Geoff Thomas: Channels prove best for tasty bottom feeders

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Photo / Brett Phibbs
Photo / Brett Phibbs

It would be a mistake to put the boat and fishing gear in mothballs just yet, as there are still plenty of fish being caught. From snapper off Rakino Island to gurnard in the western harbours, fresh fish for dinner is on the menu.

The channels enjoyed a resurgence in activity recently, and along the East Coast Bays floating baits among the rocks will usually produce a fish or two.

The Manukau Harbour has slowed after a summer which saw the best fishing for many years, but this week's new moon will help. From now on gurnard will be the main target on the Manukau and the Kaipara Harbour, and these popular fish are often regarded as better eating than snapper. Some anglers like to cook them with the skin on as it retains the fat inside the skin, and the scales are not a problem as they are inside the skin, leaving a smooth surface.

Gurnard are bottom feeders, moving on to the shallow flats on the rising tide. They "walk" along the bottom, using their long feelers to detect prey such as small fish and crabs.

The common rig for gurnard is a ledger rig or flasher rig, but these are usually fished with the sinker on the bottom and the hooks are suspended vertically in the water. This is fine for fish such as snapper, tarakihi or kahawai but most baits will be above the gurnard, and this is confirmed by the number of gurnard which are consistently hooked on the bottom bait.

The solution is to present the string of hooks or flashers along the bottom, which is done by putting a small sinker on the end and a larger one at the top.

A common rig will have small hooks, say 3/0, made from fine-diameter wire, with a one-ounce sinker on the bottom and a four-ounce sinker on top. Bait are usually small chunks of squid, pilchard or bonito (or skippy), and variety is a good idea as the gurnard can be fussy as to which they prefer on a given day.

They have been known to take lures such as a soft-bait crab imitation or a trout fly which resembles a cockabully, like a Mrs Simpson, and a lure like these can always be added on the end of the trace to move around in the current.

The channel edges are a good place to start, and as the tide turns move out to deep channels on the outgoing tide.

Gurnard are good sport on light tackle, and the soft-bait rig with light, braid line is ideal; or you can top-shot the summer snapper outfit, replacing the first 40 or 50m of line with something lighter - maybe going from 15kg to 8kg line, or braid.

Another indicator of winter fishing is the arrival of barracouta in the Hauraki Gulf in the 45-50m range; but this is always a good bet for a snapper on a calm day. Just avoid shiny swivels and jigs or lures.

The Coromandel coast, from the shallows near Thames to Cape Jackson, continues to fish well, both in close and around the mussel farms. On the other side water temperatures are slowly coming down, but it was still over 17C around the Mercury Islands a week ago. Fishing there has been patchy, but working the currents in 15-25m can bring results.

Bay of Plenty beaches continue to provide good surfcasting action, and for those using torpedoes off the beach.

A reduction in open-ocean long-lining for tuna may be helping the stocks of broadbill swordfish, as they are often hooked on the baits set for tuna. While the demise of some tuna species on the southern Pacific Ocean is not a good sign, and yellowfin in particular appear to be depleted, it may result in more broadbill turning up off our coast during winter.

The big game boats from the Bay of Islands and other ports which head out wide after broadbill are doing well, and the technique has changed from drifting only at night on a bright moon to slow trolling with deep baits during the day.

Kingfish can be found on the deepwater reefs off Northland as they chase schools of blue koheru.

Shoreline fly fishing on the Rotorua lakes is in full swing after prolonged heavy rain and this week's clear, cold weather and moonless nights.

The main beach at Lake Okataina and the Waiiti Stream mouth on Lake Rotoiti are two popular spots, and anglers returning from Lake Tarawera who stop at the Blue Lake are finding good action off the beach by the launching ramp. The trout may not be as large as in the big lakes but good fishing can be found there.

* More fishing action can be found on Rheem Outdoors with Geoff, 5pm TV3, and on the new internet television channel, FishnHunt.Tv.

- NZ Herald

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