Easter Weekend Fishing Tips

Prospects are good for fishing over the long weekend, with conditions excellent for finding a feed of snapper on both coasts.

And a full moon on Sunday should deliver fine weather – a phenomenon which occurs most months. Consistent north-easterly winds during the week kept warm water in the shallows, ensuring the snapper remain in inshore waters.

This will change when the wind changes, which it will eventually. The normal pattern during autumn is influenced by the weather, and cold south-westerlies will cause water temperatures to drop and the snapper will respond by starting their annual migration into deep water.  This is simply because deep water retains warmer temperatures better than the shallows, and snapper follow warmer waters throughout the year.

In the Waitemata Harbour the fish will move down the harbour, congregating off North Head. Another tranche of fish will move from the shallows along the Tamaki Strait, gathering in the 25-metre hole off Park Point on Waiheke Island.

They will remain there for a week or two, before heading out to points off the Noises and D’Urville Rocks. Fisherman who understand the habits of their quarry will follow them, finding the schools on the sea bed with their electronics.

The same mass movements of migrating snapper occur on both coasts, and local knowledge and experience come into play – as they do with all fishing.

But until the cold winds arrive fish will still be found in the Rangitoto Channel, in the shallow foul around the Rangitoto shoreline, and around the Noises and David Rocks, and the many spots along the Waiheke shore and further afield.

The good news is that tides this weekend will be some of the highest, with highs of 3.4 metres on Saturday and Sunday in the Waitemata, courtesy of the full moon. The big moon does not always deliver big tides, as for six months of the year the largest tides occur on the new moon.

But the tides at the weekend will produce strong currents, which are the key to successful snapper fishing. It is always a good idea to be on the spot for the turn of the tide as sometimes the fish will bite on the last of the outgoing, and sometimes after it turns. When fishing in the channels or the harbour, and there are plenty of snapper off Bayswater at the moment, the current will become too strong to keep terminal tackle on the bottom and it is time to shift. One answer is to drift, which is not always smart in a harbour constantly washed by passing ferries, or to move out into the wide spaces. The worm beds north of Rangitoto and the middle ground between Waiheke and the Noises are holding good numbers of fish, as is the Firth of Thames and the west coast around the 50 to 60-metre mark.

In the Bay of Plenty the snapper are running well off Matarangi and all along the coast to Opito Bay, and it is not necessary to travel out to Great Mercury Island to find fish. Saturday is the last day of the scallop season so divers and those dragging dredges will have their last chance to pick up a meal this weekend.

This is a prime time of the year for surfcasting off Ninety-Mile Beach, and long lines set with electric torpedoes should also produce good results all along west coast beaches.

Freshwater 

A recent fishing contest on the Rotorua lakes resulted in all prizes taken by trout caught jigging on Lake Rotoiti, which continues to produce the largest fish in the region. The exception is the brown trout which are running at the monent out of Lake Rotorua and up the Ngongotaha and Waiteti Streams, and are larger on average than rainbows. With cooler nights arriving the harling with flies near the surface should improve on all lakes. At Lake Taupo the bright moon will make fly fishing hard at small stream mouths, but this is the time the various rips at the mouths of the Tongariro River fish well, particularly in moonlit conditions.

Bite times

Bite times are 12.50am and 1.15pm on Saturday, and 1.40am and 1pm on Sunday.

Tip of the week

Experienced snapper anglers will take several rods, with different rigs for different situations. For example a light braid casting rod, like a soft bait outfit, with a short trace and a small ball sinker sliding above two hooks is ideal or casting baits away from the boat in shallow water. A half pilchard is a great bait in this situation, and this would be the preferred approach in spots like the flats off Bayswater in the harbour, where it is about four metres deep. A 6/0 suicide hook with a smaller sliding hook above it will hold a half pillie well. When using the head end the bigger hook can be passed through the eye and then through the body by the gut, with the secondary hook inserted through the back behind the head. The tail end can be rigged in reverse, pushing the main hook right through the thin part and then through the side, ensuring the whole point is protruding. The  small hook then goes through the body, and a half hitch tied around the tail. Baits rigged like this will not fly off when casting. In deeper water, like in the channels, a flasher or ledger rig with the sinker at the bottom of the trace and recurved hooks on the side loops is the better option. These are baited with chunks of pilchard, or strips of squid or fresh kahawai.

Photo : Geoff Thomas
Prospects are good for snapper fishing this weekend.

