When the local snapper fishing is as challenging as it has been all summer, in terms of finding fish large enough to put in the fish bin, a fishing contest with 40 boats and 200 anglers presents a great opportunity to obtain a snapshot of the action.
The midweek occasion was the annual Pakuranga Rotary Club's Green Freight Top Day Out, where teams of fishermen from the corporate world and their guests spend a day on the water hosted by the owners of craft varying from 6m runabouts to large launches. The event has an almost 20-year history and, apart from providing an enjoyable day's fishing, is aimed at raising funds for charities.
In this case, the main beneficiary was the coastguard, and the organisation reciprocated by providing a ferry service from the vessels anchored off the beach at Motuihe Island to shore for the prize-giving. A barge from Subritzky's was the base for dinner, and after so many years the organisation of this contest runs like clockwork.
But it was talking to the anglers and skippers that gave an insight into the fishing, and the predominance of juvenile snapper in waters around Auckland is still a factor. Sometimes 25 fish are caught and released for each keeper-sized fish, and anglers tend to agree that if a fish has to be measured to check if it's 27cm, then it's too small to keep. Most people work on 30cm as their benchmark, and the best results came from out wide in the Hauraki Gulf. With calm weather expected to continue into the long weekend, it shouldn't be a problem heading out wide.
The most successful party was on the charter boat Seahawk, out of Westhaven, and they could have cleaned up all the snapper prizes but only weighed one snapper. The anglers from that boat won the largest snapper, with a 4.45kg fish, and the largest trevally and kahawai. They were fishing at between 40m and 45m, about 10 nautical miles out past the Motuihe Channel and said there were a lot of snapper in the area. If there are no birds evident, it's a question of looking for fish signs on the depth sounder, or any change in the seabed.
Another area which produced good numbers of snapper around 1.5kg was on the mainland side of the Sargent Channel, and there were fish also north of the Rangitoto Channel.
Birds such as terns and petrels are following schools of kahawai feeding on small anchovies all around the Motuihe and Rangitoto Channels at the moment, but the fish are moving fast and it's difficult keeping up with them if trolling or drifting and jigging. One solution is to use trout tackle, and a lead-core trolling line will take the lure down deep so trolling in the general area will work well. Trout lures, such as a small silver toby, are also effective on kahawai - it's the size of the lure that's important as the fish may be feeding on small bait fish and will ignore traditional lures like the plastic smith's trolling lure. Three or four colours of lead-core line will take the lure down about 5m, which seems about the right depth.
A paravane on a hand-line is another method of getting the lure down under the surface.
A letter to the editor in the Herald during the week complained about the Outdoors magazine showing how to use live bait for game fishing, stretching a pretty long bow comparing it to bear baiting in Pakistan. The correspondent, Paul Judge, claimed the survival rate of catch-and-release fish was "about a third, and a fish caught for the second time would certainly die from the stress". One assumes this person has seen first-hand what bear-baiting entails and also has relevant research and facts to back up the claims regarding fish mortality. Otherwise it appears emotion and hearsay are being applied.
One indisputable fact is the occasion where a trout was caught and released while fly fishing at night, and the same fish was caught a second time 30 minutes later, and then a third time an hour later. It was a distinctive male fish, long of body and scarred from fighting, of an estimated 5kg weight, and after releasing it the third time I stopped fishing as I did not want to catch it again.
Facts should always back up fanciful claims.
There will be a lot of people fishing for trout on the central North Island lakes this weekend, and jigging is still one of the best methods on the deep lakes. As temperatures drop at night, harling at dawn and dusk should also be well worth trying. A green-bodied jack sprat, red setter or red-bodied kilwell are good patterns to use when the trout are preparing for spawning.
The drought has to break some time, and the first rains will put fresh water into tributary streams, attracting fish to the rips.
Bite times today are 3.15am and 3.40pm, and tomorrow at 4.10am and 4.40pm. These are based on the moon phase and position, not tides, so apply to the whole country.
Tip of the week
If there is little wind over the weekend, conditions will be ideal for drifting if you're snapper fishing with baits or lures, or jigging for trout on the lakes.
• More fishing action can be found tonight on Rheem Outdoors with Geoff, 5.30pm on TV3.