Geoff Thomas
Geoff Thomas on fishing

Geoff Thomas: Use current to get big snapper

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Photo / Brett Phibbs
Photo / Brett Phibbs

When fishing in places like the Rangitoto Channel, Tauranga Harbour or any harbour with strong currents, the bigger snapper hang back from the boat. You will always hook small fish under the boat, as they are more competitive and will attack baits aggressively.

To target the large fish, you have to get your bait well back in the current. This can be done by casting the bait, or by free-spooling the reel and letting the current carry your terminal gear away from the boat.

A new technique has been developed, which works effectively, and consistently catches fish. It is a mini long-line that is connected to a rod and we have been using it for years. On one trip with a large group of rugby players, the boys at the back were hooking small snapper continuously.

The boat was anchored off Kauri Point, above the Harbour Bridge, and there was a good current on the incoming tide. So we tied a rag with a small sinker added on the end of the mini long-line and fed it down the current.

The 50m backbone is set up like any long-line, with stops every couple of metres, and we clipped on short traces with chunks of fresh mullet on the small, square hooks. Fresh bait is always better on this system, as soft baits like pilchard would be quickly stripped by small fish. With 10 traces attached, the main line was clipped to a 15kg braid line and a large sinker added, and the whole lot dropped down the current until it hit the bottom. Then it was just a question of waiting for about 20 minutes and the rod nodded as another fish hooked up

It is pretty exciting when you wind in the line, and the main line is unclipped from the rod and fed on to a plastic hand spool and the traces are unclipped as they come aboard. That one set of the mini long-line yielded eight keeper snapper and, when you realise that the total catch for the day was 23 snapper, its effectiveness is clear. The system targets fish well away from the boat, and just needs a good current to make it work. The rod-based long-line can be found on the GT tackle website, and it just needs a strong rod to attach it to. Any old rod works, and braid line is better than monofilament as its thinner diameter cuts through the current, and it has no stretch.

The snapper are moving into the inner Hauraki Gulf and with water temperatures over 16C, it won't be long before spawning starts.

Like all snapper fishing at this time of year, and through the summer, look for any surface activity. The work-ups are obvious and you head straight to any sort of bird activity.

The other sign to look for is schools of bait fish on the fish finder. They will show up in midwater and are usually jack mackerel. They like to sit on top of snapper, so it is a good place to start.

Most people will stop, drop the anchor and put out a berley bomb. Some like to use a ledger rig with the sinker at the bottom of a flasher rig or home-tied trace with a couple of hooks on loops. Always use recurve hooks on this set-up, size 5/0 or 6/0 are fine, and push the loop through the eye of the hook from the point side of the hook shank and back under the hook to secure it. Then, when the trace is held up with the hook dangling, the hook will sit cocked up at an angle and, when a fish bites and the angler strikes, the energy is delivered in a direct line into the fish's mouth.


There have been good runs of whitebait in the lower Waikato River and the Bay of Plenty rivers. The best time to fish is on an incoming tide, but keep away from rivers flooded by rain.

Tip of the week

Use small chunks of cut pilchard or squid on flasher rigs or dropped rigs, with the hook point and barb exposed. With a long trace and two hooks at the end, the same baits can be used, with separate baits on each hook rather than one large bait using both hooks. This way if one bait is stripped by small teeth, you still have another one working for you.

Bite times

Bite times are 12.40am and 1.05pm today, and tomorrow at 1.30am and 1.55pm. 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, 6am Saturdays, TV3, and at

- NZ Herald

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