Summer Kingfish

A fisherman from Orewa was surprised when he pulled in a 14kg kingfish off Waiheke Island recently, only to find the fish had a hook and a section of line hanging from its mouth.

“The stainless steel hook in the photo was deeply embedded in the corner of the jaw,” said Dave Blackwood. “Judging by the weed growth on the heavy nylon trace this fish was hooked and lost a long time ago. The trace is joined to the hook with a Japanese long-line knot, and the fish would have to have broken off on something sharp.

Interestingly, the hook was still extremely sharp, which says a lot for this brand of hook,” he said.

The kingfish was in good condition, which illustrates how fish can survive being hooked and breaking off with a hook and some line still attached.

Fishermen can learn from this experience and take steps to ensure fish have an increased chance of survival when they are to be released. For example, using galvanised or regular steel hooks rather than stainless steel hooks helps fish which carry a hook in their mouth, as these hooks will rust away in the salt water.

Recurved or mutsu hooks rather than octopus or straight-pointed hooks also helps as, like long-line hooks, they will invariably hook the fish in the corner of the jaw rather than being swallowed. These hooks are easy to remove, and if the fish breaks the line it has a better chance of surviving than if it has swallowed the hook.

When a fish is deep-hooked in the throat or gut, it is better the cut the line as close as possible to the mouth and leave the hook, allowing the fish to swim away.

Game fishermen always use recurved or circle hooks when using bait, for the same reason, and while straight-pointed hooks which are usually stainless steel are used for rigging lures tuna, sharks and marlin which take lures are invariably hooked in the mouth.

Summer is truly here and water temperatures have gone from below normal to extra warm, reaching 24 degrees in parts of the Hauraki Gulf and offshore. This is one reason the game fishing season started so well, and has also triggered snapper spawning which can make fishing hard while the fish concentrate on reproducing rather than feeding. But when it is finished they do go on the bite to regain condition lost during the rigours of spawning.

In the Firth of Thames fishing has picked up now the holiday season has ended. Fishing around the mussel farms has improved after the calm conditions through January combined with the annual influx of fizz boats speeding everywhere made fishing hard during the day. Those who were on the water very early would do alright, but the late starters struggled to find a fish. And the pattern has been repeated all around the coast.

Snapper are running well around Great Barrier Island, with good fish in deeper water around 40 metres, and in the bays in the evenings. There are also a lot of marlin outside the Barrier, and some yellowfin, spearfish and mahimahi are also being taken, which shows how warm the water is.

A kayak or dinghy is a good option for catching snapper at the moment, because fishing in a few metres of water is producing good results in many areas, from the East Coast Bays to the firth. One party in a small boat brought home 14 lovely snapper when fishing in three metes of water in the early morning near Thames last week, and they did not have to return any small fish.

In shallow water a big boat is a handicap, as the noise scares fish, and of course a dinghy or kayak is much quieter and less intrusive. In small aluminium boats a sack or section of old carpet on the floor will reduce noise from feet and dropped sinkers. Noise is transmitted through water far more efficiently, and louder, than through the air.

Light line and floating baits cast well away from the boat combined with a strong berley trail are the key when fishing the shallows, and it can be a lot of fun and challenging when large fish are hooked.

Fresh bait like mackerel or piper is always worth trying, and it does target the larger fish which helps when there are a lot of small ones around. And there is always the chance of a john dory taking the livie, which is a bonus. But a whole or half pilchard is the most popular bait for casting in the shallows, and a current is critical. It is a question of working the tides, and planning trips so the wind and tide are running in the same direction.


Caddis and mayflies on the Tongariro River are producing some dry fly action, and some nice fish are coming from Lake Rotoaira where a small green nymph imitating a damselfly larva works well when fished along the edge of weed beds. In Rotorua jigging on the deep lakes is working well, as the lakes stratify into layers in the hot summer conditions. And on shallow lakes like Lakes Rotorua and Rerewhakaaitu the cold water stream mouths are holding good numbers of trout, including some large browns off the Ngongotaha, Hamurana and Waiteti Streams.

Bite times

Bite times are 9.05am and 9.30pm tomorrow and 9.50am and 10.15pm on Sunday.

Tip of the week

When bottom dunking for snapper a chunk of pilchard on a recurved hook on a flasher rig is hard to beat. It is important that the hook rolls round under the backbone of the pilchard section so it can not be easily torn off the hook. The blood and juices from the gut cavity get the fish biting, while the head and tail sections can be fired over the side as berley. More fishing action can be found at

Photo  : Dave Blackwood


The kingfish had been carrying this hook and line around for some time.



GT Fishing Report – Fishing for kahawai

Kahawai – that is the buzz at the moment. And it says a lot about the quality of sport fishing in this country that anglers are going to a lot of trouble to try and keep away from a fish which anywhere else in the world would be held up as a trophy catch.

