With water temperatures dropping as we move into winter, the fish are in transition mode.
Here is a tip for those keen enough to get up at the crack of dawn for a fishing fix over the winter. Nothing is going to slow you down more than climbing out of a warm bed and getting into cold clothes. The night before, after your partner is in bed, take their damp towel off the heated towel rail and wrap your fishing clothes around the bars, finishing off with your shoes on top. Come the crack of dawn, all the gear is toasty warm but don't get busted by forgetting to put the towel back on the rail before you bail out of the house!
Looking closely at my Furuno TZ touch chart plottersounder while cruising through the Rangitoto and Motuihe Channels I have noted there are still reasonable numbers of snapper out on the open sand. This is good news for those wanting to toss soft-baits [the smaller sizes are best at this time], or set a longline without having to go too far from home. The various bits of reef and isolated rocks are also showing a bit of sign as some fish are making these areas their winter residences. I generally I will leave these spots until later in the winter.
Out in open areas such as the worm beds, the odd work-up can still be encountered, but the snapper are mostly hard on the bottom and well spread out. Over winter, snapper tend to eat less, just picking at food when they feel the urge. so berley is a must to draw them towards your baits and get them on the bite.
I find smaller baits to be more effective, as snapper tend to be less aggressive biters in winter and often pick up and chew a bait as they would prey items like snails, worms or shellfish. Make sure you cover your bases when it comes to different types of bait. I always have skipjack belly strips [which are very oily and stay on the hook well], squid and pilchards. Set out a pattern of different types of bait rather than have everyone using the same type, as one will generally produce better on any given day and don't forget to try and catch fresh bait when you can. I went out a few days ago and for once the tide and moon phase were in my favour. However, there was a frost and no wind, and experience told me that in those conditions it would be a hard day's fishing. My best bet was to find some low foul in about 15m and strayline back onto it.
The trick here is to position the boat so when a bait is cast back and allowed to slowly sink, it will be just on the edge of the foul. The berley is lowered until it is around 2m off the bottom, allowing it to spread across the whole area and onto the surrounding sand. With a very lightly weighted [use ¼oz sinkers] bait, I cast it back then allow the weight of the sinker to sink the bait slowly to the bottom. With the line over your finger you are in direct touch with the bait and will feel even the smallest of bites. On cold, calm winter days, snapper mostly pick up and mouth the bait.
By being in direct touch with it, you can feel exactly what's going on. Small bites are not always from small fish and when I feel a bit of weight come on the line, I strike hard and wind down to set the hook. On the day just mentioned, it took me a few hours but persistence paid, and I got the fish I needed although, even at the peak of the bite-time, there was no improvement to the way the fish were feeding.
However, if this is the start of winter-fishing proper, bring on the windless calm days they are challenging, and a test of your skills.