When Tony Cain arrived in Auckland from Wellington early one morning last week he had no idea he was going to head out to the Hauraki Gulf and catch a bunch of snapper before heading south to catching a pair or trout.

Cain's dream trip started when he won a promotion to enter the Rheem Big Six Challenge, which sets a target of catching two different salt water fish, two trout and shooting two game animals - all within 48 hours. Over the past five years nobody has beaten four out of the six trophies, but Cain was about to set a new record.

When he dropped his first baits, charter boat skipper Len Rameka showed him how to keep in touch with the line as the six-ounce sinker plummeted to the sea bed 36m below. He keeps a finger on the edge of the spool of the large spin reel as the line flicks off the spool, so the line stays tight and does not belly out, while pointing the rod at the water.

Rameka had dropped anchor north of Tiritiri Matangi Island, after circling until he found fish sign on the screen of the fish finder. "There have been a lot of snapper here, and they are still here because the water temperature is two degrees cooler than normal," he explained.


The temperature gauge showed 19.7 degrees, when it would usually be more than 21. As a result, the bulk of the snapper have not moved into the Rangitoto and Motuihe Channels, where they would normally be expected to be found in late January.

The tide was also less than an hour from high, and Rameka explained that the fishing would be slow until the tide turned and started flowing out.

Sure enough, when the tide started the bites started. Small snapper are the first to show interest, then as the current increases the larger specimens turn up.

Cain needed to catch only two fish - one each of different species and they could be a trevally, kingfish, kahawai or snapper (any fish which qualifies for world records). He soon had half a dozen nice snapper in the box and then his line tightened and rose in the water, pulled out and up. "That's a kahawai," said Rameka, and when he netted the feisty fighter Cain had ticked the first two boxes.

The rig he fished with was a simple ledger, which Rameka makes himself. It has two recurved hooks above a teardrop sinker, and he explains to the angler how to drop it to the bottom then lift the rod to pull the sinker out of the mud before slowly lowering it again. It is a foolproof system and you don't have to be an experienced angler to catch snapper this way. But it is important to allow the fish time to become hooked, by resisting the temptation to strike when a bite is felt, but wait until the line goes tight then simply start winding. His favourite baits are chunks of pilchard, with the back of the pilchard pushed up into the gape of the hook and the point then rolled around so it passes under the backbone ensuring it does not come off too easily.

Cain easily managed to catch his two trout and still had a whole day up his sleeve to hunt for the game animals, which must be males of two different species. A morning spent on a lookout spotting deer in a valley saw two hinds located, but no stags. Then a walk in the forest in the rain was also fruitless. But the on the last morning, a billy goat feeding on the edge of the forest fell to his rifle, and he finished the challenge with a score of five out of six - a record.

Cooler than normal water temperatures are affecting trout fishing in the Rotorua lakes - in a good way. It means that trout in shallow lakes such as Lake Rotorua are not forced to seek cold water at stream mouths and by continuing to feed in the main body of the lake the fish are in better condition. And with temperatures sitting at just under 20 degrees, the trout are feeding on abundant smelt and putting on weight.

Brown trout in the lake have wintered well also, and the trap on the Ngongotaha Stream recorded several 4.5kg-plus browns, with an average last month of 3kg and 55cm in length.

Other lakes are fishing better because of the cooler, windier conditions with trout in Lake Tarawera in top condition.

A rainbow of 5.5kg (12lb) was caught jigging in Hauparu Bay on Lake Rotoiti. The 67.5cm trout had been released as a yearling 18cm long and weighing 60g 2-years earlier.

Fishing on back country rivers is also expected to improve as summer conditions set in, and more cicada, insect and lace moth activity is expected on the Waioeka River in Bay of Plenty.

Tip of the week
Deep trolling on the lakes is producing some great fishing, and if downriggers are being used the fish are at 30-35 metres. Wire and lead-core lines get down to 15-20 metres, but this can be changed by letting out plenty of backing, stopping the boat to allow the line to sink, then starting up slowly. Traffic light and gold cobras and Tasmanian devils or black tobies are consistent fish catchers.

Bite times
Bite times are 1.05am and 1.30pm today and 2am and 2.20pm on Sunday. More fishing action can be found at GTTackle.co.nz.