Holidays allow time to introduce kids to fishing or, if they've grown up fishing, to take them out more often. It's family time, and time is the key factor - not something that can so easily be dedicated to family outings.
Whether fishing from a boat, a wharf or off rocks it's a good chance to teach youngsters how to tie basic knots. A trace with the sinker at the bottom is best to start with as you can feel the bites. It can be a flasher rig from a tackle shop aimed at larger fish like snapper, trevally and kahawai.
The bait flies, or sabikis as they are called, are designed for catching small bait fish like sprats and mackerel. But they have a whole string of tiny, sharp hooks which will impale a finger just as easily as the lip of a fish. Cut off two of every three hooks and it becomes more manageable.
Most of the fish caught will be small ones, which presents the perfect opportunity to show kids how to handle and release fish. If they can be shaken off the hook without touching the fish, that's the best method, but they can be grasped with a wet towel or rag. Dry hands damage the slimy coating on every fish which, like everything in nature, is there for a reason. The slime protects the scales and skin from bacterial infections. Hold fish from under the belly, not on top as the sharp dorsal spines will penetrate a rag.
If you're dropping baits over the side of a wharf or a boat, most fish are hooked on the bottom so let the sinker touch the bottom, keeping tension on the line. Moving it up and down will often stimulate a bite from nearby fish, as moving baits work better than static ones.
If tangling with large fish like kahawai, a whole set of dynamics is involved. A good-sized kahawai will swim all around the place, tangling other lines and wrapping the line around obstacles like wharf piles. It becomes a lesson in how to use the rod and reel to try to control the fish. The tension on the reel should be set so that the fish can pull out line under strain, but it's a fine balance.
Too loose and the fish has total control; too tight and the tackle might break. If in doubt, it's better to err on the tight side. Then the rod should be used like a large spring, held up at about 45 degrees, and used to put pressure on the fish by pulling directly against the direction it's straining in.
Short strokes where the rod is dropped only a few centimetres and a couple of winds of the handle gain some line and are better than large sweeps of the rod which allow slack line as the handle can't be spun fast enough to keep tension on the line.
One fish that can be caught from many wharves, like those at Whangamata, Tauranga, Mangonui and Houhora, is the john dory. These strange-looking creatures prey on small fish, and will usually refuse any bait which is not alive and swimming. Their slim contour is hard to detect from head on and they sidle up to an unsuspecting fish, and when in range the mouth telescopes out, sucking in a mouthful of water and the hapless dinner.
They like to hang around wharf piles, as the structure offers hiding places to ambush the many varieties of prey also attracted to the piles for food and shelter. Species like little brown cockabullies, sprats and yellowtails (jack mackerel) are favourites of the john dory. They are easily caught on tiny sprat hooks and a scrap of bait, and can be dropped back down on a heavier rod.
A large sinker is needed to anchor the bait, or it will swim around and tangle the line in other lines or around piles. A hook on a loop about 25cm above the sinker is pushed through the skin in front of the dorsal fin of the bait fish, and when a johnny takes the bait, the rod will bend and it can be slowly brought in. The best hooks for this type of fishing are recurved hooks, and once embedded in the corner of the mouth they rarely fall out.
Don't forget the checklist for youngsters: hats, sunglasses, sun screen, drinks, lunch.
During the summer holidays Topcatch stores are giving away a 500g block of squid bait to youngsters accompanied by an adult.
Bite times today are 1.25am and 1.50pm, and tomorrow 2.15am and 2.40pm.
Tip of the week
Try using small long-line hooks when surfcasting from a wharf or beach, or fishing from a boat - much cheaper than regular hooks. But don't strike on a bite; give the fish time to hook themselves.
More fishing action can be seen tonight on Rheem Outdoors with Geoff, 5pm TV3.