I’M LUCKY enough to live close enough to the ocean to hear the giant swells crashing on the rocky shore when the sea is at its biggest.
When I hear the swell I know that a strange creature will be emerging to hunt the rocky shoreline. That creature is a hermit to all but its own clan – the rockhopper.
To an outsider, the rock fisherman has developed his own language and code. For three months he’s been collecting bait – cunjevoi, abalone gut and royal red prawns. His weapon of choice a beat up trusty seven-wrap rod with a 650 Alvey. His battle fatigues are an old yellow raincoat smeared with the remnants of last week’s encounter with his home-made berley concoction.
This berley could consist of as many ingredients as the individual rock angler sees fit. Many use a bread-based berley and add whatever is obtainable – old bait, prawn shells, crab shells, all meticulously bagged and frozen in anticipation for the long, cold Winter of fishing.
To you and I a pothole is something that keeps the local mechanic in work replacing busted shock absorbers. To the rock angler, a pothole is a home a sanctuary, a small gutter, channel or hole formed in the ocean rock, fringed with kelp, cunjevoi and barnacles.
Imagine a high tide filling that hole late one afternoon as swell pushed in by an onshore wind crashes across the rocks, allowing fish to enter the pool to feed. Rain is beginning to spatter on the yellow raincoat. This is the rock angler’s ultimate spot and is no doubt closely and jealously guarded.
Drummer, bream and luderick are the most popular fish targeted by rockhoppers but the odd snapper or jewfish can also be caught. Using a 10kg to 18kg line, depending on terrain and condition, the rockhopper casts out a lightly-weighted bait into these potholes and holds on. All the above species are exceptional table fish and dynamite on the end of a line, often burying their heads in any structure in the pothole.
Large, blue-nosed Winter bream are cruising the oyster beds within the bay. If you’re lucky enough to get a day off when the weather is fair with a rising barometer, go and have a flick around the bay with some soft plastics – the big bream absolutely love them.
If you’re not into lure fishing, a rising tide, light lines and a berley trail around any fishy-looking structure should produce something.
The breakwall is attracting large numbers of blackfish, which it does every year about this time. In turn it also attracts large numbers of luderick anglers eager to catch a feed. I’ve been told that a lot of the luderick fishos along the breakwall are an accommodating crew and are only too helpful if you want to learn something about their specialised art form. But beware: Do not stand on one of their painstakingly chosen rocks, which they have reserved day after day, season after season!
Blue-nosed oyster-crushing bream are scattered throughout Port Stephens. Cross paths with one on light tackle and you'll know it.Reads: 417