Geoff Thomas: Fishermen benefiting from ugly weather

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The west coast usually fishes very well, and it is more a question of being able to access it. The northeasterly winds associated with the La Nina weather pattern have made fishing on the east coast hard as conditions are continuously rough. An example is the bar where the Whakatane River meets the sea, which was closed to boat traffic for 17 days in a row recently. La Nina brings not only wind but also heavy rain causing floods, the occasional tornado and record hot temperatures for this month, which so far have been 2.5C above normal.

Conversely, these weather patterns create good conditions on the west coast, allowing fishermen to get out on far more days than usual, with resulting good catches. The west coast usually fishes very well, and it is more a question of being able to access it than any other factor.

Long may it last, for the same weather patterns drive fish close to shore on the east coast and raise water temperatures to levels like the 24C in the Waitemata Harbour at the height of summer - and so everybody is smiling.

This is one reason we have experienced the "best fishing in many years" or "in living memory" (is there any other kind of memory?) according to many old-timers.

Another sign is the abundance of skipjack tuna in the Bay of Plenty and Bay of Islands, which is late in the season for these chunky little battlers which are so popular both for light tackle sport and for bait. They are also a fine eating fish, but need to be handled carefully, which involves putting them straight on to salt ice, or a slurry of ice and seawater, which is better as it drops the body temperature instantly. It is a good idea to bleed them by inserting a thick-bladed knife through the flank to the backbone three fingers' width behind the pectoral fin on the lateral line. This severs a main artery. They can then be gutted and the head removed before going into the slurry. Treated this way skippies, as they are affectionately called, can be steaked and barbecued like other tuna or converted to sashimi.

Another indication of warmer water is the appearance of skippies close to Auckland. They usually turn up in the outer Hauraki Gulf but this summer saw schools of skippies off the Noises, off Waiheke Island, and in the Firth of Thames.

Experienced snapper fishermen like Aaron Covavich, the skipper of the charter vessel Thor out of Leigh, believe the snapper fishing season will continue through June or July in waters north of Whangaparaoa. In fact the Motuihe and Rangitoto channels had a burst of activity last week also.

In Rotorua, the warm start to winter has made shoreline fly fishing a little harder than usual as hard frosts are needed to trigger the spawning runs of mature trout into stream mouths and off the beaches on Lakes Okataina, Tarawera and Rotoiti. But if it starts later it will continue later at the other end. But there have already been some large trophy trout caught, including the biggest to date - a 7.3kg brown trout from the Ohau Channel.

It looks like being a late run on the Lake Taupo spawning tributaries this winter also, and the Tongariro River has suffered from too little rain. There have been some small runs up the river, and the early indications are encouraging in terms of the condition of the trout. After several disappointing years when trout in Taupo have been of poor condition and size, better-quality fish are being caught. Anecdotal reports suggest a lack of smelt in the lake, but recent acoustic surveys by fisheries managers show that smelt are present in good numbers but are deep in the body of the lake, rather than around the margins. If the smelt population is healthy, it will become apparent in the spring when these little whitebait-like fish which are the basis of the food supply move into the shallows to spawn.

If the global warming proponents want to attribute these weather patterns to the so-called worldwide problem, we are firmly in the other camp. It is called weather, and has been changing for eons.

More fishing action can be found on Rheem Outdoors with Geoff, 5pm TV3, and on FishnHunt.Tv.

- NZ Herald

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