Budgewoi is a sleepy little town tucked away on a quiet part of the Central Coast, about a two-hour drive north of Sydney. Situated smack-bang between two large lakes and one big, long beach, Budgewoi is completely surrounded by fishing options.
In years gone by I spent day after day watching floats drift along Budgewoi Channel in search of blackfish. During the cooler months there is certainly no better way to spend a day.
This narrow channel is quite protected from wind and if the sun is shining, catching a few fish is just a bonus. These days a lot fewer people fish for blackfish along the banks of the channel. The fish numbers may be down a little compared with the good old days, but they are still there. Over the past few seasons, the section on the eastern side of the channel, between the bridge and the tackle shop, has been the popular spot. About 10 years ago, however, the opposite side of the channel seemed to produce better results. Realistically, I reckon there’s a good chance of catching a Budgewoi blackfish almost anywhere along either side of the channel.
During the past Winter I tried moving around and found at least a couple of fish in most spots.
Of course, bream are always on the cards throughout the channel and in the surrounding lakes. The northern end of Budgewoi Channel flows into Lake Munmorah and to the south is Budgewoi Lake. Both lakes are shallow and produce similar fishing results. Personally, though, there’s something about Lake Munmorah that I’d favour if I had to make a choice between the two. Perhaps that’s because most of Munmorah’s shoreline is fronted by bush, rather than the housing around Budgewoi Lake.
Other species that are worth chasing are whiting, flathead and mullet. Occasionally, leatherjacket, garfish and tailor will be big and plentiful enough to target and there is also a possibility of estuary perch if you use live prawns or soft plastic lures.
Like anywhere, local knowledge is one of the most important factors that brings angling success. Fishing at Budgewoi and the lakes is quite a different ball game to the majority of estuary spots along the NSW coastline. Budgewoi is so far from the mouth of the Tuggerah Lakes estuary system that tides don’t even come into the equation.
Current flow through Budgewoi channel is mainly caused by three things: Heavy rains, wind or the local power station, which uses lake water for cooling purposes. When in full operation, the power station draws water from an inlet at the north-western side of Lake Munmorah and spits it back out into Budgewoi Lake. In effect, this creates a huge water flow which causes a northwards-flowing current through Budgewoi Channel.
If the power station isn’t using the lake’s water there may be no current or perhaps even a southwards flow in the channel. After a few days of heavy rain, the entire lake system becomes flooded and all current will flow south towards the mouth of the system at The Entrance. Unfortunately, the power station rarely pumps water these days but when it does, the fish seem to become much more active.
Apart from current, other factors that effect the local fishing are wind, time of day and obvious seasonal differences. I also think barometric pressure has a lot of effect on the lake’s fishing, but others may disagree. After years of watching my barometer more than the clock, I’m convinced that a rising or high barometric reading is much better for fishing.
Strong wind can turn these normally placid waters into a surging mess. Under these conditions, boating is definitely out of the question. Wind also disperses dead ribbon weed throughout the lakes, which can make fishing difficult. The best wind (if any) to fish in is a light north-easterly, which is generally associated with warm, stable weather. Early in the morning, the lakes are usually glassed off and this doesn’t just look great, it makes fishing a much more enjoyable experience.
Lure-casting for bream is best done early of a morning. A canoe is essential if you want top results, although some spots around Lake Munmorah are suitable for wading. Normally, once the sun shines brightly it’s time to pack up. The peak time is the 20-minute period just prior to the sun clearing the horizon. If conditions remain calm, late afternoon can also be productive.
Best places to try lure- or fly-casting for the local bream are along the rocky shoreline and weed beds of Budgewoi Channel and the rocky outcrops along the northern shorelines of Munmorah and Budgewoi lakes. There are also a few productive spots along the eastern shoreline of Munmorah among the weeds and fallen timber.
All the well known lures work on the local bream, including the new breed of mini-soft plastics. Some of the better performers would be the Heddon Mini Tad and black Rebel Crickhopper. Flies are best kept small and in darker natural colours.
Bait fishing for bream can be a bit tricky. Generally, the best results come after dark, particularly between midnight and dawn. At times, though, a late afternoon session will produce a few fish. Top baits include fresh mullet gut, blackfish gut or very fresh cut baits of tailor or mullet, as well as live prawns. Some of the biggest bream I’ve ever seen were taken on blackfish gut in Budgewoi Channel, including a 3kg monster.
