This is the first of a two-part article by Andy Macleod, where he first hatches a plan and then (hopefully) executes it. This issue he’s going to outline the plan and details, and then he’ll let us know the results.
Early November, traditionally a time when the surfcasting really improves in the lower North Island following the big storms and cool water temperatures of winter and early spring.
Two of the species, gurnard and blue moki, return at this time and are species I’ve written about quite a lot before. However, I hope this case study will spell out the challenges and methods for catching them even more clearly.
As gurnard and moki are quite different fish, the techniques required to catch them alter accordingly (more about that soon). Having said that, in Wellington they can be caught from the same
beaches at the same times when the conditions are right (this generally equates to clean water and a metre of swell or less). Consequently, the conditions are the all-important factor and I won’t bother heading out unless they’re present. It also means getting my gear sorted, ready to go, and trying to build some flexibility into my obligations so I can drop and run when the conditions are right.
To give myself the best shot at these species, I’ll aim to arrive on the beach in early or mid-afternoon. This way I can target gurnard in the daylight hours, when they feed most actively, and transition my efforts to moki as the sun starts to dip towards the horizon.
Over the course of the session, I’m first likely to target gurnard with two rods, switch one of the rods to targeting moki, then ultimately, as it gets dark, have both rods targeting moki.
If I have time on my side, then I will overnight at the beach and fish the morning change of light through till about 9am (which generally delivers the same sort of results as the afternoon/ evening session).
I find that gurnard bite hardest on a running tide and moki like a rising tide, close to high at dusk. So an ideal tide at this time of year would see a high tide at around 8pm. But if the weather and sea conditions are in my favour, then that is more important; I can live with a less-than-ideal tide, because experience suggests I can still expect a bite from both species over a sustained surfcasting session.
My basic setup is the same for both species – two 14’ surf rods running 8kg mainline and a 40lb (18kg) shock-leader to provide a bit of extra protection at the business end. The only components that change, according to the species targeted, are my rigs and bait – but of course the former can simply be clipped on and off.
I usually cast as far out as possible into the deepest, furthest water for gurnard, but right in close for moki. These setups give me the versatility to do both, and to change my approach on either rod at a moment’s notice.
Baits vary for the two species, too. For moki I will take a collection of paddle crab (which I catch myself using a pot at the local beach), crayfish and mussel. However,while moki will eat all these baits, they may show a preference for one over the other on any given day. Further, you might find a non-target or undesirable species is present in numbers and fatally attracted to one of these
baits. By having other options, you might be able to keep them at bay for longer.
Gurnard are much less fussy in their eating habits; I mostly use chunks of pilchard, and trevally and skipjack cut baits. Right now, I’ve still got some bait shopping to do, but still have two-dozen freshly frozen crabs, a single cray tail and bag of nicely sized (fairly small) pilchards in the freezer. Good bait is key to success.
I’ve prepared different traces for the two target species, too. Because moki are fussy biters and because I’ll be fishing for gurnard in clean water in daylight, I use either a 40lb mono trace or a 20lb fluorocarbon trace and smallish hooks (3/0 or similar). But that’s where the similarities end.
For gurnard, I’ve prepared one-hook ledger rigs, which cast well, with plenty of bright bling (fluorescent float beads etc). For moki, I have prepared two-hook ledger rigs (only short casts are necessary and two hooks mean more bait/smell in the water) with much more subtle bling – perhaps one or two small glow beads on top of each hook.
Generally speaking, I won’t take much gear with me – fishing gear or accessories – because I’ll be picking my conditions and putting in a decent six hours or so of effort before driving home. If the conditions are difficult to fish in (meaning lost gear) or cold (meaning warm clothes are required), then I’ll be fishing in conditions that don’t suit the target species and I may as well go home anyway. I enjoy this approach because packing the ‘kitchen sink’ can take some of the enjoyment out of fishing. Of course, if I’m staying overnight a slightly different approach is required. However, one thing I won’t forget to take is my chilly bin and plenty of ice. Moki and gurnard are great eating species, but still need looking after to get the best from them.
So that’s the basic plan and, apart from a few last-moment details, my gear is ready to go when the conditions present themselves. My main focus now is keeping an eye on the weather and sea outlook.
As mentioned earlier, clean water and less than a metre of swell are ideal. In the Wellington-Wairarapa area, this generally occurs after about three days of settled weather, perhaps three to four days after the last southerly change, and a day or two before the next one. If I can spot a day like that in the weather outlook, I’ll start looking closely at the predicted swell conditions for the various beaches I have in mind. If that checks out too, I’ll start warning the people who rely on me I might not be around that day!
Here’s the bit where I lay it on the line: if I can get these conditions, I’m predicting five gurnard, three moki and a healthy by-catch of kahawai and spotty sharks. It could be more (double digits are possible on both species) or it could be less (which is more common!), but those are the numbers I’m sticking with. The results will be there for all to see in the next edition, where I intend to describe what happened, what was caught, how and when.
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