The recent earthquakes have affected fishing, and after last weekend's shake the fishing was fickle. Like birds and other wildlife, fish seem able to sense an earthquake in advance and move to a safer environment.
Snapper appeared to have moved offshore and even the commercial long-liners struggled to catch fish in the shallows while deep-water trawlers cleaned up.
The deeper waters are still producing the best results, with pilchards and berley working well. Those anglers using slow jigs are finding the pink and orange colours are the best.
Out in the Hauraki Gulf there are good numbers of fish south of Kawau Island, between 40m to 45m. One noticeable feature this spring has been the number of large snapper around, and one charter boat has consistently reported snapper between 6kg and 9kg. The skipper is an experienced snapper fisherman and uses only pilchards, fishing in about 25m of water over some foul.
The Ahaa's are also producing plenty of fish, and small kingfish have turned up in plague proportions around Crusoe Rock and the bottom end of Waiheke Island.
Casting poppers, stick baits or dead piper around the channel marker buoys at low tide can trigger some good action, and on light tackle these battlers are impressive. This type of fishing is perfectly suited to saltwater fly tackle, and on a fly rod even a small kingfish is tough to handle.
Live baits set along the edge of the reef will target larger fish, particularly if kahawai are used. Small baits like yellowtails or sprats will catch fish, but a larger proportion of small kings will be hooked as they are much more aggressive and beat the larger fish to the bait. The liveys can be fished either on the seabed with a breakaway sinker attached with dental floss to the swivel, or under a balloon. When on the bottom they are hooked through the nose, and on the surface the hook goes through the back of the bait in front of the dorsal fin.
Out in the Firth of Thames some large snapper are being taken wth the better fishing towards the end of the Coromandel Peninsula, and the mussel farms are fishing well.
A whole fresh yellowtail is the top bait for the big ones and this can be fished on one rod, casting the bait well away from the boat and the rod left in the rocket launcher with the drag set lightly and the clicker on to signal a strike. You want the fish to be able to run with the bait, and you soon know when something takes it. Meanwhile you can continue fishing under the boat with regular cut baits. This is how most big snapper are caught, and if a live yellowtail is used the occasional kingfish or stingray comes along to stir things up. It is also a good bet for a john dory for the frying pan, and their numbers have picked up. The bottom end of Waiheke is always a good area for dory, and as they eat small live fish a lure like a soft bait or jig will attract them. They hang around weed beds, drifting slowly towards an unsuspecting fish like a small cod or spotty and then sucking in a mouthful of water with their prey through a mouth with telescopes out. When boating a dory, a landing net should be used as the hook can easily pull out of the tough skin around the mouth.
While large snapper are always a target for keen fishermen, many people realise that these are old fish which are also breeders and don't make good eating. They are better returned to the water, after a photo.
To encourage the release of fish the trend in fishing contests overseas is to judge catches on length, with the angler taking a photograph of the fish on a special board with the date, then releasing it. That is just starting in this country, and is to be encouraged.
The runs of trout into the Lake Rotorua tributaries like the Ngongotaha and Waiteti Streams have slowed down, but brown trout can be targeted in the shallows around the stream mouths.
The fish hang around the mouths waiting to run up, and it can be exciting - but challenging - fishing as the angler first spots a cruising fish than casts in front of it. Bully imitations like a Mrs Simpson or Hamills Killer work well, as the slower swimming browns favour bullies while their rainbow cousins like to chase smelt. Harling and shallow trolling on all the lakes is best at dawn, although Lake Okataina has been the hardest place to catch a fish. As
the sun rises and fish move deeper, lines which can get down to 15m are used with lures like the black toby or traffic light. Jigging on Lake Rotoiti usually takes off at about this time, but has been quite hard.
The trout are not stacked up in large numbers yet, but the west bank has been the most consistent area.
On Lake Tarawera jigging has been working well, and harling at first light along the edge of the weed beds with a green smelt fly or a Red Setter is always popular.
Tip of the week
When bait fishing, a piece of rag tied to the trace helps attract fish. It can be a thin strip of red or yellow cloth about 15cm long tied tightly around the trace just above the hooks. It is always a good idea to add a red or orange attractor to the line when fishing behind scallop boats, which can be popular in Northland waters. The heavy commercial dredges stir up the bottom and break some scallops and the snapper follow, feasting on the scallop meat and the orange roe.
Bite times are 9.25am and 9.50pm today and tomorrow at 10.20am and 10.45pm. More fishing action can be found at www.GTtackle.co.nz.