Geoff Thomas
Geoff Thomas on fishing

Fishing: Cooler water making for slow start to game season

By Geoff Thomas

Finding the fish is the challenge when targeting snapper at the moment. Photo / Geoff Thomas
Finding the fish is the challenge when targeting snapper at the moment. Photo / Geoff Thomas

People have been chasing game fish all around the country for the past week in the annual Nationals Tournament, which finishes today.

With cooler-than-normal water temperatures game fishing has been slow to start this summer, and numbers of game fish are down.

Points are gained for using light line in relation to the size of the fish, and the emphasis is on catch and release. Some anglers specialise in fishing with ultra-light line and catch fish like kahawai, snapper, kingfish and trevally on light tackle; even down to one or two-kilo-breaking strain line.

The tournament is divided into sections by species, covering tuna, sharks, marlin, trevally, kahawai, kingfish and snapper; and while smaller game fish like kahawai and snapper, trevally and kingfish can be caught around Auckland some anglers who specialise in land-based fishing do well from the rocks.

They might travel to Great Barrier Island or the top of the Coromandel Peninsula to fish, and reports indicate good numbers of large snapper in the Colville Channel with 7kg and 8kg fish common.

Other game fishermen concentrate on fishing for marlin and sharks and teams fishing in Hawke's Bay and off the Manukau Harbour do well. The traditional marlin fishing grounds off Northland and the Bay of Plenty are always popular.

The cooler water this year has affected all fishing, with the game fishing season slow to start, and snapper still not turning up in numbers in traditional places like the channels close to Auckland.

It is just a question of checking where the charter boats are fishing to get an indication of where the fish are. On some days there are a dozen such boats clustered north of Tiritiri Matangi Island, and some are travelling well out into the Hauraki Gulf to find fish for their clients. It is the same in the Bay of Plenty.

"Last month we thought - wait for February," said one experienced angler. "But now we are thinking, will it happen in March?," he said.

It all comes down to weather, and there is nothing we can do about it.

There are some bright spots, like the kingfish in the Manukau Harbour. They can be caught trolling a lure, and can be found around the channel markers. And kings are also occasionally caught from the old Mangere bridge where people can be seen every day casting baits, dropping live baits for kings, or pulling in round drop nets baited for shrimp and crabs. These are thrown out with a rock in the middle for weight and left for a few minutes before pulling them in.

One popular spot for kingfish is the Pakatoa Reef. Live baits can be picked up at the nearby wharf on the island, and then fished under a balloon along the edge of the reef.

By fishing with the motor idling the noise will attract the quarry, and when a king is hooked the boat can be driven away from the reef to deep water to play the fish.

An Auckland charter boat has been doing well north of Tiri, in about 30 metres of water, and one day last week the 13 punters on board all caught their limit of seven snapper by lunch time, including some nice fish up to four kilos. And then they caught some yellowtails and put them down as live baits and landed some kingfsh.

That is the key at the moment - finding the fish. There are patches of fish throughout the gulf, but finding them is obviously the the challenge. Boats which are returning to the same area day after day will keep track of the movement of fish, but weekend warriors will have to look for signs like birds sitting on the water, dolphins in the area, and fish sign on the depth sounder.

Working the tides is also important, and it is a good idea to arrive close to the turn of the tide, then you will strike the last of the tide - either in or out. This may be productive but then fishing slows down when there is no current, and it usually picks up when the current starts flowing again.

The pattern changes from day to day, but on any day one tide will fish better than the other so it makes sense to cover your bets.

Freshwater

The big trout continue to come from Lake Rotoiti where the summer weather has caused the fish to congregate at around 30 metres, although the depth varies during the day.

Deep jigging is producing good numbers of fish and those anglers who can detect the schools of fish at the right depth and target them with colour-coded braid line, do catch large numbers of fish.

Harling on the other lakes is producing some fishing at first light, but Lake Tarawera is proving hard for many anglers.

The emergence of hatching cicadas is giving back-country stream fishing a boost, and also on Lake Otamangakau stalking brown trout on the lower Tongariro River.

Tip of the week

When snapper fishing, it is a good idea to have one rod set up for casting so a bait can be cast well away from the boat. Small fish will always congregate under the boat as they compete for the baits, but the larger ones tend to hang back. It is a good idea to use fresh bait on the long-distance line, as frozen bait like pilchards and squid is easily stripped by small fish. A spin reel is easier to cast than a free-spool reel, and a long rod helps. This rig should be set up with a sinker above the swivel, and a short trace to facilitate casting.

Bite times

Bite times are 12.15pm today, 12.40am and 1.05pm tomorrow. For fishing action, go to GTTackle.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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