Fresh does the trick
  |  First Published: May 2005

A good fresh each year is necessary to flush the system right out. It doesn’t take all that long to subside and when it does, fish return in abundance.

This year the fresh came as it regularly does at Easter, washing holidaymakers all the way back to Sydney. But, most importantly, if we don’t get much more heavy rain the Port should be gearing up well for the Winter cycle.

Large schools of bream were sighted in Shoal Bay in the shallow water waiting for the fresh to subside so they could return to their favourite haunts among the racks and rock shelves.

Jew aren’t far behind, with soapies and even the odd 50-pounder reported to be holding in places like the Salamander wreck, the Karuah bridge and the drop-offs and channels around Middle Island.

But remember, try not to restrict yourself just to those flotilla of craft dangling whole bait on 8/0 hooks. Sure, good fish will be caught in situations like this but I generally like to have a bit of a scout around with the sounder and find a natural bait school holding on an edge away from other craft and drop my livies there – it makes sense to drop your baits where the fish are feeding freely in the first place.

While we’re on the subject of livies, how many slimies are swimming around the Karuah bridge without hooks stuck in them? Surprisingly there’s not one!

Natural food up there is herring, squid and small tailor. We might not be able to use the latter for bait due to State Fisheries regulation but the other two make excellent legal live bait.

The other side of the Heads is also going ballistic.

Northern bluefin tuna have arrived and are cruising the washes in search of a feed. Tomaree is the most popular land-based spot but other headlands all along the coast offer great chances to tangle with a big longtail.

This time of year, if you see garfish flying out of the water get a live bait back behind the school – tuna are often hot on their heels.


Snapper have also populated the shallows because for them this time of year means spawning.

They usually like about 10 to 15 metres of water to spawn and can be caught in good numbers in the skinny water.

One thing about shallow-water snapper fishing is that when one gets on you’ll know about it.

I’m sure they come up, look at the bait and then move away 20 metres or so to get a run-up before they strike.

Then it’s all go. Line peels off your reel and you’ve got the bloody hard job of stopping the fish before it reaches that rocky outcrop.

And the fish caught at this time of year in the shallows seem to be big; anything from 6kg to 12kg. Some specimens are even reported each year that give the old 30lb mark (13.6kg) a run for the money. And then there are always the ones that get away, the unstoppable monsters that strip 15kg mono like its silly string and nails you into the kelp.

One local legend, Greg Harrison, recons that this time of year at one of his favourite snapper spots he can manage to land only one out of every 10 fish hooked.

Now Greg is a big bloke and can stop just about anything that grabs hold on his bait but these big Autumn shallow-water snapper from Port Stephens are Hell with scales!

Off the rocks, blackfish are grazing the weed beds.

I love to fish for blackfish over the Winter when everything else seems to die down. As well as being a heck of a lot of fun they are great on the table.

However, drummer are even better. There’s nothing like waiting for the roughest conditions the weather and ocean can throw at you and donning full wet-weather gear and potholing for pigs.

Whether your preferred bait is prawns, bread, cunje or ab gut, you’re sure to have a ball.

Since we’re on the subject of wet-weather gear, some people aren’t all that sure that grown men should be prancing about the rocks clad in bright yellow rubber in the rain.

Well, this is what I say to you: Next time you’re out in the wind and the rain, the fish are biting their nuts off so you have to be there, it’s cold, salt water is blowing up your nostrils and in your eyes and your emotions are being drained by the constant battering of the elements, you’re losing the will to live.

When your out potholin’ for pigs there’s no such thing as bad weather, there’s only the wrong clothes!

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