Port Stephens is preparing for Summer as the winds increasingly blow from the north and the water temperature slowly sneaks up.
I find this a very exciting time on the fishing calendar because the Winter species haven’t figured out that it’s time to move on and Summer species continue to arrive in increasing numbers. This period provides fishos with the best of all seasons inside and outside the Port.
In the calm waters inside the Port, luderick, considered a cold-water fish, are hard at it right along the Nelson Bay breakwall. Crackers to an impressive 1.6kg are sinking floats as the tide settles.
Bag limits of 20 fish are regularly being taken by the locals who have learnt all the tricks of the trade. If you are new to the game, my advice is to visit the breakwall and watch the champions in action, see who is the most successful and then unobtrusively settle yourself on a rock close to them and take a mental note of all the relevant details. The local champs are a friendly bunch and there is every chance that they will even share a tip or two.
We are currently experiencing one of our very best bream seasons with thumpers biting like Hexham Greys right throughout the system. Anywhere there is an oyster there is a bream; around the jetties, bridges, mangrove roots and rock walls from Karuah to Soldiers Point and closer to the headlands, South Head, Tomaree and The Boulders on the north side.
The oyster racks which fringe the Port are the most popular gathering site and are crowded with quality fish averaging around a kilo with the odd horse to1.8kg.
Flathead are drifting down from their hibernation and are fiercely attacking pilchards and plastics tossed in the shadows of the mangroves in the Karuah River, Tilligerry Creek, Lemon Tree Passage and Soldiers Point to Jimmies Beach and Shoal Bay.
It’s this time of year when jewfish make their presence felt in all the still-water hot spots – the Karuah Bridges, Middle Island off Soldiers Point, over the wreck in Corlette and along the Nelson Bay breakwall. Live yellowtail, slimy mackerel or herring are the preferred baits but pilchards, fresh fish fillets, squid and plastics are also producing top results.
Whiting – sandies and trumpeters – are covering the sand flats and cruising through the channels. Drifting is the more popular method but a long cast using light line from the shore has the same impact. Nothing smaller than a No 4 long-shank hook is required, baited with a worm, peeled prawn or freshly-dug yabby.
It’s hard to miss around Tanilba, Taylors Beach and through to Corlette and Dutchies Beach. As the water continues to heat up, more sand whiting gather closer to the headlands at the entrance around Corrie Island, Nelson Bay Beach and Shoal Bay.
You can just about hear the sound in the distance of stampeding blue swimmer crabs as they stir from their Winter slumbers and start to move into open waters. Plastic milk bottles are suddenly appearing on the surface from Lemon Tree through Tilligerry to Corrie Island.
Each floating bottle represents a recreational fisherman’s witch’s-hat crab trap. Legally you can use five witches’ hats and take a bag limit of 20 crabs. Unfortunately there are a few greedy souls who conveniently forget the rules when the crab season is in full swing.
Outside the heads, over the reefs , along the beaches and off the rocks and headlands the action is thick and fast.
Snapper continue to bite like Bengal tigers around all the offshore islands, especially Cabbage Tree, Boondelbah and Little Island. The fiercest action, however, is in the shallows around Broughton and further south around the breaking reefs off Fishermans Bay. Snapper movements are reasonably predictable with big fish moving into the washes and over the shallows as the seas build, only to return to the deeper water when conditions settle down.
The outer reefs from Birubi to Seal Rocks are loading up with teraglin, squire and a welcome visitor from up north, the highly prized pearl perch. Another greatly appreciated northerner arriving in greater numbers each season is the spangled emperor.
Kingfish have arrived and can be found at their regular ports of call, the Outer Light at Fingal, Esmeralda Bommie and East Head on Broughton Island.
The local beaches have been relatively quiet over the past months but there are tailor, salmon and the occasional bream. Ready yourselves for the annual invasion of magnificent schools of sand whiting followed by scary jewfish to a lumpy 35kg.
The rocks from Birubi north to Fingal are red-hot with excellent catches of year-round drummer, bream, groper and snapper on the rising sea. Jewfish, tailor, salmon and kingies are never a surprise.Reads: 1965