Trout Fishing and Hunting

The first rod went off just as the second one had been set, and Noel Bowden joked as he grabbed the rod, “If it all goes like this, we’ll be finished by tonight!”

“Well, fishing and hunting isn’t always like this, Noel,” we said. “But it’s a hell of a start!”

Noel, a plumber from Patumahoe in South Auckland, was embarking on the annual Rheem Big Six Challenge, and he started with trout fishing at Lake Tarawera.

To put it into perspective – nobody has ever managed to bag all six species in the seven years of the Rheem Big Six Challenge. In fact the best score was four out of six until Wellington’s Tony Cain raised the bar to five last year.

The challenge is to shoot two different game animals, catch two freshwater fish (which can be trout or salmon) and two saltwater fish of different species.

The trout section had proved a real problem in many of the past challenges, with only one scored sometimes, and as this was Noel’s first trout ever it is understandable that he thought it was pretty easy.

And it got even easier when, as he was playing the first trout hooked, the second rod started nodding.

“A double strike!” we said. “We have never had a start like this!”

Noel brought his first fish to the boat and everybody couldn’t believe what a fantastic fish it was – fat and deep, a perfect six-pounder. Then he raced across and grabbed the other rod, as under the rules nobody else was allowed to touch it, and that trout had played the game nicely and not thrown the hook while the rod was unattended with a slack line.

Noel played the fish like a seasoned angler, and so within three minutes of the clock starting he had two points on the board.

The challenger has 48 hours to complete the challenge, and the clock starts when the first fish is hooked or the first animal shot.

It is all about planning. Which do you do first? Hunting is always better in the evening or at dawn, and you can catch fish on the salt all day. Then there is the weather, which in this country is always a major factor.

Well that proved to be the understatement of the week.

With the trout in the bag the team climbed into the Outdoors HiLux and headed down the middle of the North Island – from Lake Tarawera to Taupo, then over the hills to Napier and through Hawke’s Bay to Dannevirke where they turned off towards the coast. It is a remote but spectacular stretch of the Wairarapa shoreline, with crayfish and pauas among the rocks and plenty of animals in the bush. Local hunting experts were standing by to take Noel out for a stag, a boar or a billy goat; and an expert fisherman was ready to launch his boat off Akitio Beach. But then the rain started and, with the help of the residue of Cyclone Hola, it brought wind; howling winds that smashed waves onto the beach and turned the rivers into brown torrents bubbling with trees and branches.

The next morning saw the team high in the mountains waiting for the first flush of light to push through the dense fog which drifted over the tops. The guide pointed to a little valley on the bush edge where a three red deer were watching and all the hunters saw was their rumps bobbing as they filed into the scrub and were gone, then a bunch of fallow deer sprang up and bounded over the ridge.

In heavy rain the team took the buggies into the hills for a billy goat, which is guaranteed here. Noel shot several and his wingman, Shane Middleton who is a serious hunter, added a few more to the bag.

So Noel had a score of three, with 24 hours to go.

They loaded up the buggies with surf rods, and bounced around the edge of the hills to the local river mouth where Noel cast spinners and baits into the foaming water.

“We got five kahawai here the other day,” said Paul Peeti, as he huddled under a dripping rain coat. But the kahawai weren’t reading the script either, and it just emphasized how, no matter how good the fishing or hunting was “the other day”, catching them to order is never easy.

The team called a halt when their coats and clothes could not get any wetter. The sea was totally out of the question, the rivers were in flood and the roads were closed by flooding and slips. The power went out and the phones were out, and it took the team all of the following day just to get out of the hills and into the Hawkes Bay, which was a sea of floodwater.

What was that quip about nailing all six on the first day, Noel? You can’t beat the weather. But he was happy with his trout and goat, scoring three out of six.

Bite times

Bite times are 8.45am and 7.15pm tomorrow, and 7.40am and 8.10pm on Sunday.

Tip of the week

Check weather forecasts before heading into the hills or out to sea, and always have at least two methods of communication – for example a VHS radio and a cellphone in a waterproof bag. When in the bush a personal locator beacon is a must and these can be hired if necessary, and on the boat an epirb provides the same function. Tell somebody where you plan on going and when you expect to return.

Photo : Geoff Thomas
Noel Bowden finished with three out of six – two trout and a billy goat, which was an impressive effort given the extreme weather.

