Fishing: Small snapper keeping big ones off the hook

By Geoff Thomas

To catch larger snapper, piper can be cut into chunks, or a whole fish threaded on to a couple of hooks.
To catch larger snapper, piper can be cut into chunks, or a whole fish threaded on to a couple of hooks.

Snapper are proving a challenge to most anglers at the moment, and while there are plenty of fish around, the larger specimens can be hard to hook.

This was evident this week on the outgoing tide while fishing the edge of the Rangitoto Channel between No 12 buoy and No 14 buoy, when there was a strong bite in mid-tide. All the boats in the area were catching fish and filling the quota was not a problem.

So on returning to the same spot the following morning, hopes were high for a repeat performance. But it did not happen. Just a few under-sized fish were hooked, and that is typical of this summer's fishing.

Another trick is to use less weight and cast baits well away from the boat. The fish often take while the bait is sinking and before it reaches the bottom.

But bites are often misleading, just tentative nibbles which are usually attributed to small snapper when in fact they are good-sized fish that are just investigating the bait and not hitting hard.

One solution is to cast or let the current take the bait well away from the boat, then keep it moving by winding in slowly, then letting out line again, until a bite is felt.

Or, raise and lower the rod slowly, with the same aim of moving the bait. When fish are not feeding actively a moving bait will often do the trick.

The type of bait used is also important and pilchards are not recommended for this approach as they come off too easily. Small strips of squid threaded on to the hook several times are much more effective, and when the first nibbles are felt the angler must resist the urge to strike, which simply pulls the bait away from the fish. Allow plenty of time for the fish to take the bait, and often leaving the rod in a holder will produce more hook-ups, particularly if a short trace is used with two recurve hooks fixed on the end with separate baits on each. The whole purpose is to make it as easy as possible for the fish to eat the bait.

The migration of large numbers of snapper from inshore waters in the inner Hauraki Gulf and Firth of Thames has started, and more snapper can be found off Little Barrier Island as they move towards deeper water. There are plenty of hapuku on the pins 8 miles off Great Barrier Island, but they are expected to move out to deep water as temperatures cool.

The Manukau Harbour is also producing patchy fishing but the biggest fish are still coming from the Papakura Channel, while kingfish are providing good sport to anglers offering a live bait. One example was a 20kg kingfish hooked on a free-swimming kahawai at the Matakawau ramp one morning.

Kings are also the main quarry in the Bay of Islands, but bronze whaler sharks are also attacking hooked fish at Rocky Pt and Whale Rock.

In the Bay of Plenty, surfcasting and fishing from small boats outside the breakers in the evenings has been producing good results on snapper along the beaches between Papamoa and Whakatane.

Land-based fishing on the west coast has been going well. The long-line kite and torpedo fishermen on beaches like Muriwai and Karioitahi Beach are catching fish, with some good snapper coming in. The motorised torpedoes can pull out a line carrying 25 hooks for a thousand metres, and they catch a lot of big snapper at certain times of the year.

Tip of the week

Small snapper are plaguing anglers at the moment, and as they are so aggressive, they beat bigger fish to the baits. One solution is to use fresh bait, and piper and mackerel are among the best, either filleted and used as strips in the case of mackerel or as whole or half fish. Piper can be cut into chunks, or a whole fish threaded on to a couple of hooks.

Bite times

Bite times today are 3am and 3.15pm, and tomorrow at 3.40am and 4pm. 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, 5pm Saturdays, TV3, and at

- NZ Herald

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