In Australia they are called salmon, because of their physical similarity to trout and salmon, and their scientific name recognises this : arripis trutta. Aussie anglers love catching their salmon and the fish is highly regarded both as a sport fish and for the table.

There is not doubt that kahawai are a respectable sport fish, and many trout anglers chase them with spinning tackle or fly rods and on this gear the feisty and powerful jumper is an impressive performer.

But for those hunting snapper in the Hauraki Gulf the kahawai can be a nuisance, particularly when fishing around the work-ups where multitudes of pilchards are attracting predators like kahawai and kingfish, dolphins and whales and birds like gannets. It is a common sight at this time of year around our coasts, and particularly in the gulf along the 40-metre depth. The problem can be getting a bait or lure down through the mass of kahawai which are feeding close to the surface, to the target snapper lurking on the sea bed. Heavy lures which sink swiftly help, and some people have even been known to wrap their sinker and bait together in one package held together by tissue paper, to discourage the predators as it sinks, then a sharp jerk releases the terminal pieces on the bottom.

Another solution is to avoid the concentration of birds and surface activity and fish in the general area, for the snapper are not always found underneath the work-up. They may be several hundred metres down-current as they hunt for scraps drifting down from the feeding melee.

But then others will be quite happy to put a bunch of kahawai in the fish bin. All fish should be dispatched quickly and put on ice; and fast-swimming species like kingfish, tuna and kahawai have a network of blood vessels through their muscle structure which delivers oxygen-rich blood to fuel the energy required. They will be far better table fish if the blood is removed from the muscles. For kahawai this is done by first administering a sharp rap on the head then slicing through the throat or the wrist of the tail. Kingfish can be bled by running a sharp knife around the soft membrane around the gills, and tuna have a major artery running along the lateral line and a knife thrust into this will make the blood run freely. The spot is found by holding three fingers against the flank, hard up against the pectoral fin, and the knife point is pushed in on the lateral line until it meets the backbone. You can avoid a mess in the boat by hanging the fish over the side on a rope threaded through the gills.

Kahawai make fine sashimi or marinated raw fish in the Polynesian kokoda style, but the dark meat which lines the centre of the fillet on the skin side should be discarded as this fat has the strongest flavour. That also applies to kingfish and tuna.

Smoked kahawai is always popular, and in fish pies or cakes is hard to beat. And fresh kahawai is also a top bait for snapper, when cut into strips with the scales removed.

Snapper and kahawai are moving into the shallows all around the coast, but on the west coast the harbours like the Manukau Harbour are still not fishing well.

Offshore on the west coast a lot of good-sized snapper are being picked up at anywhere between 40 and 60 metres, which is 10-15 kilometres offshore. Fishing is different on that side. With no islands and reefs creating channels and structure it is a question of finding the fish somewhere on an extensive flat seabed. The schools of snapper will be attracted to features like shellfish or worm beds, so local knowledge is always paramount. Otherwise you look for sign on the depth sounder – schools of bait fish in midwater, or fish sign on the bottom which is probably snapper.

Kingfish have also moved in and the first bronze whaler sharks won’t be far away. A king of 25 kilos was caught at the back of The Noises, so they will also probably be around the bottom end of Waiheke Island at Gannet Rock and the Pakatoa Reef. There are two main methods of targeting kings – either setting live a bait under a balloon from an anchored boat, with another hard on the bottom anchored to a break-away sinker. The sinker can be attached with dental floss, so it breaks off on a strike and you are not playing the fish with a heavy weight attached. Or, it can be slow-trolled with a hook through the point of the top jaw, or bridle-rigged.


The occasional patch of warm weather has sparked some insect activity, with better fishing on lakes like Otamangakau, Kurutau and Rotoaira as a result. Ether slow harling or casting nymphs around the weed beds are the favoured methods. Green or olive patterns resembling damselfly and dragonfly nymphs are always popular. The Tongariro River is reported to be packed with fish after much-improved spawning season this year. Nymphing will produce more kelts which are recovering from spawning, while wet-liners are more likely to strike fresh-run trout.

Bite times

Bite times are 7.15am and 7.40pm tomorrow and 8am and 8.25pm on Sunday.

Tip of the week

Kahawai will readily take lures and jigs but they also hit baits aimed at snapper, particularly when bottom fishing for snapper. Schools of feeding kahawai are often found in inshore waters and are identified by splashing on the surface, usually accompanied by fluttering white terns, often called kahawai birds. Most anglers troll through this activity with the plastic jigs, called Smiths jigs, which have been around for generations, but the fish often ignore them. This is because they are feeding on tiny bait fish, and the answer is to use a small silver trout fly like a smelt fly which matches the bait. It has no weight so a sinking line, or a sinker ahead of the fly, is needed.

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.