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Another interesting Waitemata harbour trip

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    Posted: 01 Jan 2018 at 8:28am
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Took the family out for an early morning session in the harbour this morning. 2nd early morning session for the season. Family (wife, son, daughter) arrived at the dock around 5:20am after I got one of the boats ready earlier so we were out of the marina around 5:30. Still a bit dark when we stopped for a quick drift over some sign not far from the marina so an initial 40cm model to the wife wasn’t followed by any more until around 5:45 when we picked up a few in the 35cm size range. I think I misread the tide tables because what was meant to be the last of the incoming was definitely drifting us the wrong way.

With the tide obviously starting to flow I shot over to an area that usually works well before the tide picks up to full strength and was probably 15minutes late getting there as we were straight into fish and were pulling them in 2 or 3 at a time until the tidal flow picked up too much. We stayed there until the flow meant we were only picking up small fish from that spot and then shot across to an area just on the edge of the main current for a drift which produced 3 or 4 more fish in that 35cm – 40cm range but too many small fish as well so off to a spot that we fished in the middle of the heavy tidal flows last time we were out before Christmas.

Learning to fish the harbour has been a bit of a hobby for the past 3 years as my work makes it really easy to shoot out for a quick fish when getting away for a longer day isn’t always possible. One of the features of harbour fishing is the heavy tidal flows and for many people that means catching little or mainly small fish unless they move out of the main currents, but often these low current spots aren’t the best areas. I have gradually tweaked our rigs and techniques to make the heavy tides more fishable and that has been very productive. 

Last time we were out I told my very keen fisho 14yr old son that I had an idea for a new heavy current rig we should try out. He reminded me of that this morning so whilst we were anchored up and struggling a little in a normally productive spot I told him where the various components were in the tackle box and he assembled the ‘beta’ version of the rig. I dropped it over the side and it almost instantly bent over with a 40cm fish. Told the family what a fishing genius I was (as you do) and dropped it back in to see fish number 2 jump on a few seconds later. We had 4 rods with identical baits in the water and the new rig was 5 to 0 up on the other rods in 10 minutes. We even dropped it over on the other side of the boat etc but it was the only one catching and all fish that were slightly better than the average so far.

A passing boat throwing a big wake knocked us around and the anchor dragged which meant the new rig didn’t work (need to be anchored in a strong flow) so we picked up the anchor and re-anchored over my spot again after a failed attempt where my daughter playing skipper and son playing anchorman managed to miss the mark by a mere 250m. A bit more boat handling training and we were finally anchored back over the spot only to find that the tidal flow had started to ease and the new secret rig wasn’t catching as much as the normal rigs. Can’t say absolutely conclusively that it works yet but will certainly rig a couple of these to try in the heavy flows next time we head out. Might be another cool addition to our harbour fishing learnings.

We had headed out this morning on a mission to fill the bin so the family could do a round of some friends and elderly people my wife knows  with some fresh fish gifts. Amazing and scary how many people can’t afford fish and have no way to catch their own. Anyway we were back by 11:00 this morning with our 28 snapper. We could have probably had 40 (if limits allowed) but very quickly after realising we were in for a good day started releasing anything that was close to needing measuring. All caught on circle hooks so not a single gut hooked fish all day. Like many of these harbour trips we spent more on bait than fuel even on a 31ft 300hp boat.

Photo was taken when I remembered but after I started cleaning fish so wet hands and possibly some fish guts on the lens explain the photo quality but still a good looking bin when we probably never got more than a km or so from the marina. Average fish was around 37 - 38cm so size a little less than the last trip. Biggest around 43cm and kept a couple of early ones in the 30 - 32cm range. Bulk of the fish around 35 - 40cm but all the 'beta rig' fish 40cm+which was a little intriguing and possibly makes some sense as well.

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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote jamesd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Jan 2018 at 8:52am
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Very interesting reading. Thanks for the effort posting.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote kitno Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Jan 2018 at 9:14am
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Nice work Tagit. I like those short trips that produce a good catch, especially when others at the ramp have traveled off the horizon for bugger all.
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Learning to fish the harbour has been a bit of a hobby for the past 3 years as my work makes it really easy ......

