Cray, tuna and snapper all out there but you have to know where to look

By Geoff Thomas

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A large snapper from the Hauraki Gulf.
A large snapper from the Hauraki Gulf.

We often refer to the relationship between small bait fish and the species we like to catch. This is particularly relevant with the common jack mackerel, or yellowtail, and snapper. But there is another pairing that few people may know about. It involves diving, or setting pots, for crayfish.

Where there is a large reef structure, it is pretty obvious that it is good country for crays. But in some places, like much of the Bay of Plenty, there is a huge amount of water with no serious reefs. What the local divers do is look for a rock on the depth sounder. It is usually a single, round rock sticking up from the flat seabed. And if it has fish on top, then you stop and jump in. The fish are commonly maomao or tarakihi or mackerel. But if there are no fish then don't bother, as there won't be any crayfish either.

People often ask, "Where can I find some crayfish around Auckland?" You can forget about checking the piles under the Harbour Bridge but there are certainly crays around the Waiheke Island coast, and some of the foul bottom between Maria Island and Durville Rock is reputed to hold crays.

Kawau Island has been hot this summer for crayfish, according to some of the local fishermen. And the Manukau Harbour, inside the entrance, is well-known but divers have to work the tides and avoid strong currents; also watch out for the jungle of fishing lines trapped in the rocks, and visibility is not great.

Snapper will be in the middle of their spawn and may not be partial to baits, but the spawning takes place over a long period and the fish that have finished will be hungry.

The inner channels and the Waitemata Harbour should pick up with recent hot weather, and the number of rods sticking out off Devonport Wharf is always a clue that the fish are in the harbour.

Further afield, if concentrations of birds and dolphins can't be found then another approach is to motor along until you see a school of bait fish in midwater.

These are usually mackerel such as yellowtail, and it will be a good spot to stop and drop the anchor.

Albacore tuna are running off the west coast and a free-jumping marlin was reported by a commercial fishing boat off the Kaipara Harbour. A bigeye tuna of about 114kg was caught a week ago beyond Great Barrier Island.

In Tauranga Harbour, kingfish and trevally can be found around wharf piles and other structures. Drifting past marker buoys and dropping a lure is a good way of checking to see what is around, and both species will take jigs and soft plastics.

Snapper to 3kg can also be hooked around the wharves.

Fishing is still slow off the Mercury group of islands, but soft plastics over the sand is producing pannie snapper off Matarangi. The deep pinnacles around Cuvier Island have also been fishing well for snapper and kingfish.

In the Bay of Islands there are reported to be good numbers of snapper on the centre foul, and in 40-50m under the birds.

Like all holiday areas the annual influx of boats will no doubt affect the fish, and it will be necessary to fish either at dawn or dusk.

Freshwater

In Rotorua, lake temperatures have jumped by about 3C, topping 19C. This usually signals the start of two distinct types of fishing - fly fishing at cold-water stream mouths, and jigging on the deep lakes.

Spots like the Awahou and Waiteti stream mouths on Lake Rotorua start firing around Christmas depending on weather conditions.

The deep lakes stratify in hot weather, separating into layers where temperature changes and where they meet, called the thermocline. This is where schools of smelt congregate in vast numbers, attracting the trout.

The smelt and trout can be located on a good fish-finder, and this is where jig fishing with small smelt flies is so deadly. It is strategic fishing, where finding the concentrations of fish is critical, but once mastered it is a very efficient way of catching trout.

Tip of the week

Whether chasing snapper or trout over the holiday period, get up early and be home for breakfast. Light line and plenty of berley is the key on the salt water, while harling smelt flies is always good on the lakes.

Bite times

Bite times are 3.45am and 4.05pm today, and tomorrow at 4.30am and 4.50pm. These are based on the phase and position of the moon, not tides, and apply to the whole country.

More fishing action can be found on Rheem Outdoors with Geoff, 6.30am Saturdays, TV3, and at www.GTtackle.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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