The spring fishing has taken off with good numbers of snapper in most areas on both coasts. It is just a question of when the weather settles down and allows boats to head offshore.
Snapper fishing is all about the tides, and the better fishing accompanies the big tides. Last weekend saw the biggest tides of the month, peaking at 3.5 metres early this week on the Waitemata Harbour; which means corresponding big tides elsewhere as it is driven by the moon. There was a full moon last Saturday and there is a widely-held belief that fishing can be hard around the full moon because the fish just don’t feed. Whether this is because in the bright moonlight they are more vulnerable to predators, or whether they feed at night, nobody knows for sure. It is just one of the many unknown variables that make fishing so fascinating, and the subject of much discussion over a cup of tea – or something stronger. One writer of the Maori fishing calendar, which is based solely on moon phases, once remarked that he had always labelled the days around the full moon as bad fishing days but went out and cleaned up on the day of the full moon so he changed it to a good day. Such is the fickle nature of fishing expertise.
Dolphins and gannets feeding attract fish, and fishermen.
But this weekend will see smaller tides, of 3.1metres on the Waitemata, which means less current out wide in the open areas and in the Hauraki Gulf. One of the reasons current is so important is that strong currents dislodge sand, revealing food items like worms, shellfish and other crustaceans. Currents also carry plankton and fish will be found where currents hit obstructions like rocks and reefs, so canny anglers will always set their boat so they are fishing down the current towards the structure. The current will also carry berley on to a reef, and so draw out fish to where the baits are set.
But there always exceptions to any rule of thumb, and when fishing harbours like the Manukau, Kaipara or Waitemata too much current is a problem as it is channelled between banks. You can’t get your terminal tackle down to the bottom as it is swept away by the powerful current, so in these situations smaller tides are the ones to plan fishing trips around.
But in open water small tides mean slack water so the answer is to move the baits or jigs by drifting, and so cover more sea bed.
There are plenty of trevally and gurnard in the Manukau, with plenty of small snapper, but the scallops are in top condition. And out off the west coast snapper up to 7kg or 8kg are coming from 50-60 metres, on both jigs and bait. Sharks can be a problem in the shallower water, and one answer is to use jigs rather than bait and berley is always avoided because it attracts sharks.
The gulf is fishing well when the wind allows and this should only get better over the next six weeks. When approaching a work-up it is not a good idea to drive right through the centre, as some boats often do, but check the direction of the current by dropping some berley, then drifting down current away from the activity. In water of 30 or 40 metres the snapper will be some distance away from the surface action as the current carries scraps down to them. If the motor is switched off you will often find pilchards or anchovies sheltering under the boat, and the fish will come to you. A landing net can also be used to scoop up some fresh bait, which is the best option to use - you are giving the fish what they are feeding on.
But lures like jigs and soft plastics are also a good way to find the snapper and after locating the fish you can always drop the anchor and start bait fishing, or motor back up and repeat the drift
There are also snapper closer in, and in shallow water dawn and dusk are the best times to be fishing.
Strayling in the rocky shallows is also producing good snapper in the Bay of Islands,
And looking for birds or bait schools on the fish finder is a tried and true approach which works well. Anchor and drop berley, and a whole jack mackerel will often hook the largest fish.
Local anglers fishing Lake Tarawera are heartened by an improvement in the size and quality of trout coming from Lake Tarawera. While reports since the season opened on October 1 indicated the bulk of fish caught were small, and often in poor condition, the last two weeks have seen trout averaging 2kg with individuals up to 3.2kg reported from deep water. These fish are being caught on downriggers at 40 metres, which can not be reached with conventional lines. And they are full of koura, which also means they have rich, red flesh and make top eating fish.
Bite times are 7.20am and 7.45pm tomorrow and 8.10am and 8.3 5pm on Sunday.
Tip of the week
If fish can be seen on the sounder but the fishing is slow, it can make a difference if you change your tackle. Rather than using the more common rods with heavy monofilament line try a light outfit with braid line of 7kg or 10kg breaking strain. This ultra thin line allows smaller weights and lighter trace to be used, and if jigging you can also use a short trace of light mono like 4.5kg breaking strain, and a 20g or 30g lure. Snapper will often take a small bait or small lure fished with a light trace when they have ignored baits or lures attached to heavier line. This approach also teaches people to be better anglers as you have to work the rod with a light drag on the reel to bring in a good fish.