 And thats the big 'secret ' consistent successful fishing...every trip out....  effort with the homework.
 Mark Twain " luck is directly proportional to the effort put in"
 Get to know a area, in different tides, and seasons.

 I dont see this as a post on how well the fishing was, but more important, a lesson on how to fish well, which includes thinking about what your line and bait/ lure) is doing in what sort of current.
Have spent 2 or 3 yrs playing with straylines....in the last 3 trips out in last couple weeks, made tweaks, now get hit far more, even when bait has gone... but tending to drop more 1/2 of the way up.. still got to figure out the why on that... even so still more in the bin and more larger fish.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Tagit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Jan 2018 at 10:11am
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The only downside to harbour fishing with bait at the moment is that it is quantity over size. Haven't seen anything over 50cm yet this season although we might fit in some lure fishing next trip and see whether that helps with the sizes after we have already put a few in the bin. Last season we caught a lot of fish in that 50 - 60cm range in the harbour but much later in the season which is quite early this year.

After chatting with the son we are going to try another new experimental rig next trip. He has become a budding inventor after watching what happened on yesterdays trip. Adds a whole new layer of interest to the trip trialing new ideas
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote smudge Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Jan 2018 at 10:24am
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Nice work Tagit. We made a rig once that was very effective in the big tides in the Manukau. It was a 60lb trace with a dropper loop for the sinker. From there it was simply a 600mm length to a single 8/0 recurve hook. It is my opinion that it worked well because it stopped the bait from spinning. Arron caught his biggest harbour snapper on that at around 18lb


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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Tagit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Jan 2018 at 11:03am
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I think cracking the big tides is a key ingredient to fishing all our Auckland area harbours Smudge. Once you get that sorted it is amazing how an area that you think is full of only small fish (or nothing) can start producing decent fish. 

I have a favourite spot at Kauri Point in the upper Waitemata that is easy to fish and reasonably productive around slack water or in low flow periods. I have shared it with lots of my Dreamboats clients and lots of friends so even though it is a very small specific spot it now often has boats on it when I go up there. I guess a mix of people I know or their friends and plenty of others that are a little extra observant as well. 

What is great though is that once the tide starts to rip everyone moves out because ' the fish are gone'. That's when I can move in and get the best fishing on that spot with one specific (pretty crazy) combination of line, rig, and technique. One visit last season we moved in after everyone had pulled out to lower tide flow areas and my son and I nabbed a dozen snapper between 40 and 50cm in an hour fishing the high flow. Bottom line is that the fish don't always move away from the area but you need to consistently get the bait in front of them.

Another interesting thing about yesterdays trip was that our last (and best) stop was on a spot that I marked a couple of years back because I spotted fish on it and caught a few. It is just a spot not far from the marina in the middle of nowhere. Nothing observable on the bottom. For no particular reason I always stop on that spot when fishing that area. Yesterday when we dragged anchor off the spot the fish size and activity instantly dropped. When the kids got us re-anchored in the wrong spot, same again. When we re-anchored again over the spot we were straight into better fish again. I assume there is a shellfish bed or similar there but funny to think that there is such specific little spots in the middle of flat muddy high tide areas in the harbour. There were a couple of small boats anchored not far from us and I don't think they landed more than a couple of legal fish in the time it took us to grab half a bin full. 

Top tip if anyone is heading out today is try a drift from outside the end of the the Hilton hotel wharf to the marina breakwater (or vice versa on the outgoing tide). Make sure to observe and keep clear of the port security area though (http://temp.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/licencesregulations/maritimeregulations/Documents/aucklandharbourrestrictedareas.pdf). Pilchards worked best for us if bait fishing 
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Snappa Geoff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Jan 2018 at 11:22am
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Great info for others as always Tagit, nice eating Snaps.Beer
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Fish 4T Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Jan 2018 at 6:32pm
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Thank you for sharing Tagit and very helpful post.
I live in Birkenhead but have given up fish at Waitemata harbour some time ago due to exact reason as you mentioned.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Tagit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Jan 2018 at 6:53pm
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Fish 4T - I lived in Birkenhead for quite a few years and used to launch my 10fter at Island Bay for evening fishing. Always caught something using 'traditional' rigs etc but never catches like we get now. I think the harbour is possibly fishing a little better than it did back then but mainly I think it is about just putting more thought into what we are doing.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote letsgetem Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jan 2018 at 9:38am
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Im interested in this - the fact that snapper seem to stop being caught when the current becomes strong. Why is this? Do they move away, and/or are they still there but for some reason not being caught?
 
