Seasons of change – as usual
  |  First Published: February 2004

IT NEVER used to cease to amaze me how the fish seem to change their movements and habits without any warning. Nowadays I have just become accustomed to it.

Just because the fish have been at spot X for years, eating a certain bait on a certain tide, definitely doesn't mean it's going to be the same next year. So many factors seem to come into play, with water temperatures, salinity levels, bait fish movements and other factors I'm sure we have no concept of.

Take this season, for instance. It’s been completely different from last season and, come to think of it, last season was completely different from the year before. And so on it goes, I've given up scratching my head trying to work it all out.

I just work around what's presented to me, keep my eyes and ears out for any signs or information and continually try new fishing methods and areas. In a way, I'm grateful when fishing patterns change because I'm forced to break away from the normal routine and this encourages me to experiment to get results.

Not that the fishing has been quiet, by any means, with heaps of jewfish, kingfish, bream and a variety of surface fish being daily occurrences. However, I have noticed that there weren't quite as many larger jewies(18kg-plus) around this Summer. There were a few, but not as many as in years gone by.

A good friend, who is a true gun fisherman, was saying how a couple of scuba-divers he was talking to had told him about stacks of big jewies laying up on a couple of reefs on the Central Coast. They said there were hundreds of fish in these schools, with most of them up to 20kg. Armed with this info, he headed out in the evening with prime baits and the scene that greeted him on his depth sounder screen was enough to make the hair stand up on the back of his head. The reef was loaded with bait, with heaps of big jewfish dots sitting under the bait schools. He fished for two evenings and he scored zero jewfish.

This guy has been around a lot longer than me and he has spent a lot of time with guys who were catching big jewies back in the days when they had air-raid drills in Sydney schools. He is adamant that we need a big dump of rain and then all these bigger fish will be scurrying into our estuaries and lakes to do what they do at this time of year. Interesting stuff.

Owning a saltwater aquarium has shown me that some fish can go for many months without feeding. I put bream in my tank and after three months of them not feeding, I've released them back into the wild. Sure, most fish are happy feeding in the tanks but the odd one seems too shy to take any type of food and it's amazing just how long they can go on their fat reserves. Hopefully we will get a good load of rain over the next couple of months as it can only do good things for the fishing.

There seem to be a few more big toadfish frequenting our coastline at the moment and hopefully this won’t continue. I remember speaking to an old-timer who told me that one year you couldn't fish anywhere in Broken Bay because these big green toads made fishing impossible.

I love those kingfish! They fight hard, they travel in schools and they respond well to lures and baits. They are even great tucker, too. This season has been great for kings and it's so encouraging to see the average size is up a fair bit from last year. Thank God they banned those floating kingfish traps. I've heard  little whispers that they are to be reintroduced on an ‘experimental’ basis. I truly hope this never happens but nothing would surprise me as I believe that the people who run NSW Fisheries are far more interested in votes and dollars than the true well-being than the fish stocks along our coast.


I know this column is meant to be a fishing report rather than a rave, so let’s get down to it.

The season started late and it appears it could well finish late, as the spasmodic warm currents appear to be hanging around a bit longer than usual. Although the snapper fishing has been quieter than usual over the past couple of months, it's still worth a go as the next couple of months are good for reds right along our coast. The kingfish should still be around and the end of the month should see them exit the inshore and estuary areas and move out wider and farther north.

Although the bream season started slowly, it kicked off with a bang in January with quality fish coming in from both the coast, estuaries and lakes. If you haven't tried catching bream on soft plastics I strongly encourage you to give it a go. It can be the most productive way of catching big bream, especially during bright sunlight.

Marlin and mahi mahi are still to be found out wide as well as some striped tuna. April-May is when oversized blue marlin are encountered and 37kg game gear is a absolute minimum for these beasts. I hooked a huge blue in over a kilometre of water wide of Broken Bay a while back and as he was grey hounding across the surface 400m away we powered towards him at 16 knots. By the time we reached the location of his last jump I was almost spooled straight down of 1000m of 24kg line. I eventually locked up the drag with a handful of turns of line left on the reel. I really hope he survived the encounter as there is nothing in the ocean that goes off the way a psycho big blue does.

Remember, all work and no play can make one bitter, dissatisfied and frustrated. I've learnt that if I don't make time for me to play, no one else will. So before the air starts to develop that cool chill of Autumn, do yourself a favour and have a fish, you’ll be glad you did.

Phil Newton with a lovely light-tackle jewfish.

Soft plastics are a growingly effective way of capturing jewfish of all sizes.

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