An unusual feature of the fishing this spring is the appearance of baby hapuku in the gulf and the Firth of Thames. The occasional one has been caught north of Gannet Rock, and in deep water off Coromandel township.

Two years ago quite a few 'puka pups as they are called were reported, something which has not been seen for many years. Hapuku are slow-growing fish and resident populations can be easily wiped out by fishing pressure, which is why they are regarded as deepwater species.

They used to be common in shallow water and would have been caught just off Rangitoto Island in pre-European times, but have long gone from the inshore coast except for isolated areas such as Fiordland and the Chatham Islands where school groper — as they are known locally — of 10-15kg can still be easily caught in water as shallow as 10 metres.

Those seeking trophy hapuku or their close relative, bass, have to travel to the Three Kings Islands or Ranfurly Banks for a chance of hooking monsters of 60kg or more. They will grow to 100kg, but when you consider that these magnificent fish grow at about a kilo a year then you think twice about knocking an 85kg specimen on the head.

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In the top half of the North Island the daily limit on hapuku is five fish, and there is no minimum size limit. A close relative, the spotted black groper, is protected and may not be taken.

One of the keys to fishing for hapuku, whether using bait or jigs, is to have reels spooled with braid line.

Gelspun line, also known as braid, has certainly become popular for its advantages over monofilament. Its almost zero stretch means it is exceptional at imparting movement to a fisherman's lure as the rod is twitched and shaken.

Its other main advantage is that it is extremely thin, especially when compared to the same strength mono. For example, 10kg mono is typically 0.40mm in diameter while 10kg braid is approximately 0.22mm thick, so smaller reels can be used.

Mono line has up to 20 per cent stretch, which is an advantage when playing a feisty fish.

It is more forgiving if fish want to run and the drag on the reel might be a bit too tight.

This benefit is lost when the fish is at the boat on a short line, which is why the drag should always be loosened so a fish can make a sudden run.

This applies to large game fish such as marlin, kingfish and smaller fish on light tackle like trout or kahawai. In fact, more fish are lost at the boat by breaking the line or tearing out the hook when inexperience is involved than at any other time.

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Surf fisherman who have to contend with the frustrations of strong currents tugging at their line, dampening bites of fish and threatening to pull their sinker back into shore, can overcome or lessen these obstacles with thin diameter braid. Since you can fit more braid on to a reel, it also aids casting, particularly on fixed spool reels.

Soft bait rigs always employ braid line, but some anglers have taken to using these light rigs for casting light baits in shallow water with great success.

For the land-based fisherman who target kingfish on a regular basis, an overhead game reel with 24kg mono is a fairly standard outfit but a quality fixed spool (or spin) reel spooled with 24kg braid is another option, and it is far easier casting out live baits with this type of reel.

The biggest problem with fixed spool reels and big fish, be they kings or snapper, is the quality of the drag, gears and shaft of a regular saltwater eggbeater reel. Most reels made to carry 10kg line will not handle the abuse of 8kg of drag pressure shaking through its fittings.

Cheap reels just won't cut it, and a budget approach will only end in tears.

For anglers fishing for big snapper in rough rocky country where the fish has the advantage, heavy braid can mean you have a better chance of securing a feed as you can apply enough pressure to stop the fish.

Manufacturers have realised this and there are more reels available which are able to withstand this kind of power.

The high end reels (with high end price tags) that are most well known are the Shimano Stella and Daiwa Saltiga. These are designed to handle powerful giant trevally in the tropics.

Fresh water
Fish and Game operated the trap on the Ngongotaha Stream for four nights in November, and recorded 31 rainbow and 75 brown trout which left Lake Rotorua to escape warming lake water.

The normal trigger influencing these runs up cool tributaries is when surface temperatures in the lake reach 19C, and on November 16 the top five metres of water in the lake was bordering on 19C.

The rainbows recorded averaged 47cm in length and 1.42kg. The browns averaged 58cm and 2.79kg, with four fish over 4kg.

The heaviest brown trout was a male, 71cm and 5.15kg.

Tip of the week

When using braid line whether with baits or lures, it is common to add a short length of heavy monofilament on the end which acts as a sort of shock absorber. It is usually
spliced on to the braid so the knot will run smoothly through the rod guides.

Bite times
Bite times are 7am and 7.25pm tomorrow and 7.45am and 8.05pm on Sunday. More fishing action can be found at GTTackle.co.nz