There is no doubt winter has arrived but warm water temperatures persist, and this was demonstrated at Great Barrier Island this week.

One local angler who likes to walk around the rocks and throw out a handline to catch a snapper for dinner had two fish on the rocks when she hooked a big fish. Well, what she thought was a big fish.

After quite a struggle, the catch turned out to be a turtle, which had eaten her floating bait. The turtle was returned to the water to swim away, but such creatures live in tropical seas and rarely visit our waters.

Another sign of warm seas was the sight of a sunfish in a bay at the Barrier this week, another visitor which cruises our offshore waters during summer. There are also skipjack tuna in the waters around Barrier, which is unusual for this time of year. Like the sunfish, the different tuna species are summer visitors.


But snapper continue to keep anglers happy in the Firth of Thames, where the fish are still in shallow water and around the mussel farms.

You often don't have to go far to find fish at the moment. One party which left Maraetai and travelled all the way to Gannet Rock, fishing different spots, returned empty-handed and decided to have a last attempt in the shallows. The two fishermen couldn't believe it when they caught two limits of snapper ranging from 2kg to 4kg, fishing in only 2.5m.

Fish are still being caught off the East Coast Bays and in the shallows along the Tamaki Strait.

The Manukau Harbour is also surprising some regular anglers when the weather allows fishing, with snapper still in the Papakura Channel - but they are proving hard to catch.

Some snapper have been taken by anchoring and berleying back on to a structure. But gurnard are the main catch, and the Waiuku Channel is consistent.

Fishing in the shallows is also producing results for those fishing from kayaks and small dinghies all the way from Bay of Plenty to North Cape.

The small craft make no noise and cast little shadow, and drifting slowly along just outside the weed line with a half pilchard works better than anchoring.

Fish are not around in large numbers, as they are in summer, and covering different ground offers more chance of coming across fish.

Changing the bait regularly ensures the blood and juices make the offering attractive.

Some large snapper are also being taken from the rocks, including one of 11kg from Coromandel recently.

Big, floating baits, plenty of berley and patience are the keys to successful rock fishing during winter, but the rewards are worth it, with few snapper but they can range up to 8kg.

Crayfish come into the shallows when in the soft-shell stage, after shedding their shell, as they are vulnerable to predators. Big snapper will follow the crays and fish up to 9kg are being caught in Northland waters in places like the Limericks and at Whananaki. They can be targeted with soft plastic lures or with pilchards cast into the wash from a drifting boat, or with large floating baits fished from the rocks.

Kingfish are also popular winter targets, with the occasional lone big specimen hooked on a live bait fished from the rocks at Coromandel or Great Barrier Island or Northland; but jigging with the fast-moving knife jigs or mechanical jigging over deep offshore pinnacles is producing large numbers of fish, particularly in the Bay of Plenty.

Barracouta can be a problem in deep water, slashing at lures and cutting them off.

Experienced anglers can identify kingfish on the screen of their fish-finder, with schools showing up as a cigar-shaped mass.

In deep water, hapuka, bluenose and bass can be found at the back of the Poor Knights Islands and the Trench, and out off the Barrier when the weather allows boats to get out.


One method which used to be very popular many years ago but has been replaced by deep jigging is fly fishing from an anchored boat.

It has always been productive at deep river mouths like the rips at the delta of the Tongariro River, but in the Rotorua lakes, it works well where there is sharp drop-off.

Lakes Tarawera and Okataina have many such spots, and you can catch fish all day by casting out a fast-sinking line, allowing it to sink over the ledge, and retrieving slowly.

Some trout may be seen rising on the surface as they chase smelt, but more will be caught by fishing slow and deep. Bully imitations like a Red Setter, Mrs Simpson or Kilwell No 1 work well and a Woolly Bugger in dark colours is always a favourite. The key is to fish the fly slowly, in short jerks.

Dawn and dusk are always peak times to be fishing like this, and you can also fish into the night with dark patterns or lumo flies which light up.

Of course a glo-bug can also be used if an angler who is not an experienced fly caster wants to try; it is just a question of rigging a bug on a short trace below a sinker on a spin rod and throwing it out over the drop-off.