Fishing: Challenging conditions over Easter weekend after the cyclones

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Yellowtails make fine eating, as do piper and sprats. Photo / Geoff Thomas
Yellowtails make fine eating, as do piper and sprats. Photo / Geoff Thomas

The weather seems destined to influence fishing over Easter far more than usual for the last holiday before winter kicks in. The timing of Easter is determined by the moon, and it usually falls on a full moon which delivers fine, settled weather.

But for some reason this year, it is three days after the full moon, which appeared on Tuesday, and that usually signals the turnaround in fishing generally, as fish become more active after the quiet few days either side of the full moon.

But successive cyclonic storms have played havoc with rivers and streams, so freshwater fishing will be limited to lakes. And inshore waters around the country will be inundated with dirty run-off, as rivers wash muddy waters into the sea.

This is all going to make fishing challenging, for dirty water makes for hard fishing. It does inject nutrients and debris and food into the sea, but that is not much use to the hopeful fisherman trying to get out this weekend.

There will be some sheltered waters, in harbours or inside peninsulas, and apart from local weather, this is a great time for fishing. Snapper are feeding hard to regain condition after the rigours of spawning, and all fish are building up fat reserves in preparation for leaner winter pickings.

We are spoiled in this country when it comes to fish and seafood, and what we regard as good for only bait is often some of the best eating fish to be found. Piper have the finest translucent flesh and while people in the Far North may know just how good they are on the table, most see them as bait. And they make top bait for snapper or kingfish.

But if you can't get out in the boat because of the weather, why not take the kids and run a bait net around a corner of the beach? A handful of bread crumbs mixed with sand will soon bring the quarry within range, and there is no better family fun than wading out into the water, pulling the end of the net around in a semi-circle, then drawing it up on to the beach.

Another little fish that is even more common is the humble yellowtail. These little mackerel are usually caught by accident when dropping baits for snapper, but a tiny baited hook will soon have them coming over the side. And they also make good bait, but they are even better eating.

A friend from Japan who regularly visited Auckland to fish for snapper would get excited when yellowtails turned up. He called them aji, and would rather take home a bucket of aji than snapper. His wife would carefully slice off the fillets, remove the bones and skin, and roll them into balls which she fried in a pan with soy sauce and oil. The resulting mouthfuls of delicate fish were to die for.

Smoked mackerel fillets are starting to appear in our supermarkets, and these are aji which have been caught in commercial nets. They are larger specimens than our local inshore varieties, and a fillet makes a decent meal. But supermarket product is never as good as the home-caught variety, so next time the yellowtails turn up, put some on ice for the kitchen. They can be turned into pan-fried fillets, or put in the smoker and the result served warm on crackers under a layer of mashed avocado, perhaps with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Like all smoked fish, mackerel are fine when mixed with a white parsley sauce and a can of corn.

There's nothing wrong with sprats, either. Technically yellow-eyed mullet, they were a staple of pre-European New Zealanders when they shoaled in huge numbers at stream mouths to spawn. When cut into chunks and pan fried, they are still eaten in remote parts of the country. You just have to know where the bones are when picking them apart with a fork. A pleasant surprise is waiting.

Freshwater

The influx of rainwater will trigger the runs of trout up rivers and tributaries before spawning, and in the lakes, they will be hanging around stream mouths and at release points like the Landing and Rangiuru Bay of Lake Tarawera. Fly fishing at these spots has picked up in the past week, and fishing at night may be a good option. Smelt are in close along the edge of the weed beds and a killer pattern like a Kilwell No 1 fished slowly on a sinking line works well. In spring, flies with a yellow body are preferred, but at this time of year, a red body produces better results, maybe because the trout are starting to move into spawning mode and orange or red colours spark their interest.

Trout of 3.5kg-4kg have come from Okataina and Lake Rotoiti in the past two weeks and, as expected, are in prime condition. Harling or booby fishing will be best at dawn and dusk, then fishing the depths with lead-core or wire lines, or jigging, will offer the best chances during the day.

Tip of the week

Yellowtails are easily caught on sabiki jig flies dropped where sign shows up on the fish finder. It is always in midwater, and the right amount of line will find the depth. A scrap of bait added to the hook helps, and some people like to snip off every second hook to avoid tangles. More fishing action can be found at GTTackle.co.nz.

Bite times
Bite times are am 2.50am and 3.15pm today, and 3.40am and 4pm tomorrow.

- NZ Herald

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