Norah Head, guarded by the near-century-old lighthouse, juts from the scenic Central Coast and provides excellent facilities for the travelling and the local.
While much has been written about rock and beach fishing in the area, the near-shore boat fishing can also be truly rewarding. The nearest boat ramp is less than 500 metres away from the Tourist Park at Cabbage Tree Bay (Soldiers Beach is 300 metres). The ramp is a little steep and is best used around mid to low tide for inexperienced boaties because swell washes up the ramp around high tide or when the swell has any north in it.
Most of the time the ramp is fine and there are also good fish-cleaning facilities and a safe harbour during normal circumstances. The Norah Head search and rescue base is also next to the ramp for peace of mind and consistent radio coverage.
Once on the briny the foremost obvious points are The Bull, a semi-submerged bombora east of the lighthouse and Bird Island, which is easy to spot looking north from the ramp.
The Bull hosts all typical pelagics including kings, bonito, salmon, tailor and the odd small samson and amberjack. A few proven techniques around The Bull are to troll minnows, bridled livies and metal profiles.
Soft plastics also work well around The Bull ripped from the bottom up and the kings are absolute suckers for them.
If you’re into bottom-bashing then anchoring close on the seaward side of this washy structure should see a few reds, trevally, kings and the like come into a steady berley trail. Livies can be berleyed up pretty easily around here and sent back down close to the chunk of conglomerate rock.
Reef also extends for several kilometres east of The Bull if you’re into sounding around for some good lumps, humps and reef edges. If ever in doubt where good ground is, try a drift until a decent fish is caught or pull up next to one of the fish trap floats and give the area a thorough fish. Just remember not to tie off to any marker floats.
Most bottom species encountered east of the lighthouse are snapper, trag, blurters, mowies, kings, jew, tarwhine and bream. During the warmer months the odd pearl perch can also be taken on these grounds.
Remember to berley liberally and fish floaters as light as possible for better quality fish. I normally opt for a floater or two and a few bottom rigs to cover all bases. A widely utilised rig that works is the ever faithful paternoster rig with two or three droppers.
Lakes Reef is in front of the surf club at the southern end of the big long beach and starts out as a semi exposed ledge a hundred or so metres from shore. This reef extends, submerged, for a kilometre or more out from here and is well worth prospecting for bream, tarwhine, flatties, trevally, small reds, kings and jew in mostly less than 20 metres.
Fine line (3kg to 5kg) and no sinker work a treat here on the bream and keeper-size reds (30cm) around sunrise and sunset, especially if you berley consistently.
This is exciting action on light ‘flick stick’ gear more suited to estuary and creek work. I also like to try smaller soft plastic shads jigged around where reef meets sand for small kings and decent flatties on these grounds.
I always strive to have a live yakka or squid out for a chance at a solid king or jew that may be near any significant bottom structure. Both these baits can be sourced around Lakes Reef, particularly in close to the semi-exposed rock ledge. Use plenty of bread or fish-based berley for the yakkas or throw a few squid jigs around near the bottom for the cephalopods.
Bird Island is around 10 to 15 minutes’ motoring north from the ramp and is often worth a slow troll for surface fish. Between the island and the beach a few good gravel patches produce quality fish at times. These patches normally have traps on them during the warmer months.
East of the island broken reef abounds in 30-plus metres and the fishing can be quite good for all manner of bottom species. Some nice trag often come in from this country and the odd decent red as well.
Norah Head lighthouse is one of the area’s most visible landmarks and the grounds south of here offer basically the same species as the aforementioned locales. South from the lighthouse, the prominent points off either end of Soldiers Beach have reef extending for a few kilometres east.
Large schools of salmon frequent the area during the cooler months, particularly around the foot of the lighthouse. A fly rod or light flick stick and some plastics equates to some excellent sport fishing under these circumstances.
Tailor can be spun from the beaches and washes around Norah. Try some of the washy bomboras around any headland or behind the breakers on the longer beaches.
In Spring travelling schools of striped tuna and mackerel tuna show up in close and are worthy opponents for those casting metal profiles worked at speed.
These tuna make excellent bottom baits cubed up for snapper and the like. Stripies, mack tuna and salmon spook quite easily if motoring too close to the feeding schools so a little fishing etiquette is needed, particularly when other boats are on fish.
Most of the snapper encountered on the paternoster rigs around Norah will be keeper size specimens but larger fish are on offer for those willing to fish lighter floaters in berley streams. Larger reds are also available at some of the deeper locations such as those around the 70-metre mark east of the lighthouse.
More and more bottom fish are nailing plastics fished deep on dropper-style rigs as anglers become aware how effective they are. I prefer white or red grubs and shads around 3”.
If fish are not straight on the job in your chosen location it may pay to move around a few times until a few are located. Snapper don’t frequent every reef all the time and are highly mobile, travelling from location to location in search of food and shelter.
The fishing around Norah is pretty good in anyone’s book with the better fish usually taken by those anglers who pay attention to detail, prevailing conditions, use live or fresh baits, move around and use lighter line.
Norah Head is within easy towing distance from Sydney, making for a close weekend sortie.
A great place to base yourself is the Norah Head Tourist Park, which caters for all tastes from basic tent sites and caravans to self-contained cabins and luxury chalets.
The tourist park is next to the bowling club, which makes for a great food and watering hole after a solid fishing session outside. Major shops are within a few kilometres for those people looking to purchase groceries or anything else required during the course of your stay.
Phone Norah Head Tourist Park on 02 4396 3935.
• At nearby Budgewoi the boys at Budgie Tackle have everything you need, including bait.