Geoff Thomas: Snapper make way back in huge numbers

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Photo / Richard Robinson
Photo / Richard Robinson

Fish are starting to move from inshore waters as the first cool nights develop, and snapper have turned up around Little Barrier Island in huge numbers where for the past two months they have been scarce.

This is the normal pattern, but it won't change overnight. The migrations of fish like snapper and kahawai are a gradual process and involve millions of individuals.

Aaron Covavich, skipper of the charter boat Thor, said there was no problem catching limit bags of snapper around Little Barrier.

"It is really firing, with fish between 4cm and 55cm everywhere. And south of Kawau Island is going off, but there are a lot of big kahawai around and just getting a bait down through them can be a challenge."

When kahawai are prolific, it is a good idea to use circle hooks and strike as soon as a bite is felt, so the kahawai don't swallow the hook and can't be released without harm.

Big specimens are impressive fish, and on light tackle are one of the best fighting fish to be found anywhere. They make excellent fresh bait scaled and cut into strips, and are popular smoked and in raw fish dishes.

Fishing around islands such as Motuora and Tiritiri Matangi has also picked up as fish move through these areas.

For those targeting large snapper, the next two months are a prime time of the year at places like Channel Island - which is also fishing very well - the top of Coromandel Peninsula, the Moko Hinau Islands, the Mercury group and Great Barrier Island.

But the harbours also fish well until the first frosts force fish out as shallow water cools faster than deep water, and the Waitemata Harbour continues to produce all the way from Devonport to the upper reaches. Drifting along the channels at the top of the harbour and fishing the edges of the mangroves in only a metre or two of water can be a lot of fun - casting lightly weighted baits or soft plastics from a dinghy or kayak.

While the Graveyard is the best known part of the Kaipara Harbour, fishing in the harbour can be very good for a variety of fish from snapper and gurnard to kahawai, trevally and kingfish. But sharks are often attracted and can be a real nuisance.

Attracting unwelcome sharks and rays is also one reason those fishing the Manukau Harbour do not use berley. Contrary to fishing places such as the Rangitoto Channel, the Manukau fishes best on small tides, because of the simple matter of being able to get baits down in the currents.

Braid line helps in this situation, but heavy sinkers are still needed in the channels. Snapper, kingfish, flounder and mullet are running inside the harbour, while off the coast big gurnard and snapper are usually not hard to find.

Fish have moved out of the shallows in the Firth of Thames, but there are still plenty throughout the firth.

Surfcasting on the beaches along the Bay of Plenty, particularly in the evenings and into the night, should continue until winter really bites.

Marlin continue to run on boat coasts of Northland and parts of the Bay of Plenty. In the Bay of Islands, a patch of fish has been close off the Ninepin for the last three weeks. Slow trolling a live bait will just about guarantee a strike.

Fly fishers in Rotorua and Taupo will be starting to think about the small stream mouths on the lakes - streams such as the Waiiti on Lake Rotoiti and the Waingahae and Ngongotaha on Lake Rotorua.

A ban on jigging in Ruato Bay on Rotoiti will come into force on April 1 for the first time, so trout moving into the bay through the winter will not be disturbed. The first frosts, which are usually in mid April, traditionally signal the start of runs of spawning trout.

More fishing action can be found on Rheem Outdoors with Geoff, 5pm TV3, and on the new internet television channel, www.fishnhunt.tv.

- NZ Herald

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