How to catch a Kingfish

There are a lot of kingfish all around the coast at the moment, and finding legal-sized fish over 75cm is usually not a problem

From the Bay of Islands to the Bay of Plenty, and the west coast wherever some structure can be found, there is no shortage of these magnificent fighting fish. At this time of year they can also be found in most harbours, including the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours.

While some kings are hooked by accident while dropping baits for snapper, they are easily targeted. For those anglers who like tossing lures you can cast stick baits or poppers around channel marker buoys, for kings will always be found hanging around such obstacles. They like anything which breaks up the flow of strong currents, even the thick wire which anchors the large buoys. The best time to try this fishing is at dead low tide, when the kings venture closer to the surface.

Jigs dropped down deep beside the buoys and rapidly retrieved will also attract kings, and the more action a jig displays the more likely they are to bite, so a vigorous action on the rod is recommended.

Another approach is to rig a dead piper on a short trace with a single live-bait hook through the head and a small ball sinker sliding above it. The beak of the piper can be poked into the hole in the sinker to hold it in place, and this bait is easily cast and should be wound in steadily. A jerk of the rod tip will vary the swimming action, and the piper works best when slid across the surface, simulating a live fish trying to escape.

Those anglers targeting large kings will drop live baits to the bottom when drifting over a deep pinnacle, and lively baits like a slimy mackerel or kahawai will provoke more strikes than more sluggish fish like jack mackerel or sprats. But they will all catch fish when the kings are in the mood. The live bait shoud be hooked through the nose so it can be pulled down by the sinker. When presented on the surface, tethered to a balloon, the bait is hooked through the skin in front of the dorsal fin. And the balloon should be attached to the top of the swivel between the line and trace, and if dental floss is used it can break away when a fish is hooked.

Similarly, the sinker can be attached to the swivel with floss when sending a bait down deep, so the sinker can break off and you can play the fish without the weight on the line.

Speed jigging is another popular method of fishing over pinnacles and reefs, and kings are easily identified on the screen of the fish finder as a red mass on top of the rock or reef. It is then up to the skipped to position the boat so it drifts over the school of fish, taking into account the direction of the tidal current and wind.

Fly fishermen also target kingfish on trout rods, and this can be done by casting towards a channel marker and stripped the line in quickly. Flies are long, thin blue and white patterns which resemble a small bait fish and can be found at specialist fly fishing shops. Another approach which is gaining in popularity is to wade the shallows and look for cruising sting rays. Kingfish will follow a ray, waiting for it to disturb a small flounder which they chase and catch. Small flounder, called dabs, are  popular prey for many predators including snapper. This technique is being adopted by specialist fly casters on the edges of the Manukau Harbour, at the head of the Waitemata Harbour and in the South Island in Golden Bay. It is exciting fishing, and on a fly rod a kingfish provides a spectacular battle.

Kingfish make excellent eating, and can be bled by running a sharp knife around the membrane which surrounds the gills. They will bleed excessively, so a rope through the mouth and gills will secure it so it can be hung over the side of the boat.

Then they can be sliced into steaks, through the body of the fish if it is not too large; or the fillets removed from each side and cut into tubes which can then be diced into steaks or cubes for pan frying or curries. A Thai green curry is easily put together by heating the paste in a wok, adding the fish cubes and tossing to seal them, then adding coconut milk to finish. It is quick and the fish should be just cooked, like a rare steak.

Sliced vegetables like capsicum add colour and texture but anything can be included, from tomatoes to onions or pre-cooked potatoes. And kingfish makes very good sashimi, sliced thinly after being chilled. It is important to discard the line of dark flesh against the skin, which is actually fat and very strong in flavour.

Freshwater

Cicadas are still vibrant in the back country and the continuing warm weather also stimulates insect hatches, providing some exciting fly fishing. On the Rotorua-Taupo lakes the better trout are deep – at 20-30 metres – and jigging or deep trolling is producing the best results. On Lake Tarawera some well-conditioned fish of two kilos or more are being taken on black tobies at 30 metres.

Bite times

Bite times are 7.55am and 8.25pm tomorrow and 8.40am and 9.45pm on Sunday.

Tip of the week

Kingfish are tough fish and are easily released but will have a better chance of survival if a tool is used to remove the hook while the fish is still in the water. They can be held for a photo, but the stomach should be supported to reduce the chance of internal injury as fish were not designed to support their own weight out of water.