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Life’s just a beach!
  |  First Published: December 2004



There’s nothing better after a long, hard day at work than rushing home for a long afternoon’s fishing.

This time of year is fantastic. The whiting and jew are on the beach along with the occasional bream and flathead.

On the inshore reefs snapper are beginning to gather. The estuary is filled with more whiting as well as flathead as big as goannas and the marlin season is kicking off to a great start offshore. Who’d want to go to the pub?

When I was growing up in Anna Bay, life was the beach. Portion of every day over Summer was spent on the beach.

Straight after school it would be down there and fish until dark. Now I’m still not really sure if it was for the fishing or a lifestyle choice, or even just to escape the heat. Whatever it was, those cool, salty, sandy evenings catching whiting standing – or sometimes sitting – up to your armpits in surf have been instilled in me.

The beach is a great place to fish. You don’t need to take bait or even berley. Everything is provided by the ocean.

The bait, pipis and worms, can be found at your feet and the crashing waves dislodge morsels of food for patrolling fish. The whole ecosystem works as one big berley slick.

During the day whiting can be caught in abundance in the holes and gutters. They congregate here because the food gets washed into these holes by the currents and the waves.

Late afternoon and at night they head for the shallower flats, searching for food. One all-important tip I’ve picked up is to cast only just behind the first set of breakers. It makes sense to put your bait where the fish are searching for food.

The night also brings other creatures to the food chain. Jewfish, whose favorite meal just happens to be whiting, also patrol the gutters. If you’re into targeting these beasts of the breakers, the best way to go about it is forget about bringing bait.

Get on the beach a few hours earlier with some light tackle, catch a dozen or so whiting (a kids swimming pool is fantastic to keep them alive and remember, even a bait whiting has to be the legal 28cm) and pick a night where the moon comes up about three to four hours after sundown.

Bear in mind that the full moon is not always the best time to fish, it’s the best time for anglers to see!

Tackle for jew on the beach doesn’t have to be all that heavy; it’s not as if they’re going to cut you off on anything so 6kg to 8kg line is plenty.

Once you’ve hooked a jewie, play the fish out. They usually tire after a few long powerful runs, even under light drag settings. Just make sure you have plenty of line – 400 to 600 metres.

If you simply can’t find the time to catch live bait, big beach worms or fresh squid can also be effective, but where’s the fun in that?

BIG SNAPPER

As I stand waist-deep in the surf and jump as the next wave breaks on my belly, I think of the snapper waiting just offshore. I can see the local boys with their tinnies, boats I have known all my life, heading to reefs in search of Old Knobby or Big Red.

They travel fast, in dead straight lines as they’ve done the trip a thousand times before. Once at anchor, they fish with a berley slick and float pilchards, fresh squid or fish bait down the trail.

Although they fish for one of the most powerful fish in the ocean they use only light lines, no more than 10kg, because often the fish will be spooked on the heavier tackle and drop the bait or refuse to pick it up.

Every year the Port is home to a group of larger-than-average flathead. A mate calls these fish ‘battle flathead’ in reference to a Star Wars-style mother ship and generally that’s what they are – big fat mothers, producing thousands of offspring with each spawning.

These big mummas are awesome fun to catch, be it on lures cast from a $30,000 purpose-built lure-flicking boat or on bait on a handline cast from the shore.

We must remember that once they’ve reached this size and can be regarded as Battle Flathead we are better off releasing these ultimate ambush predators.

The estuary is also holding trillions of trumpeter whiting. Big Battle Flathead love ’em and these little battlers make for great fishing fun for the kids.

Drift over any sandy patch in the port with a small long-shank hook baited with peeled prawn or a piece of worm and you can’t go wrong.

GAME ADVENTURES

Port Stephens is renowned world over for its game fishing and this season looks promising. Reports of good water temps, plenty of bait and some excellent early captures have been flooding in for the past couple of weeks as the Port readies itself for another great season.

Word is that the striped marlin are on the continental shelf in numbers and it won’t be long until the black marlin turn up in close. The blacks cruise in extremely close to land and after talking to marlin fishing legend Peter Pakula last year. I have come to the conclusion that if you’ve got a boat that floats, on the right day you can catch a marlin off Port Stephens. Peter has caught a number of marlin in the wash off little island,
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