Reefs, estuaries fire
  |  First Published: August 2005

There have been some great captures around this area of late and the close reefs and estuaries should be firing right through this month.

But you’ll need to watch the westerly winds, the southerly squalls and the occasional blinding fog. The weather hasn’t produced many typical sunny, warm days so there has been a lot of activity above and under the water.

We had a funny trip out to North Reef, one of Newcastle’s closest grounds, not long back. We launched at the Carrington ramp and headed down the harbour right on sunrise and a thick blanket of fog dropped.

Almost in an instant you couldn’t see more than six or seven metres as the fog blanketed a large number of boats all heading for the harbour entrance. A few of us slowed and went and sat next to the channel markers, feeling safer if a larger boat, a trawler or, heaven forbid, a tug or a ship was moving around.

Some boaters weren’t so cautious and looming through the fog every now and again we could see a boat flying along for a split second. We were sitting on the pilot station marker with three other boats whose crews didn’t want to test their courage and enthusiasm with running out in such poor visibility.

We were there for about 10 minutes when a really loud siren started to wail and we all decided that the fog horn was blasting away to let all boating traffic know that they should slow down and stop if in a safe area if possible.

For about the next half- hour we gathered another few boats around us and the chatter was about the hope of the fog lifting soon so we could get out to the grounds. Still some boats sped past and all you would feel was their wash – pretty frightening stuff when a few of these boats were only 10 metres or so away from us and they didn’t know we were sitting there.

We all decided that they were following out the lit channel markers so we may have not been in the safest spot at all. Boats around me turned on their navigation lights and in an instant a boat flying our way must have been confused about all the lights that were their now at water level and slowed down. They stopped and said the whole harbour was covered in fog, prompting me to ask how come he was still on the plane and hammering out. The skipper said he could see the channel markers above the fog, which was only four or five metres deep.

We sat here for another 20 minutes before the fog siren stopped and it was clear enough to see Nobbys Light and proceed to sea. When we reached North Reef there were three others already drifting and catching snapper just over legal mark of 30cm. I also saw one angler land a blue groper of about 7kg.

I have written these few paragraphs to show just how unsafe some waters can become due to unforeseen factors, not just the sea and swell. On this occasion the majority of boats did stop and when the fog lifted we were surprised that there were another few boats together close inshore at the end of the Lions Park wall on the Stockton side.

What about those few cowboys who thought of nothing but getting out there to get stuck into the fish? Fish just aren’t worth your life or worth putting someone else’s life in danger.

Anyway, the day turned glorious and warm and it seemed most grounds had snapper on them.

North Reef, the Dumping Ground close mark and The Pines have all fished well for snapper to 40cm and a few groper. Remember the bag limit of two on these – Fisheries inspectors frown on excessive catches of these and we should all know the bags for them.

Farther south, the Merewether and Redhead reefs are holding snapper, trevally, blue and brown morwong and a lot of chinaman leatherjackets.

Whales are about in fairly big numbers so beware of them. I followed a clan of three very large ones up to Birubi Point recently. It does get worrying when they sound for a time as you never know where they will pop up and in a small boat the adrenalin really pumps.


Lake Macquarie is going great guns. Three separate reports of large jewfish being caught in witch’s-hat nets meant for blue swimmer crabs have left many wondering just how many Winter roaming jewfish are really out there. There have been a few jew from 8kg to 12kg taken around the power station tunnels at Dora Creek, mainly on live herring and yellowtail which are available right on the spot.

Around Pulbah Island tailor schools are working in the evenings. They’re not huge fish but legal and worth the chase. Bream are being pulled from the cockle beds in Belmont Bay and Salts Bay, both of which fish well with a little wind around to stir up the shallow flats.

Swansea Channel is pretty slow according to reports, although around Moon Island squid are worth a try. The close washes also have drummer and bream.

Rock fishing with bread is probably a good option this month, Drummer have been taken from most of the local platforms through the Lake Macquarie area, especially the rocks under the Coast Guard base – also a great spot for an evening’s spinning for salmon and tailor.

Luderick anglers are out and about and some very large fish have been taken. Horseshoe Beach wall and Nobbys wall are among the best in Newcastle, as are the channels at the back of Merewether baths.

Most anglers are using cabbage weed as berley and the strand weed as bait. I like to mix them both in sand as berley and a cocktail on the hook also.

Around the lake, luderick fishos are under the Swansea bridge fishing close to the pylons, around the wharf in front of the RSL Club, Lucys Wall and the rocks closer to the heads.


The beaches have been a bit slower than usual. I am guessing the clear water flattened by the westerlies isn’t helping. Late afternoons are the best options for bream and tailor, with a smattering of salmon all day if you want to put in the time. If the Winter schools of pilchards and whitebait are around the beach fishing will pick up.

I certainly hit a sore point in the Hunter Coast beach feature I wrote a few months back when I mentioned how 4WD owners have to purchase a separate permit through different councils for each area. It is unfair to need so many permits when these beaches may be less than an hour’s drive from each other. A much fairer system would have a permit which covers two or three regions.

No 1.

The snapper haven’t been huge but as table fare they are the best. This North Reef snapper was one of many taken on a morning’s outing drifting with a paternoster rig and prawns and fresh mullet strips.

No 2

The girls land a blackfish from Lake Macquarie.

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