Cool change for the better
  |  First Published: July 2008

How things can change from week to week in fishing. The past two reports were all doom and gloom with bad weather, big seas and few fish to even bother the diehards to go looking for them.

How that has changed! The river and outside reefs are firing on all cylinders so hang on to those rods, jewfish are in the harbour and kingfish all over the closer reefs along with snapper and good morwong. Add big bream, drummer, luderick and you have plenty of fishing fun on tap.

The big news is that larger than usual kingfish have shown up on most close reefs. Hoodlums as well as smaller models are feeding freely early mornings and at the change of tide.

The freshest of fresh squid you can get your hands on make a lot of difference, we got ours straight from the fishermen’s co-op only 10 minutes after the trawler unloaded it.

We also caught some fresh yellowtail we got on the spot we fished, North Reef, but the squid outfished the livies and fresh slabs we dropped into 25m of water over the reef.

We had been told the kingfish were there so certainly didn’t expect the quality of fish to be so large. We broke two rods and one lost every line guide and laughed as we held onto the breaking gear and screaming reels we couldn’t even grab. We managed to boat two fish about 6kg and dropped countless fish with blasting runs into the reef.

We had a video camera on board and filmed a 15kg king just drop the hook and swim away – at least the bragging was captured on camera.

A boat not far from us got three morwong around 3kg and lost a lot of kingfish on light gear.

Big bream and jewfish have been also around early mornings. Fresh squid, slab baits and fresh prawns have all been working.

Snapper are also making an appearance on the close reefs, with those around Merewether have been firing early mornings. Drifting has been the best way to get them active again, using half pilchards, although salmon are stealing a few so a bit of lead can help get to the bottom faster.

Snapper around 2kg have been reported, lovely table fish, and bream also have been showing on the reefs in this area.


The Hunter River has been quiet for a while but now all guns are blazing on the change of tide for some great jewfish, with a 32kg model taken on a live squid near Kooragang Island.

Many jewies have been taken along the walls with live bait the best option from shore or slab baits and squid in places where there are steep drop-offs. One of the most well-known areas is the Pilot Station Hole but remember tugboats, ships and pilot vessels all use this area and at times steam in fast, leaving huge waves that can cause a small boat a lot of problems.

Stockton bridge has jewfish around 8kg at night. The South Channel of the Hunter River is being dredged and major work on the Toule Street bridge is underway so avoid these areas if possible – there are flags, buoys and all sorts of hazard markers around there and will be until the new bridge is constructed.

The beaches are fishing well, especially for tailor. Stockton Beach around the sewer pipeline up from the hospital has been extremely productive for bigger greenback tailor to 3kg late in the evening on brined pilchards, if you can get them.

Drummer and luderick are schooling along Stockton wall and there have been big luderick schools passing into the river on the clear incoming tide. The back of the Sea Scouts building and Horseshoe Beach rock wall are some of the best areas for luderick this month.

So with the westerlies taking grip of the weather until September, a plan for a trip out to sea when it’s at its smoothest. But don’t forget big gear and fresh squid in case you run into some of those kingfish.

A few boaties from Stockton reckon that the outgoing tide at the Hunter River mouth, no matter the moon phase, is a great place to bag a big jewie.

Anchor a safe distance out with a reef pick and because the tide runs out strongly there, add a little more weight.

Use squid, whole yellowtail dead or alive with one hook at the tail and one under the gills. Try to be there a hour before the run out starts and stick it out longer if the change is around sunset.

Half moon up to the full is the best, they say, and if you don’t get hooked up after a couple of hours, get down to where lights illuminate the water – the ferry wharves, ship loading areas (when they’re not working) and anywhere structures funnel water into a tight flow, such as bridge pylons.

Reduce sinker weight as the tide flow slows and if none of this works, head over to the fishermen co-op and get one of the guys to throw a jewfish over the counter to you – at least you can say you caught it!

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