Fishing has taken off and the summer season looks like being a bumper one. There are also some unusual things happening - striped marlin chasing hooked snapper to the surface off the Manukau Harbour and gurnard turning up between Motuihe and Waiheke Islands.
Gurnard are a popular table fish and are welcomed by anglers targeting snapper but, while common on the west coast, they have been scarce in east coast waters in recent years. However, more gurnard are being reported in the Hauraki Gulf, off the coast and now in the inner gulf.
Game fishermen are finding plenty of action off the west coast, reporting kingfish in close and marlin in 60m of water, along with yellowfin and skipjack tuna. The billfish have even been seen following hooked snapper to the surface.
Game fishing is also going well on the east coast, from the Bay of Plenty to the Bay of Islands, where tuna and marlin have been caught.
Game fishing off Great Barrier Island has produced mahimahi, short-billed spearfish and blue and striped marlin.
Snapper fishing has also picked up on the west side of Waiheke, Park Point, the channels and the bottom end of Waiheke - Kauri Point and Thumb Point. The better fishing can be found in the middle of the Firth of Thames on the Pinnacles and in the trench heading up towards Thames. There are also good numbers of kingfish at Crusoe Rock and the Pakatoa Reef. Another notable feature is the number of juvenile hapuku coming from the Gulf and the Firth.
When it comes to fishing, we never stop learning and there are plenty of things we can do to increase our chances on the water. For example:
In strong currents, use fresh bait like strips of kahawai or mackerel. Soft baits like pilchards will come off and you will not know you have lost your bait. But when using tough baits, you can add a cube of pilchard to the hook as a sweetener.
Start fishing at low tide in a channel and as the current increases, move out into open water where the current will be softer.
Plan your fishing so when anchored, the wind and tide are from the same direction. It will always happen on one tide every day - either in or out.
If drifting, choose days with little wind, or go in the early morning. Drifting too fast makes it difficult keeping baits on the bottom. Wind against tide helps slow the boat, as does a sea anchor.
Look for flocks of birds circling and diving. They are always an indication of fish. But don't drive through the activity, skirt the edges.
Clean reels regularly by taking the handle out and oiling the main bearing which rotates. On spin reels, you can take off the spool and add grease to any moving parts. After each trip, reels should be sprayed with a silicon-based spray which will build up a protective coating over time.
When soft baiting, use a spin reel down to 20m and an overhead-type reel like a Baitcaster in deeper water. The lure will sink faster and you can thumb the spool to control the descent.
Another option is to try fishing at night. The hot, bright daylights hours are the time for swimming and joyriding behind the boat, so fishing can sometimes be hard. Heading out in the evening and anchoring over a patch of foul or where there is a good tide rip flowing and waiting for dark is often the key to catching fish. They will usually start biting as soon as darkness falls and the action can be frantic. It's as if somebody pulled a switch.
Remember the Coastguard advice and the rules: tell somebody where you plan on going and when you expect to return, and carry both a cellphone and VHF radio and lifejackets for everybody on board. On small craft, they must be worn. A fire extinguisher and bailer and a back-up means of propulsion are also required - oars or a spare motor. Riding lights on the boat are essential.
Back country rivers and streams are generally low and clear and fishing well. The big trout continue to come from Lake Rotoiti where the hot weather has caused the fish to congregate at around 30m, although the depth varies during the day. On Lake Tarawera, the size of trout has improved, but the lack of smelt is still worrying local anglers.