Persistent warm weather is prolonging the snapper fishing as water temperatures are not being hit by the frosts which often occur at this time of year. While fish can still be found in some of the main channels, they are also in the mid grounds such as Flat Rock, the Noises, the Ahaaha Rocks, Whangaparaoa Bay and up the coast to Mahurangi and Pakiri. The pattern is similar on the Kaipara Harbour where snapper are still being caught in the channels and gurnard have not replaced them, although gurnard are turning up in the harbour. Trevally also continue to provide good action.
When weather and conditions allow, it is worth travelling further afield. It is a question of finding action with birds and dolphins, or dropping baits of lures where bottom contours change or foul shows up on the screen of the depth sounder.
One area that has been producing great snapper fishing consistently is on the sand along the edge of the foul at the Aldermen Islands in the Bay of Plenty. Tairua fishermen have been doing well drifting in 27-30 metres of water, with whole or half pilchards, and they report filling quotas of good-sized fish in less than an hour at times.
Straylining in the shallows is also a good option around islands and reefs and 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.
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.
Then the style of fishing is different from summer bottom dunking, which involves just sitting and waiting. In fact that often works best with the rod in a rod holder.
Conversely, 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, like a half pilchard, work better without the weight of a heavy trace and sinker.
They should float in the current, and light tackle presents the bait better than heavy line. A hook can be tied directly to the end of 6kg or 10kg main line, and the increased number of bites more than makes up for the odd fish lost through break-offs. Sometimes a small ball sinker is needed to get the bait down.
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 until the weight of the fish can be felt, then 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.
This approach has been producing well on the Clevedon flats, along the eastern shoreline of Rangitoto Island, on the seaward side of Kawau and Tiritiri Matangi Islands.
On the Rotorua lakes the spawning runs have started and some good trout have been reported from Lake Okataina, but as the moon waxes cloudy nights will fish better.
The Log Pool is one spot that can fish well at night on a bright moon. Fishing with deep sinking lines from an anchored boat off the stream mouth is always popular from now on as spawning fish congregate around the small stream.
Other stream mouths which can fish well on a bright moon are the deep water rips off the drop-off at the Tauranga-Taupo and Tongariro Rivers at Lake Taupo.
The deep water is the key, and night flies with some colour like a marabou, fuzzy wuzzy or black rabbit with red or green bodies are preferred over the luminous glow-flies which work better in pitch black conditions.
Tip of the week
John Dory are occasionally hooked accidentally when fishing for snapper, but are easily targeted and when converted to fillets in the frying pan are one of the most delicate of fish. As they prey on small live fish they will fall for imitations like soft baits and jigs, but a live jack mackerel is irresistible.
The bait can be dropped with a heavy sinker on the bottom of the trace and a hook on a short dropper about 50cm above the sinker. A live sprat or cockabully fished off a wharf will also attract any dory in the vicinity. The key is to use a hook to match the size of the bait fish — too large a hook will kill the bait. More fishing action can be found at GTTackle.co.nz.
Bite times are 9.40am and 10pm tomorrow and 10.25am and 11pm on Sunday.