I know I say it every year, but I am going to say it again, this is by far the best month to fish the Hunter Coastal waters. Northeasters have been pushing the warm water to our part of the world for the past month and the fishing is out of control.
The Hunter in February is back into seasonal patterns that we haven’t seen for some years. Afternoon thunderstorms and barometers that are boiling in an upward direction all make for spectacular fishing outings.
This month is a month for drying oysters. Oyster farmers take hundreds of trays from the water and dry the Pacific oysters from their trays and tumblers leaving their Sydney Rock oyster crop in tact for further growth. All the commotion attracts bream around the racks, and the bits that fall off the racks provide an easy feed for the fish. It’s a bit like an annual event for them and any estuary where this occurs the bream fishing will usually be great.
Fish down laneways flicking lures over the racks and under them, and float baits like prawns and yabbies as well as a half pilchard. If you can keep the bigger bream away from the racks you will be in for a great tussle. The bream feed freely now and get bulked up for their spawning run in late March through to June.
The last two weeks of February and the first couple of weeks into March is always the time when someone will show me a bream close to the 3kg mark, so all you keen bream anglers out there, this is your month.
I have a friend who has a special rod he nicknames a ‘rack extractor’. He brings it out and uses it for about eight weeks and every year he calls me up and lets me know how he goes. He really puts in effort and is rewarded for doing so, sometimes catching and releasing hundreds of bream. You don’t need permission to fish around racks but it’s always nice to ask.
This month just isn’t all about bream. Whiting, flathead, flounder and school jewfish all seem to want to feed more freely. The estuary, either deepwater or shallow, will produce fish on bait and lures.
Warm shallows, especially around weed beds and drop-offs, hold flathead. Corners, points and eddy’s that occur will also hold flathead whose number-one tactic is ambush.
Sand flats short weed beds all hold whiting and flounder, while wrecks, deep crevices, holes, underwater cliffs and rock faces house jewfish. This month all fish are about in larger numbers and as I write the phone is running hot with information that they are surely about.
Offshore, the FADs have been put in place and some interesting news are coming from them. Mahi mahi, kingfish, marlin and tuna all have been taken around these at one time or another, and the locations of the fish FADs can be found on the fishery’s website.
One thing I have found when I have visited these man-made structures is the little respect some boaties have for others that were there first. Trolling right through a berley trail, which took along time to establish, trying to get lures as close to the buoy as possible, even trolling between a boat and the buoy. If you turn up and boats are already there sitting next to it, either feeding out live baits or tossing lures, just sit back for five minutes and determine the best way not to disturb what all these fishers have already done. If you slowly nudge in and nod so to show you aren’t a cowboy, you should be able to get on the end of the queue, and even at times get benefit from another berley trail.
The beaches have been firing one day then dead the next. Night fishing and late afternoon is by far the best time. But the clear water that is coming down the coast isn’t doing the beaches any favours.
Whiting will be in the beach gutters or on the back of the surf, and bream should be around later in the month. Days of rain and overcast conditions would be the pick of the bunch. Remember that tailor also turn up sometimes around February, and if they do they’re usually the big green backs.
A night camping out on a beach is a sure way to escape the heat and humidity, and a night fish on a beach is definitely a great escape. Squid is the best night bait for bream, jewfish and sharks, and a small glow stick tied to your rod tip is a great way to see the bites.
Don’t forget it’s not just at Christmas you get prawns, they’re thicker at that time but this month is the last one to go scoop a few. This year has been exceptional with a night session usually producing between 5-7kg, and sometimes even up to 10kg. It really has been worth it, and don’t just think it’s always on the dark of the moon that they run, a bit of moon up to the half will produce prawns, especially on cloudy nights.
There are some great areas on the Hunter River to prawn with either a licensed haul net or a scoop. Raymond Terrace, Hexham and the sand flats along Kooragang Island are all good starting points.Reads: 2823