Snapper fishing off the coast is still very productive with good catches coming from 10 to 30m with fish in their absolute prime. Torpedo fishermen are doing very well and traditionally April through to July or even August can yield some big snapper. I know of one 9kg + snapper caught over the last couple of weeks off Karioitahi.
The cooler temperatures will bring gurnard into the harbour and now is the time to start targeting them. They will be in much better condition than the harbour gurnard caught over summer. Many people ask me what size gurnard I regard as big and to me that is 45cm or bigger. A good condition gurnard that size will easily make the 1kg mark, while a 52cm fish will get to 1.5kg. They certainly do get bigger than that too. Trevally and kahawai can be caught in reasonable numbers and while the snapper catch is falling off a little they are still well worth the effort with fish up to 55cm not uncommon and 6kg+ fish are a real possibility for the patient thinking angler. So how should you target some of these fish?
West Coast Snapper:
We use dropper or flasher rigs. Circle hooks have a reliable hook up rate providing you don’t choke the hook with bait. Hook it through once so the bait hangs down. Don’t strike the bites, just lift the rod while winding the reel and feel it all load up. I prefer to use at least a 7/0 hook. Alternatively snapper jigs of around 80g fished on 6kg braid can be very effective and that combination will be fishable even at 60m. You can even dress the jig up with a single piece of squid tentacle. If you do this and just leave your rod in the holder you will be surprised how many good fish you will pick up. This will increase your gurnard by catch too.
I’m a big fan of dropper rigs for the harbour. For snapper I use a 60lb trace with two 8/0 recurve hooks for my go to rig. Squid, Jack mackerel, mullet and kahawai are all excellent baits and I use plenty of weight to keep the sinker securely on the bottom. It is important not to strike the bites when using recurve hooks, let the rod load up then lift and wind, simple as that! In the harbour I will always fish a strayline rig too, using just enough weight to keep the bait down. Streamlining the baits so they don’t spin in the current is essential for success regardless of the rig you use. Apart from the location, this is the most important thing to be aware of when the current is running. At this time of year I’ll fish shallow water on an incoming tide in the evening or deeper water on the edges of structure or channels for the smaller tides. Berley is helpful but it must be on the bottom.
I use light tackle with a 20lb trace. I tie dropper rigs so the bottom hook will sit on the sea floor when the line is taut and the second hook will be approx 400 to 500mm above the first. I use a 4/0 recurve hook as they are much easier to set into a gurnards bony mouth on light gear. Again, do not strike the bites, instead after the 3 rd or 4 th nod of the rod tip, lift and wind. I also use a strayline for gurnard using a small sinker right down onto the hook which will be tied onto a light trace. I fish dropper rigs directly below the boat and cast the stray lines out a little. Berley tied to a rope right down on the anchor chain really helps to up the catch rate too. Flasher rigs are probably the most productive rig but choose one with 4/0 recurve hooks with predominately pink flash, such as the Terakihi Terror, a commercially made rig that I consider the best around. I generally fish shallow, around 2m at the start of an incoming tide where a gut or small channel runs up onto the banks. The start of the outgoing tide in the same areas also works well for me. For more tips, head over to our forum.
Myself and a small team at Counties Sport Fishing Club have put together a gurnard only fishing competition which we call the Grunter Hunter. It happens on June 11 and there’s a 1 st prize of $2000. Details to follow but I can tell you that it is a $30 entry for adults and $10 for kids. It will be based at Te Toro on the western shores of the Manukau Harbour. Now in its 7th year this event gets a great turnout, we give away some amazing prizes and many have fished it every year. This year we are expecting over 300 entries. Join in the discussion here.
Don’t give up on your winter fishing, now is the best time to be on the water!