There’s nothing better than when you see or hear kids trying something new. Fishing in Lake Macquarie is definitely an awesome activity for kids to try, so I’ve put together a guide to get you started. You don’t need to own a boat to have fun fishing, in fact, it’s probably better to start on the shore or a jetty. There are plenty of great places to fish from the bank around our amazing lake, especially when fishing with kids.
Lake Mac is huge. It’s the largest coastal saltwater lake in Australia and because it’s connected to the ocean you’ll find a huge variety of fish. Popular fish species include bream, flathead, whiting and tailor, just to name a few. You just never know what you might catch which is exciting, particularly for the kids.
When fishing with kids, don’t plan a long outing. Speaking from experience, they will LOVE it for a while but will get bored… quickly! You’re likely to spend most of your time re-baiting, untangling lines and helping cast, so don’t expect to do much fishing yourself. This is all part of the fun and teaching them the ropes. Setting them up for a catch is very rewarding and the smile on their face when they reel in a fish is absolutely priceless. Get the camera ready!
Basic Starter Equipment for kids
My advice is to keep it simple! You don’t have to spend a lot of money or get the best equipment.
- Kids rod and reel sets can be purchased from Kmart, Big W or any tackle/camping store.
- Use a small hook and a small sinker, if any.
- You can purchase a small tackle box pre-loaded with everything you need (hooks, swivels, sinkers etc.).
- For bait, use bread or you can purchase prawns from the bait fridge at the service station. Bread crumbs are also great for burley.
- Some fish have spikes or teeth so it would be wise to take a rag or towel for handling them.
- Take a bucket, some pliers and a net (let’s think positively about our catch!).
- For those who wish to gut, fillet and scale your fish, you would need more equipment such as a knife and scaler.
- A fishing license is needed for anyone over the age of 18, you can read more on this below.
It’s extremely important to fish responsibly and follow NSW fishing regulations regarding species bag and size limits. We have included a section on this below.
Fishing technique and tips for beginners
When to fish
You can check the local Lake Mac conditions and what the tide is doing via the NSW Tide Charts. It’s also good to have an idea which way the wind is blowing too. This will help determine where and when you can fish. Putting in a little planning beforehand will be beneficial to the right conditions for your fishing trip.
What to fish for?
In all honesty, catching any fish is a win. However, if you do some research, you’ll find different fish species are caught at different times of the year and can depend on a lot of things like water temperature, tides, time of day etc. Don’t get hung up on this, it’s one of those things that comes with experience. You get to know what types of fish you catch the more you catch them. So just get started.
One of the most important things, especially when casting, is to keep your distance from others. A good tip for the kids, and beginners, is to wear glasses or sunglasses while fishing. Casting might look harmless, but it’s not so much when the kids catch a human rather than a fish. Watch every cast, make sure they let everyone know they are about to cast and be sure to duck.
Learn some basic knots to get you started (the clinch knot is an easy one). And as a good friend always told me “If you don’t know knots, tie lots”. If you have older kids, maybe they’d like to learn how to tie the clinch knot with you? Getting the kids involved in a task like this will help them appreciate the activity more and how important each part is.
When to use sinkers
Depending on where you’re fishing, you may need to use a sinker. A sinker helps your hook and bait go down lower in the water. Examples are: when the tide is running fast or it’s windy and your line isn’t reaching down low, or you’re fishing for bottom dwellers like a flathead, or you might be beach fishing and the waves are moving your hook and bait around. Your sinker doesn’t need to be big. Just enough to get your bait down low where fish like flathead sit waiting for their dinner.
Learning to cast
Casting your line is when you flip back the lock on your reel (called a bail arm) and cast your line out into the water. Sounds easy, but practice makes perfect. Learning how to hold the rod and how the reel works are really important. Once you do this a few times it does get easier. Kids tend to pick it up really fast, so no need to worry. When the line is in the water you need to keep the tension which is another thing you get better at once you do it a few times. Learning to feel the tension of the rod and line is the key to knowing when the fish are biting.
Handling fish & hooks
Always handle fish with respect regardless of whether you’re planning on throwing them back or keeping them to feed the family. When you do catch a fish, safely and gently remove the hook by using long pointy nose pliers or a hook removing device. They will keep your hands away from the fish and the hook and allow the hook to be removed easily.
Storage of fresh-caught fish
If possible, keep your catch on ice in an esky. If you don’t have an esky, keeping your caught fish in a bucket is the next best thing. If it’s a hot day, put a little water in the bottom to keep it moist and cover the top with a wet towel to keep it fresh. Gut and fillet the fish as soon as you can, then refrigerate. We like to prepare the fish before putting it in the fridge so it goes straight into the oven or pan when ready.
Fishing from the shore in Lake Macquarie
Murrays Beach foreshore
With a large waterfront area and jetty, there is plenty of space to wet the line. Pack a picnic and enjoy the beautiful bushland and lake views. If the kids get bored, the play area there is wonderful.
Naru Beach/Pelican foreshore
The entire area around Naru is amazing. Naru beach is great fishing for whiting and bream and the kids can swim and play in the water. The Pelican foreshore is a lovely area for a family picnic, which hugs the Swansea channel and has plenty of room to throw the line in.
Green Point reserve and jetty
There are a couple of places to fish at Green Point. You can choose the large grass area near the carpark (Belmont end). It’s a great spot because its flat and there’s plenty of space at the water’s edge. The other option is to walk from there to the jetty. It’s a bit of a walk with the kids, however, the scenery is amazing and you’ll be sure to get a bite.
Valentine Boat Ramp
Bennett Park boat ramp has it all. A newly built floating pontoon, loads of foreshore to use and a playground and BBQ picnic area. The perfect place for fishing.
Shingle Splitters Point, Balcolyn
With a large foreshore and plenty of room for the kids, this is the perfect place for fishing. You’ll find a great playground and picnic area as well, so be sure to pack some lunch and take in the amazing views.
Our favourite Jetty’s in Lake Macquarie
Local jetty’s are a great place to cast a line as fish love to hang around structures. We have loads around the lake to choose from. Perfect for the little ones to get their first catch! Here’s just a few:
- Valentine Jetty
- Belmont Jetty
- Wangi Jetty
- Speers Point Jetty
- Warners Bay Jetty
- Green Point Jetty
Recreational fishing rules in NSW
The kids don’t need to get a fishing licence and neither do you if you’re just helping them. However, you are required to pay the NSW recreational fishing fee to fish in fresh and saltwater, if you want to fish yourself and are over the age of 18 years old.
The rules state that you don’t need a licence if you are:
- under the age of 18
- an adult assisting a person under the age of 18 to take a fish using a single rod or to take prawns using a single dip or scoop net
Fish size limits & bag limits
Something you might not know is that you can’t just catch any fish at any size. There are rules in place both in freshwater and saltwater to ensure the healthy breeding cycles continue for generations to come.
Fish size limits are in place so our fish reach a certain maturity, which ensures they complete a breeding cycle. A bag limit is in place to make sure you don’t take more than your fair share. This is something you should consider every time you go fishing. It’s important that our lake isn’t overfished and we maintain the right level of species for a healthy eco-system.
Some useful links to read more on this include:
- NSW freshwater bag and size limits
- NSW saltwater bag and size limits
- NSW recreational fishing rules and regulations
Fishing Lake Macquarie with kids
Pack the kids, pack a picnic and your gear and head out and explore what our beautiful lake has to offer. With so many awesome spots to go, the kids will have a ball. Regardless of whether you catch anything or not, fishing is a wonderful pass time. Being on or near the water is relaxing and allows you to clear your mind while breathing in the fresh air. Catching a fish is a bonus!