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Get On Board a Fishing Charter to Learn & Catch Fish

15 Dec 2017

WATCH: Discover the joys of fishing from some local New South Wales experts.  Watch video below:

We jump aboard a local Forster-Tuncurry fishing charter to brush up on our fishing knowledge and know-how.

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You can catch a lot of fish in four hours. Just ask Forster-Tuncurry oyster farmer local Tony Elkins who runs Forster Estuary Charter on Wallis Lake.

“The water surface is 56 kilometres,” Tony says.

“It is five times bigger than Sydney Harbour and produces 20 percent of New South Wales commercial estuarine crustaceans. That’s prawns and crabs. We also have a greater variety of birdlife than Kakadu National Park.”

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Tony runs a few different four-hour charter options. There’s the family fishing experience involving bait gathering and pumping of saltwater pink nippers (crustaceans used for bait).

“It starts in the morning and is designed for mum, dad and the kids. We fish and check a couple of crab traps during the course of four hours. It’s designed to teach kids about all aspects of fishing.”

Straight fishing charters (bait provided), afternoon and twilight charters are also available. 

In summer you’re most likely to catch whiting and flathead. During winter, it’s all about bream and luderick.

“You still get bream in summertime as well but the big blue-lipped bream come in during winter.”  

Tony also offers prawn charters.

“Seven days after the full moon, prawns leave the lake and head out to the ocean under the cover of darkness. We take the boat out, shine a light on the water, the prawn’s eyes turn red and we scoop them up with a prawn net and get a feed of prawns.”

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During 10 years of business, he’s seen (and caught) it all.

“There are some big fish out there. A young boy once caught a metre-long flathead. 

I think the best we’ve ever done on this boat was 23 different species of fish during one fishing charter.”

As fishing mottos go, Tony is on to something.

“If you don’t have a fishing line in the water you won’t catch a fish. It’s about numbers. The more time you spend on the water, the more chance you have of catching the big one.”

Tony has more than a decade of experience on the water and picked up a few tips (and dad jokes) along the way.

“What’s the definition of fishing? A jerk on the end of one line waiting for a jerk on the other.” He chuckles.

“What’s the definition of game fishing? Going fishing on your wedding anniversary.”

Relaxation is the reason he loves to sink a line. When he’s not earning a crust running charters, he can generally be found fishing for pleasure.

“I go crabbing. We get some really nice mud crabs here. You won’t catch prawns or crabs during any month that doesn’t has a ‘r’ in it. May, June, July – winter.”

Nature never stops surprising him.

“I caught an anglerfish (with the little light on top) on this lake’s surface while prawning. They’re supposed to be in deep sea. Five or six years ago we couldn’t get away from catching giant toadfish. They’re so powerful in their jaw they bite through the hook. We’re not supposed to catch them here, they’re supposed to be in tropical Queensland. The lake was full of them. Somebody turned the signs around and they got lost!” He laughs. 

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During family fishing charters Tony tends to use frozen prawn and mullet.

“There is no right or wrong way to put a prawn on a hook. The way I choose to do it is put the hook into the base of the prawn, then push the prawn so it goes up over the hook. If you try and force it through it’ll tear it. I break the head off because you don’t want the bait to be any bigger than the hook or fish comes along and bites the bait off. You want it to bite over the hook.”

He says attitudes toward fishing have changed during his decade in the industry. 

“Flathead are all born male and as they reach maturity they turn into a female. Years ago, guys would go out and hunt the metre-long flathead but most people who catch a really big flathead like that now realise she’s a big breeder and carried more eggs in comparison to a smaller one so they release them.”

He believes people are better educated.

“Big isn’t better. I’m not a tree-hugging hippie but unless you’re somewhat of an environmentalist towards fishing you’ll ruin your sport.”

Tony also has a thing for trout fishing and tends to hit Wee Jasper on New South Wales’ Goodradigbee River. When the water level is up, your chance of catching a decent fish rise as well. Interstate, he likes Exmouth in Western Australia (any boat-based fishing in Western Australia requires a recreational fishing licence).  

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Queensland’s Fraser Island is also popular.

“It’s really good to fish in May. That’s when all the big tailor are caught from the beach (which is 75 kilometres long). There are two sides to Fraser Island. On the mainland side of the island I’ve caught bream and Spanish mackerel. On the ocean side, I tend to chase tailor, sharks, and whiting. All normal beach-style fishing.”

1770 on the Central Queensland coast has a reputation as one of the top land-based game fishing locations. From the rocks, you’re in with a chance to catch Spanish mackerel, northern longtail tuna, yellowfin tuna, bonito, trevally (including giant trevally), queenfish, barracuda, cobia, yellowtail kingfish and sailfish. The Northern Territory is also a winner.

Darwin has some fantastic fishing. A mate of mine has a charter boat there and he says the best time to fish in Darwin is the worst time to be there – their wet season. That’s when you’ll get the best fish.”

Fishing Etiquette

During summer, the population of Forster-Tuncurry goes from 20,000 to 80,000 and Tony often observes tourists getting ramp rage when they’re mooring their boats.

“It’s like when you go to the garbage tip. Everyone watches how well you can reverse.” He laughs.

“In November, the little trumpeter whiting come out in force. You’ll get 20 in an hour. The locals all hit the water and get fairly close to each other. It doesn’t affect the fishing but some people don’t have a lot of common sense and will cut in right in front of you.” He says common courtesy is key.

“If I’m driving along fairly fast and there’s a little boat alongside of me, I slow down. You don’t want to put waves over the side of their boat. The oyster punts are very easy to sink.”

Law of The Land (and Water)

When fishing in NSW waters, both freshwater and saltwater, you must carry a receipt showing your payment of the recreational fishing fee. This applies when spearfishing, hand lining, hand gathering, trapping, bait collecting and prawn netting, or when in possession of fishing gear in, on or near these waters. You can apply for a recreational fishing licence online. Prices start at $7 for a three-day license. To find out more, visit NSW Department of Primary Industries. 


Want to know more about fishing? Read out articles here:

The two Michaels from Out of the Blue
Budget fishing and bait tips
Guide to Australian fish worth catching


Watch: video below about Discovery Parks – Forster

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