The school holidays are up and running, and anglers have been tearing into a range of winter species.
Bream, luderick and flathead have featured throughout estuary hauls from Port Stephens to Lake Macquarie.
Conditions look a little “windy winter westerly” heading into the weekend, with mostly sunny days.
So pack the chapstick if you head out.
Up Nelson Bay way, the blackfish continue to bite both morning and afternoon and on all tides from the main breakwall both inside and outside, Duff’s Salamander Bait and Tackle reports.
“The inside of the wall appears the place to try in the late afternoon. The fish appear to be in good condition, some over 40cm and good numbers. Both weed and cabbage baits are working.”
Salmon and tailor have been active sunrise and sunset in Port Stephens, along Stockton Beach and Blacksmiths, through to Swansea Channel.
Beaches have been producing solid bream, feeding on prawns and/or pipis.
Local rock perches up and down the coast are holding kingfish, drummer, luderick and snapper.
“Hammerhead charters reports trag and reds off Gibber reef,” Duff’s reported.
“To fish for snapper – fish light , berley heavy and let the bait sink into the berley trail to the depth the fish are feeding, then hang on.
“Work the V, 21 and Outer 21 reefs on the bottom for reds and flathead.
“Reports of lobsters from Big Rocky and kingfish working the shallows. Little Rocky producing bream in the wash and the odd drummer.”
“Lot of guys doing maintenance,” Lake Macquarie Game Fishing Club weighmaster Neil Grieves reported yesterday.
“Guys got wide a couple of weeks ago and found the water temp around 19 degrees.
“Last year it held around 21 through winter and was worth a shot but this year no one’s interested in burning the fuel.”
Newcastle Fishing Co-op manager Robert Guata is gearing up for the third annual Love Seafood, Love Port Stephens Festival, which runs through August.
The event is designed to showcase the region’s seafood, chefs and Port Stephens restaurants.
A host of dinners and lunches will be held throughout the area, with a couple of big ticket items like the Gala Dinner at Broughton’s At The Bay, d’Albora Marina, on August 4, and a Weekend Festival August 18-19.
“The Newcastle Fishermen’s Co-op is assisting the chefs with advice and sourcing local seafood,” Robert said this week.
“Our guys go out and catch what we catch generally and the chefs work with that, but sometimes they’ll have special requests and if the weather and fish gods are smiling, we’ll try and accommodate.
“Things like tuna are very weather dependent. You have to go wide to get them and you need the weather with you.”
The gala dinner on August 4 will be five course (including freshly shucked oysters) with matched wine tastings prepared by local chefs.
This year they have Mitchell Turner (Bannisters Port Stephens), Michael Jenkins (Anchorage), Ben Way (Little Beach Boathouse), Ludovic Poyer (Poyer’s), Matt Keyes and Dan James (Little Nel) who will collaborate.
Australian TV food guru Lyndey Milan OAM will be MC.
There will also be seafood lunch and dinner specials at participating restaurants throughout August including, at this stage, Seafood and Semillon at The Anchorage on August 31 – a seven-course degustation seafood menu matched with Hunter Valley Semillon; and a Trawler to Table dinner at Horizons.
Meanwhile, Robert reports the Newcastle medium king prawns are still running strong.
“Our guys were out this week as the weather came good, and they got stacks,” Robert said.
“Same with pipis – they’re about in good numbers on the beaches.”
The humble pipi is a genuine good news story. A decade ago stocks were in real trouble. The price went up, demand increased and stocks were depleted.
But the tide has been turned and numbers are back.
”Everyone went after them a decade ago, but thankfully people were made aware and started managing it,” Robert said.
“These days we have half a dozen licensed commercial guys working the Hunter area. They’re allowed to take 40kg per day, six months of the year. They reckon they’ve never seen them so thick.
“They have to get them all by hand doing the pipi shuffle. They test the water and the pipis to make sure they’re fit for human consumption.
“It just shows that if you have species hammered, but manage it well, you can bring it back and keep it there for future generations.”