At this time of year there are two approaches to targeting our favourite fish in the North Island, the snapper.

You either head out wide when the weather is fine and look for work-ups, signalled by birds wheeling and diving, and drop jigs and lures; or park the boat where the current is flowing on to a reef or a rocky point or weed beds; all of which will hold fish.

But when bait fishing the fish do need an invitation.

Cool winter temperatures affect all wildlife, and fish do not feed as often or as much as at other times of the year. In cold water their metabolism slows down, so they need to be encouraged and berley is the answer.


Berley is the minced and mashed soup mixture which can contain anything from waste fish frames and guts, to old bait, to grain pellets for bulk combined with fish oil.

Some people like to make their own berleys, revelling in the smelly mulch which oozes from an old hand-operated mincer or an electric waste disposal unit that is past its days in the kitchen and has found a new home on a bench in the backyard.

It is a bit like making your own trout flies — the idea of coming up with a secret recipe that will work like dynamite on the fish that nobody else knows about is part of the allure.

Others are content with commercially produced berleys, and these can range from shellfish-based concoctions to those using salmon or pilchards or bonito.

All will work.

But like all fishing; where the berley or the trout fly is presented in the piscatorial domain is as important as the recipe.

Presentation is key, and on the salt it is a question of local knowledge. Many experienced anglers are happy to share their secrets — to a certain degree — and good spots can also be located by checking out potential country at low tide when rocks, channels, weed beds and structure which attracts fish are easily observed.

The key is to keep a berley sending out the "come here" message in an unbroken stream.

It serves the same purpose as the delightful smells wafting from a coffee shop. It gets the attention of the customers. But you don't want to actually feed them. So if the bites stop it usually means the berley bag is empty and needs replacing.

In deep water, the berley bag can be attached to the anchor rope, just ahead of the chain so it is slightly elevated above the bottom. The problem can be replacing the berley bomb as a lot of rope may be needed, and there is nothing more troublesome than having coils of light rope all over the deck while hauling it in to check and replace the bomb.

One smart solution is to use an electric fence winch like those employed with long-lines.

It can be fitted with a pole to sit in a rod-holder and heavy monofilament with a weight on the end will have less drag in the current than rope.

Replacing berley bombs is easy. Simply use a cable tie to attach a fresh berley to the line, add a small weight, and it will drop down to the bottom. No need to wind it up each time.

The other trick is to secure the berley line somewhere up near the bow of the boat so it does not tangle the fishing lines.

Heavy berley pots made from galvanised iron rings and mesh are popular, and there is a model which collapses so it takes up less room when not in use.

In strong currents or deep water extra weight can be added by putting a rock in the bottom of the pot.

Some successful anglers will thaw out a couple of berley bags overnight so it disperses quickly to get things going, and when straylining will have a berley on each corner of the stern, just under the surface.

A heave on the rope every now and then will add a good burst of berley to the current.

Berley can be supplemented with ground bait, which is small chunks of bait like chopped pilchards which are thrown out regularly into the fishing zone. This is particularly effective when fishing shallow water with floating baits.

The scallop season opens on Sunday in the central North Island and northern parts of the South Island.

A new moon today will mean dark nights, which are ideal for fly fishing stream mouths on the Rotorua and Taupo lakes.

Tip of the week

When setting berley one trick is to arrive at the fishing spot at dead low tide and drop a berley bag to the bottom then jerk the rope up and down to disperse the contents. This cloud of fragrant fish-attractant will settle on the sea bed and when the tide starts flowing it will be pushed along the bottom, sending a signal to any fish in the area. More fishing action can be found at

Bite times
Bite times are 1am and 1.30pm tomorrow and 2am and 2.30pm on Sunday.