The soft winter bite is how snapper fishermen describe the action at the moment, although some would argue that was the pattern for much of summer. Traditionally, as water temperatures start to cool, feeding activity slows.
"The fish are just sucking baits and soft baits," said one angler. So small hooks, small baits and patience on the strike are called for.
But from the Takapuna cliffs to Castor Bay, fish can be found in close, either straylining or casting softies. It's the same on the northern side of Rangitoto Island, but it's all over by 8am. At the Noises, small, dark green soft baits have been going well.
At Little Barrier Island, Great Barrier and Horn Rock, straylining hard against the weed line or the rocks has produced some good fish. But metal jigs and slow jigs have also been producing, as well as large fresh baits like a strip of kahawai or mackerel.
This weekend looks good in terms of the tides and moon, with a new moon tomorrow and big tides bringing strong currents. All the indications are for a good couple of days on the water, providing conditions allow safe boating. One old adage maintains - the stronger the current, the longer the trace. That will certainly be the case with tides on the Waitemata Harbour peaking at 3.5m today and 3.6m tomorrow. It is common to have two hooks on the end of the trace; two fixed hooks or one sliding keeper hook above a larger, fixed hook. Then a strip bait or whole pilchard or squid is usually rigged on the two hooks.
This is fine for straylining on to a reef, but when bottom-dunking in strong currents, it's better to have two chunks of bait, which doubles the chances of hooking up. Use recurved hooks so the fish will virtually hook themselves. By the time you feel something, it's already hooked.
This is similar to fishing at Kaipara Harbour's Graveyard, and tough baits like squid can be combined with pilchard to provide variety, and to withstand attacks by small snapper.
Another approach in strong rips is to thumb the spool of the reel, keeping it in freespool, letting the baits bounce along the sea bed away from the boat, ensuring the terminal gear stays on the bottom.
The water continues to cool off the Bay of Islands where kingfish are moving down from North Cape and northern waters, to the reefs around the Cavalli Islands and the bay. Snapper have moved into the shallows between Roberton Island and Tapeka Point, and broadbill swordfish will be the target for big game boats until August.
In the Bay of Plenty, snapper are still running in close, from 15m to 40m of water from Whakatane to Matata. Drifting and fishing soft baits over the sand between Thornton and the Tarawera River mouth has been fishing particularly well. Tarakihi are being caught in what is shallow water for them.
Temperatures are reported to be down to 18C and cooling, so the skippies, which are still in the bay but hard to catch as they are feeding on small organisms such as krill, will not be around much longer. In the deep water, hapuku and gemfish are still relatively easy to find.
A netting programme has discovered some catfish in Lake Rotoiti, but extensive netting in Lake Tarawera has not produced any of the American pests which are so prevalent in Lake Taupo and the lower Waikato River system. The programme is continuing on other lakes in the district.
On Rotoiti, regular hot spots such as Ruato Bay are starting to fire, but Lake Tarawera has been slow. However, the rain last week should help spur the fish towards the beach at the Landing and the Te Wairoa Stream mouth.
Large numbers of brown trout have been taken from the Ngongotaha Stream, including some large specimens of 4.65kg, 5kg and 5.5kg. Fishing in the Tongariro with small naturals like Hare and Copper and Flashbacks has been productive, although the quality of trout caught does fluctuate.