Back to Basics
Lost and Found
Is it just me or is there a distinct lack of pilchard schools around the Hauraki Gulf this year?
Reading through previous year’s reports I seem to recall many more (and larger) bait schools providing much needed food for the big chain than during the winter currently being inflicted upon us. Perhaps this is why there have been fewer workups in the gulf post winter solstice?
Dolphins having the same body temp as we do must feed near-daily, or they die from hypothermia just like we would out there, let’s hope the dolphins have secured their own ‘private bin’ of pilchards to help them wrap up warm for winter. The ever hopeful gannets are spreading their wings and travelling many miles daily, relying on dropping in on smaller bait schools far apart with very short/sharp feeding i.e. few if any snapper are congregating underneath.
There are plenty of small mackerel around the place though, so dropping the sabikis over the side will usually turn up a heap of these light 'n tasty live bait – or keep free-flow frozen in a zip loc bag for later bait sessions.
Whale of a time
The Brydes whales have been putting on a consistent show in the gulf lately from Waiheke to Channel Island – crashing the sea surface with their heads and fins (you won’t see them lift their tail out of the water, not their style). Entrancing sights and sounds virtually daily - always an amazing experience, especially for those who didn’t know we have such marine wonderland right on our back doorstep. With surface feeding kahawai schools and eruptions of whales and spouts every now and then, even the slowest of fishing days has some wonderful memory makers.
With hibernation mode double clicked by all and sundry, it can be tough to get a good bite going right now, hey it is winter after all. Lately the best techniques seem to involve smaller, tasty tidbits whether inshore or trying your luck out deeper. From sabiki bait catchers landing good sized snapper through to tiny Gulp grub-tail soft baits and small (<60gm) little fluttering jigs...the smaller and easier to bite at the better. What the fish will bite in these cautious times is anyone’s guess, so taking a variety of weaponry is the best plan man.
To get us humans out of bed on a cold and wet Monday morning can take a bit of coaxing, just like the fish. To get fish to feed they’ve got to be sparked up first. That’s our job to spark ‘em up, and then they will slowly but surely come aboard. Hunt down a workup (best of luck with that but it’s still possible) or a better bet – nestle into a shallow reefy area with lots of oily burley flowing back into underwater crevices... don’t go far or you’re driving straight past the snapper, all island shorelines are worth close inspection, be cheeky in your approach and try often overlooked places because we do tend to head for the horizon.
Many more success stories are being told from those who’re lining the planets up before they go fishing, basically whenever and wherever you can have your burley flowing back from the stern into a reefy/rocky shoreline for an hour or three, tide and wind lined up in the same direction, maybe even timed around a change of light or a moon bite time...whammo – the snapper arrive as if by magic and some very good specimens are being caught.
Out in the wider reaches of the gulf it has been a bit pick ‘n mix, all sorts of various fish species, some not on the invite list like sharks and ‘couda, but there are some excellent surprises in store!
Yes it’s true, O.K. so just inside the gulf i.e. Colville and Little Barrier, terekihi (a.k.a. turkeys) and, wait for it...hapuka are being caught, and in very tasty sizes. What a wonderfully welcome addition to the seafood smorgasbord.
Hapuka while normally more of a deep water fish have ventured into the gulf a little, not many but more than one has been caught while out leaning on one of the gates (Craddock, Jellicoe and Colville channels).
Wavedancer’s (www.wavedancer.co.nz ) crew pulled in this nice Hapuka and a 30lb snapper the other day, while Diversity (www.charterconnection.co.nz ) put their crew onto a whole heap of terrific tasting terekihi. Terekihi are going for the tried and true smaller hooked flasher rigs with tasty little squid morsels. Drifting along seems to be doing the trick. Simple.
How good are these efforts, results and fish variety while we’re in the clutches of winter, superb!
Speaking of fish variety the NZ Fishing Competition isn’t just for snapper, find out more here.
In a nutshell, watch the forecasts carefully, load up with good fresh bait 'n burley and when the wind/tide line up – spend several wonderful hours close to home getting back to basics and returning from the fish hunt with some beautifully conditioned winter reds and a smile a mile wide.
Or do the big adventure out wide and drift the edges of the outer deeper regions with small fresh tasty morsels on dropper style rigs. Drifting with the soft plastics works well, but the fish need to be keen – so be prepared for some good sessions when the bite is on, but when it’s off – either call it a day, or change tactics.
The first sprinkling of yellow fairy dust beckons the big male snapper i.e. pollen has dusted the Holden signaling Mother Nature’s Spring intentions, and so the dreams start – of hungry spring fish peeling your line alarmingly fast, massive sky emptying workups and big hard thumping male snapper testing our tackle to the limit. Until next month, wrap up warm, perhaps try a closer look at somewhere new that could be fished using the wind and tide to your advantage in the shallows (send me a picture), and use small tempting offerings, squid bits and half pilchards at the ready – that’s the key at the moment.
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