When you head out of downtown Auckland in search of snapper you have to decide whether you head down past Gannet Island and into the Firth of Thames, or straight out towards the end of Coromandel Peninsula or north towards Tiritiri Matangi and Kawau Islands.
But it was no surprise when skipper Lenny Rameka pointed the stubby bow of the charter vessel SeaHawk towards Tiri. It was a beautiful morning on Wednesday and the sea was more like a lake than the ocean. "You know how to pick your days," he commented.
At this time of year he usually works the water around 30 metres deep between Tiri and Kawau. For the snapper are congregating in schools prior to spawning, and are moving down the coast from north of Kawau.
When you are out every day you know where the fish are, and he had yesterday's mark as his pointer on the GPS, but just past Tiri a mass or orange and blue marks lit up the screen, and after circling around he had worked out the drift and sent the anchor to the sea bed 32 metres below.
Ali Williams had invited a bunch of business associates, along with old rugby league mate Awen Guttenbeil, for a day's fishing and the 20 anglers couldn't wait to get baits in the water.
But first Rameka gave his sermon on how to slide the point of the 5/0 circle hooks on his hand-tied ledger traces under the backbone of a chunk of pilchard, flick the wire over on the fixed spool reels and let the 8oz sinker (funny how sinkers are still referred to in ounces) pull out the line.
"Keep your finger on the rim of the spool, then when it stops flick the wire back over. Lift the rod to pull the sinker out of the mud, lower it slowly, then wait," he pointed out.
When a keen bloke felt a nibble and jerked the rod he was roundly scolded. "Don't jerk the rod. Just leave it. The fish will hook themselves, and when it goes tight just wind. There is no need to strike with the rod."
Rameka loves fishing with the ladies on the boat for they do as they are told; not like blokes who think they know how to fish.
And it was the three girls who showed up the boys, struggling with bending rods as they hauled up snapper — and some big snapper.
There was a huge smile when one young lady lifted a six-kilo fish. "My first snapper!"
But the fishing was not hard and fast enough for this skipper and it was only on the third spot that he was satisfied, and after two hours of fishing everyone had three or four fish on ice.
If an angler is struggling to hook keeper-sized fish Rameka will pull out one of his special tricks. He carefully slices off the head of a pilchard and then removes the tail section, leaving the body with the stomach intact.
For it is the bloody mess of guts that the snapper love, and when this body section is hooked through the middle and dropped to the bottom it will invariably hook bigger fish — provided you don't pull the bait away from the quarry when a bite is felt.
After a barbecue lunch of venison sausages and chops, the catamaran headed back towards Westhaven and the fish were weighed for the group's sweepstake.
One young lady took the bundle of cash with a 7kg snapper, but there were several other fish over 5kg, and it looks as if the snapper congregating in these waters and moving south to spawn are still a fortnight away from laying their eggs.
The roe in the females is still not fully developed, but when it is ready and the fish are being cleaned the roes will finish up in the smoke-house. At over $70 a kilo in the shops, smoked roe is highly valued by the charter crews.
As for Williams and Guttenbeil, they caught some good fish, with Guttenbeil boating one which needed the net — but they were not in the money. They left that privilege for the ladies.
Tip of the week
A useful measure for fish can be made by marking the butt section of a rod, like a ruler, starting at the bottom. A marker pen will leave clear marks on the rod above the foregrip. Or, do when Lenny Rameka has done on SeaHawk and all his bait boards are exactly 30cm from top to bottom — easy to check a snapper.
More fishing action can be found at GTTackle.co.nz.
• Bite times
Bite times are 8.25am and 8.45pm tomorrow and 9.10am and 9.30 pm on Sunday.