Fishing The Full Moon

The full moon on Wednesday brought the usual clear, cold weather and with temperatures plummeting fishing has moved suddenly into winter mode. Sea temperatures crashed three degrees – from 15C to 12C – between Sunday and Wednesday, causing the annual migration of snapper from inshore waters out to the depths to kick in. The same pattern can be expected to occur all around the coast.

There is little doubt the moon affects weather, as it does other factors like tides,  for it is almost always fine during the phase of the full moon which is why the large sphere is so clearly visible in the sky.

But the moon phase also affects the movement of fish, and many pundits will argue that fishing becomes hard for a few days around the biggest moon of the month. It is certainly the case with trout fishing, and fish will be caught with nothing in their gut. It is as if they haven’t eaten for days, but still may strike at a lure.

Maybe fish at sea feed during the night, because the moonlight makes visibility clearer, and some creatures will not venture out in bright conditions. For example crayfish will stay hidden when they are more likely to be seen by predators, and professional crayfishermen in the Chathams Islands bait their pots around the period of the new moon when they expect more activity and better catches. Conditions either side of the new moon are always much darker at night, and some commercial snapper fishermen maintain that the two days prior to the new moon and four days after are the best of the month for fishing. But the actual day of the new moon is a slow one.

For most, such arguements are mainly subjective as the average fisherman spends litle time on the water compared to those making a living from fishing.

But a recognised expert who compiles Maori fishing calendars once commenetd that he had always listed the full moon as a bad day for fishing.

“But we went out the other day on the day of the full moon and cleaned up – so I changed it to a good day after that,” he explained.

Such is the fickle nature of fishing, and the forecasting of it.

Up until this week good snapper are still being caught in close on both coasts when conditions allow.

In Auckland fishing from the rocks along the East Coast Bays and at Whangaparaoa has been productive, and further north snapper to 7kg have been caught from the shore near Waiwera. Early morning and evening are the best times, particularly when they coincide with high tide.

Another fishery which is starting and picks up during the winter months is jigging for squid at night. Squid are voracious night feeders, preying on small fish, and are attracted to a special jig with a light. They can be found along the Auckland waterfront and off wharves, and bigger numbers occur at places like Leigh and Ti Point. Fresh squid is also top table fare, when the skin has been removed and the flesh grilled over a barbecue, or turned into the ever popular squid rings.

Large kahawai are another feature of fishing in the Hauraki Gulf at the moment, and some anglers targeting snapper are having trouble getting their baits down to the bottom as they are intercepted by the kahawai in midwater. Of course there is nothing wrong with taking home some kawahai for the table. We have long been spoiled for choice in this country, with older generations regarding kahawai, trevally and mackerel as being useful only for bait. In fact these fish all make fine dining either smoked, as raw fish, baked or as fillets which can be pan fried just like other, more popular species.

Fast-swimming fish like kahawai, kingfsh and all the tuna species have more blood through the flesh than slower-swimming bottom dwellers like snapper, flounder, hapuku and tarakihi. The network of blood vessels delivers the energy for the muscles, and they benefit from being bled when first caught. This can be done by slicing the throat, and if a rope is threaded through the mouth and out the gills the fish can be hung over the side to keep the blood outside the boat. Kahawai, kingfish, tuna and trevally all have a line of dark, fat under the skin which should be trimmed off the fillets as this carries the strong, fishy flavour.

Fishing is also going well in the Firth of Thames, whether accessing it from the Coromandel side or the Waiheke Island side, and if you want john dory for dinner they are plentiful, and easy to catch with the right approach. It is a question of looking for the small bumps on the sea bed, indicating rocks or pinnacles or drop-offs, and putting down live baits.

Bite times

Bite times are 2.50am and 3.15pm tomorrow and 3.30am and 4pm on Sunday.

Tip of the week

Use circle hooks when dropping chunks of bait and fish will be hooked in the corner of the mouth for easy release if they are small. But give the fish time to take the bait, don’t strike at the bites as this just pulls the bait away from the fish. For large baits like whole pilchards or strip baits, octopus hooks with a straight point are better as the point won’t turn back into the bait

Fresh water

The winter fly fishing has picked up in the Rotorua lakes, as cold temperatures trigger runs of spawning fish. The stream mouth at Ruato on lake Rotoiti has been firing on dark nights. This should improve as the moon wanes next week. It is similar at Lake Taupo, and there have been some fish running in the Tongariro River although more rain will help. The rainbows taken in the river have been in good condition, with some fish up to 2kg, and browns up to 4kg.


