Geoff Thomas
Geoff Thomas on fishing

Geoff Thomas: Snapper feeding busily before spawning create hot fishing

By Geoff Thomas

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The diving gannets are a magnet for fishermen.
The diving gannets are a magnet for fishermen.

After months of miserable weather and patchy fishing, the snapper fishing has taken off. It is not yet like mid-summer when only a cupful of petrol is needed, but the big fish are lurking and they are not far away.

Massive work-ups out in the Firth of Thames have produced the hottest fishing recently, with dolphins, gannets and whales churning the water and snapper up to 8kg taken. This sort of action can't always be found easily, and a pair of binoculars is handy for spotting the circling white dots in the sky.

Big snapper are also coming from the shallows around Rangitoto Island, but they can be harder to locate. The lighthouse is always a beacon for good fishing in the surrounding reefs, and it is a question of working the tides. Big tides produce the strongest currents and this weekend the tides are reasonable, with 3.1m today on the Waitemata Harbour, but the tide turns to come in at 7.20am which coincides with the bite time, so an early start would be a good call.

Snapper are schooling prior to spawning and in aggressive feeding mode before getting serious about the reproduction business, which is why the first congregations produce hot fishing.

Another area fishing well with large snapper is on the mud off Rakino Island. The fish are bunched up in 23m of water, and when they are located the action is continuous, and with water temperatures exceeding 16C the outlook is good.

The west coast is producing some hot snapper fishing also, and off the Manukau Harbour in about 50m the fish are not hard to find with one party of five anglers bagging their limits, including a couple up to 9kg, in a short time. Conditions were perfect last weekend, and fishing there is all about working the weather. There is usually a run of large snapper up the coast from Taranaki northwards in October, and long-line fishermen working torpedoes from the beaches do well. The beaches at Mokau, Kariotahi, the top end of Muriwai and Baylys Beach can produce some great fishing during the spring.

Another feature of this particular time of year is the incidence of big snapper forcing their way into the small opening in crayfish pots. The predatory fish are attracted by the trapped crays and the smelly bait, and commercial crayfishermen operating around the coast often find large snapper in their pots. They also catch a lot of snapper when they lift their pots, as the snapper have learned to associate the noise of the boat and the pot being hauled through the water with dinner. The snapper will follow a pot to the surface, waiting for undersized crayfish to be thrown back into the water.

FreshwaterLake Rotoiti was the top performer among the three big Rotorua lakes - Okataina, Tarawera and Rotoiti - at the recent season opening. Eastern Fish and Game interviewed about 10000 anglers at the lakes, measuring more than 800 trout.

The biggest were close to 4kg, and on Rotoiti fish were bigger on average than in previous years. Few anglers returned empty-handed, and the 2-year-old trout, which make up the bulk of the catch, were in good condition, averaging 2kg.

Deep trolling was the most successful method on all the lakes and it appears the summer season has started early, which is not surprising after a mild winter. Like all fishing the trout fishing is influenced heavily by weather conditions, and the next feature will be the smelting when the tiny bait fish move into shallow water to spawn and the trout follow them.

This creates opportunities for harling over the shallow banks, and fly fishing either by wading or from a drifting boat.

It is a time of year that trout anglers look forward to on all the lakes, including Lake Taupo.

Tip of the weekOn the west coast the most popular rig for snapper is the ledger or dropper rig, but just like fishing work-ups in the Hauraki Gulf the biggest fish can be targeted with a whole jack mackerel (yellowtail). It is easily hooked with a 6/0 or 7/0 octopus hook (to match the size of bait) inserted under the pectoral fin on one side and out through the gill plate, reversed so the point is facing backwards, which will hold the bait firmly as it is the toughest part of the anatomy. A half hitch round the tail with the trace and a ball sinker running freely down on to it completes the bait. The sinker can be incorporated in the half hitch, so it sinks as part of the bait.

Bite timesBite times are 7am and 7.30pm today, and tomorrow at 8am and 8.30pm. These are based on the moon phase and position, not tides, so apply to the whole country.

More fishing action can be found on Rheem Outdoors with Geoff, 5pm Saturdays, TV3, and at

- NZ Herald

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