GT Fishing Report – October 14

A shiny new boat on a trailer behind a shiny, new-looking four-wheel-drive pulled up at the launching ramp on Auckland’s waterfront drive, backed down to the water and the driver got out and proceeded to unhitch the trailer from the towball. When asked what he thought he was doing the gentleman, who obviously came from another country, explained in broken English and hand signals that he was launching his boat – while still connected to the trailer. It was pointd out to him that this was not a good idea, and the correct procedure was demonstrated.

While this is an extreme example, it does illustrate what can happen when inexperience, ignorance and boats come together. Imagine what chaos such a newcomer to boating could cause out on the water.

Anybody with a big enough cheque book can start out in boating with a five-million-dollar gin palace if they wish and there is no legal requirement to learn the basics of boating. But any sensible person will undertake one of the many courses available through Coastguard Boating Education before heading out onto the water. And the skipper of a boat is legally responsible for the safety of the boat and all people on board; and the skipper is also responsible for complying with the relevant rules and regulations. There are serious penalties and fines for transgressing.

Once, when discussing the question of compulsory marine licensing, a senior official of the then Marine Department explained that in Australia, where a license is needed for owning a boat, the accident and fatality rates were the same as in New Zealand (so many per thousand boats) where no license was required. He added that the official approach was to put the emphasis on education, rather than more red tape.

The sea can be a busy place, as can some lakes over popular holiday periods, and it is not just power boats that make it so – there are often large and small sail boats, and other craft like jet skis and paddle boards.

The number of kayaks and canoes on the water has exploded as these craft become more popular both for sightseeing and for fishing. Some estimates put their number at close to 100,000. But they can be hard to see on the water, particularly in low light or choppy conditions or when you are heading into the setting sun. The onus is on the power boat to avoid kayaks, but in a collision the kayaker is like a cyclist taking on a car. The paddlers can help by wearing bright clothes and displaying a flag, and travelling in groups.

Obviously life jackets are standard equipment in such craft, and going out in a small boat of any type and not wearing a lifejacket is like not wearing a seat belt in your car.

The rules require lifejackets of the correct size for every person on a boat, and in craft under six metres they should be worn unless the skipper decides it is not necessary.

Just as on the road speed is a major factor. Boat speed should always be adjusted to the conditions. Slow down in poor weather or fog, and a proper lookout should be kept at all times. Nothing beats a pair of eyes scanning the water ahead no matter how sophisticated the electronics on the dashboard.

Weather forecasts should always be updated, and at least two means of communication are important. A marine VHF radio and a cellphone in a waterproof cover are a good start, and an EPIRB is also recommended. It is up to the skipper to have a plan of action of things go wrong. For example, can somebody else drive the boat is the skipper is incapacitated?

Basically, power always give way to craft with no engine. And there are also some basic safety rules, including always tell a person ashore where you are going, how many people you have on board and when you expect to return.

Make a trip report and stay in contact with Maritime Radio or the local Coastguard. It is in everyone’s interest to join Coastguard.

Avoid alcohol, and operate within the speed limits – up to five knots within 200 metres of shore or any boat displaying a dive flag, and 50 metres of any other craft or swimmer. When two boats meet one boat has the right of way. Make your intentions clear and always try to pass behind the other boat. If in doubt slow down or stop. Keep to starboard (“drive on the right”) in channels, and a boat overtaking must keep clear of the boat it is passing.

Fresh water

Fishing on the Rotorua lakes improved over the full moon phase a week ago, in spite of the common belief that trout do not feed during the full moon. One party of three anglers brought in five nice fish from Lake Tarawera on the day of the full moon, and they caught them between 11am and 2pm while deep trolling at 20 metres. Settled weather and rising water temperatures should see fishing improve on the lakes, and harling at dawn and dusk has been quite productive.

Bite times

Bite times are 8.30am and 8.55pm tomorrow and 9.20am and 9.50pm on Sunday.

Tip of the week

Remember that the tide will turn every six hours and a harbour entrance or river mouth crossing may be quite benign when leaving, but when the tide turns and the outgoing current collides with incoming swells the conditions will change dramatically. This also applies to stretches of water like the notorious Motuihe Channel between Rangitoto and Motuihe Islands in Auckland. When the tidal current is running the same way as the wind it can be deceptively calm, but on large tides of over three metres and a strong wind when they oppose each other the surface will be shattered into a nasty, short chop. Many boaties have discovered this phenomenon – at their cost. These are the sort of situations, like bar crossings, where wearing lifejackets is important.

