The first time I saw Port Stephens was back in the mid-1970s and the most lasting memory has been of its immense size.
Considered by the early seafarers as an alternative harbour settlement to Sydney, our waterways lack one necessity for shipping – deep water. Fed by the Karuah and Myall rivers and numerous feeder streams and tributaries that snake through the mangrove jungles, the Port is heavily silted and relies on the massive entrance at Shoal Bay, between the headlands Yacaaba and Tomaree, to continually flush the system. This continual tidal gush maintains crystal-clear water deep inside the Port.
The huge Myall Lake system pours into Port Stephens through the Myall River, passing through the coastal hamlets of Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest, under the Singing Bridge, on the way. Only if you have the opportunity to fly over this region do you really get the opportunity to experience the vastness.
It would be fair to suggest that Port Stephens and the connecting Myall system would be this State’s biggest recreational fishery – if not, it would surely make the finals. Add the sensational offshore fishing from Broughton Island south, including the cluster of outer islands, headlands and the awesome beaches, and you have what is undeniably an angler’s paradise. I haven’t mentioned the hinterland, which boasts Glenbawn Dam and the astounding trout streams that flow down from the Barrington Tops.
I can hear you thinking, ‘what’s he trying to sell?’ but no, I’m not into real estate and I don’t work in the tourist industry, I’m simply outlining the unbelievable options available to those who choose to fish these waters.
You don’t need me to tell you that August is not considered a red-hot fishing month but because of the many options here, there are always heaps of quality fish to catch and places to go.
Fishing success depends on the conditions and this is where everything comes a little unstuck. You see, the weather around here at this time of year tends to be a little inclement, er, unpredictable, you know, harsh – let’s face it, it’s lousy!
The stiff breezes (read hurricanes) blow from the south-west to west, which makes life at times uncomfortable, to say the least. The seas grow over 3m and belt the coastline. But, crazy as it seems, the fishing is great.
The bream are out of control. Inside the harbour the ‘full house’ sign is up with cracker bream to a solid 1.5kg under every oyster rack, along every breakwall and up every feeder stream. Famous bream spots include the Tomaree Torpedo Tube, Nelson Bay breakwall, Rocks Awash off Soldiers Point , the Short Cut adjacent to Corrie Island and the Boulders, possibly the hottest spot, which sits under the shadows of Yacaaba (North Head) Everyone is tossing plastics but I still prefer a fresh cube of mullet on an unweighted 2/0.
Thumping luderick have moved into town and are defying anyone to pull them out. Tomaree, Little Beach and the Nelson Bay breakwall are the gun spots on the south side of the port while Winda Woppa wall is legendary on the north side.
Off the beaches, particularly Stockton and Fingal, snowy bream are moving along the gutters together with tailor and our old mates the salmon. Don’t be too hard on salmon, they do make sensational fishcakes, around 12 per fish. With a bag limit of five salmon that makes 60 fishcakes, enough to keep you going for a while.
Drummer, tailor, salmon, bream and snapper are working overtime off the rocks from Fishermans Bay north to Fingal. The drummer are feasting on cunjevoi, abalone gut and prawns. The others are keen to attack pilchards and strip bonito. I forgot to mention the heaps of luderick along the rocky coastline.
Outside the Heads, snapper dominate the scene with sensational catches around Broughton and Boondelbah islands then south to Fingal, Rocky Point and Fishermans Bay.
August 21 is looming as the closing date for submissions relating to the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park. The draft zoning plan has been on the streets for three months and the process will be complete by November. Take this last opportunity to have your say as the zonings will not be reviewed for another five years.
• Thank you to the great folk who organise and compete in the Cabarita Beach Greenback Tailor Comp up on the Tweed, particularly Stan Dawson and Mary-Anne Perlenfein, whom I met when I travelled up north for their presentation dinner at the South Tweed Bowling Club. I had a top night and thanks for asking me.Reads: 2006