Estuary action hots up
  |  First Published: October 2008

It’s a great time of year to fish the estuary at Port Stephens with plenty of bream, flathead and whiting to be caught right now from the front to the back of the system.

If you enjoy a feed of whiting, get out there with some live worms or pink nippers. Plenty of quite large sand whiting have been cruising the sandy shallows and weed flats, especially on a rising tide.

The shallow flats towards the entrance of the harbour around Shoal Bay and the other side of the bay around Jimmys Beach have been yielding big numbers and quality.

It’s also worth noting that the locals prefer to fish during a night high tide. It seems the whiting feed particularly close to the shore under cover of darkness.

When it comes to tackle, I like to use light braid and 3lb to 6lb fluorocarbon leaders with a No 4 or No 6 baitkeeper-style long-shank hook with little or no weight.

Estuary whiting can be cunning, so you want everything in your favour.

If you prefer an easy option, why not drift for trumpeter whiting. These guys are smaller cousins to the sandies but are just as tasty.

Although not as large, they are certainly easier to target. Trumpeters tend to be found in deeper water just off the edges of ribbon weed in about 3m to 5m. Drifting in a small tinny is the way to go and the kids will have ball when the whiting are on.

My favourite estuary species the flathead which are now in full swing and in breeding mode.

Traditionally, late Spring to early Summer is the spawning cycle and numbers of flatties gather to do their thing.

My favourite way to target them is to use soft plastics rigged on 1/4oz jig heads. Don’t be afraid to target flathead in deeper water, say 5m to 10m, especially on the edges of rock walls and breakwalls. Last year my personal best came from deep water adjacent a rock wall.

Bream are slowly making their way up through the Bay as Summer approaches and the oyster racks are ideal places to target them.

With so many oyster racks to choose from throughout the Port, which will have a population of bream? The answer is those with some kind of tidal influence.

For instance, racks on the edge of a creek or river are ideal because they stem the main current flow and allow all the food such as baitfish and crustaceans to drift by.

I like the areas around Tilligerry Creek and the Karuah River, both of which always support a healthy population of bream.


Beach fishing has been turning up all manner of species.

Early mornings and late afternoons have seen some great tailor off Box Beach and just around the corner at Fingal.

You can’t go past pilchards on ganged hooks for this style of fishing but if you prefer not to get your hands dirty, try 30g to 40g metal lures such as Raiders or Lasers, both of which have a really good action and a baitfish profile.

A mixed bag of bream, flathead and whiting can be caught in gutters a few kilometres down Birubi Beach while the odd school jewfish can be caught after dark in the same areas and further down towards the huts.

With inshore water still cool, black drummer, groper and luderick are still options from the rocks.

If you’re prepared to walk, locations such as Boulder Bay, Rocky Point and Boat Harbour have some quality fish. Fresh cunjevoi or green prawns have been the better baits, while red crabs have been No 1 for groper.


The offshore fishing has been only average, although the usual run of snapper can be caught by floating baits down a berley trail, bottom-bouncing or tossing soft plastics.

The reefs around Boulder Bay and Rocky Point have produced good reds to 6kg.

Plenty of yellowtail kingfish are zooming around all the washes and bommies, eager to snaffle live baits and lures, while farther offshore around Allmark Mountain, larger specimens to 10kg can caught jigging or live-baiting.

Game fishing will slowly pick up with reports of yellowfin tuna around the southern canyons and just inside in around 80 fathoms.

An early-season striped marlin is also on the cards, with reports of plenty of bait showing just inside the shelf.

Over the next couple of months I’ll concentrate my efforts in the estuary and, as water temperatures rise, estuary species will become more aggressive and it will be time to start tossing surface lures.

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