Drifting will be the best way to find a snapper on the Hauraki Gulf this weekend. That is when the fish are biting, and with the tide turning around the middle of the day, it will be an outgoing tide. Fish always prefer a moving bait, and in strong currents the bait will move around when set on a long trace. But tides are small at the moment so there won't be much current, so fishing from a moving boat with lures or baits, or a combination, is the way to go.
There are concentrations of bait fish, snapper and kahawai between 40m and 45m in the areas which normally fish well at this time of year - between Tiritirimatangi and Kawau Islands, outside the cable zone, about 8km north-east of The Noises and in a radius of a few kilometres around Gannet Rock. Fish are also starting to turn up on the worm beds north of Rangitoto Island, and this area will only improve as more snapper move in.
The gannets are the angler's eye in the sky, and they can often be seen travelling in one direction. Some people like to follow the birds, as at some point, they will start circling, then diving into the sea. Not all work-ups are holding snapper, and often it is worth fishing in the general area rather than among the activity, unless kahawai are the favoured species, as they are plentiful. But if there is no action, and sometimes it does not start up until late in the afternoon, then it is a question of looking for signs on the fish finder.
Bait schools will show up as a red mass in mid-water. These will be pilchards, anchovies or mackerel, and snapper will not be far away. If using baits, a ledger or flasher rig is a better option than a long trace, as you have two or three baits above a sinker and bites are easy to detect. More fish will be hooked if small baits are used, and you don't need big baits to catch big fish.
While large baits, like a whole pilchard, will certainly attract fish, they are easily stripped by smaller snapper, which are more aggressive than their bigger cousins.
A cocktail of baits is a good idea, with something like fresh kahawai or mackerel which will stay on the hook longer mixed with chunks of pilchard on the same rig. The blood and juices in the pilchard will attract fish, while the fresh tough bait will resist the small teeth of the "pickers".
But baits will often be snaffled by a passing kahawai before they get near the snapper and this can be frustrating. This is where the lure fishermen have an advantage, and a lot of anglers will not take bait on the boat - preferring their light casting outfits with braid line and jigs or slow jigs.
Flutter-style jigs work well and are easy to use. Simply flick the lure out ahead of the boat's drift, let it sink to the sea bed and give the rod a few quick flicks. It is important to keep in touch with the lure as it drops by lightly applying pressure to the spool, because fish will often pick up the jig before it reaches the bottom. So if any hesitation is detected, you quickly stop the line and lift the rod, then flick the reel into gear and start winding. A hard strike is not needed, it is just a question of keeping the line tight and winding.
When dropping the lure or baits, they will sink much faster if the rod is pointed down, with the tip almost touching the water so the line is in a straight line. If the rod is held at right angles to the sea, or even pointing up, the angle between rod and line slows the rate at which the line runs out, defeating the purpose which is to get the business end to the bottom as fast as possible. You are fishing more efficiently when the gear is directly below, and as the boat drifts, it is lifted off the bottom ,so line has to be continuously slipped out to compensate.
Harling proved the most successful method on opening weekend last week, with one party putting 18 trout in the boat by 9am on Lake Tarawera. Now that three flies can be employed, some anglers will tow three flies like smelt patterns mixed with a Red Setter. These can be rigged with the flies resting above a small swivel, or they will swim better if tied on small droppers attached to the main trace.
Tip of the week
When drifting and dropping baits on a flasher or ledger rig, a soft bait lure can be hung on the top hook as a second attractant. The moving lure will often hook a john dory or snapper.
Bite times today are 6.06am and 6.30pm, and tomorrow at 6.55am and 7.20pm. 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