Sure Bet for Stephens
  |  First Published: February 2009

February is the time of year when warm water species decide to visit the shores of Port Stephens. At the moment the talk is all about kingfish, with some real brutes hunting both inside and outside the bay.

If you’re land-based then you won’t have to travel far as the breakwall at Nelson Bay has provided the most action over the past month. Hoodlums in excess of 20kg have been hooked, but the majority landed have been between 3-8kg. Most kings are being tempted with surface lures, such as Halco Rooster Poppers and large white Sluggos. You could also try live baits such as squid or slimies.

Outside has also had good populations of kingies, especially around the Islands and further south around the larger bommies at the front of Boulder Bay. Success can be attributed to fresh baits, and there’s none better then squid, either alive or dead, as it wont take long for a kingie to sniff it out.

The gamefishing season is now in full swing, with the majority of marlin being encountered along the shelf. Blues, blacks and stripes are all on the cards, with some exceptional blues up to 500lb crashing lures and skip baits. As usual the Car Park is firing and it’s all because of the good bait supply that seems to always hold up in that area.

A helpful tip is to always find your own patch of bait. Year in and year out, I see so many boats staying in the one area and on the one patch of bait all day, sure you may catch fish, but why not spend some time in locating your own honey hole. Just because a bunch of boats decide to stay together doesn’t mean that’s the only area to fish. The great thing about the shelf off Port Stephens is that there are so many areas that hold bait and fish, both north and south of the Car Park.

Further inshore has seen quality mahi mahi, up to 15kg, eager to grab live baits drifted around the FAD. Some smaller black marlin have started to show in the vicinity of the Big Gibber, 40 fathoms off Little Island and Fingal Lighthouse. It all depends on the bait and water temperature and hopefully the run of smaller blacks up north will filter down as the month progresses.

Those that prefer quality table fish will find that pan size snapper have been in abundance on the wider reefs around 50-100m. Trag and jewfish can be taken after dark on live baits, especially around the Big Gibber, The V and the Tank Mark further south.

The ever-reliable sand flathead have been top quality of late with fish averaging around 2kg. Drifting in 40-50m east of little Island and just north of Fingal lighthouse will ensure a feed.

For those that enjoy a little bit of sport fishing or even saltwater fly should concentrate their efforts around the washes as plenty of bonito, rat kingies and chopper tailor are all eager to slam metal spinners and flies either early morning or late afternoon.

The estuary is still on fire and quality fish are in abundance from the upper reaches to the heads. Dusky flathead are spread throughout the port, with the majority of fish between 1-2kg found sun baking on the high tide around the flats. Lightly weighted soft plastics, unweighted pilchards, and shallow running hardbodies have all been successful.

Bream fishing is outstanding and you can’t go past surface lures at the moment. Some real horses have been smashing lures in as little as 30cm of water, either high tide or low. The key to success is to be there early, just as the first rays of sun begin to appear. The low light levels seem to be the prime bite period.

For those that like a more relaxed subdued way of fishing, try floating baits like fresh green prawns or pilchard cubes amongst the racks.

The big news in the estuary is mulloway. Some great catches have occurred recently with fish up to 30kg taken on lures and baits. Middle Island and the two bridges that cross the Karuah River have been the pick of the spots.

Beach fishing is probably the best way to relax and a reliable way to catch a feed. Stud sand whiting can be found on all the surf beaches, and live worms are the key. I prefer to fish on a rising tide casting my bait towards the edge of churning sand bank, I find that the more water movement the better the whiting bite. Of course you will find other fish feeding in the same areas so don’t be surprised if a stud bream, flathead or dart decides to snaffle your worm.

With the arrival of the warm water the fishing at Port Stephens should heat up over the coming months.

Plenty of marlin have already shown up along the shelf, with blues, blacks and stripes in good numbers.

The jewfish action in the estuary has been sensational. Here Patrick Walker displays a sensational jewie that nailed a soft plastic just on dark. The fish was released.

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