There is some good fishing to be found in spite of the wild winter weather which arrives regularly. The good thing about the weather is that it changes quickly so finding a favourable window is not too difficult.
Bit it is even more important to be prepared - not only warm clothing and lifejackets are vital, but a means of communication. As well as a VHF radio on the boat a cellphone in a plastic bag and, preferably, a hand-held VHF are recommended. A cellphone is no good if it gets wet, and a VHF in a boat which is half under water is useless. You can get very good plastic covers for cellphones which allow you push all the buttons, and a portable VHF is useful but should be connected to the person. It is no use if it is locked away in a cubbyhole. It is also important to let somebody know where you are planning on going and when you expect to return, and to also put in a trip report to Coastguard. It is the skipper’s legal responsibility to ensure there are lifejackets for every person on board, and that they fit. The skipper should also make sure somebody else knows how to operate the boat in the event of something happening to him. It is all about thinking ahead, and being prepared.
Kayak fishermen are catching snapper in the shallows
Those fishing the shallows are doing well. It is specialized fishing. Just going out and dropping a flasher rig with a heavy sinker and chunks of bait will not do the trick. A steady trail of berley and fresh baits like a strip of skinless kahawai or a fillet of jack mackerel will prove more attractive to the larger fish. A whole pilchard or squid are also favoured. The bait must be cast away from the boat, using its own weight to carry it out rather than a sinker. Casting outfits like 2-metre rods with a soft tip are ideal, and spin reels are easier to use than overhead models. Line should be no more than 10kg, with 8kg or even 6kg more effective. Hooks can be attached directly to the line, although a short shock tippet of 15kg monofilament can be added on light tackle, attached with a knot rather than a swivel. This approach presents the bait in a more natural manner as it sinks slowly, rather than when used with a heavy trace and a swivel and sinker.
In the past week a snapper of 9.8 kilos came from Xeno Rock and another of 8kg from inside the Ahaa’a Rocks.
Many people drive over the fish as they head out in the direction of the “40-metre mark”, and the bigger fish are left behind. Those fishing in kayaks and from the rocks can do well. Kayakers are catching snapper off beaches from Howick to Orere Point where some of the best fishing can be found. And the prevalence of kahawai is helping surfcasters at spots like Bucklands Beach, Musick Point, Duders Point and Orete Point.
On the west coast sharks a problem at this time of year, but hapuku are not hard to find out wide if conditions allow boats to get out. One party went out to 60 metres and shifted in to 50 metres to try and get away from sharks. It was not until they came in to eight metres of water that they found snapper to 8kg with no sharks to take the hooked fish.
Inside the Manukau Harbor kahawai on light gear are keeping fishermen entertained. They are easy to find – just use berley and light coloured bait like pilchard and squid. Gurnard are proving more elusive, but the best results come from channel edges in water of two to seven metres on a rising tide. There are still some snapper in the deep channels like the Papakura Channel, but they can be there one day and gone the next.
In the Firth of Thames the best results are coming from shallow water, which goes against all normal patterns but as one successful Thames angler said : “The snapper don’t read the paper.” Fishing around the mussel farms is hard, but after trying in 10 metres out “somewhere down the coast in the middle” without a bite except for small sharks, he and his mate had a last try in five metres of water just off the sailing club in Thames. “I don’t know what the snapper are doing in there, but they have been there all year. There must be plenty of food for them, and we took home 16 good fish around 40-45cm. The smallest we put back was 30cm.” They were using light tackle and casting lightly weighted baits away from the boat. Berley is also important with this style of fishing.
Bluenose and bass are coming from 400 metres off Great Barrier Island, with hapuku in shallower water
Tarakihi have moved in to shallower water and can be found off Little Barrier Island, and in the Bay of Plenty in 35-40 metres off Tauranga. Gurnard are also running off Matakana Island and Papamoa Beach. The key is to look for the undulating sandy bottom to find gurnard. While it is the fringe season for targeting kingfish they can still be found around offshore reefs and islands, and persistent anglers casting surface poppers are picking up the occasional fish with one of 27kg caught last week. But live baits are still the most productive approach, and barracouta can be a problem when using baits or jigs.
Heavy rain has sparked fresh runs of spawning trout in the Lake Taupo rivers. Deep trolling with a spotted gold cobra is also producing fish, and fly fishing at small stream mouths on dark nights is popular.
Bite times are 5.40am and 6.05pm tomorrow and 6.25am and 6.50pm on Sunday.
Tip of the week
Take a light rod rigged with sabiki bait flies to catch jack mackerel or piper in the berley trail and cast out a whole fresh-caught fish well away from the boat. It will usually hook the largest snapper, although stingrays also love them.