Thank the fishing gods that’s over! This year the Christmas break was almost too much to take and waiting over half an hour to launch your boat while a hundred tourists attempt to launch their craft can get tedious.
The bright side seems to be at least they all have their one or two days’ fishing altogether on the same day!
Unfortunately the moon over Christmas was optimum for fishing between Boxing Day and the New Year. I knew there was fish to be caught but where to go? Number-one rule was to forget the boat – it can stay at home. I learnt my lesson last year when an unruly visitor T-boned my car and, Heaven forbid, nearly my boat.
This year I limited myself to the rocks, thinking that I should be able to evade some of our visitors if I was willing to walk. Waiting for the late afternoon, I headed out armed with my trusty Alvey spooled with 25kg line (I don’t like anything to get away!) and headed for my highly-guarded fishing hole. Snapper, jewfish and even out-of-season big tailor were all abundant just around the corner from the bustling tourist metropolis.
The best thing is that now the silly season has gone, off the fishing is becoming even better. Warm water is spilling down from the north and with a southerly airstream it is pushed right in close to the coast, bringing an abundance of marine life.
Off the rocks we have experienced one of the best snapper and jewfish seasons of the past few years. Early-season rains pushed the jewfish out of the river systems along with shoals of bait. With even the most minimal rough weather, snapper have been working in close in the washes eager to snatch a crab or half squid head.
Now we can get on the beaches without being mobbed by road raging 4WD enthusiasts who haven’t realised Stockton beach isn’t part of the V8 Super Car circuit. The whiting are schooling along the holes and flats and good-sized bream are patrolling the soapy water at the backs of the sand bars.
At the change of light or after dark the chance is always there for a jewfish. This is the time that diehard beach fishos target jewies – best time is around the full moon with a rising tide. Baits include fresh mullet, live whiting (legal length 28cm) caught before dark, fresh squid and, of course, large live beach worms.
Tackle doesn’t have to be all that heavy. The only thing the fish could do you up on is the wreck of the Sygna and you’d have to be unlucky. Six to eight kilo line does the job well. Light line is best because it doesn’t have a big diameter to get caught in the waves and move your bait unduly.
The estuary is also starting to recover after the lunatics on jet skis and other useless cruising water craft dispersed. I just happened to be on the water Boxing Day with my mate Wayne Coles chasing squid for jew and snapper baits – that’s how keen he is.
I looked over the side to see a lone bewildered garfish swimming along traumatised by the whole spectacle. One more pass from the young blokes trolling their blow-up imitation seal toy through the 8-knot zone and he was gone. It was sad to see the food chain so rudely interrupted.
Bream and flathead are on the move again with lure-flickers and bait fishos reporting good catches. Crabs are also on the move. This season has been bountiful with bag limits of blue swimmers (20) being caught by almost everyone who owns a witch’s-hat net.
Offshore the marlin are starting to turn up. This season seems promising so let’s hope we get the right weather patterns and experience another bumper season such as those of the late 1990s. In 1997 two mates fishing from a 4.5-metre tinny sighted more than 30 blacks in one day.
When the water is right this place is one of the world’s best fisheries and this year I hope to make the most of it. The offshore traps also hold good numbers of mahi mahi. These often appear as schools of small fish but go to the outer traps and slow troll or drift livies and all hell can break loose as the bigger males come up to see what’s going on.Reads: 493