Forty years ago, we used to tow a runabout from Rotorua to the coast near Whakatane and launch at the mouth of the Rangitaiki River. The object was to fish for kahawai around the river mouth, but not using traditional techniques like trolling the Smiths jig - a plastic lure which is flat on one side and rounded on the other, with two large hooks pinned to one end of the flat side.
We had stumbled on a technique that was far more fun. When drifting around the edge where the brown river water met the green salt we used a trout spin rod to cast out a lure, let it sink, then wind it back in. The favoured lure was a silver toby, a common lure used for spin-fishing and trolling for trout. The kahawai leapt all over it, putting up an aerial display that would put trout to shame.
On one occasion, while unhooking and releasing a large kahawai in the net, another rod suddenly jumped and the reel screeched as line was torn out. After a lengthy and hard fight, the fish surfaced by the boat and surprised all on board - it was a beautiful 5kg gold and red snapper. When gutted, the stomach was found to be packed with dabs, baby flounder about 75mm long. On reflection it was not such a surprise. It took little imagination to picture the silver lure fluttering down to hit the bottom with a puff of sand and that snapper must have been right on the spot.
And so it can still be done. When terns and gulls fluttering and diving signal bait fish being driven to the surface by predators, which in our inshore waters are invariably kahawai, the same approach will work wonders. But we also have other lures that drive the kahawai crazy. Trout lures like the cobra and Tasmanian devil or the silicone smelt fly patterns with wiggly tails will all appeal to the kahawai. But they lack weight so need to be cast out with a fly rod or a spin rod with a half-ounce ball sinker above a swivel placed about half a metre up from the lure.
Such a combination can also be slow trolled, and can be rigged on any type of light snapper rod. And you never know what it may appeal to. Rat kings will love it and will test the tackle when hooked. One such approach yielded a large jack mackerel, or yellowtail.
The ball sinker will take the lure down only a few centimetres, and the target species are not always on the surface. They can be seen on the screen of the fish finder as scattered blobs in midwater. Another trout-fishing approach is needed to target these fish. This is the lead line, which is used for deep trolling on lakes and has been around for 50 years. It is actually a line made from tough outer material with a lead core which provides the weight for sinking, and is colour coded, each colour representing 10m of line. It sinks a little less than 2m per colour, depending on boat speed. While 100m may be deployed on a lake, only two or three colours are needed for trolling at sea, but a long leader will get the lure well away from the boat - maybe 10m of monofilament leader. It should be attached with a knot that can be wound in through the guides on the rod and a swivel should be added about a metre ahead of the lure to prevent line twist, but not so far up the line that the fish can't be brought to the net before the swivel hits the tip ring. Another useful addition is a plastic bead above the swivel, so that it hits the tip ring if wound in too far. This protects the ring's lining.
The trout lures come in a huge range of colours, and the ones to try in the salt are the bright ones. Tobies in any colour will do the trick. Size is more important, and the smaller models are the best as they usually match the size of the bait fish. This approach employing trout tackle also works well on trevally, when you come across them in a dense mass with their noses out of the water as they feed on krill. Don't get too close or you will put the school down. When hooked the trevally are even tougher on the trout gear than a kahawai.
Stormy weather will pull fresh-run trout into spawning streams and rivers, but for night fishing clouds will be needed to cover the moon, which is a few days from full.
Tip of the week
Be prepared to think outside the square - try something different and you may be surprised.
Bite times today are 9am and 9.30pm, and tomorrow at 9.50am and 10.15pm. These are based on the moon phase and position, not tides, so apply to the whole country. More fishing action can be found at www.GTtackle.co.nz.