This season, according to many around Port Stephens, has been one of the worst on record. The fish simply didn’t turn up.
After the 2001-02 season, when bait schools massed throughout the port, when schools of northern bluefin, frigate mackerel, striped and mackerel tuna flooded the port in a rampage to feed on the bait shoals, this year has been pretty quiet. There has been little more than a hint of a marlin run early in the season and then not much of anything else.
Standing in front of the scoreboard at Shoal Bay Fishing Club’s Trailer Boat Competition, I could see how dismal the season had been compared with some others. This competition is held the weekend before Easter every year because it is regarded by so many of the locals to be the best time of year to catch fish. It’s when the water is still warm and many species are moving about, getting ready for their spawn runs and eager to feed.
Although its been one of the worst seasons in recent history, fish are still available if you use the conditions to your advantage and fish intelligently. The winners of the Trailer Boat Comp proved this. Noel Martin and Graham Duffy shot to the lead with some cleverly-placed fish. Rather than fishing for more popular species such as snapper and jewfish, they turned their tactics to drummer and teraglin.
Hopefully with the Summer season being so bad, this Winter will bring a host of species. Drummer, bream, tailor, luderick and groper should be eager to take baits up and down our coastline – given the right conditions.
As the westerly wind starts to push away with gusto, any headland where you can gain some protection from the wind will be an ideal place to target most of these species. One Mile and Fingal should be the pick of the spots. Bream should be moving about the Port, along with luderick on the breakwalls and ocean rocks.
Groper have gained in number since the ban of spearfishing for them and sensible bag limits for line anglers. They are great to catch and the smaller specimens are great table fish. Best time to fish for these blubber-lipped beauties is when the sea is dead-calm. This is great, because such conditions create minimal risk for the rock angler.
Crabs for bait can be easily collected under rock ledges down towards the bottom of the tidal zone. Other baits that are becoming more popular include royal red prawns and cunjevoi.
This Winter should be a time when intelligent anglers make the most of the conditions. I’m certainly going to try and drag myself away from the warm fire to do a spot of bream fishing on those cold mornings before the wind (and sun) get up.Reads: 394