Harbouring fish
  |  First Published: February 2010

The weather has been hard to factor in to fishing outings lately, it’s been great one minute then pouring rain the next. But we must remember that rain is an essential factor for good fishing.

Drains, small creeks, city culverts and canals can all fill with saltwater on a high tide, backing up the fresh to extreme highs. Then when the heavens open up, all the fish need to escape down to get to the salinity levels they need to survive.

Be at the entrances to these areas, and the fishing can be dynamite.

When it starts to rain, a friend and I fish a huge city canal. We scramble to get the gear ready and a lot of people think we are fools, but the drain holds big and small mullet, tailor, bream, whiting and luderick that make a good feed for huge tailor, sharks and jewfish.

It isn’t far from the Carrington bridge in the Basin in the Hunter River. We have caught countless jewfish, some very large flathead and tailor and, on occasions, a few sharks.

As you would expect, fresh mullet, whole squid or live yellowtail or poddy mullet are the best baits.

We have had rods snapped clean in half when the braid or mono has unknowingly become wrapped around the rod tip. You’re sitting in dead silence and then crack! – You think Jaws has got you.

Over the next two months the Basin is a great spot to fish at night. There are numerous holes, deep shipping berths (if they are empty you can fish them) and rock walls that drop 15m in areas. Don’t forget, the Harbour is a busy port and is pretty deep in areas. Just remember to keep out of the channel.

Offshore, there have been signs of striped tuna and also small schools of longtails, which should be around for the next two months. Throw in some bonito and the lure and live-bait trollers should have some great fishing.

Some very large mahi mahi have been taken recently, too.

Since the Pasha Bulker event in Newcastle, all ships now must stay further offshore than previously. Out where they’re anchored up they can act like huge FADs.

Tuna and kingfish can hang around them as well as the mahi mahi, but give any big ship a wide berth if it’s under way or there is activity on board.


The estuaries have some nice whiting and they should still be around this month in what has been a good season.

Flathead have been coming in from the Harbour (drifting with soft plastics or pilchards should find you a few) and flounder are turning up, too. I don’t know much about these fish but they must like really warm water because whenever you catch or hear about them, the water temp is right up there.

Up-river there has been little action, due mainly to the downpours, but I am sure the bass will be there to chase lures when the water clears a little.

Sometimes large flathead can haunt this type of water so it’s still worth a go. Troll darker lures against structure or drop soft plastics down right over the structure and retrieve them erratically.

Fresh prawns will take a lot of bass in discoloured water when lures aren’t working.

This month I’d send you offshore for trolling and reef bouncing.

If you don’t have a boat you should fish with live bait or fresh slabs of mullet from the two major breakwalls, and don’t forget the Newcastle basin once all the shipping activity has shut down for the day.

This area is lit up mostly so silence and fluoro lures can really help. A lot of school jewfish get caught under the lights from the docks, bridges and wharves.

I was in the RTA paying for my driver’s licence the other day. I gave the lady $50 and she sat me down for my photo, telling me I wasn’t allowed to smile. It’s law now, she said.

“What have I got to smile about?’ I said, ‘I’ve just sat here for over half an hour with a winning ticket from your machine to line up and give you money – I have nothing to smile about!’ The place was packed and most who had a sense of humour had a giggle.

No 1,

Longtail tuna don’t travel far offshore and many are taken from the rocks. They respond best to live bait but at times if there are enough around they will dive on a lure. Keep a close eye out for diving birds over the next couple of months and the longtails could be close by.

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