Having been forced out onto the inner harbour a few times in the last week or so, it has been interesting to see the changes that have taken place.
All be it that the season is late, a pattern is starting to emerge especially from Rakino up to the harbour bridge and beyond. During the day the snapper are in very small schools and well spread out, but as the sun goes down from around 5pm the snapper form up into larger schools. I suspect that over the tide run at night they then move further up the channels and up towards the harbour bridge.
This makes targeting a few snapper a bit of a mission at times unless you have the time to head out into 30 meters, so it’s either drifting and jigging/soft baiting to cover the ground or anchor up and sit the one spot and strayline for a few hours.
It is interesting when talking to those who have tried one or the other and overall, the jury is still out as to which is the best option but I will say that someone who is very well known as a top soft baiter anchored alongside me and still struggled to catch a legal fish. Everyone, no matter where or how they are fishin,g are reporting the fish are very soft on the bite.
Most of the snapper I have been catching still have roe and are quite thin and slaby which tells me they are just not eating (I also check out the gut cavity to see how much and what they have been eating) as they would if they had spawned hence they are not competing with other snapper for food. There's not much we can do about that but to think as to how and what they are eating.
The guts even though largely empty show sign of crabs and worms and when you think how they would pull up or pick at these it would not be in a hugely aggressive manner. When bait fishing, one needs to be aware that small picks and bites at your bait need not mean they are just small fish. Fresh caught baitfish are by far getting the best hook up rate as they are tougher and last longer with often the snapper just picking and chewing all the flesh and then sucking down the head which sadly has resulted in a number of gut hooked fish.
With the likes of pilchards again I butterfly them but really have to focus as to when to strike as they are a lot softer. Bonito belly flaps are the next best thing being tough and I use them in one or two ways. One being cut into a thin strip to give the appearance of a worm or on a “lazy line” set well astern of the boat or several pieces rigged as one big bait to allow for all the picking with the hope a big fish will pick it up.
I have found the strike to be critical to set the hook as most fish are only just holding the bait in their mouths and any slack in the line they just drop it. Strike hard and just before the rod tip comes to the vertical, start winding. By constant winding before and after the strike it takes out any belly as well as line stretch. From the moment you strike watch the rod tip, as often what I thought was a small fish has turned out to be a hell of a lot bigger than predicted and when landed the hook has simply dropped out into the landing net. Any slack in the line at the time of the strike and the hook would have done the same thing.
The one area I am finding to be holding an increasing number of snapper and kingfish is the area on the northern side of Rangitoto between Rangitoto and Motutapu known as Gardner’s Gap, note the two old disused cables and where they turn and run back to the south. It is from the cables south where a lot of fish are showing all be it they can be quite spread out but well worth a shot. Administration bay has a few very small rocks and low foul around the 12-14m mark which have not failed me by consistently holding a few fish.