AS I WRITE, a large body of warm water is settling off the Port Stephens coast. It’s only 20.8° but it’s a fabulous start for this early in the season.
Last year the fishing over the Christmas season wasn’t as anticipated. Cool water and adverse weather kept offshore fishing limited. This year we hope that the weather and water will be to our favour so we can get out and chase some good fish.
Offshore the small black marlin that the Port is so famous for should begin to appear. Trolled livies work well, as does switch-baiting and trolling lures. Switch-baiting is where hookless baits or teasers (lures) are trolled until a fish chases one. The lure is then retrieved close to the boat with the fish in pursuit and then a livie is thrown to the fish. This technique also works well on many other pelagics and can make for some very exciting fishing.
Yellowfin tuna to 30kg have been hanging around the traps off the heads and the light, along with some good mahi mahi. A good trip this time of year would involve trolling livies out to the traps for marlin and mahi mahi and then cubing and drifting at the back of the traps for big mahi mahi and yellowfin.
The offshore reefs have been producing good catches of snapper and jew. It’s been a bumper of a snapper year and the jew this year started to move early. Trag and trevally shouldn’t be far behind. Kingfish are beginning to make a comeback on many of the outer reefs but it will be a long time before the days of old return.
Can our area support the bait needs of the 15 to 18 large longline vessels that frequent our bait grounds? If the bait schools collapse, the fishing is also likely to go end-up and with so many tourist dollars passing through Port each year, especially in the game season, is it viable for this industry to keep taking tonnes of bait out of our system?
Inside the Port, whiting have taken the sandflats by storm, providing holidaymakers with excellent fun and a great feed. From Shoal Bay to Tilligerry, the whiting are being caught on peeled prawns and the best bait by far is live beach worms.
Flathead turned up in large numbers early in the season and are still hanging around the shallow sand flats and edges. Like most fishos, I concentrate my lizard efforts on the flats on the run-up tide and the drop-offs on the run out. This is where lizards are most likely to be waiting for an easy meal.
Bream are still around. The oyster racks have been producing some fantastic catches and some beauties are being caught off the co-op breakwall at night.
Quality sand whiting are on the move on Stockton, Samurai, Fingal, Box and Zenith beaches, along with some nice jewfish. Both are suckers for live beach worms.
Brent Hancock with an average run-out tide flathead taken on a Myall River drop-off.
Should we let our bait schools be depleted by commercial longline vessels?Reads: 500