Snapper fishing is changing with the season, and there are two main options available for those looking for a feed of fresh fish.

At the height of summer the choices are pretty straightforward " do you fish in the harbour in Whangarei, Auckland or Tauranga; or do you burn a little more gas and head for the channels where the tide rips through and you always catch fish?

Now, as waters start to cool and fish move out to the warmer depths the choices vary a little. One option is to stick around the rocky shallows and fish unweighted baits on light line. This works through summer also, but takes a little more investment of effort than that involved in dropping ledger rigs in the channel. But it works right through the winter, so is a good skill to develop. It is similar to the approach of the soft bait aficionados. In summer they do well working the channels like the bait fishermen, and in winter they also do well throwing lures into the white water and the wash around the rocky edges.

The other option at the moment is to head out into deep water, when weather conditions allow, and fish where the action with birds and dolphins can be found, or fish where bottom contours change.


But straylining in the shallows is always a good option. It works all around our coasts wherever current is flowing past a rocky point or reef. Keep away from sheltered bays, for current is the key. Positioning the boat is critical, and it changes with the tides. Some spots only fish on certain tides, and going out with somebody experienced in this style of fishing is a good start to learning the ropes. Berley is the other essential, and this is where the boat position is so important. You want your berley flowing in to a jumble of rocks, guts and weed beds; not straight out to sea.

Then the style of fishing is different from summer bottom dunking, which involves just sitting and waiting and in fact often works best with the rod in a rod holder.

Straylining is active fishing. Unless targeting big snapper at places like the top end of the Coromandel Peninsula or around Great Barrier Island, you don't need a trace. The small baits used work better without the weight of a heavy trace and sinker. They should float in the current and with a hook tied to the end of the 6kg or 10 kg main line it works fine. The increased number of bites more than makes up for the odd lost fish.

Sometimes a small ball sinker is needed to get the bait down in strong currents.

Baits are cast away from the boat in a semi-circle to cover the water, and bait-feeder type spin reels are ideal. Baits are simply chunks of pilchard or cubes of fish or squid, and because the snapper are often not actively feeding in the cold water they will pick at the bait rather than smash it. So keeping in touch with the line is important, and moving the bait occasionally to keep it out of the weed also helps. Let the fish nibble on the bait, then when the weight of the fish can be felt strike quickly and hard, winding while lifting the rod. It is a technique that can take time to master, but is all about feeling the line which is held over a finger to detect the smallest touch.

It often surprises people just how big a fish results from soft nibbles which appear to be only small ones.

A continuous flow of berley is important, and two berleys can be deployed to get things started. If bites stop, it is usually because the berley has run out, or the tide has turned. As well as berley handfuls of chopped pilchards can be thrown out in a semi-circle off the back of the boat. This ground-bait gets fish feeding and should be applied regularly.

This approach has been producing well along the eastern shoreline of Rangitoto Island, on the seaward side of Kawau and Tiritiri Matangi Islands. So is casting green or brown soft baits on light jig heads in the same areas.

At Little Barrier Island fishing on the sand in 10-15m along the edge of kelp beds in the first hour after the tide turns is working well.

Fresh water

Fly fishing is finally picking up at small stream mouths on the Rotorua and Taupo lakes and trout have started running up streams to spawn. Harling in the evenings is also worth trying as the bulk of the fish are still feeding actively, putting on condition before spawning. A short lead-core line also works well from now until the end of the season. This can be three to five colours of lead with a long trace and a lure like a spotted gold or traffic light Tassy devil, and will catch fish throughout the day.

Tip of the week

Some lucky punters attending this weekend's Hutchwilco Boat Show at the ASB Showgrounds will take home some serious prizes. The main gate prize is a $150,000 boat package which includes a 7m Surtees runabout rigged for fishing, and powered by twin Yamaha engines. Adventure travel experts travel&co are also giving away a diving trip to Fiji and a fishing trip to Niue.

There are also talks by fishing experts, and the biggest display of boats and boating and fishing equipment in the country. The boat show has been running for 62 years and is expected to attract more than 30,000 people.

Bite times

Bite times are 7.10am and 7.35pm today, and tomorrow at 8am and 8.25pm. More fishing action can be found at