The rocky washes south of Fingal are Port Stephens’ best-kept secret, says Stinker
SECTION: location guide
The southernmost corner of the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park is the best-kept local secret.
When you read fishing articles about Port Stephens all you hear about is the fantastic opportunities inside the Port or along its feeder streams and rivers, Tilligerry Creek, Karuah and the Myall.
Outside the heads, all the news focuses on the outer islands, Boondelbah and Little Island and all the reefs north to Broughton Island and Seal Rocks.
Let me inform you that some of the very best fishing action can be found along the 10km stretch from Fingal south to Stockton Beach.
There is a reason for this section of our coastline to be relatively untouched and that is because it is rugged and, in some places, inhospitable and difficult to reach without the aid of a camel or a mountain goat.
There are no designated boat ramps to launch bigger boats over 5m, restricting the reef fishers to smaller craft capable of being shoved off the beaches at Fingal, Fishermans Bay, Boat Harbour and Birubi Point.
The only other option is to launch at the public ramp at Little Beach, Nelson Bay, which doubles the distance to travel.
If you are prepared to move out of your comfort zone and head ‘down south’ you will be rewarded with some of the very best rock, reef and beach fishing experiences imaginable.
As we are all aware, rock fishing can be a dodgy business – lose your concentration for one second and you could end up joining the crabs in the drink. Dangerous as it may be, fishing off the rocks from December to May is exciting and rewarding and remains a great attraction to the experienced and novice.
Down south, the relentless swells pound the rocky foreshore and headlands, producing whitewater fishing that can’t be beaten.
Why is the wash such an attraction to the many species that choose to cruise through the suds?
The washing-machine conditions provides highly oxygenated water that excites fish and alerts their senses to hunt and feed on the marine vegetation and unfortunate creatures that lose their grip and are flushed into the boil. Cabbage, crabs, cunjevoi, chitons and turban snails all become part of a swirling marine smorgasbord that tempts feeding fish into the shallows.
Oddly enough, small baitfish also swim into the wash to feed and seek protection. Little do they know that they have become part of the menu.
Heading north from Stockton Beach, the rock hot spots include Fishermans Bay, Boat Harbour, Sunny Corner and One Mile Point.
Early in the morning, tossing pilchards on ganged hooks or floating fresh squid, bonito strips or live bait just behind the whitewater all but guarantees a fierce attack by ravenous tailor, bream, kingfish, jewfish or a prized snapper.
Your chances are always increased by establishing a constant berley trail of muddied bread, prawn heads and minced baitfish ladled into the wash.
Swimming in deeper water are magnificent drummer and groper keen to munch a rock crab or fresh cunjevoi.
Further north, Middle Rock, between One Mile Beach and Samurai Beach, has become known as the home for school jewfish and luderick. It may be a bit of a struggle through the sand dunes until you reach the rocks but I reckon it’s worth the effort.
Rocky Point, Boulder Bay and Fingal Head are well known to local rock fishers particularly for snapper, tailor, luderick, jewfish, kingfish and drummer. The recipe for success remains the same for all rocky headlands: Safety first, dusk and dawn, fresh bait and nothing less than 10kg line.
If you are new to the area it’s a real good idea to check out your intended fishing destination well in advance of your outing. Note the angle of the swell, high and low tide times and always take a mental note of an escape route if you are washed in. Remember, not every day is the same – conditions could be totally different tomorrow.
A glance along the rocky coast will reveal numerous protected bays out of the effects of the wind and swell. This is squid country.
Thumpers to an impressive 1.5kg gather in the quiet corners and fall easy prey to jigs cast off the rocks or slowly trolled behind the boat. I prefer the trolling method until the school is located, then cut the motor and cast.
With squid, absolutely nothing is wasted. The canopy and wings end up in a marinara, Chinese or breadcrumbs. The head, gut and tentacles provide top bait for snapper and jewfish while the odd-looking clear backbone is a great starter for a trivia quiz.
If you stand on the cliffs above Fishermans Bay and look directly out to sea you will spot half a dozen shallow reefs that break in a medium swell. These bommies are the homes of snapper to a spanking 10kg.
As previously mentioned, it’s generally only small boats that target these reefs and return to the beach with the reds. Fresh live squid or squid heads, bonito strips, big prawns and pilchards are the preferred baits set on a 4/0 to 6/0 hook tossed into a well-established berley trail with little to no weight – then hang on.
Plastics on 4g jigheads with 4/0 hooks are becoming increasingly popular.
Wider reefs, such as Uralla, One Mile and Boulder Bay, continue to provide snapper, squire, nannygai, kingfish and jewfish.
Everything that you need to know about Stockton Beach has been told but not too many words have been written about Kingsley. What a gem!
Nestled under the cliffs at the end of the Boat Harbour turnoff, you will find a little piece of paradise. A rising tide, particularly around dawn, will result in a bag of tailor, bream, whiting, salmon and the odd jewfish.
Even during the holiday rush there is every chance that you will have the beach to yourself.
One Mile, Samurai and Fingal beaches are must-see venues for the entire family. Safe to fish and alive with whiting, bream and early-morning tailor, these beaches are characterised by crystal-clear water and long stretches of soft sand.
A few surprises await you at Samurai, which is a designated nudist beach – which in turn means all you need is a fishing rod, a hat and plenty of sun cream!
Visitors to Port Stephens are advised to pick up a copy of the Marine Park Zoning Map available free at all Bait AND Tackle outlets. The areas described in this article are free of all sanctuary zones.