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.