It always happens at the height of the holiday season — sharks turn up in the shallows on surf beaches and in our harbours. And people react the same way, with justifiable fear; a legacy of the Jaws movie syndrome.

Anglers return from a day out with excitable stories of how a huge shark devoured their catch, leaving only the head of a snapper or kingfish hanging on their line.

The culprits will most likely be a mako or bronze whaler shark. In inshore waters the makos are young fish and prefer the blue water, while the "bronzies" are large females which venture into shallow water to have their babies, and to feed on the rich pickings such as snapper and flounder. It happens every year after Christmas in harbours from Tauranga to the Far North, but in Auckland the large sharks are being seen off Bucklands Beach. They have traditionally been hooked at spots like Musick Point, Duders Point, and up the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours.

Others take up residence at the entrance to the harbour at Matiatia on Waiheke Island, waiting for fishermen to toss fish scraps overboard after cleaning their catch of snapper.


Although bronze whalers and makos are classified as game fish, with records kept internationally, when caught in our waters they are released unless a potential world record is to be weighed.

Makos are far more vicious but bronzies are also called man-eaters in some parts of the world.

At least one death has been attributed to a mako in this country but bronze whalers are less likely to attack people. Unlike harbours in Australia where fish life has been depleted and sharks are regarded as dangerous, there is an abundance of natural food for them in our harbours.

There have been 12 fatal shark attacks in New Zealand since records began in the 1850s; the most recent in February, 2013, when a swimmer was savaged to death at Muriwai.

Bronze whalers can usually be found on the reef at Crusoe Rock, between Motuihe and Waiheke Islands, and will often be seen broaching as they chase kahawai. It is a popular spot for catching kingfish on live bait, but it is not uncommon for many of the hooked kings to be taken by bronzies.

The sharks can be easily hooked by throwing back a kingfish head with a large hook on a wire trace, attached to a game rod like a 24kg stand-up outfit. Unlike kings, the sharks usually head away from the reef when hooked, and it is a question of pulling up the anchor and following.

Catching 200kg-plus sharks in shallow water on game tackle is not for the faint-hearted as while they can be brought to the boat after a solid battle, handling the wire trace and removing the hook from a mouth studded with sharp teeth requires experience.

Gloves are needed to handle the wire, which is dropped over the side, and pliers will help jerk the hook loose.

But the angler should loosen the drag on the reel and the crew should be prepared to let the shark swim away if it proves too strong, always being aware of the loose coils of wire trace. People have been known to be pulled over the side in such situations when the trace whips around an arm.

An angler nearly lost a hand in such a situation recently when a marlin broke free at the boat and a coil was wrapped around his hand instead of being dropped into the water as the trace is pulled in hand over hand.

More fish are lost at the boat than in any other situation — whether it be a snapper, trevally, kingfish, marlin or shark.

When a fish is hooked on a long line there is plenty of stretch in the line, up to 20 per cent for monofilament, and it is quite forgiving if the fish makes a sudden lunge and the angler on the rod is not prepared (by dropping the rod tip or loosening the drag). But on a short line the odds are reversed in favour of the fish.

FreshwaterA rainbow trout of 5kg was caught jigging at Lake Rotoiti last week, confirming that lake's status as Rotorua's premier trout fishing water in terms of large, well-conditioned trout.

The average condition factor of fish coming from the lake is around 45, while on Lake Tarawera it is closer to 40.

The factor is a mathematical equation which compares fish by their condition, in other words how fat they are. Short, fat fish are preferred to long lean ones; the poorer fish being individuals which have spawned.

The actual formula is calculated by dividing the length by the weight cubed, multiplied by 100,000. It is easier to find one of the c.f tables than to calculate it every time.

Tip of the week

Try using recurve, or mutsu, hooks for all snapper fishing. Like longline hooks these are designed for the fish to hook themselves, and while always used on ledger or flasher rigs they also work well on the end of a trace.

On a long trace, as is popular when fishing in strong currents, it is a good idea to have two hooks fixed about 10 centimetres apart, with separate baits on each. It is a common approach to use such a rig to present a whole pilchard, which is fine when casting floating baits down a berley trail, but when bottom fishing in a current such a bait will soon be stripped. So separate chunks of something tough like squid or mullet will perform better. More fishing action can be found at

Bite times

Bite times today are 12.10am and 12.35pm, and tomorrow 12.55am and 1.20pm.