Warm start to Winter
  |  First Published: May 2010

This time last year the water was at a very cool 18° to 19° so we seem to be having a rather milder start to Winter this year and with the water still around 20°, the fishing should still be fairly good for those who want to brave the cooler early mornings.

Flathead keep coming from our local waterways. They were caught all through last year and if we are lucky, the same could occur this time around.

A friend fishing way down south around Batemans Bay said the numbers of bonito down there were something that had to be seen to be believed, and he reckons they arrive off here around the time you are reading this.

We’re all hoping he’s right. He’s bringing a few back for bait for the bream we have on the beaches at the moment.

Although I know they aren’t the greatest rated table fish, as fish curry, fishcakes and (done properly) raw, they don’t come up too bad.

Increasing numbers of kingfish have shown up around the closer inshore reefs. The Granites and North Reef are probably the best spots to find them in this area.

I reckon they will take an array of baits and lures; you don’t just have to use live bait. Some anglers do nothing but live-bait out near the buoy on North Reef and come back to the ramp without a fish, where others will have two or three good-sized kings to take home.

It’s only every now and again that the real big hoodlums are around these areas; the usual kingfish there are mostly just up from legal size and don’t often get much past 90cm.

But these school kingfish are usually in much larger numbers and will take fresh squid as well as anything else.


You can pick up the squid at the fishermen’s co-op very early in the morning. I use them a lot although if it’s a time when the squid are in short supply or what they’re selling has been frozen, I will stop at the Adolph wreck on the Stockton wall and fill up on slimy mackerel and yellowtail.

I find a fresh slab will take plenty of kings, big and small.

Jigging over the reef and trolling around the buoy also work – tow weighted white skirts and white or yellow soft plastics.

In the estuary the flathead are feeding up big for Winter. They seem to feed better through the early part of the incoming tide and around the tide changes.

On the bottom of the tide they can be lured from the distinctive sand mounds and drop-overs.

It’s worth having a drift around the first of the mangroves down the Hunter River to the mouth of Fullerton Cove. Some big fish hang around the mouth here and take advantage of the fish coming out on the falling tide.

Small whitebait, anchovies and poddy mullet school in the tidal flow and at times you can see them being slashed off the surface.

Smaller hard or soft lures work best when the bait is small. Check the bait and try to match the size with your lure and it’s more likely to be accepted.

If you are drifting around this area, don’t forget that there are a lot of flounder where the flathead lurk. A long-shank hook with a tiny bit of prawn or mullet works well, you can leave it hanging on a handline or other rod while still casting lures for flathead.


The past few Junes have also been good to use live bait for school jewfish from Hexham down to the bridge at Stockton.

My fishing diary tells me some numbers have been taken, especially on live mullet.

You can catch the bait at Carrington boat ramp on a rising tide; they are fairly hardy and keep for a while in a bucket without the need of an aerator, just change the water every now and again.

We can expect a mix of Winter species to show up this month.

I firmly believe that seeing hordes of luderick doesn’t put the flag up for it being Winter or the water cooling down; I have been seeing schools of luderick nearly all Summer in the clear water.

However, I think once the whiting definitely stop biting then the Winter fish will show up in this area.

A line with a float and a bobbing squid jig should be mandatory through the next few months; the squid are in good numbers.

Try the wall at Horseshoe Beach and the ends of both Nobbys and Stockton walls, as well as in front of Stockton’s Lions Park. This is also a great place to get yellowtail if outside is too wild or you want to live-bait in the river.

I have often been asked about the jewfish in the Hunter River and while there are a lot more dedicated jewie fishers than me, I reckon the drop-over from the Pilot Station out to Nobbys Light is probably the easiest and most productive area to fish.

Line up the buoy in front of the Pilot Station and the ledge drops from 22’ to over 80’ and runs near straight along all the buoys and out to sea.

On any given moon night or at anytime you will see boats lined up along the edge of the steep underwater cliff here, where squid and live baits far outfish anything else,

Flathead, such as this nice fish destined for the table, are definitely on the cards this month. Drifting or flicking lures should see you get a few or use the freshest bait. Look for holes, drop-offs and sandbanks and fish the edges with lures and the deeper water with bait.

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