Light line, little or no sinker and small, fine gauge hooks are a basic requirement when fishing around the lakes. Four kilogram line and a pea-sized ball sinker running down to a No 4 hook is good starting point. If the fish are in a very timid mood, try 3kg line, no sinker and a No 6 hook.
Budgewoi blackfish are some of the fussiest feeders I’ve ever come across. I’ve turned up there with five different types of local weed and still been skunked by some old-timer using the ‘right’ weed. To go into detail about this subject would take up the entire issue of this magazine and send me totally insane in the process. That’s just how complex the issue can be.
To cut out all the confusion, try any green weed growing around Budgewoi’s shoreline from April through until about June. From June to October the luderick generally switch over to brown weed. This can be found growing on ribbon weed strands around the lake’s shoreline.
If that’s not working, keep a close eye on what the locals are using. Don’t just come straight out and ask where they got their weed from. It’s far better to strike up a friendly chat and maybe they’ll put you onto some productive weed.
Blackfish baits should be suspended about 2.5 metres under the float. Remember, these fish are timid, so your float should be correctly weighted. There should be only a centimetre or two of float stem showing above the waterline. If the fishing is slow, try adjusting the running depth to about three metres and cast out further. Each day can be different.
Most of the time the fish will be about three metres out from the rocks, but sometimes it pays to cast out wider, particularly during the middle of the day. Small floats, 2kg trace material and No 10 or No 12 hooks are best for Budgewoi blackfish. My favourite hook pattern is the baitholder style, although snecks, viking and panfish hooks certainly work.
I’ve never really seen any evidence that green-coloured hooks work better than the bronze hooks, but I would shy away from any bright, shiny hooks.
You may have seen a recent piece I wrote about nearby North Entrance beach. Some locals may say that Budgewoi is the better of the two. There’s certainly no doubt that Budgy Beach is very productive. Tailor, salmon, bream, whiting and jewfish all show up along this big beach. As I write this article, the salmon have been going nuts right along the beach, with a number of anglers reporting rat kingfish mixed in with the sambos.
Like North Entrance, a big drawcard at Budgewoi turns up after dark in the form of the mighty mulloway. The biggest jewie I’ve heard of from the area was caught at this beach and weighed a massive 96 pounds – that’s over 43kg!
Some locals like to use a whole blackfish head as a jewie bait, but really all the known jewie baits like tailor, mullet, squid and beach worms will work well. The trick is to fish a deep gutter when a tide peaks within a few hours of sunset. Productive tides occur around the new and full moon periods, although the dark of the new moon is generally favoured by local beach fishos.
There are plenty of pipis and beach worms along this beach, particularly at the northern end, which is known as Birdie Beach. There are access points right along the beach, although the far northern end is best reached via the Munmorah State Recreation Area, about a five-minute drive north of Budgewoi.
Budgewoi is serviced by a range of shops, including a couple of excellent take-aways. All your boating requirements can be taken care of by Central Coast Boatworld (phone 4399 3568) and the lads at Budgewoi Marine Sports (phone 4390 9326) will help you with anything to do with fishing, including a first-class rod building service. They are right on the water so nothing fishy escapes their sight.
For a place not so far from Sydney or Newcastle, Budgewoi makes a nice family fishing destination. If the fish aren’t on the chew, there’s the lake, beach or nearby clubs or pubs to keep one entertained.
Locals enjoying the winter sun while fishing for blackfish just up from the road bridge.
The peaceful waters of Budgewoi Channel offer quite good fishing for bream, blackfish, mullet and whiting. There’s also a chance of leatherjacket, tailor, flathead and estuary perch.
Budgewoi footbridge is always worth a try for blackfish through the cooler months.
Blackfish are certainly the most popular species at Budgewoi, although they can be tricky to catch at times.
Mullet are a good standby if the blackfish aren’t biting. Small bread or home-made pudding baits suspended under a small float will bring the mullet undone.
Jewfish are a big drawcard for those who want to try their luck after dark at Budgewoi beach. Top baits include slabs of mullet, tailor, blackfish, fresh squid or beach worms.
Budgewoi beach is a giant stretch of sand. Popular species here are tailor, salmon, bream, whiting and jewfish.
Whiting can be caught from the lakes or the beach at Budgewoi. Fresh or live bloodworms or beachworms are top baits, although this one nailed a small soft plastic aimed at bream.Reads: 21375