From now until early Summer has to be my favourite time of year. The weather is slowly warming, making early mornings and late afternoons more comfortable and most fish become more active as the water temperature rises.
The Port Stephens estuary will come alive as the water warms over coming months.
Flathead have already become more active and gather in numbers to begin their spawning cycle. Larger females will be hanging around with loads of smaller male fish literally lying on top of each other.
They can make easy targets with baits and lures and can be found right throughout the bay.
My favourite technique is to bounce soft plastics along the bottom, especially adjacent to some sort of structure which may include rock walls, weed beds, oyster racks and even timber snags.
Flathead can be found anywhere that has good bait-holding structure. While it’s still early in the season, try targeting the upper reaches, particularly Tilligerry Creek and the Karuah River. As the season moves on towards Summer, the flathead will continue their journey further up the system.
Spring is also a great time to target bream, which have built up condition after their Winter spawning and head further into the Port as Summer approaches.
As the water warms they become more active and aggressive, with most fish eager to attack lures and baits.
The oyster racks and rock walls are definitely my choice of locations. They always seem to have a healthy population of bream, especially if they are subject to tidal flow.
The odd school jew is also hanging around the rocky points and walls, especially around Soldiers Point. Make sure you have the freshest bait possible and live bait is even better.
I try to have at least two different kinds of bait, including either freshly caught squid (dead or alive) plus live baits such as slimy mackerel, yellowtail and even tailor of legal size. Concentrate your efforts an hour or two either side of a tide change and you could be in luck.
Rock fishing will still be consistent this month, with plenty of drummer still available from most washy areas while luderick and bream will be cruising the shallow kelp beds looking for an easy meal.
Early mornings and late afternoons are prime times to target tailor, with locations such as Boat Harbour and Cemetery Point the pick. You will also find plenty of salmon to 4kg eager to grab ganged pillies and metal lures.
The beaches are worth the effort and with warmer weather are a little more comfortable to fish from. Plenty of salmon can be found from Stockton to Hawks Nest, with a few quality tailor mixed in.
Some of the larger gutters and holes still have good bream hanging around and fresh baits such as mullet fillets or pipis are doing the trick.
Down towards the Signa wreck, the odd school jew can be caught after dark. As with their estuary cousins, fresh bait is the key, with squid and tailor fillets by far the best.
Offshore fishing has been a little sporadic but that’s typical for this time of year.
Out wide, kingies can be caught jigging the deeper reefs, especially up north around Allmark Mountain.
Don’t be surprised if a few Yellowfin tuna are feeding in the same vicinity, this fish-rich area always seems to attract a few ’fin through Spring along with a few bigger striped marlin well over 100kg.
Inshore waters are producing a few snapper, around the islands and reefs such as Mungos, Cod Rock and, further south, around Little Rocky and Boat Harbour.
Drifting the 40m to 50m line off Fingal Island will guarantee a feed of sand flathead. Some large sandies to 2kg have been caught lately.
And, if you’re really keen, those chinaman leatherjackets are still annoying many anglers, biting off hooks and sinkers. Use wire leaders and you will be guaranteed of hook-ups.Reads: 1402