Drifting will be the best way to find a snapper on the Hauraki Gulf this weekend. That is when the fish start biting, and with the tide turning around the middle of the day it will be an incoming tide in the afternoon.
Usually, one tide is better than the other for the bite, but by fishing through the turn of the tide you cover both options and they often come on the bite at the end of the outgoing and the start of the incoming.
Fish always prefer a moving bait, and in strong currents the bait will move around when set on a long trace. But tides are around three metres on the Hauraki Gulf so there won't be a lot of current out wide, and fishing from a moving boat with lures or baits, or a combination, will be the smart approach.
There are concentrations of bait fish, snapper and kahawai between 40 and 45 metres in the areas which normally fish well at this time of year — between Tiritiri Matangi and Kawau Islands, east of the cable zone, about eight kilometres north-east of The Noises and in a radius of a few kilometres around Gannel Rock.
Fish are also starting to turn up on the worm beds north of Rangitoto Island, and this area will only improve as more snapper move in.
The gannets are the angler's eye in the sky, and they can often be seen travelling in one direction. Some people like to follow the birds, as at some point they will start circling, then diving into the sea.
Not all work-ups hold snapper, and often it is worth fishing in the general area rather than among the activity, unless kahawai are the favoured species as they are plentiful. But if there is no action, and sometimes it does not start up till late in the afternoon, then it is a question of looking for sign on the fish finder.
Bait schools will show up as a red mass in midwater. These will be pilchards, anchovies or mackerel and snapper will not be far away.
If using baits, a ledger or flasher rig is a better option than a long trace as you have two or three baits above a sinker and bites are easy to detect. More fish will be hooked if small baits are used, and you don't need big baits to catch big fish.
Although large baits, like a whole pilchard, will certainly attract fish they are easily stripped by smaller snapper, which are more aggressive than their bigger cousins.
Young fish live in a competitive world and the stronger, more aggressive individuals will survive. So they attack baits vigorously, while large fish are more cautious. But baits will often be snaffled by a passing kahawai before they get near the snapper and this can be frustrating. This is where the lure fishermen have an advantage, and a lot of anglers will not take bait on the boat — preferring their light casting outfits with braid line and jigs or slow jigs.
The flutter-style jigs work well and are easy to use. Simply flick the lure out ahead of the boat's drift, let it sink to the sea bed and give the rod a few quick flicks.
It is important to keep in touch with the lure as it drops by lightly applying pressure to the spool, because fish will often pick up the jig before it reaches the bottom. So if any hesitation is detected you quickly stop the line and lift the rod, then flick the reel into gear and start winding.
A hard strike is not needed, it is just a question of keeping the line tight and winding.
This applies to all fishing, whether with bait or lures.
A smooth, steady application of pressure and winding quickly will result in more hook-ups than a violent upward heave of the rod, because when the rod is lowered the fish will gain a little slack line and may escape.
When dropping the lure or baits they will sink much faster if the rod is pointed down, with the tip almost touching the water so the line is going down in a straight line.
If the rod is held at right angles to the sea, or even pointing up, the angle between rod and line slows the rate at which it runs out, defeating the purpose which is to get the business end to the bottom as fast as possible.
You are fishing more efficiently when the gear is directly below the boat, and as the boat drifts away it is lifted off the bottom — so line has to be continuously slipped out to compensate. This is easily done, keeping the reel in free-spool with a thumb on the spool ready to react when a bite is felt.
Harling proved the most successful method at the opening of the trout season on Monday, with one party putting 17 trout in the boat by 9am on Lake Tarawera.
Now that three flies can be employed, some anglers will tow three flies like smelt patterns mixed with a Red Setter. These can be rigged with the flies resting above a small swivel, or they will swim better if tied on small droppers attached to the main trace.
Lines are usually sinking fly lines, or short lengths of lead-core line on monofilament line, with a long trace. Deep trolling was also productive on the lake, with a traffic light Tasmanian devil and black toby working well.
Fishing was reported to be harder on Lakes Rotoiti and Okataina.
Bite times are 10.35am and 11pm tomorrow and 11.30am and 11.55pm on Sunday.
Tip of the week
When targeting snapper, pilchard baits are favoured because when cut into chunks the juices and guts flow out, exciting the fish. But chunks of squid can be added to one hook for variety, while strips of fresh jack mackerel or kahawai hooked through one end will attract larger fish. More fishing action can be found at GTTackle.co.nz