It has been a long time coming but finally the anchovy schools have made their way into the inner gulf bringing with them lots of kahawai, kingfish and best of all, a heap of snapper.
For the last few weeks the smallish schools of anchovies have been gathering in the Northern side of Rangitoto and strangely this year the schools have been hugging the shoreline with little bird activity above them.
Due to the lack of birds and being so close to shore you have to know what you are looking for as the early schools have been moving more quickly than normal. The best thing to do is focus on any patch of water that appears darker and see if it moves, and run over the area in a zig zag pattern to see what fish are on or above the bottom.
Noting a vast increase in the numbers of birds, I went out Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and researched the Rangitoto Channel area, some may see this as excessive but honestly, I needed to see for myself the way the snapper were feeding and their movements.
Either side of the main shipping channel the bottom is fairly shallow but when looking at your chart plotter you will see how the contour lines shape the bottom from the side of the channel to where they come up onto a constant flat bottom, think of it like a river bed and up from the river banks are flat paddocks where the cattle roam about grazing.
Once up on the flat sandy/muddy bottom the snapper spread out and just graze (open up the gut cavity to see and smell the shellfish) hard on the bottom. As the water is quite shallow, they can be hard to pick up on the sounder unless you really know what you are looking at.
The actual footprint ie, the area of the bottom showing on your screen in 12m or less is quite small so to get a good overall idea of number and where the fish are you must have a good look around rather than dropping the anchor on the first fish you see.
I will always run a zig zag coarse across and into the tide as this allows me to build up a better picture of what their movements are.
A good sounder/chart plotter is more than useful, my Furuno TZ touch not only will show the size of the fish that go directly between the beam but also puts them on the chart so at a glance I can see where the fish are and anything such as a contour line or foul. Fifty plus years spent on the water learning is now at the finger-tips of everyone one.
Snapper, just like cattle, are always moving as they feed so don't expect the fish to be in the same spot as they were a day or week ago. Post-spawning snapper go on a big feeding mission to put body fat back on for the colder winter months and will move into areas that are rich with food. Because they need to put on condition you will find a lot of fish in area rich with food and low current as they try and conserve as much energy as possible.
Once you have found the fish drop a burly bomb down 'till it is about a metre above the bottom and every 10-15 minutes toss out a hand full of ground bait as this in time will draw a lot more fish back towards your boat.
A simple stray line rig is the most effective way to target the snapper in the shallows - simply have the sinker sitting on top of the hook – no trace!
Use the smallest weight you can to get your bait to the bottom and ensure that you cast the bait as far back behind the boat as possible. Once the bait hits the water slowly let line off the spool till it hits the bottom, this keeps the bait and sinker together allowing you to detect the smallest of bites.
With the bait sitting on the bottom well astern of the boat keep the tip of the rod down and pointing in the same direction as it enters the water, this minimises windage but it allows you to see and feel when the bait is been taken.
Snapper in shallow water are not competing with each other for food as they do when in strong currents and they are simply picking up and crushing shellfish so small bites may not mean they are small fish.
With the rod tip down the line over your finger you will see and feel when a fish is mouthing the bait and now you can lift the rod tip a faction and feel the weight of the fish, strike the fish hard [to take out the line stretch] and keep the rod tip high and quickly wind to stop the hook being thrown as most fish are only just lip hooked.
Well team I reckon you have about a month to get out there and do it before these fish start to make their way back out but "PLEASE" just take a feed do not be tempted to max out the limit just so you can brag back at the ramp.