Inked and Clawed
  |  First Published: June 2010

The Hunter Coast through early winter is one of the best places to fish for squid and crabs. There is a lot of close reef, rivers, bays and creeks that hold these tasty little critters.

We are so blessed in this area for the number of fish and other lovely eating seafood; crabs, prawns, squid and lots more.

Winter is also a time to set one legal trap for lobsters, and the same trap can be used for mud crabs and blue swimmers. Even though a lot of anglers think a winter crab is an empty shell and the meat is skimpy, which is true for blue swimmers, mud crabs are usually well endowed in meat and can be very heavy through until the end of July.

Mud crabs can also be easily caught and locals in this area use a variety of methods. There are laws that govern how we are able to catch these expensive crustaceans in this area; we are allowed to use five open dilly pots or five witch hats, but only one legal sized fully enclosed trap can be used, except in Lake Macquarie. This is plenty for a feed of crabs.

This month is a typical time for mud crabs in the upper parts of our estuaries. You can use any old bait, such as old fish scraps, meat as well as chicken, and mullet, which is probably the most successful. It’s a shame to say but usually it’s best to stay close to your traps as some anglers who see traps in isolated areas still can’t resist a look.

A delicacy I know a lot of anglers can’t resist is squid, and over the past month they have been taken in good numbers. The best three places have been North Reef close off Newcastle, Moon Island in Swansea Channel and Shoal Bay in Port Stephens.

Squid have also been taken off the rock ledges of late, so if your going out make sure you have a few squid jigs with you.

Pink squid jigs in the smaller size have been the deadliest. I also like a green especially in the Swansea Channel around the bridge. The northern side of the bridge and the rocks up to Black Neds Bay is also another great spot.

On Stockton and Nobby’s breakwall you can make use of the fresh squid heads to target jewfish. Reports from the tackle shops expressed a few nice school size jewfish have been taken during June, and I would bet they will still be around this month as well. Stockton wall has been the best.

The beaches have been hot and cold, a few bream have come through but they have just been legal. Hopefully by July there will be bigger models about.

Schools of tailor and salmon have been a great target. A friend mentioned to me the other day that he saw a 7kg salmon – a short stumpy fat fish, as round as a dinner plate. I know they’re not seen as the greatest fish but every year I catch them just for fishcakes and fish curry. And you have to admit that salmon are great fun to catch.

July also sees the start of the dreaded westerly winds for the Hunter Coast, but don’t despair as offshore waters are calm and if you have a smaller boat this is a great time to get out to the close reefs. Snapper, tailor, bream, groper and leatherjackets have been in very close.

Further out, Marbles Reef and the Granites and Mudhole areas off Newcastle should be holding some school jewfish, kingfish and hammerhead sharks. Hammers have a real love for the waters off the Hunter Coast and plenty have been taken recently, especially from the livebait boys which have been catching more and more of them.

Now is also a great time to be trolling. If you’re heading out, run a lure or three out the back for tailor, kingfish, salmon and bonito.

Likewise, if you’re reef fishing you can always just leave a squid jig bobbing up and down under a float close to the bottom while you target other species. This is a great method if it’s a bit bumpy or the swell is up. I use to get a lot of squid this way, and it’s so easy just to leave one rod set out. Cuttlefish also grab squid jigs and I reckon they are one of the top baits for snapper when caught fresh.

So this month don’t leave home without a few crab traps, squid jigs and some trolling lures. Remember to also rug up: a beanie and gloves will be essential items as the chill factor in a boat can be pretty cold in the early mornings. And coming back through the Swansea Channel and Newcastle Harbour the westerly winds can whip up the water, and walls of water and an out going tide can make both these areas dangerous.

I have previously written that Kooragang Island is all but fenced off completely so a boat is needed to fish the area. However, I was further shocked when I visited recently a found security guards patrolling the area and moving anglers on their way. With the new coal loader on the southern channel of the Hunter River, and talk of a massive tourist complex in the pipe line for Nobbys Headland, and the development of Lee wharf area, we are loosing a lot of fishing ground. It’s getting to be that a boat is essential to fish some locally known areas that were once readily accessible. What’s happening to our fishing…?

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