When heading out on the water, many anglers are happy to hook any fish that takes a liking to their offerings. But others will target certain species, and these are usually the individuals who attract a gathering of admirers at the boat ramp at the end of the day. And the inevitable question is posed: "What were you using for bait?"
If only life were so simple. With the holiday season in full swing, it is timely to have a look at how we can use specific baits to target special fish.
Off the wharf: This is a great country for taking youngsters down to the local wharf or bridge and dropping a line. A good approach is to take one of the packets of sabiki jig flies, tie the swivel on one end to the line and unwind the trace with its multiple tiny hooks. But these hooks are super sharp and are easily snagged in unsuspecting fingers, so cutting off every second trace will make life a lot easier. Attach a small sinker to the bottom, add a fragment of bait to each hook and drop it over the side until it hits the bottom.
Baits can be bits of pilchard or any other fish bait, squid, or even balls of bread dough crushed and moulded. If a little cotton wool is added, it will stick on the hook better. When the rod bends, it is better to teach the budding angler to just wind steadily, rather than heaving back on the rod.
Snapper: Our most user-friendly and the easiest fish to catch because it is so widespread and will scavenge any food available. Snapper will eat commercially available baits such as bonito, pilchards and squid and also mussels, pipis, fresh fish such as mullet, kahawai and mackerel and sprats and pakete. They love crayfish, but will also snack on boiled potatoes and peas. They are also susceptible to jigs and soft baits.
Trevally: Will eat pilchards and bonito presented in small cubes but prefer metal jigs, soft baits and particularly shellfish such as tuatuas, which should be secured with bait elastic.
Kahawai: Kahawai are widespread, easily caught and, contrary to traditional prejudices, are good table fish. They can be eaten raw, smoked, baked, in fish cakes or as fillets lightly poached and will take regular baits and soft plastics, but can be targeted with small metal lures and silicon trout flies which are smelt imitations.
John Dory: They prey on live fish, so are suckers for a live sprat, small cod or yellowtail (jack mackerel) hooked just in front of the dorsal fin and anchored by a heavy weight to avoid tangling other lines.
Gurnard: Another bottom scavenger which prefers crabs and small fish such as brown bullies, but will take cubes of bonito, pilchard and squid. Canny anglers will offer a mix of baits on a flasher rig set hard on the bottom.
Tarakihi: One of our best eating fish but not as widespread as snapper or kahawai. They live in deeper water and are found around reefs and rocks. They will readily take small baits like cubes of pilchard or bonito or squid fished on flasher rigs with small hooks to match their small mouths. One of the best rigs uses small, square long-line hooks on a ledger rig with the sinker at the bottom. Once found, can be caught in large numbers.
Flounder: Can be caught on light line with earth worms or corn kernels on small hooks cast over a mud bank in harbours and estuaries on a rising tide. The most common method is spearing at night with a light, or setting a net.
Kingfish: Occasionally make somebody's day by eating a cut bait or whole pilchard as a bonus. Those in the know will offer live kahawai, piper or mackerel or blue koheru. The most common method is to secure the live bait hooked through the back under a balloon, but it can also be hooked through the nose and dropped to the bottom, or trolled slowly around a reef.
Hapuku or bass: Large deep-water predators, hapuku prefer live bait presented close to the bottom. They will also fall for a strip of fish on a circle hook and metal jigs.
Tuna: Lures trolled at 7-9 knots are the traditional method but if found in concentrations slashing into a ball of bait fish, tuna will fight over an unweighted live bait. They will shy off heavy line and weights so presentation is important.
Marlin: One of our premier game fish, marlin are targeted with trolled lures, squid, strip or dead baits, but as with any predator, a live bait is hard to beat, such as blue koheru, bonito or kahawai which are slow-trolled or drifted.
Bite times are 6.15am and 6.40pm today and tomorrow at 7.10am and 7.35pm. More fishing action can be found on Rheem Outdoors with Geoff , 5pm Saturdays, TV3, and at www.GTtackle.co.nz.