I am a freelance writer and photographer from Sydney who has now had five books published on fishing. I also write for the NSW Fishing Monthly, Visit the Shire, Fisho App & Tackle Tactics.
I also like to travel and experience new things to do.
Published October 13th 2020
Bag a feed of fresh fish
Lake Macquarie is situated just south of Newcastle and empties into the Tasman Sea at Swansea. It's Australia's largest coastal saltwater lagoon and covers an approximate area of 110 square kilometres. This lake is about twice as large as Sydney Harbour and anglers have spent a lifetime trying to work out Lake Macquarie, only to find that they need another lifetime to try and work out the places that they missed the first time around.
Not only can you work soft plastics in the deep water you can try using TT Switchblades as well, as they will get you down quicker. Image by Gary Brown.
With this article, I am going to try and give you some information on how to go about using soft plastics, while hopping them down over the edge of sandy drop-offs; working hard bodies beside jetties, pontoons and boats; finally, a few suggested ways of how to use soft plastics in deep water.
Try hopping a soft plastic down the edge of a sandy drop-off. This dusky took a liking to a 2-inch Camo Gulp Shrimp on a 3/8oz jig head. Image by Gary Brown
What I would suggest is that you allocate yourself a long weekend trip and work the southern end on the first weekend away. Then try the southern on another weekend and finally finish off the eastern and western sides of the lake over another weekend. It doesn't have to be in that order but what it will depend on is where the wind is coming from and which boat ramp you are going to use.
So for this article, I am going to launch in the south at the boat ramp, located in the bottom of Chain Valley Bay off Llyod Avenue Chain Valley Bay. Once here, you will find a small park, covered area, toilets and parking for about 10 rigs.
When launching here, it would be better to launch near the top of the tide, as the single laned ramp goes into a shallow bay. From here, you can travel north through Chain Valley Bay, proper to Black Neds Point, Wyee Bay and Bardens Bay. All of which have shallow weedy edges that drop off into deep bays that range from 5 to 11 metres in depth and a number of rocky headlands and rock bars.
This well-conditioned bream took a liken to a well presented Chubby that was worked close to the edge of a pontoon. Image by Gary Brown
Chain Valley Bay proper is a wide expanse of water that responds well to soft plastic fishing, even though some of the water depth is as deep as 11 metres. If you find that there is very little wind or even none at all, you will need to downsize your jig head to maybe a 1/16th oz. When fishing this light I will usually use my outfit that has 4 pound straight through Platypus FC fluorocarbon. Sure some of the bites may be hard to detect, but if you stay in contact with the jig head and soft plastics, you will find that you can feel the bites.
On the other hand, sometimes the bream will just smash the plastics as it drifts down through the water column. This is where the stretch of the fluorocarbon will help you hook the fish.
The BIG4 Lake Macquarie at Mannering Point is a great place to base yourself at while fishing the southern section of Lake Macquarie. Image by Gary Brown
When the wind is blowing a fair bit, you will need to up size your jig head to a 1/12th oz, which will allow you to cast further with the assistance of the wind. The only disadvantage is that the soft plastics and the jig head will sink quicker. Sometimes this disadvantage can be turned into an advantage by adding some extra scent to the plastic, so as it sits on the bottom, it will emit a smell attracting the fish to just take off with it.
Many a time I have just cast out the weighted soft plastic and fished it like I would a bait on the bottom, only moving the rod tip so that the bait just moves around slightly on the bottom.
The reef that is situated in Salts Bay on the Swansea side of the lake is a great spot to try for bream and many other species. Image by Gary Brown
When using lightly weighted soft plastics over the shallows and down over the sandy drop-offs, I tend to go no heavier than a 1/24th oz jig head. While drifting parallel to the shore and about 20 metres out, I will cast the lightly weighted bait out and then with slow hops, work it slowly down over the drop-off. Pausing for about 2 to 3 seconds between each hop.
A feed of bream and flathead on the BBQ always goes down well after a day on Lake Macquarie. Image by Gary Brown
What really works well in this situation is you need to have the wind blowing onto the shore. This will entice the bream to come up from the deeper water and cruise along the shallow edges, looking for that prawn or baitfish that has taken refuge under the soupy water that has been created by the wind.
Travelling north on the eastern side of Lake Macquarie, you will find a two-lane boat ramp on the edge of the Swansea Channel, just upstream of the Swansea Bridge at the end of Thomas Humphreys Reserve. Launching here will enable you to either travel out to the lakes entrance and fish the shallow weed beds just inside of Lucy's Wall and the broken rubbly bottom, just opposite another great boat ramp.
A collection of hard bodied lures, blades and jig heads that were using while breaming in Lake Macquarie. Image by Gary Brown
For me, this area of the channel seems to fish much better on the run-out tide, where you can slowly drift your boat over the shallow areas and into the deeper pockets. What you need to remember is that you should also try the rising tide when fishing in the deeper holes on either side of the Swansea Bridge, as they will produce fish during the slower parts of the tide. Just remember to watch out for passing boat traffic.
On the other hand, you could travel back up to the main lake and fish the drop-off at the end of the channel near Spectacle Island or in Belmont Bay. You could also travel a short distance across the main basin and fish a number of large and small bays. More on where to go later in the article.
Have you ever thought about anchoring up at the edge of a deep drop-off and slowly feeding your lightly weighted soft plastics back down through a berley trail? The same as you would if you were using bait. Never done it! You should try it, as you will be surprised how effective this technique is.
Just around the corner and into Belmont Bay, you will find plenty of boats that are on swing moorings. Try setting your boat up so that both of you can stand up the front of the boat and cast your hard-bodied lures parallel to the sides of the boat. Make sure that you cast about two metres past the end of the boat and then slowly wind the lures back down beside and under the boat. Remembering to pause every now and then.
A pair of deep-water bream that were caught while using 1/4 once TT Switch Blade. Image by Gary Brown
This method can be used with floating, sinking and suspending hard body lures. If that doesn't work, you can then try using lightly weighted soft plastics or blades. A few years ago, Kris Hickson put me onto this method. It sure does work.
I use Zman soft plastics. So here is a colour selection chart. #ifishman Image courtesy of Zman
Towards the top end of Lake Macquarie, you will find a double landed concrete boat ramp nestled in the top section of Warners Bay. From here, you can easily travel further north up into Cockle, Fennel, Kooroara and Toronto Bays. If you have never been into these bays before, it would be a good idea to spend some time slowly driving around in the deeper parts of these bays with your sounder going. This will allow you to pick up the scattered cockle beds that you can work your soft plastics.
In this bay, there are so many boats, marinas and pontoons that it will keep you busy working those hard-bodied lures beside and underneath them. Remember to make note on your GPS when you find a boat or a pontoon that holds fish, as not all of them do.
Finally, on the western side of the lake, you will find a small boat ramp nestled in the small bay of at Wangi Wangi, which will give you easy access to the western side of the lake and in reality, it's a good place to base yourself if you would like to fish all of the spots mentioned above.
Would you like to know what model soft plastic to use for which fish species. Click on the ZMAN model chart to make your selection.
From here, you can travel south to bays like Myuna and Bonnells, that not only have deep water where you can try out those soft plastics, but plenty of sandy drop-offs with a few boats and pontoons mixed in. Pulbah Island is another place that you can work those deep water spots not far out from the island itself and if the wind does blow up, you can just drive around to the other side of the island for protection.
PLACES TO BASE YOURSELF.
BIG4 Lake Macquarie
Lot 28 Monterey Avenue Mannering Park.
Tel 1800 359 455