Outdoors: Maori knew when it was snapper time

By Geoff Thomas

As cold nights set in, the fish arrive and right now they're in close.

Good-sized snapper are being taken in the shallows and they're all along the eastern coast. Photo / File
Good-sized snapper are being taken in the shallows and they're all along the eastern coast. Photo / File

Fishing is fickle, the saying goes. And as summer departs and cold nights descend and leaves start turning, the snapper turn up. It has been a long wait, but the old Maori knew this was often the way. They called May tamure, in honour of the snapper.

So they expected to catch the fish through April and May. And so it will be this year, and what has changed is the depth where the fish can be found. They are in close, in four metres of water along the eastern coast.

It is well worth casting a lightly weighted bait from the shore, wherever a point protrudes into the sea, for the snapper are of a good size, with reports of 5kg fish coming from the shallows.

Places such as Mellons Bay, Musick Point, Kawakawa Bay and down both coasts of the Firth of Thames are popular. The same applies around Whangaparaoa Peninsula and other northern rocky coast points.

The key is to get there at first light on a rising tide. If the weight can be provided by the bait, so much the better. Unless casting on to sand or mud, a heavy sinker will get caught in the weed or rocks. But a whole pilchard or squid or a strip of mullet or kahawai will do the trick, and a quarter-ounce ball sinker sliding on to the bait is all that is needed.

Avoid heavy traces. Some wise anglers tie their hook directly to the main line, unless using braid line which is becoming more popular as it can be cast further. In this case a trace of a metre of monofilament of 7-10kg breaking strain can be added with a surgeon's knot.

Boaties are doing well also, and the usual spots are producing - from the Rangitoto Lighthouse to the channels and the Noises where there are also a lot of kingfish.

But fishing the shallow flats such as those off Clevedon is usually hot at this time of the season. And so it is at the moment. This is light-line, straylining territory and well-suited to small boats.

The Manukau Harbour is another popular snapper fishery which has finally taken off, which means the Kaipara Harbour will also be firing.

Veteran Manukau fisherman John Moran reports that the snapper "sure took their time, but they have turned up on the Manukau in great numbers and are as hungry as hell".


The autumn temperatures have killed off the cicada hatch. The best fishing is at the mouths of rivers and streams on the lakes - from the Waikato hydro lakes to Rotorua and Taupo.

Trout will be starting to hang around the mouths of the small spawning streams, so a white booby or globug during the day and lumo fly at night should produce results.

Tip of the week
Try the soft-bait outfit in shallow water but replace the lure with a 5/0 recurve hook and chunk of bait, with a one-metre trace and small sinker. The light braid line allows long casts, and has no resistance in the current. But fish with the drag set lightly so snapper can pick up the bait and run with it before tightening up the drag and striking. Use berley and also toss out chunks of bait in a circle behind the boat.

Bite times
Bite times are 5:30am and 5:50pm tomorrow, and 5:15am and 5:40pm on Sunday. 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, 5pm Saturdays, TV3, and at www.GTtackle.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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