Find bait, find billfish
  |  First Published: February 2008

The Port Stephens game fishing scene has begun to boom with black, blue and striped marlin caught in good numbers on the edge of the continental shelf from Seal Rocks Canyons back down to the Newcastle Canyons.

The key to finding marlin on the shelf, or anywhere for that matter, is to locate the schools of slimy mackerel; predators like marlin, sharks and sometimes tuna won’t be far away. It pays to stay with the bait so if you find a solid school with arches on the sounder then it’s a pretty safe bet that your next hook-up wont be far away.

If you don’t get the bite straight away then keep persevering. Maybe try different tactics such as skip-baiting, live-baiting or switch-baiting or even wait for a tide change, you will be surprised just how many pelagic species will be triggered into feeding around a tide change.

Closer inshore, a number of small black marlin have been encountered anywhere from 30 to 40 fathoms from Seal Rocks to Fingal lighthouse. The same goes for the bait schools there: Find those and you’re in with a chance.

If you don’t have access to a sizeable boat or would simply like to learn more about game fishing, why not look at a specialised charter?

Captain Tim Dean, owner and skipper of the 13m Calypso, specialises in catching and releasing all three species of marlin off Port Stephens. His knowledge and skills are amazing. I have been lucky enough to fish with Tim for the past five seasons and the tips and techniques that Tim have given me have been worth their weight in marlin. Call him on 0411 111 476.


Big kingies are cruising the shallows at the back of Broughton Island, chasing down squid and garfish. There’s nothing better then watching a big hoodlum smashing your live bait but the only problem is trying to stop the rampaging fish before your line is shredded through the unforgiving rock ledges

If you can’t manage to catch a feed of fish or crabs in the bay then I suggest you buy a set of golf clubs. Bream, flathead and whiting are in fantastic numbers in any location.

Bream have been particularly eager to pounce on a soft plastic, hardbody or surface lure. I find the Summer months to be best for throwing a lure; the warmer water encourages bream to be more aggressive.

The oyster racks at the entrance to Pindimar Bay is one of my favourite locations. It’s also the entrance to the Myall River, so it has a good influx of nutrients, prawns and baitfish.

Further down towards Soldiers Point are a series of rock walls which hold great numbers of bream and this is an ideal area to soak a bait.


The flathead migration has moved closer towards the entrance of the bay. Any of those quiet beaches such as Corlette, Bagnalls and Shoal Bay always have a good population of flathead. Soft plastics and hard lures such as the shallow diving gold Bomber are perfect and a ganged pilchard is still very effective. The key to being successful is to fish early morning before any swimmers or boat traffic cause havoc.

Big sand whiting are still smashing tiny surface lures. I’m continually amazed at how aggressive whiting can be. The speed at which they fire up off the bottom to nail a surface lure is unbelievable.

If you haven’t tried this relatively new technique then I suggest you head down to your nearest tackle shop and pick up a couple of 35mm River 2 Sea Bubble Pops or a 50mm Rebel Pop-R – both proven whiting lures.

Make sure you have your witches’ hats out, the blue swimmer crabs are out in force. The entrances to the Karuah River and Tilligerry Creek have produced the better crabs. The key is to have good supply of fresh mullet.

Fingal Beach is the place to be with a fresh supply of live beach worms; you will certainly be guaranteed a feed of sand whiting. Any of the gutters from Kiddies Corner to the Spit are well worth a go. Don’t be surprised to encounter a few flathead.

Down on Birubi Beach, sand whiting and the odd bream are in most of the gutters while the salmon numbers have started to dwindle at last. After dark, expect to encounter the odd tailor to a kilo whilst school jew have been encountered further down towards the wreck.

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