At last the warm waters of the East Australian Current have finally licked the coastline of Port Stephens, bringing an array of northern species.
The most significant species, of course, is the juvenile and not-so-juvenile black marlin.
Already there have been reasonable catches in those reefy areas between 40 and 50 fathoms. Plenty of bait, such as slimy mackerel and pilchards, have been the mainstay for the marlin and with any luck they will stick around for the next month or so.
If you’re planning to target marlin on the inshore reefs then concentrate your efforts around the bait schools.
Slowly trolling a live bait on a relatively light leader from 100lb to 150lb rigged with a lighter gauge circle hook will ensure consistent bites.
If you prefer trolling lures, try downsizing your lure. I’ve found the range of Zacatak lures to be ideal, especially the Fluzi and Uzi, rigged with light-gauge hooks such as the Gamakatsu SL12 to ensure a solid hook-up.
Both these methods will also account for decent mahi mahi with plenty up to 20kg already coming in from the recognised grounds and out wide.
Around the islands, the odd cobia will definitely be on the cards over the next two months.
I suggest larger live baits such as bonito or tailor are the top of the menu for cobia but don’t be surprised if a decent yellowtail kingfish decides to snaffle your bait.
Bottom fishing on the reefs is always rewarding at this time of year and you can expect quality snapper, trag, mulloway, and even the odd pearl perch.
It’s surprising but an increasing number of pearl perch are visiting our waters through out late Summer and into Autumn. It seems that the reefs further towards the north, around the outer Gibber and Seal Rocks in depths between 30m and 60m produce the pearlies.
Simple two-hook paternoster rigs are among the more effective ways of catching them, but those who are dropping heavily weighted soft plastics are becoming less surprised when a tasty pearlie comes over the side.
It’s the time of year when most keen LBG anglers begin their season from the stones in anticipation of the first run of longtail tuna and the highly prized cobia.
So far the signs have been encouraging with plenty of bait around most washes and I have heard of the odd tuna landed from Tomaree.
It’s probably still early days but by the end of March things should be in full swing.
Last year plenty of tuna were caught south of Port Stephens, around Boat Harbour and One Mile. These particular areas have some fantastic ledges and at times hold plenty of bait.
Beach fishing is at its prime with nearly all gutters producing a feed of fat sand whiting and quality bream.
You can also expect some quality flathead at spots such as the southern end of Hawks Nest Beach, Fingal Spit and Kiddies Corner.
Slowly retrieved ganged pilchards are deadly at catching duskies along the beach while a natural-coloured soft plastic will also do plenty of damage.
Tailor have been sporadic with just the odd chopper caught early morning or early evening.
Things should improve once the Autumn run of sea gar arrive, they’re by far one of the best baits for big greenback tailor.
Estuary anglers will be having a ball with plenty of stud bream hanging around most of the oyster racks and rock walls throughout the Bay.
The beginning of Autumn has always been a favourite time for me to target fat blue-lipped bream as they ready themselves for the coming spawning season.
A rising tide and fresh bait such as green prawns or mullet gut, tossed unweighted beside an oyster rack, will instantly be pounced on.
Soft plastics and hardbody lures are also very effective and with the majority of bream active and aggressive, lure fishing can be great option at this time of year.
School jewfish have been in good numbers and are eager to snaffle live baits.
The usual haunts such as the wreck in Salamander Bay, the Karuah bridges and Middle Island are all producing numbers of schoolies. However, pesky whaler sharks are also wreaking havoc, especially when live-baiting.
And finally, some news that reasonable numbers of blue swimmer crabs are finally tap-dancing through out the Bay.
Although not in huge numbers, especially compared with previous years, it is certainly worth the effort of throwing a few witches’ hats over the side on an incoming tide.
It may also be worth the effort heading up the far reaches of the Karuah River for a tasty late season mud crab.Reads: 1859