For many anglers, the holiday weekend that starts this month heralds the start of the freshwater and saltwater fishing season on this part of the coast.
From now until late March we are blessed with warmer weather and warmer currents, but there is no denying we need a fair bit of rain to flush the fish from the rivers and estuary’s and get them moving about. The salinity levels are very high, holding fish farther upstream than usual.
Reporting on what can be expected is a hard call right at the start of the season but I know one thing: Everyone I talk to is frightened by fuel prices. For the owners of boats with outboards over 50hp and the vehicles that tow them, the choice of fishing venue often comes down to affordability.
A lot of anglers I have spoken to will be fishing closer to home and getting a good fix on local fishing. A day out with a tag of $100 or more is going to keep a lot of the bigger boats dry and a good grapevine as to when the fish are on and where will really help the hip pocket.
There have been a few beach anglers taking good bags of bream from The Pipes at Stockton and floating baits are snagging them down around Mosquito Creek in the Hunter River.
Flathead are on the move and this month you should bump into a few at such places as around the sandy patches east of the Tourle Street bridge, the shallows around Kooragang Island and the mud flats just up from Stockton bridge.
Shallow-running crankbaits and small soft plastics are the go, bumped over the bottom and sending up puffs of sand. Flathead love this sort of thing.
The rocks around Newcastle have been pretty quiet apart from a few good drummer and patchy tailor. Hopefully making up for this will be the return of early whiting and some travelling bream.
Remember, we haven’t had a lot of rain so the estuary salinity is pretty high and fish can be found a vast distance from the ocean.
Hexham and Tomago through to Raymond Terrace can hold fish in schools. Try sounding the outer edges of bends and drop-offs. Try close in on the mangroves through the middle of the day and the open shoreline in the evenings.
Jewfish have made a return after being a little shy. A few good captures over the past three months prove that Newcastle is really a premium spot for big jewies. They haven’t all been from the harbour, either. Although the larger ones have been caught there, a number of school fish have been taken just offshore around Big Ben and the Pines Reef.
Most have eaten live baits but a few have taken small prawns on bream gear, so you just never know when they will show up.
Gun jewie angler Rob Maruszczak often seems to come up trumps on the big ones. This fish, well over 20kg, was taken near Newcastle Pilot Station on a live bait.Reads: 800