Every man and his dog have been going past me heading over the horizon chasing work-ups, now call me a cheap and lazy or even a Luddite but I don't see the point in burning a heap of fuel while running over good fish marks.
One disturbing thing about the good fishing at the moment is the number of big breeding fish being brought back to the ramp.
The issue is that these snapper are in spawning mode, so every fish taken is one that will not get to spawn. When we get a weather window, such as we have at the moment the fishery is getting hammered. Many will be releasing the smaller fish to get a limit of bigger specimens but.what is the mortality rate of those fish that are released? Take what you need and minimise wastage.
On to what's happening in the Gulf. The first schools of small spring kahawai as well as some early anchovies, unless you are towing a very small white lure, you are wasting time trying to catch them.
Experience has shown me over the years to look at the mutton ducks to see how they are behaving, if they are smashing up the surface then suddenly move a few hundred meters then off again it indicates very small kahawai and the only way I have every caught these for bait is by trolling a tiny white or clear lure. As these schools are moving about so quickly run the lure well out the back and just do a slow toro in the general area hoping that no one is going to charge into a work up and cut you off.
In the last few weeks I have been working the wind and tide and fishing the worm beds with good results but there is a bit of a trick to it. Firstly you must have the wind and tide going in the same direction as trying to fish with bait under or out the side of the boat is just a too hard and you don't get a good hook up rate with a boat rolling around creating a belly in the line.
Once well clear of A buoy, I head towards Tiri at around five knots zig-zagging every hundred meters or so to get a clear picture in my mind as to where and how the fish are laying on the bottom. If you are fortunate to have a Furuno sounder like I do, snapper show as tiny wee blue dots or as fish symbols when using ACCU Fish, remember that this is a large flat featureless bottom so the fish will be spread right across the bottom like cows in paddock more than a big school of fish, hence I get a mental picture and feel for the way they will move with the tide before I drop the anchor.
Drop the burly till it hits the bottom then lift it up a meter, toss a handful of ground bait over but remember unless the tide is at its peak keep up the ground bait and shaking of the burly.
As the snapper are not competing for food as they are in the channels or under the workups they are slowly grazing the bottom feeding on worms crabs and small shellfish and not that aggressive on the bite. So it's not necessarily just small fish that are have nibbled those munted baits, it's just the way the fish are feeding.
Until the burly trail has had an effect in drawing more fish to the boat where they will become competitive, try using a more solid bait that hangs on such as mullet or kahawai or best of all drop a string of bait fly's half way down but not close to be bottom as you will end up catching baby snapper.
Don't whack on a bloody big sinker and fish directly below the boat, use only just enough weight to take the bait to the bottom and toss it well astern and let line off the spool till it slowly sinks down to the bottom. Small snapper will tend to leave fresh baitfish cut in half or butterflied alone whereas bigger fish will pick it up and munch it.You can tell this is happening by the straightening of the line.
It is not often you get big hits so you need to really focus on the bite. When you see and feel the line straighten out, lift the rod tip and you will often actually feel the fish mouthing the bait. The good thing by fishing this way is that very few fish are gut hooked (I use either 7 or 8 0/0 hooks) and those that are and need to be released have a far greater chance of survival in shallow water as they're not subjected to the barotrauma that snapper pulled from 20m or more are
Ledger rigs will be effective once the burly trail is working but by far the most effective rig is a simply stray-line rig that can be cast well back from the boat. Stagger the distance the baits are hitting the bottom especially one the tide starts to slacken off.