Tagit suggests they are still there, and not taking the bait for some reason(s).
 
In depth up to about 20m, Ive been using the usual rig with sinker on the main line above the swivel, and a trace about 70cm with hook/bait on the end. In strong current the bait does tend to tangle around the trace and line; which I presume is due to the bait/trace spinning in the current. I think Ill try Smudges suggestion of a sinker on a dropper to the side of the trace, and see if that stops the spinning.
 
Another possibility could be - simply not enough sinker weight to get the bait down far enough plus reduce its side to side movement (that might upset fish?).
 
Interesting topic, hope more fishers comment.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Tagit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jan 2018 at 10:15am
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If you observe what is happening Letsgetem you see that the boats drifting can often catch fish even in the heavier currents. You can get to the bottom and hold the bottom when drifting with less weight than you can when anchored. The fish are obviously still there in some places. I have observed that some places in the harbour seem to hold good fish right through all the tides whilst others (for me at least) only fish well for a certain period of the tide. This may still be an issue with how I am fishing though. That is still a WIP for me.

For a couple of years I had a favourite low tide spot not far from the marina. I would shoot out there and only fish for maybe 1.5 - 2 hours when there was a low tide after work. Always end up with maybe 3 to 5 Snapper very quickly. Late last season I decided to try it in the peak tide flow using a different technique and rig that I was using at another spot which has huge tide flows. All of a sudden it is now my 'new' heavy current spot as well as it seems to produce even more and probably slightly bigger fish with the tide at full flow. So other than completely slack water when the larger fish don't seem to feed as actively I think this spot is productive right through both tides. I don't think that these observations are harbour specific either. 
I did a trip with a friend last year  where we were struggling and there was very poor tide flows so I went to where I knew there would be current (around Crusoe in the channel). The tide was still not in full flood so we caught a few fish pretty quickly but then it got too strong and we were only getting a few undersized fish. I re-rigged to a heavy current setup and was straight into some pretty decent fish. When I had gone 5 nil on my mate he finally re-rigged his gear and got into them as well. There is a prevailing wisdom that you only fish the minimum weight sinker you can get away with and for lots of fishing that is very true I believe. When I believe it isn't true is when you are in heavy currents and not necessarily in good control of your bottom contact. No good making beautiful lightly weighted bait presentations 5m above where the fish are when they don't want to waste energy leaving the low current layer hard on the bottom.

I used to be a pretty committed 'drifter' but it is much more comfortable being anchored so if I can get the same results at anchor by reviewing how I am fishing than that works for me. Drifting in traffic can also be a bit stressful in all but small boats so quite happy not to be worrying about other boats every few minutes either.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote letsgetem Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jan 2018 at 10:33am
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Right. I also believe that the current is lowest on the bottom, and fish probably prefer to stay down there rather than waste energy rising. So, getting the bait right to the bottom should be important.
And, I have wondered about the old maxim, use the minimum weight sinker to stay near the bottom. More weight could be better, to make sure.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Steps Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jan 2018 at 2:49pm
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All very similar in principle to Smudge and Tagit above

If you observe what is happening Letsgetem you see that the boats drifting can often catch fish even in the heavier currents.

 We very rarely anchor (or use the chute).. so often drift thru a fleet of boats, be it a channel or reef. Gets a bit embarrassing getting good hook ups as go thru..not an uncommon event.


Ive been using the usual rig with sinker on the main line above the swivel, and a trace about 70cm with hook/bait on the end.

