Fishing: Patches of hot action available despite less than stellar summer

By Geoff Thomas

When turned into bait, fresh-caught trevally produced the biggest snapper. Photo / Geoff Thomas
When turned into bait, fresh-caught trevally produced the biggest snapper. Photo / Geoff Thomas

There are some rare patches of hot action around the coast, but overall the summer won't go down as one to remember.

A game fishing contest out of Tutukaka saw 66 boats fishing for four days for just four marlin and fishermen looking for snapper off Waihi beach and Tauranga are struggling to find fish.

But recently on one day four parties fishing in runabouts off Whangamata all caught marlin, including one double hook-up in which both fish were boated.

While inshore fishing was uncharacteristically challenging in February and March, there was one bright spot near Auckland.

The day started with a keen crew who won the day out via a charity auction bid. When you cruise down the Waitemata Harbour on a 14m Riviera it's a pretty nice way to head out. Add the catering and liquid supplies and the boys all had a smile.

But fishing was the whole purpose and when you have blokes who grew up plying the waters around 90-Mile Beach and Houhora, you know they know their way around a rod and reel.

A couple of phone calls quickly determined which way to turn. As you leave the harbour you either turn left and point the boat towards Tiritiri Matangi Island, or the other way which promises the bottom end of Waiheke Island or the open spaces of the Hauraki Gulf. Today the destination was Crusoe Rock, between Motuihe and Waiheke - just a short run.

Skipper Liam Power from Flagship Marine opened her up to 3800 revs a side and it didn't take long to pass Browns Island.

A group of boats grew larger over the bow. When you see a bunch of charter boats, you know there is something happening. They were anchored in 25m over a wide hole south-east of Crusoe, off Park Pt on the north-west corner of Waiheke. Low tide was approaching, so there would be little current and slow fishing to start with. You usually only hook small snapper when there is no current.

It is a question of working the currents and the last of the current on the incoming continues to flow strongly hard against Park Pt. Then, as it turns after high tide and starts to flow out, the current is strongest on the Tamaki Strait side of the Sargent Channel.

Jeff Booth worked his favourite rig, a strayline set-up with a couple of hooks and three small ball sinkers on a light braid outfit. Ideal for casting away from the boat. Others opted for the traditional ledger rig with a teardrop sinker at the bottom - just drop it over the side.

The first snapper up was a chunky, fat fish of close to 40cm. "Don't have to measure that one!" was the cry. If you have to measure them they are too small anyway - that is our mantra.

The current picked up and the first real indication is when the boat is pushed around against the westerly breeze, and by the time the stern was facing Park Pt the bites were coming fast.

Then Brad Maskell hooked a beauty. "It's pulling line!" was the shout. When it can take line against the drag of the reel, it's a good fish. If it's a snapper, it will be a cracker. Then a flash of silver gave it away.

"A trev!" A trevally pulls like a snapper three times larger, but the beautiful silver and grey fish was soon lying on the bait board, the deep flanks carefully sliced off and turned into strips.

Fresh bait will usually hook better quality fish. The aggressive baby snapper, which live in a competitive world, are not attracted so the bigger fish have a chance to look at it.

Jeff struggled with a large kahawai on his light rod, finally coaxing it to the net. More fresh bait. You have to strip the scales off kahawai , which he did masterfully, using the back of the fillet knife to spray glittering scales over the side of the duck board. The kahawai's skin is much tougher than a trev's, so you just force the hook through the end of the flesh side.

The best snapper, some close to 45cm, came aboard when the current was strongest, three hours after high tide.

They don't always bite fiercely on fresh bait, but the snapper in this hole obviously hadn't read that particular book because they attacked the fresh baits as soon as they hit the bottom.

It is the sort of bite that makes up for a slow summer of fishing. And everybody needs at least one day like that.

Freshwater

Heavy rain has pulled fresh-run fish into rivers like the Tongariro River and prospects for the weekend are excellent. Fly fishermen can also expect some movement around stream mouths on the Rotorua lakes following the rain.

Tip of the week

Fresh caught fish used for bait should be filleted. Kahawai need to be scaled first. Strips are better than chunks and they can be hooked only at one end. This leaves the bait dangling, and a moving bait is more attractive to bigger snapper.

Bite times
Bite times are 4.40am and 5.05pm today, and 4.35am and 5.05pm tomorrow. More fishing action can be found at GTTackle.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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