This place is like a beehive! Everything is on track for a fantastic Christmas break and it seems that the entire town is rushing around with fishing rods and buckets.
Port Stephens really has become a fishing focus with its close proximity to Sydney. A two-hour drive along the highway is all it takes and the appeal of a magnificent waterway that offers heaps of fishing options for family danglers to the champions is too much to resist.
The great news is that the fish are biting like Hexham grey mosquitoes and the crabs are tap-dancing up and down the channels and feeder streams.
Whiting are the No 1 targets at this time of the year and all recent reports suggest that there are heaps around. If there is a better bait than worms I would like to know about it.
The hottest spot is Stockton Beach, that sandy stretch from Anna Bay 20km south to the town of Stockton. Access for 4WDs is permitted and it always turns on a whiting bonanza from around half-tide in to high water.
You will be amazed at the number of pipis on the beach. Kilometre after kilometre of the shellfish busily shuffle into the sand as the waves retreat. If you are short of worms, pipis make a handy substitute, just remember that none are to be taken off the beach.
Kingsley Beach at Boatharbour is the best-kept whiting secret spot around the district. Kingsley is one of those out-of-the-way, hard-to-get-to beaches that are often overlooked.
If you are followed by a tribe of kids loaded up with towels, surfboards and umbrellas, it’s all too difficult . But if you do manage to make the break by yourself for an hour or two, head to Kingsley.
With the kids in tow, focus your whiting attention on Fingal with its adequate car parks and the short stroll to the beach. Park at the local surf club and head towards the spit. Excellent gutters form right around the beach and cracker whiting swim over the sand banks into the deeper water close to the shoreline as the tide rises.
Inside the Port the hottest spots include Shoal Bay, Little Beach, Nelson Bay Beach and Jimmies Beach on the north side.
The port and its feeder rivers and streams are alive with thumping dusky flathead to an impressive 4kg. The lazy big lizards are lying in the warm shallows in ambush as the tide rises. The Karuah River, which meanders through some impressive mangrove forests, provides spectacular flathead fishing, along with Tilligerry Creek, right through to the blue waters of Shoal Bay and Barnes Rocks.
Blue swimmer crabs are out of control, stampeding up and down the channels and feeder streams. It seems that the Port is littered with empty milk bottles until you realise that each bottle represents the marker buoy for a witch’s hat, a mesh trap in which the crab becomes entangled.
Mud crabs to a frightening 2.5kg are lumbering through the mangroves in excellent numbers. Local muddie champ ‘Speed’ O’Toole wrestled one recently of 2.6kg. He told me that he could have ridden it home if he had a saddle.
Everyone who comes to Port Stephens wants to catch a snapper. Well, this is your best opportunity because the water is warm, the baitfish are active and reports of big reds are frequent. The hottest spots for snapper are Fishermans Bay, Fingal’s Outer Light, Boondelbah Island and, of course, Broughton Island.
Snapper anglers around here will tell you of any number of successful baits but for me it’s the big prawn on an unweighted 6/0 hook. Others will sing the praises of fresh slimy mackerel, squid, bonito fillets and pilchards. All agree that plastics have all but taken over.
There are jewfish and there are jewfish. If you are keen to catch a really big 30kg-plus thumper, now is the time. Work the moon and focus your attention in Fingal Bay, around Middle Island off Soldiers Point or target Hawks Nest Beach.
Jewies can be caught any where at any time around this month but your chances are greatly improved if you organise yourself and concentrate your efforts on the spots that regularly produce quality fish. Livebaits are by far the most effective, particularly yellowtail, slimy mackerel, squid and live (legal length) whiting off the beaches.
These holidays are the first when visitors and locals alike find themselves inside a marine park with sanctuary zones. All the hot spots that I have mentioned in this article are outside the sanctuary zones but it would be a real good idea to familiarise yourself with the zonings because they will be in place for some time to come.
Enjoy your holidays with us and have a very merry Christmas.Reads: 5778