There are still plenty of snapper to be found in close on both coasts, but fish are starting to move out and it is "going off" out in 40m of water in the Hauraki Gulf. This is when work-ups become important, and the week's weather has allowed people to get out wide and chase the birds.
Whether fishing in the gulf, the Bay of Plenty or Northland, the fisherman's "eyes in the sky" - the gannets - are the beacon that draws boats from all directions.
When chasing work-ups, the first item to pack should be binoculars with good optics. You can search the horizon for the telltale swirling white specks. You might see gannets and other birds sitting on the water, as if waiting for something to happen, and it is always worth checking out the spot before moving on. This can be done by studying the depth sounder for signs of fish below, and it is also worth dropping a jig, soft bait or cut bait to "test the water".
This may be all you need to get into the action, and if the boat is being pushed along quickly by wind and current and there are fish there, you can always drop the anchor. But drifting is always more popular, and a drogue or sea anchor can be used, for if it is 40m deep, you will have trouble reaching the bottom with lures or baits if the boat is moving quickly.
In the gulf at the moment, there are work-ups out in the middle ground between Kawau Island and the Colville Channel. And on the eastern side of Great Barrier Island, large schools of pilchards are attracting whales, dolphins, birds and fish. The large kahawai which have been a feature of fishing in the gulf this summer are still providing action - it can be a problem trying to get baits or lures down through the kahawai in midwater to the snapper below.
Kingfish are often with them, and from now on barracouta are also likely. Trevally are often hanging around the melee, and can be hooked on small soft baits or chunks of pilchard. On the sea bed, john dory can be targeted with a jig, soft plastic or a small live bait, although getting a live bait to the bottom can be a challenge with all the other predators about.
As we head out, the first activity we are likely to come across in the green water will usually be the "kahawai birds" - the dainty white terns which follow the schools of kahawai as they drive frantic bait fish to the surface where the birds can swoop on them.
Then, as the water colour deepens to blue, the terns will be joined the heavyweights of the sky, the sleek gannets. As the size and speed of the birds increases, so does the fishing activity below them. It is exponential.
There are not always snapper under such activity. It depends on how long it has been going, as the snapper are attracted by scraps of pilchards (or whichever type of bait fish are being herded up by the predators, which could be anchovies or sauries) and wounded fish which sink down to the bottom. Snapper may also rise up to join in the fray, and may be hooked in midwater.
When dropping lures, it pays to keep in touch with the lure, as a fish may take it at any time during the descent. Sometimes it will be a hard strike, and at others, it may be just a hesitation felt through the line.
As with all lure fishing, the angler must strike fast and hard, repeating it and keeping the rod high and line tight. The fish do not hook themselves as they often do with bait fishing.
This is where flasher rigs or ledger rigs come into their own. With the sinker on the bottom of the trace and two or three baited hooks above, it pulls the line down faster than if a long trace is used. And with the baits above the weight, the bites are easily detected. Chunks of tough bait like fresh mullet or kahawai or squid will survive the descent better than soft baits like pilchard chunks, although it is a good idea to mix it up and have one hook baited with pilchard which acts like a miniature berley bomb, releasing blood and juices.
Kingfish are also still providing plenty of action at Crusoe Rock and the Noises, over offshore pins and on the Coromandel coast. The usual pattern is for the smaller school fish to move out into deep water as water temperatures cool but this year, the seasons are running six weeks late.