The Manukau Harbour turned on some hot fishing the other day - an exception in a particularly tough winter for anglers. The Manukau usually fishes well for gurnard right through the winter, but regular harbour fishers have struggled to get a feed.

But when Peter Rasmussen went out with his son, after two hours without a bite he ventured further down the gutter to deeper water, straight into some good-sized gurnard.

As the current eased and low tide neared the gurnard bite stopped, and then one rod bent over with a 4kg snapper. So they changed from gurnard rigs to lightly weighted single-hook rigs and cast bigger baits well out from the back of the boat and continued to haul in snapper, with several between 2kg and 4.5kg. Then, as the call was made to head home, the last rod went off with an 8.6kg snapper. A few days later the same spot yielded only three average-sized gurnard.

Long-time Manukau fisherman John Moran says that shows how fickle the fish can be at the moment. His favourite time to fish the harbour for gurnard is near or after the new moon, on small tides when the tide is ebbing.

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It is not unusual to strike some good snapper in the harbour, but summer and autumn are recognised as the best time to find snapper. But using the current is always important, and a super long trace, up to 10m or more, with the boat anchored in deep water and strong currents with a heavy sinker, works well.

A bait like the whole head of a mullet seems to appeal to the big fish.

Hooks used at the end of a trace are traditionally the suicide-type, or octopus hooks, but if large recurved or mutsu-style hooks are used the fish will hook themselves. When bites are detected the fish should be given time to swallow the bait. This approach will work anywhere there are strong current flows; in channels like the Motuihe and Rangitoto Channels, and the Kaipara and Tauranga Harbours.

Another regular Manukau gurnard fisherman also reports mixed results this winter. Harold "Flaps" Chapman has several times come home with only half a dozen gurnard when he would usually expect to bag 20 or more. He likes to use flasher rigs with red flasher flies on the recurved hooks, and always takes a variety of baits. One hook always carries half a mussel while the others will have different baits; but the mussel usually scores.

Fresh Water
Fly fishers are smiling as the Tongariro River yields the best fishing for some time, in numbers, size and quality. After heavy rain early in the week the river was fishable to wet flies by Wednesday and conditions continued to improve. The spring mayfly hatches are not far away, say locals.

North Island trout fishers are counting down to the new season opening on October 1, but waters which remain open through the winter still yields good early spring fishing. Fly fishing or spinning from the shore at places like Lake Rerewhakaaitu and Tarawera's Rangiuru Bay just get better as the weather warms.

Bite times
Bite times are 5.35am and 6pm today, and 6.30am and 7pm tomorrow.

Tip of the week
Moving baits often bring better results than baits left to lie on the bottom. So lifting the rod occasionally will help attract fish. That is why a very long trace works better in strong currents. And fresh baits are always better.

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• More fishing action can be found on Outdoors with Geoff, 5pm today, TV3, and at GTTackle.co.nz.