anglers leave town.
You have the bonus of targeting blue swimmer crabs and calamari squid that were left untouched by the Trailer Boat boys.Reads: 891