GT Fishing Report – October 7

Strong west and north-west winds have made fishing difficult, but there are fish to be found when boats can get out. Little Barrier Island has been fishing well to strayline baits fished close to shore in a berley trail and one party caught and released several large snapper last week. There have also been schools of snapper two miles north-east of The Noises which can be located on the fish finder and slow jigs in dark red have been used successfully. The trick is to fish the lures with plenty of braid line out so it is at a low angle and the lure is lying flat on the bottom, puffing up sand when the rod is lifted.

There has been some increased activity in the shallows out of Kawakawa Bay, and there are always some resident fish in these areas, just like at places like the Bean Rock reef, East Coast Bays and from Whangaparaoa to Kawau. The approach should be slow, and the anchor put down carefully to reduce noise which in shallow water will scare the snapper. Plenty of berley is needed, and a cluster of pilchards on the hook to start helps attract fish. Soft baits can also be used from the anchored boat, casting out to the side and fishing the lure slowly as it swings across the current, just like trout fishing on a river.

Heavy inflows of rainwater have made fishing difficult in the Manukau Harbour, but scallops in the harbour are in top condition. One technique worth trying is to use the fringe from scallops as bait, to target trevally, but of course any scallops opened on the boat count as part of the daily bag.

These feisty silver fish are occasionally hooked while fishing for snapper or gurnard, but they prefer shellfish to cut baits and can be targeted. A trevally of the same size as a small snapper will fight twice as hard, and as they have soft mouths a landing net should be used to bring them on to the boat. If simply lifted on the line the fish may well drop off the hook. While a generation ago trevally were used only for bait, they are now respected for their valuable table qualities. When presented as sashimi or marinated in lime juice and coconut milk with chopped red onions and capsicum trevally is right up there with kahawai and kingfish, ahead of snapper, and are also fine when poached in milk as a fillet or simply lightly pan fried.

Off the Northland coast good results have come from finding structure or schools of fish on the sounder, and dropping ledger rigs.

As in the lakes, fishing should pick up as water temperatures rise, which shouldn’t be far away.

The normal pattern will see large numbers of snapper migrating into the Hauraki Gulf to spawn during October and November. One tranche moves down the coast from Bream Bay into the gulf past Litte Barrier and Kawau Islands; while another mass of fish enters the firth of Thames via the Colville Channel.

Snapper in the Bay of Islands are reported to have moved out from the shallows into deeper water, and male fish are schooling prior to spawning.

Snapper are repeat spawners and will lay their eggs several times over the summer. The process is rarely seen and probably occurs at night, when the fish rise to the surface to produce their eggs and milt.

The gulf is the most important snapper spawning resource on the east coast, while on the west coast it is understood that 90 per cent of the recruitment of young fish comes out of the Kaipara Harbour.

Fresh water

Tough weather conditions and poor fishing made this year’s season opening on Lake Tarawera last Sunday a difficult one. Anglers generally reported catching trout that were disappointing in terms of their poor condition, or too small to keep.

The two-year-old fish which make up the bulk of the catch were slightly smaller than usual, at an average length of 48cm and average weight of 1.2kg.

These are trout that were liberated as yearlings from the hatchery in September-October last year, so they have been in the lake for 12 months.

Last year’s opening day saw those two-year-old trout averaging 49cm and 1.36kg.

At Tarawera fisheries officers checked 322 anglers on opening day, for 282 fish kept. The catch rate was 0.87 trout per angler, compared to 1.1 last year, 1.0 in 2015 and 1.25 in 2014.

But the number of people on the lake was also down, probably because of the weather and it was a Sunday. The largest fish they weighed was 3kg, and there were some others around 2.9kg.

Deep trolling produced the best results, with black tobies and traffic light Tasmanian devils working well. A lot of boats were jigging, but many struggled to catch fish. Harling at dawn and dusk was also productive for a short time.

Lake Rotoiti produced the best-conditioned trout on average, with the two-year-old hatchery fish averaging 49.4cm and 1.43kg, with the largest reported caught weighing 3.6kg. On Lake Okataina the fishing was also hard, and two-year-old hatchery fish averaged 49.6cm and 1.41kg, with the largest caught a 3.7kg trout.

Bite times

Bite times are 1.50am and 2.20pm tomorrow and 2.45am and 3.10pm on Sunday.

Tip of the week

When targeting trevally use small hooks and soft baits like a chunk of pilchard, or mussel or tuatua tied on to the hook with bait elastic. They can be line shy, so a hook tied directly to the main line will have more success than one with a heavy trace. Floating or lightly weighted baits will also be more attractive to the fish. Berley can also be used to bring them within range.