Mangonui: Sweetest spot is on the rocks

By Lynley Bilby

The outcrops are where snapper like to lurk

Northland's Ellen Frear has hooked an awful lot of fish for more than 50 years.
Northland's Ellen Frear has hooked an awful lot of fish for more than 50 years.

Ellen Frear has spent the best part of her life around Mangonui Harbour.

She has fished off the rocks. Her late husband was a keen angler and commercial fisherman. Tragically, the ocean even claimed the life of a son.

Yet, for the 73-year-old, who shifted north from Kaeo more than 50 years ago, the sea brings a sense of tranquillity.

"I don't like bowls. I don't like golf. But I love getting out in the fresh air and spending a day fishing."

So much so that she and her husband, Lloyd, started the Doubtless Bay Light Line and Rod Fishing Club.

And, although Frear is a bit cautious about getting to some of her favourite fishing spots these days after her friend had a bit of a mishap on the razor-sharp edges, she is happy to share the secret to a successful day on the rocks.

"You need to be patient," she says. "You just have to sit on a rock and wait."

Frear says the snapper are large and in good supply this summer, and just about any rock outcrop on Mangonui Harbour will land you a decent-size one.

She boasts a tally of more than seven 20-pounders (9kg), including one that is mounted in her home.

Many people now reach the more secluded rock outcrops by kayak, she says, whereas she has to walk up and down steep hills to reach the rocky shoreline.

"I was known as a bit of a rockhopper," she laughs.

All it takes to snare a good catch is some frozen burley inside pierced plastic milk bottles, bait and a rod. She says it's common for her to catch as many fish as she can carry home.

"Your best fishing off the rocks comes when it's rough and the big boats can't get out. You find the big fish come into the shallow waters."

Snapper are also partial to crickets and good fishing is always guaranteed after rain.

Snapper rise to the top of the water to eat the crickets that are caught in the rain run-off from the steep, lush hills that flank the harbour.

The Northlander, who once won a fishing competition while her children played in rock pools alongside her fishing spot, says she loves her sport and, over the years, she jokes, it has "kept her out of trouble".

- Herald on Sunday

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