Ways to ease the dollar strain
  |  First Published: May 2008

Around the Hunter Coast we are blessed with a lot of great fishing options and many locals say they are starting to fish areas they did when they were younger, figuring the fish still must be there and it’s closer to home so the costs of travel aren’t so crippling.

Dollars mount up, especially when towing a boat or getting a 4WD along a beach and watching the fuel gauge dip towards empty.

A lot of locals I talk to are opting to fish less but at more clever times of moon, stages of the tide and of times of spawning runs, giving them a better hope that their money provides a satisfying day on the water. Thankfully, for most the money isn’t measured in fish to take home but in having a good day out.

There a lot of ways to save a few dollars when fishing and I have a few earmarked for May.

The flathead and most of the big bream have shot through by now, leaving sandbanks and shallow estuary areas alive with poddy mullet.

Get the kids into the creeks or onto the sandy shallows with a bait trap or a small rod and get your own fresh bait. If every kid fished for mullet they still wouldn’t really put a dent in the numbers.

This is also a great month for squid and jigging in a calm corner of a rocky headland can save you bait money when you find these molluscs in good numbers – if you can control the urge to eat them.

May is a great month off the rocks for drummer, the odd snapper and a few jewfish around the full and new moon. If you have a freezer with frozen squid and mullet fillets then you have a good source of bait for the reds and jew.

I know the frozen variety is not as good as live bait but your own snap-frozen bait is second best by far, especially when you open a service station freezer to be confronted by black prawns and dried-out mullet slabs.

At last a number of jewfish have been caught in the Hunter River, due largely to the arrival of tailor of all sizes. Squid and slabs of tailor have taken good numbers of jewfish. If you haven’t the time to catch the bait yourself the Fishermen’s Co-op at Carrington has plenty of both.

Bream are coming from further up the river, from around Sandgate to Hexham.

The beaches have been stirred up for months but recent calmer weather has improved the fishing for sand flathead and bream during the day. As sunset arrives, tailor have been patrolling the shore breaks, gutters, gullies and rocky ends, so it’s odds-on that some nice jewfish are following these.

Outside reports haven’t been the best. Bonito showed up for a while, as did schools of just undersize kingfish. Snapper have been around, with early mornings best. I am praying the leatherjackets don’t infest every inshore reef as they did last Winter.

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