The biggest Easter hairtail run in decades has been attracting anglers from as far away as Sydney to Newcastle Harbour after sunset in recent weeks.
Hundreds of the silver, slimy fish, considered a delicacy in some Asian and European communities, are being plucked from the water around Lee Wharf.
“I can remember back in 1982 and 1983 they were catching similar numbers but back then they were between five and six feet (1.5 metres) long,” Jason Nunn from Fisherman’s Warehouse at Marks Point said.
Although they can be caught all-year round in various locations, the fish traditionally turn up in the harbour in large numbers around Easter. They are most commonly caught using an illuminated float and pilchard bait.
News of this year’s bumper season spread quickly, with some anglers setting up camp on the foreshore with in days of the fish starting to bite.
Ian Lee travelled from Sydney on Wednesday to be at the harbour before sunset.
Mr Lee said hairtail was popular in Asian countries and had a taste similar to yellowtail.
“But there’s no scaling,” he said.
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“You just cut it up, cook it in some oil and you have a meal.”
Another Sydney man, Park Chang, said the harbour was renowned in fishing circles as one of the best for hairtail in NSW.
Mr Chang had caught eight when the Herald visited the wharf about 6pm.
“We’ve come up for the day,” he said. “It’s very hard to catch down in Sydney.”
Henry Orlowski, of Singleton, said he had noticed an increase in the number of anglers at the harbour over the past two weeks.
“The secret is out,” he said.
Although a bag limit of 10 fish per angler apply, concerns have been raised that some anglers have been taking more.
A Department of Primary Industries spokesman said fisheries officers had recently issued more than $5000 worth of fines to 12 people. Another 19 people had received written cautions.
“The fines and cautions related to anglers who were found in possession of more than ten Hairtail and/or were found using more than four lines,” the spokesman said.
“Fisheries Officers will continue to patrol the Newcastle area to prevent illegal fishing activity. Recreational anglers are reminded the bag and possession limit for Hairtail is 10 per person.”
Signage is placed nearby to advise anglers of the rules.