Have a crack at the rock
  |  First Published: June 2010

Winter is in full swing and fishing options are dictated by the prevailing weather conditions. However, if you make the most of the opportunities it can be worth while fighting the wet and windy climate.

For instance, I recently suggested a rock fishing session to a good mate of mine. Naturally, he thought I was totally crazy as an east coast low had the sea pounding the coast and unfortunately over half a dozen lives had already been lost just 100km south. But I told him that its perfect conditions for pot holing and a feed of fish is almost guaranteed! After a short 2km walk through Tomaree National Park we arrived at a small bay that resembled a washing machine. As I made my way down the rocks I headed to a small rock pool that was protected from the huge swell but was filling fast with the surging white water and an rising tide. With sensible precautions, the end result was some fantastic luderick, bream and drummer.

Port Stephens has literally dozens of rock fishing options in both calm and rough conditions. Fingal, Boulder Bay, Boat Harbour and Fishermans Bay are easily accessed and can yield everything from snapper, bream, luderick, drummer and blue groper.

In the rough, it’s pot holes in those areas that fish access in surging waters. Bream, luderick and drummer are the main targets and it’s as simple as tossing pieces of lightly weighted peeled prawn on a size 4 to size 1 hook.

The calmer conditions are well suited to blue groper and watching a small stem float as it slides beneath the surface as a bronzed backed luderick discreetly sucks down your green weed.

Inshore fishing around the islands has been good if you can find a break in the weather. Those that have larger trailer boats and can make the longer runs to Broughton Island and beyond to Seal Rocks are rewarded with quality snapper over the shallow reefs. Early mornings or late afternoons are the key.

Berley is also crucial to success, so use quality fresh baits such as garfish and squid. Soft plastics are still deadly and it seems that snapper have not ‘wised up’ to this technique yet.

Those of us that don’t have the luxury of a larger boat can still get in on the action. I recently had a hot session casting pencil poppers towards the edge of one of the bommies just off Fingal Island. There was instant action as kingfish, tailor and late season bonito jostled to eat my Cotton Cordell popper, in fact I caught two kingies on the same lure!

Further offshore water temperatures are still warm despite being the middle of winter. Reports of yellowfin tuna have been sporadic but that’s probably because of the lack of boats trying, me included. But find a temperature break either on or beyond the Shelf, mix in baitfish and the tuna should be there.

Trolling Jet Heads or Halco Crazy Deeps to cover ground is probably a more efficient way of finding tuna. Keep your eye on the sounder as tuna also mark as an arch! And don’t forget that stripe marlin can also be caught in winter, it’s just a matter of trying!

Estuary fishing can be a lot more shore-based for the next month or so as a big westerly winds tend to make boating around the bay hazardous and wet. Bream are a definite possibility and can be an easy target using floating baits on a high tide around the various rock walls from Tomaree to Soldiers Point and the Boulders to Tea Gardens.

Likewise, luderick and as usual the green weed brigade can be seen with their centre pin reels and stem floats at nearly every Rockwall location. So far plenty of blackfish have been schooling in the lower half of the bay with most anglers getting their bag limit around the tide changes.

Larger sand whiting and the odd dusky flathead can be still targeted on high tides, especially around Shoal Bay, Little Beach and Bagnalls. Live worms are the key and light fluorocarbon leaders a must.


Luderick are the main stay of winter and are in good numbers in the estuary and around the ocean rocks.


Black drummer are everywhere, especially after big seas.


Don’t be fooled, rock fishing is dangerous! But take the right precautions and fish to the conditions it can also be very rewarding.

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