You can feel it in your bones, smell it in the air – it’s action time.
This is the season I wait for: Predictable warm water, clear skies and heaps of fish. Port Stephens is swinging into holiday mode and it seems that everyone is carrying a fishing rod and a bucket.
Family groups are concentrating their efforts inside the Port where trumpeter whiting provide non-stop entertainment for the kids. The little trumpeters are swimming proof that kids don’t need to catch big fish to have big fun.
They are spread right throughout the system, from Middle Harbour around Corlette, west up into the backwater and feeder streams from Lemon Tree Passage to Karuah. Trumpeters have the bonus of performing particularly well in the kitchen.
Big lazy bream have gathered inside the Nelson Bay boat harbour along the breakwall and are cruising under the oyster racks that fringe the port. Considered a Winter fish in many regions, bream seem quite content to stay here year-round.
Flathead arrived early this year and are crunching plastics off Corrie Island, Tilligerry Creek and right up the Karuah River.
Monster duskies have snuffled into the sand underneath the trawlers in Nelson Bay. A mate dived down to check a mooring and came face to face with a giant fish. He didn’t stop swimming until he was half way up Teramby Street!
Sand whiting have made a welcome return to the beaches inside the port. You can see them while you are having a swim at Shoal Bay or Fly Point. They bite best near the top of the tide early of a morning before all the troopers arrive.
Among the Port Stephens must-haves are squid jigs and a few witches hats as the blue swimmers are hyperactive west of Soldiers Point and squid have gathered over the seagrass in Shoal Bay and around the moorings in front of the pub.
The big news off the rocks is that squid, up to a frightening 1.5kg, are gathering in the lee corners, out of the wind and swell. There is a growing band of committed squidders around here who don’t give two hoots if the fish are biting as long as they can catch a squid.
Cracker snapper to 7kg are swimming through the whitewater when the sea lifts, particularly around Boat Harbour and Fishermans Bay. I bagged four super snapper between 3kg and 5kg fishing out of Stinkpot, my 3.2-metre tinny during the last big swell.
Remarkably, I caught the fish less than a five-minute ride from the beach. In these days of inflated fuel prices it’s nice to spend a morning on the water and use a cupful of juice.
During the Summer magnificent sand whiting are on all the beaches from Stockton to Fingal. Already reports are rolling in with fish to .650g bouncing up Kingsley and One Mile beaches. Jewfish, the odd bream and of course salmon are never far away.
Snapper, snapper and more snapper, that’s all I hear about outside the heads at this time of year. Seal Rocks, Broughton Island and the bommies off Fishermans Bay must rank with the best reddie grounds on the east coast.
Over the past couple of months I’ve heard of three snapper over an astounding 12kg. Two of those fish were released.
Squid heads, pilchards, slimy mackerel fillets and king prawns are the best baits but, as is happening everywhere else, the big movement is towards soft plastics with catches up to 30 and 40 snapper released on the rubbers.
The local butcher ate one of the soft plastics . “A bit like jelly snakes,” he told me and he reckons they taste far better than pilchards. (Don’t think of doing the same – soft plastics contain some rather toxic substances! – Editor)Reads: 1888