Prime time on the reefs
  |  First Published: February 2004

IT’S FINALLY here – the best time to fish the Hunter Coast. The warm northern currents have pushed down and we have fish everywhere.

Some anglers avoid the best-known areas because those places are too busy, but they can still produce top catches for all. It doesn’t matter if there are a few other boats around you, I think with a few other berley pots being mashed and thumped and bait being chewed on all around, the fish are destined to stay in the area.

Just ensure you stay a safe and fair distance from other boats and don’t run over their berley trail, fishing lines anchor ropes. However, small reef complexes can hold only so many boats so look at the situation and your sounder and if it’s too crowded, move to another area.

One of the better-known areas off Newcastle is North Reef, This month you can expect good squire, large bream on floating baits, kingfish up to about 7kg on lures and if you use live bait you may get a few bigger ones. There should be squid everywhere on calm days and leatherjackets and trevally if the water cools a little.

Another popular spot is The Granites, a good snapper and squire ground where you can catch jewfish at night and early morning and tailor in the evenings.

The surf club wreck, or the sailing boat wreck, is the best live bait ground and there are also good bream and flathead all around this area. In the Mud Hole, you can catch bream, jewfish and sharks. It’s great fishing at night with lightly weighted baits, and prawns take many fish here.

The Dumping Ground is a good drifting area for flathead, snapper and squire, although sometimes the squire can be on the small side. Squid are abundant on calmer days.

Merewether Baths has some extensive reef in close. It’s a great bream ground but you have to watch the sea there as it builds up over the shallows. It’s better early in the morning before the nor’-easter hits – float down prawns or small slabs of fresh fish.

Hopefully this will help you connect with some fish through this month. All these places are very well-known grounds. GPS books are only a few dollars and they have these, plus many other places, marked for you.

Don’t forget the surface fish that are usually seen crashing in Stockton Bight at this time of the year. Trolling to and from reef locations can enhance your day’s catch and there are usually striped tuna, bonito, tailor, the odd kingfish and even cobia and spotted mackerel if water is really warm

Fishing is at it’s finest off Newcastle right through to the end of March.

Freshwater fishing also is excellent on balmy afternoons on our rivers and dams. A lot of fish will be taken on surface lures, though not as many as in December or January. If you can still hear the song of the cicadas in the trees, surface lures will be well worth a try. In the shallows along the reedy banks, small spinnerbaits and green to reddish black shallow divers are favourite with local fishermen.

Some good bass have been taken on the Hunter River up around Morpeth and in the Patterson River, try up high around Tocal.

Bass anglers love this month. Fat-bodied lure or surface models work well and if cicadas are humming in the trees, you can nearly guarantee you’ll get fish.

No 2,

Small bonito such as this make excellent slab baits or troll them whole for marlin.

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