Where to catch Snapper in May

Persistent warm weather is prolonging the snapper fishing as water temperatures are not being hit by the frosts which often occur at this time of year. While fish can still be found in some of the main channels, they are also in the mid grounds like at Flat Rock, the Noises, the Ahaaha Rocks, Whangaparaoa Bay and up the coast to Mahurangi and Pakiri. The pattern is similar on the Kaipara Harbour where snapper are still being caught in the channels and gurnard have not replaced them, although gurnard are turning up in the harbour. Trevally also continue to provide good action around much of the coast.

When weather and conditions allow it is worth travelling further afield. It is a question of finding action with birds and dolphins, or dropping baits of lures where bottom contours change or foul shows up on the screen of the depth sounder.

One area that has been producing great snapper fishing consistently is on the sand along the edge of the foul at the Aldermen Islands in the Bay of Plenty. Tairua fishermen have been doing well drifting in 27-30 metres of water, with whole or half pilchards, and they report filling quotas of good-sized fish in less than an hour at times.

Straylining in the shallows is also a good option around islands and reefs and it works all around our coasts wherever current is flowing past a rocky point or reef. Keep away from sheltered bays, for current is the key. Positioning the boat is critical, and it changes with the tides. Some spots only fish on certain tides, and going out with somebody experienced in this style of fishing is a good start to learning the ropes. Berley is the other essential, and this is where the boat position is so important. You want your berley flowing in to a jumble of rocks, guts and weed beds; not straight out to sea.

A continuous flow of berley is important, and two berleys can be deployed to get things started. If bites stop, it is usually because the berley has run out, or the tide has turned.

Then the style of fishing is different from summer bottom dunking, which involves just sitting and waiting. In fact that often works best with the rod in a rod holder.

Conversely, straylining is active fishing. Unless targeting big snapper at places like the top end of the Coromandel Peninsula or around Great Barrier Island, you don’t need a trace. The small baits used, like a half pilchard, work better without the weight of a heavy trace and sinker. They should float in the current, and light tackle presents the bait better than heavy line. A hook can be tied directly to the end of 6kg or 10kg main line, and the increased number of bites more than makes up for the odd fish lost through break-offs. Sometimes a small ball sinker is needed to get the bait down in strong currents.

Keeping in touch with the line is important, and moving the bait occasionally to keep it out of the weed also helps. Let the fish nibble on the bait until the weight of the fish can be felt, then strike quickly and hard, winding while lifting the rod. It is a technique that can take time to master, but is all about feeling the line which is held over a finger to detect the smallest touch.

It often surprises people just how big a fish results from soft nibbles which appear to be only small ones.

This approach has been producing well on the Clevedon flats, along the eastern shoreline of Rangitoto Island, on the seaward side of Kawau and Tiritiri Matangi Islands.

At Little Barrier Island fishing on the sand in 10-15 metres along the edge of kelp beds in the first hour after the tide turns is working well, with plenty of snapper in the 35-40cm range.

Fresh water

On the Rotorua lakes the spawning runs have started and some good trout have been reported from Lake Okataina, but as the moon waxes cloudy nights will fish better. The Log Pool is one spot that can fish well at night on a bright moon. Fishing with deep sinking lines from an anchored boat off the stream mouth is always popular from now on as spawning fish congregate around the small stream. Other stream mouths which can fish well on a bright moon are the deep water rips off the drop-off at the Tauranga-Taupo and Tongariro Rivers at Lake Taupo. The deep water is the key, and night flies with some colour like a marabou, fuzzy wuzzy or black rabbit with red or green bodies are preferred over the luminous glow-flies which work better in pitch black conditions.

Bite times

Bite times are 9.40am and 10pm tomorrow and 10.25am and 11pm on Sunday.

Tip of the week

John Dory are occasionally hooked accidentally when fishing for snapper, but are easily targeted and when converted to fillets in the frying pan are one of the most delicate of fish. As they prey on small live fish they will fall for imitations like soft baits and jigs, but a live jack mackerel is irresistable. The bait can be dropped with a heavy sinker on the bottom of the trace and a hook on a short dropper about 50cm above the sinker. A live sprat or cockabully fished off a wharf will also attract any dory in the vicinity. The key is to use a hook to match the size of the bait fish – too large a hook will kill the bait. More fishing action can be found at


Photo  Geoff Thomas


The Te Wairoa Stream mouth on Lake Tarawera is popuar with fy fishermen at this time of year.