Just for the record
  |  First Published: July 2003

The westerlies are howling and most inland and estuary waters are blown out to the extent that most fishing until late September will be cold, wet and windy.

Uncomfortable as it may seem, you would be surprised to what extent to which a lot of people go to fish throughout the cold months and there’s good reason. Just recently an International Game Fishing Association record book showed up in my mail. It contained all the latest and greatest Australian and world records – it was great reading. On looking closer, I studied the Hunter Coast captures from Swansea to Seal Rocks – some great fishing history.

I noted the months of each capture, the species and weight to see if there was a pattern over the years. I was really surprised at the dates of captures as well as sheer weight of each fish caught. It really showed that through our Winter months there is great fishing to be had in this area. From December to March is the peak of fishing opportunity but, going on capture dates of record fish, this isn’t always the case. A lot of tuna, sharks, kingfish, cobia and some northern species have been taken offshore through the cold months.

I ran this past a few people who have fished in these waters all their lives and nearly everybody agreed that while the vast schools of travelling fish hit this area usually in the warmer months, most thought, as I do, that the big lone roaming fish hunt alone and out of the bigger schools. The record books indicate a lot of the biggest fish are captured from July to November

Inshore winners

Now it occurred to me that the majority of these really big fish were probably taken out on the continental shelf or further out and a lot of anglers don’t have the boat or money to pursue them. So I picked up the phone and rang around to find out more about some of the fish taken.

Most captures were taken from large game boats, but a lot of the fish were caught only a few kilometres off the coast. Most anglers I talked to were following schools of striped or mackerel tuna and really just targeting them until they saw the schools explode into panic. Then the big gear was set with the small tuna as bait and the record hook-ups came.

It really shone through that Winter along the Hunter coastal waters is a time where the fishing may slow but the fish that are here can really surprise. I know heaps of anglers who hang up their rods and tarp their boats at the first sign of cooling water and won’t even bother fishing in winter unless it’s off the rocks for drummer and bream. History and great recorded captures have changed my outlook.

I reckon a calm sea and some trolling would be worth a try this month, as well as live-baiting. Slimy mackerel are still around so there should be predators not to far away.

The flathead moved offshore a little later than usual this year and the boys from Freddy’s Fishing World have been getting amongst them in the Harbour. Lures are working well but most fish are hanging around close to the harbour mouth, ready to run to sea.

With the most recent fresh, a few good-sized estuary perch have shown up around Carrington and the wheat silos, but there are still only scant reports of jewfish, which just didn’t seem to co-operate much this year.

The close reefs are holding a huge number of trevally and Stockton locals have been bagging out consistently. North Reef has been fishing really well for bream and squire and the squid are also around. Salmon have taken up in every hole and gutter along the beach and a few schools have been shadowed by very large sharks.


No 1,

Mackerel tuna are a great sporting fish on light tackle this month and with the larger schools on the move, it’s not hard to imagine there may be some big, lone hunting fish out there through Winter..

No 2,

A typical morning on the close Hunter Coast reefs produces trevally, morwong, bream and nannygai.

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