I’m not a fan of Winter but I must admit the fishing around Port Stephens has been good.
The estuary is at its coldest this month with water temperatures in the low teens, but the fish seem to be acclimatised.
Bream have been exceptional over the past month with one of the best Winter seasons I have seen for a few years. Lure fishers have had a ball with many kilo-plus fish being landed or simply leaving anglers’ braid flapping in the breeze.
Soft plastics, worked ever so slowly around the oyster racks and rock walls, seem to be the best method.
With their hideous smell, Berkley Gulps are ideal, with the ever-popular 2” Shrimp rigged on a 1/40oz jig head attracting bites.
Areas from Soldiers Point downstream will be the pick, as warmer ocean water penetrates throughout the bay on a rising tide and can sometimes trigger the bream to feed more actively.
It was great to see the seventh round of the Gamakatsu Team Series held in the area earlier in July. Although 20 knots of westerly greeted the 20 teams first thing in the morning, plenty of bream were on the chew.
Newcastle locals Brendan Hughes and Scott Greentree took first place with five bream weighing 4kg, while yours truly with mate Greg Miles came second with 3.85kg.
There were plenty of kilo-plus fish, not to mention some monumental bust-offs. Hopefully this will be the start of more bream tournaments in the area and the marine park won’t put off organisers.
Flathead numbers will slowly increase towards the end of August and if we see a few warmer days they will become more active as the water warms.
Generally most duskies will be in the shallows on weeds beds, sand flats or rocky shale areas.
It’s this time of year that I bring out the shallow-diving hardbodies. Worked at a snail’s pace with a stop-start retrieve is the best way to encourage a bite. Most fish will be around 40cm to 50cm with the occasional bigger specimen.
Luderick are still the flavour of the month with most anglers claiming their bag limit of 20 most days.
The torpedo tubes at Tomaree, Little Beach wharf and Nelson Bay Breakwall are the hot spots, especially on the change of tide.
If you’re interested in fishing the estuary but don’t know where to start then I suggest calling Rohan of Castaway Estuary Charters. He has had plenty of experience fishing the estuary with lures and bait and is keen to share his knowledge. Call him on 0438 426 647 or visit www.castawayfishing.com.au.
Rock fishing has remained consistent with plenty of luderick, drummer and bream around most washes.
Quiet bays between Fingal and Boat Harbour will always have a few schools of luderick this month which can be enticed by a bread berley and a caught with a lightly weighted float and a No 8 or No 10 baitkeeper hook.
Drummer will also react to bread but you need to concentrate on areas with more wash. I find either side of a tide change is always good for drummer.
Snapper have taken some floating baits around Boat Harbour, Fishermans Bay and Cemetery Point. Whole fresh squid and garfish seem best and if you go at dawn or dusk and especially just after a large swell has gone through you will get results.
Beach fishing is all about salmon and tailor at the moment. Salmon are back in large numbers and can be seen on clear days milling around in most beach gutters from Hawks Nest to Stockton.
Although most anglers see them as pests, some (including me) enjoy a session chasing these underrated sport fish on light spin tackle.
Those who can manage a trip offshore will find the odd yellowfin tuna on the continental shelf and beyond.
On a recent trip with Capt Tim Dean aboard Calypso, we managed no find tuna but saw three striped marlin in 19.5° water. Port Stephens is probably becoming a year-round marlin fishery although there certainly are fewer boats on the water in Winter.
Closer to shore there have been exceptional numbers of snapper over most shallow reefs. Cod Rock, Mungos and the Sisters around Broughton Island and reefs further south around Fishermans Bay have been consistent.
Floating baits in a steady berley trail and lightly weighted plastics both work.Reads: 2333