Water just right for tablefish
  |  First Published: October 2004

THE WATER moving along our coastline at the moment is hanging around the 16C mark, give or take a few degrees with changing weather patterns. This isn’t too crash hot for the pelagics Port Stephens is renowned for, but it’s the optimum temperature for many less prized tablefish.

Luderick Lunacy

This year has been one of the best years on record for luderick with good catches reported from Birubi to Broughton. I even heard a whisper that the pros had stopped netting them because the price they were fetching wasn’t worth the fuel money.

I’ve had great success along the ocean rocks using both strand weed and cabbage as bait. Newly-converted local luderick lunatic Wayne Coles and I braved the rain and cold on one Thursday afternoon to land 40 of the fattest luderick I had ever seen at Boat Harbour. As with every new fishing technique, Colesy takes up the catches like a disease. He is the only grown man keen enough to try to watch a blackfish float in the pitch dark! (Besides me, he reminds me.)

Luderick aren’t all you catch while fishing the washes with cabbage – rock blackfish (drummer) are likely to show up. They usually take the bait, unlike the more timid luderick. Actually, simply ‘taking’ the bait is an understatement. When you’re fishing with light luderick gear and a drummer hits your bait, if feels like you’ve suddenly hooked a passing humpback whale! The centrepin sings as the fish makes repeated runs and you hope to angling heaven that it hasn’t swallowed the hook deep enough to bite through that light leader or scrape you off on a rough protruding rock. If all goes to plan you can end up with one of the best tablefish around.

Olympic Groper Wrestling

Groper also like the cold water. They aren’t the sort of fish many people target because they are tough on the plate and are generally too pretty to eat anyway. I like to target them though, as they are one of this area’s toughest fighting fish and are great fish to look at, especially the bigger blue males.

Once you’re hooked to one of these brutes of the reef your whole body is put through the strains of an Olympic weightlifter. You have to try to pull the fish off the bottom before it breaks you off. There’s no: ‘Oh, I’ll just let it run a bit’! It’s more a case of now or never. I joined Colesy and Craig Kelly for a lifting session one morning to produce the two specimens shown in the photo.

Flathead On The Move

The estuary has been producing quite a few bream but the main story is the flathead are starting to move. This time of year is renowned for big lizard captures. They hunt the shallows from Tomaree to Tilligery in search of the occasional snack. I’ve decided to target some of these bigger flatties this year and big Squidgies so far seem to be the go. Any plastic over 100mm seems to sort the men out from the boys, so to speak, so grab yourself a packet and head for the shallows.

Kasey, Jason, Geoff and the Killer Pelican

I must also mention a tale involving some of my good mates from a Newcastle tackle store (I’ll leave the name of the tackle store anonymous so as not to tarnish the names of those involved).

Kasey, Jason and Geoff went for a quick session tossing lures after work in the Hunter River. Kasey, being the brains of the outfit and generally one of the best fishermen you’re likely to meet, managed to muscle a 4kg ‘schooly’ jewfish from a rockbar on light bream gear, an exceptional catch by anyone’s standard. Jason was having a bit of a shocker but did his bit for the environment by keeping the river’s carp population to an all-time low.

Then there was Geoff.

My heart really goes out to poor old Geoff. He crept silently along to a spot he likes to refer to as his ‘secret bream spot’. He reckons there are always big oyster-crushing bream there just waiting for a soft plastic to drift past their nose. The water looked perfect, with just a lone pelican asleep on the wall far out of casting distance, even for Geoff.

Well, Geoff took aim and fired his tiny offering down along the rock wall. A smile could be seen from ear to ear as the line zinged across the titanium-lipped spool of his beloved Twinpower. It was a good cast, possibly one of the best he’d ever cast, further than he’d ever cast before.

Then… thud, flap, splatter, crash! The lure landed right on top of the sleeping pelican, waking it up with a fright. The pelican swooped off the post and straight over Geoff’s head, leaving him shaken and even more embarrassed as he retrieved his lure from his best cast ever without hooking a fish.

Some things never go right, do they mate!

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