Apart from game fishing for marlin and tuna, most people have struggled to catch fish everywhere from the Bay of Plenty to Northland in the past two weeks.
The exception has been on the west coast where fishing has been hot, with everything from snapper and kahawai to marlin running well. And marlin are being caught from Tauranga to North Cape on the east coat.
But an interesting exercise this last week showed just how fickle fishing can be. The object was to catch two saltwater fish of different species and two trout (and shoot a couple of game animals also) within 48 hours.
West Auckland plumber Mike Baker had won the opportunity to take on the challenge in an industry promotion, and was looking forward to boating his first good-sized kingfish as the team headed out from Westhaven on a charter boat.
They had half a day to catch a couple of fish which just had to be of legal size and could be a trevally, kahawai, snapper or kingfish. No problem, thought the boat crew, and headed for Flat Rock with a live bait tank full of yellowtail to attract the kings.
The skipper cruised around the outlying reef 200 metres from the main rock and when satisfied there was a school of kingfish under the boat instructed Baker to drop his live bait to 20 metres. The fish ignored it. So the boat moved to another rock and repeated the move. Nothing.
"Let out 30 metres and we'll slow troll," said the skipper.
Flocks of birds fluttered and dived all around the boat and bait fish gobbled plankton. The place was alive with activity and the screen on the fish finder was covered in dark red blobs, indicating fish at all levels.
"Let it run, wait, wait," was the instruction as the rod bobbed and the line went tight. "Start winding!" The rod bucked as Baker struggled with the fish. "Maybe it's a kahawai?" was the hope. It could be the first qualifying catch in the challenge. Then a small kingfish was lifted and the hook removed. "Rat king. Bugger!"
The next fish was the same, and the next. So the skipper powered the boat right across the Hauraki Gulf to Anchorite Rock. Same result. Rat kings. They are everywhere at the moment, but the bigger models are not always easy to find when needed.
Reports from around the gulf this week show that the better snapper fishing is in the middle of the Firth of Thames along with plenty of kahawai. In the closer channels, there are fish but they are under-sized.
The 48-hour challenge proved a challenge and showed how fish can not always be caught to order when wanted. How often does that happen?
You go out and clean up, coming home with a bin full of fish. Then you offer fresh fish to neighbours and friends the next time before heading out, and the fish have the last laugh.
Giving away fish, or counting them, before you actually catch them is a dangerous exercise. For every red letter day, there will be a day when you get skunked. It is called paying your dues.
The hunting proved just as tough, having to contend with thunderstorms and heavy rain in the hills, and while a lot of deer were sighted, they were hinds and fawns. The rules stipulated a stag. One billy goat did add to the score, and the last attempt to nail two fish out of Tauranga yielded one kahawai.
For the trout section of the challenge, the team headed to Taupo and boarded one of Chris Jolly's charter vessels. Jolly has been operating his outdoor corporate hosting, guiding, fishing and hunting business there for 35 years and knows how to catch a trout on the lake.
So hopes were high that the two trout would be a cinch. But because of the time lost chasing around the gulf that day, the trout lures didn't go in the water until about 7pm.
"We'll start with downriggers," said Jolly as he clipped on the line and dropped the lead ball to 35 metres. "We don't have time to head across the lake so we'll just fish out in front."
The launch circled out off the town as the sun slipped down towards the hills circling the lake, and soon after instructing Baker on how to handle the light trout tackle, one of the rods went off.
"We're on the board!" shouted the team. But the 25cm rainbow trout was too small and went back. So did the next one. Is this going to be just like the kingie fishing?
Then, at 7.50pm, the first keeper was lying in the net and the clock started ticking on the 48-hour challenge. As light faded, the deep rods were replaced with harling rods, dragging smelt flies below the surface.
"We'll have to come out again at five in the morning," said Jolly as the rods were brought in as darkness locked in. "I've got one!" said Baker, and sure enough, the second keeper was soon in the fish box. He'd hooked it while winding in the final time.
That was cutting it fine. Final score: Two trout, one goat, one kahawai. And it equals the best score for the past five years - four out of six.
Bite times today are 11.10am and 11.35pm, and tomorrow at 12.05pm.
Tip of the week
When chasing snapper, look for current, so check tide tables before planning a trip. The past week has seen small tides, which means light currents and hard fishing. The best flows will be found where the tide is restricted between islands, like at Park Point, or in the Motuihe Channel or the Waitemata Harbour. Some places will fish well on small tides because currents can be too strong on bigger tides, like the Graveyard on the Kaipara Harbour.
• More fishing action can be found tonight on Rheem Outdoors with Geoff, 5pm TV3.