Ah, the Winter chill, don’t you just love it? The numbness of your fingers and toes and the tears welling in your eyes as you attempt to motor into the cold early morning breeze.
I must admit to never having acclimatised to the cold, maybe as a result of my Far North Coast upbringing. Still, we chase fish and in Port Stephens at this time of the year there is action aplenty.
Inside the estuary, bream are the main target and on latest reports there are heaps to be caught. Port Stephens is one of the State’s leading oyster producers. The fringe of the huge waterway is covered with oyster racks and as any avid bream angler will tell you – bream love oysters.
Young, soft-shelled oysters are easy prey for scavenging bream which simply crush the shellfish in their powerful jaws, much to the disgust of the oyster farmers. Oyster racks, by their very design, provide a perfect environment for the bream to hunt and, when the need arises, seek shelter.
Yep, the rack is an underwater supermarket that also offers protection from the swift tides, shade from the burning sun and a windbreak from the choppy conditions which follow the miserable west winds that blow straight down the harbour from Soldiers Point to the entrance to the Port.
The racks also have the added advantage of attracting small, unsuspecting crustaceans, including prawns and crabs, to feed on the algae and sediments that settle on the structure. Myriad juvenile fish also call the racks home – mullet, whiting, trumpeter and tiny baitfish consider that they have found the perfect home until they are targeted by bream on the prowl.
On warmer days I have been known to wait until the top of the tide before sticky-beaking under the racks with a face mask and snorkel. The view is astounding, it’s a bit like Martin Place at lunchtime; everything is moving with a purpose.
The breakwalls at the Anchorage Resort, the Nelson Bay Marina and at Winda Woppa on the north side also load up with quality bream as the tide rises.
The world of bream fishing has gone mad! What’s happened to the old mullet gut on the 1/0 hook or the mullet strip, yabby, prawn or the favourite secret puddin’ mixture? It’s all about plastics these days.
The beaches are jumping with snowy white, broad shouldered, bright eyed travelling bream – the aristocratic cousins of those who reside inside the port. Keen to take fresh mullet strips, sea worms or pipis, the travellers are currently moving on Stockton Beach just behind the whitewater. One Mile, Fingal and Hawks Nest beaches will soon fire up as the cracker bream head north.
Tailor and fishcakes (salmon) are gathering in increasing numbers on Stockton Beach and, as could be assumed, so are the now infamous great white sharks.
June is a hot month for snapper over the offshore reefs from Birubi north to Seal Rocks. As the sea builds the magnificent reddies swim through the whitewater that washes the headlands and islands and crunches over the shallow reefs.
Again the plastics have taken centre stage. “It’s so simple, Stinker,” I’m told. “Toss the plastic into the edge of the whitewater, let it sink a metre or so and then wind in the snapper.” I ask you, “Can it be so easy?”Reads: 603