Port fish hit top gear
  |  First Published: December 2009

We can expect balmy mornings followed by stiff afternoon nor’-east sea breezes and the chance of a thunderstorm rumbling down the valley. Yes, Summer is in full swing and fish around Port Stephens are in top gear!

This is the start of some spectacular offshore fishing, which will carry through for the next couple of months.

This area is renowned for game fishing, especially for billfish, and already the continental shelf has been the place to be for blue, black and striped marlin.

Baitfish are the key when finding marlin so it’s crucial that you keep one eye out for birds working bait schools and the other eye on your sounder. If you happen to mark bait on your sounder then stick with it as long as possible.

Slowly trolling live slimy mackerel on circle hooks rigged on relatively light leaders (150lb to 200lb) should encourage a bite, but if you need to cover ground then skip baits or hookless lures trolled as teasers will also be worthwhile.

Areas around the Carpark and a little further north and south seem to be key locations that hold good schools of slimy mackerel and cowanyoung.

If it’s blue marlin you’re after, push over the edge of the shelf and concentrate around tuna schools, especially skipjacks (stripeys).

Blues a live, bridle-rigged skipjack or a dead one rigged as a skip bait, but be sure to up your leader size to at least 400lb and keep a sharp eye on your bait. There’s nothing better than watching the crash tackling antics of a blue marlin bite!

Closer towards the islands, mahi mahi have swarmed around the Fisheries FAD.

Being there early is the key but make sure you have plenty of live bait, such as the smaller, ‘pencil’ size slimy mackerel.

These can be cast or slowly trolled around the FAD and if you seem to be getting hassled by smaller fish, try dropping a larger bait deeper and perhaps 100m or so away from the floats. You will find that some of the larger fish will be hanging around further away.

Yellowtail kingfish of varying sizes have dominated nearly all the washes from Broughton Island to Rocky Point.

Smaller kingies of just legal size love soft plastics aimed at snapper, while poppers and metal lures retrieved at pace will encourage strikes.

Larger hoodlums prefer much larger bait such as live slimy mackerel, bonito or squid. Also try trolling bibbed lures like Halco Laser Pros; they will also attract larger bonito and tailor.

Fishing the reefs has been productive, especially after dark, when trag and mulloway have been in excellent numbers on the northern reefs. The Big Gibber, The 21 and the Outer V have all produced fish.

Areas adjacent, especially along the gravel, have produced some excellent catches of snapper around 2kg.

Further south, from Boulder Bay to Boat Harbour in depths of 40m to 50m, sand flathead to an impressive 2.5kg have been regular catches for those drifting and can turn an average day into a good one.


Early mornings, before the nor’-easters pick up, are the key in the estuary.

Flathead remain a highlight with plenty spread throughout the bay. Corlette beach, the groynes, Shoal Bay and Jimmy’s Beach will be the choice areas and a slow-trolled pilchard on ganged hooks is the ideal way to target duskies, especially as the sun rises.

Those who prefer lure fishing should try surface lures in the shallows at high tide. Flathead are aggressive and active in the Summer and readily attack a surface lure and if they miss, there’s every chance a stud whiting will be in hot pursuit.

The excellent run of small mulloway continues, with many anglers reaching double figures in a session. Fishing around tide changes with fresh live baits is the key.

Beach fishing has just started to pick up, now that we have had an influx of warmer water.

Sand whiting are Summer favorites and any shallow gutter with a little wave action just enough to stir the bottom and give the fish cover is a sure bet.

Places such Fingal Bay, One Mile, Samurai and, of course, Stockton, will have a school of whiting eager to snaffle worm baits.

The trick is to keep moving from gutter to gutter until you hit the jackpot.

After dark is the time for school mulloway and tailor. Try areas around the huts on Stockton or down towards the Signa wreck.

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