We primary stray line with a couple SB/ lures out  1/2 heartedly to say the least. My Stray line rigging goes back to old school fishing with the old man in late 50s and 60s.
Mainline to swivel/ clip.  trace and  reef sinker on the clip.. trace around 700mm/ 1m .. long enough for rod in holder and reach bait board to re bait.  2  fixed hooks top 4 or 5/0, bottom 5 to 7/0
 Sinker just enough to hit the bottom at slight angle  then bounce it slowly out the back.
 When (rather if) at anchor , do the same just need more weight.

In strong current the bait does tend to tangle around the trace and line; which I presume is due to the bait/trace spinning in the current. 

You will find if twists up a then look at how you cut the bait, its shape and how hung on the hooks. lets say the top of the strip bait is above the sinker.. not 1/2 hitched back.. that flap will act like a propeller on an aero plane.. at best simply spin in the current.. at worst spin like a propeller in large circles... very hard moving target for a fish in current to even bother about.
 As you put a bait on, think about it, imagine what will happen in the water current, and if you where a fish...

 
And as current changes with reef sinker separate to the trace, quick change is easy.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote brmbrm Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jan 2018 at 6:52am
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i fish only lures - I find the opposite: bad fishing slack water - needs the tide running. But of course when drifting the lures can get down to the bottom easily and you are always in touch with them
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote MightyBoosh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jan 2018 at 7:32am
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yep, slack is often the kiss of death for my jigging antics. time for a sandwich and a drink!
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote The Tamure Kid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jan 2018 at 9:12am
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Very interesting Tagit. Thanks for posting such a detailed report.

Would there be merit in trying a rig of:

+ light braid with FG or other slim knot joining to a length of strong mono
+ surfcasting style pronged BOS sinker running down the main line above a heavy swivel
+ trace with two looped droppers to baited hooks (slim strips of whatever fresh bait is best in the area)
+ small thin profile sinker at the end of the trace to encourage the trace to sit on the bottom (attached with a loop or swivel clip).

Or reverse of the above, with BOS sinker at the end of the trace?


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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Tagit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jan 2018 at 9:14am
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We shot out on Sunday for a quick look to see what the storm had done to the harbour fishing. Water was filthy and we got weeded out of one spot. As soon as your line hit the bottom the baits were getting covered in weed. Not even a bite after 30 mins of constantly clearing weed so gave up and came in. Saw a massive log floating down the harbour that is apparently still doing circles down around the Devonport moorings somewhere so watch out for it.
Only had 2 stops and fished for around 3 hours over the high tide period to end up with 7 snapper and a shark for the boat so pretty tough going compared to recent trips. Size wide though the snapper were all pretty good. One around 33cm, one around 35cm and the rest 40 to 46cm. The 46cm fish was the biggest from the harbour so far this season for us. First shark I remember catching in the harbour for quite a long time. I suspect with the poor viz the sharks enhanced sense of smell might have let it find the bait before the snapper did for a change.
Will let the harbour settle down and clean up a bit before going out again.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Redfinger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jan 2018 at 12:40pm
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Much better than us Tagit - probably better now after a few more flushes of sea water getting rid of the soup?
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Tagit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jan 2018 at 2:04pm
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All our fish pretty much came in a very short rush just before high tide. I was expecting more action after the tide turned but from memory only 1 more fish and then lots of baby nibbles as the tide picked up which is typical in that spot for me, except you normally get a good bite before the tide starts to really get going. That's when we shifted to spot 2 and got weeded out. Huge amounts of brown water and weed so I think any sort of lure fishing would have been pretty challenging. We had a few boats drifting around us with lures and never saw anyone catch anything when I was looking whereas there is normally pretty regular action at the moment.

Interesting thing was that when the tide was still going quite hard an hour or so before high the first 3 fish on the boat all came in on one of these funny rigs I have been playing with in the heavy currents. I had put that on a mates rod so tied up a 2nd similar but slightly different one for myself and that caught the largest fish for the day. Need to do a bit more testing to be sure but starting to think that maybe these rigs might be working a little better than our more normal ones.
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