The Mega Reds of Winter (1992)

Last month I started a “how to" on fishing for snapper during winter. Some of you may
have thought I had been on the turps when I wrote the story, because lo and behold
when it appeared in last month's mag the start of my story was buried amongst
volcanos, reefs, rocks and other stuff while a couple of snapper and their movements
opened the whole show.
Still from the lack of strange looks I got from around the place. I guess most of you got
the general idea about the amount of “off the water" work we put into a day out. lf we can
cut down the number of things left to chance on the day and get as many conditions as
possible in our favour before we get out, then I always feel pretty confident. For those
interested if I could produce a day especially for a winter fish it would look something like
this, dull, overcast and quiet. 20-30 knot noreast winds with a bit stronger to come, a
falling barometer and an incoming tide of three metres with a high about 7-8 pm.
For a couple of these sorts of days, l’d almost consider drinking Eric Bostock mixed
Vodka out of a beer can again. Having arrived at our predetermined spot, the first boat
as close as possible to where we want to be fishing from without actually putting the
anchor down. Having worked out how we ·are going to sit, it is a simple mailer to allow
for the influences of wind and tide and anchor accordingly. I like to think of the boat as
more of a fishing "platform". and will take a fair bit of care to get things right. To this point
gelling wind and tide running together is a huge bonus. Although it is far from impossible,
trying to fish wind against the tide can often. Create all sorts of problems with the boat
ending up sitting "arsey-boo" and your lines running underneath it. When fishing areas of
foul, especially underwater areas. I like to have the boat positioned at least 40 metres
upcurrent of the spot I intend to work with the baits. Snapper are a naturally "spooky"
fish. Crashing and banging around the place firing out anchors here, there and
everywhere while you drift and swing all over the show will do absolutely nothing to
encourage them to hang around. 
Taking a bit of care letting your boat or fishing platform into the right place with a
minimum of fuss and bother right from the word go can have big advantages later. Now
comes the question of berley or groundbait. When I first started targeting big snapper
berley was considered an absolute must and I spent as much on berley as I did on gas
and bait. sometimes more. I must have cranked acres of the stuff into various places
around the Hauraki Gulf, but after a while I came to the conclusion, berley could never
turn a bad day into a good one, no matter what sort, or how much you put into the
ocean. Although groundbait or berley is often directly credited with being the secret
behind a lot of success. I am far from being totally convinced. Over the years I have
come to rely on it less and less until today I almost never use it. In my opinion I don't
believe you need berley to consistently catch good snapper. Once I'm settled into a spot
I like to try and systematically work the whole area with baits.
This can mean landing baits right in the "white" water crashing around a rock to dropping
other baits directly under the boat. When fishing underwater structures work the whole
structure down the sides, across the top, over the back or wherever else takes your
fancy. However, when fishing these underwater pins or structures I have done very well
working the current facing edges of these pins. Whatever the outcome, if fished properly
it shouldn't take too long to work out just where a particular strike zone on a spot is.
Once you've found it, keep your baits going back in there to keep the fish around and
feeding. Within the same spot this strike zone can change from day to day and even on
occasions from hour to hour during different stages of the tide. It is important to keep an open mind about this and if the fish go off the feed for a while, try working around the spot to see if you can pick them up again. As they say, flogging a dead horse is a waste of time.

However, it's worth remembering if fish have fed in a particular spot once during
the tide, they will 9/10 times return to it later on in the tide. To be able to work an area
properly really requires an ability to cast distance with an amount of accuracy. In the
past I have used all sorts of rods and reels from things that could pull the horns off a
goat to others that would struggle to pull the wings off a fairy. What you usually gain in
power can sometimes be lost in sensitivity, and when it comes to straylining for snapper
both are pretty important. Today I use the 6-IO kg Penn Power Stick rods filled with both
the Shimano TLD 15 and Penn 25GLS reels. Both reels are able to be cast reasonable
distances without a lot of fuss and bother and have an almost idiot proof pre-set lever
drag system. All in all, these rod-reel combinations have proven to be well balanced
units, easy to use and have definitely shown an ability to withstand my own brand of
hard and harsh treatment.

Over the last nine months or so I have been field testing nylon in various line weights from 4 to 10kg for Auckland tackle wholesalers Thompson Walker Ltd. This also allowed me to indulge in a few of my own little experiments. I was mainly curious to see if the lighter line weights did produce more strikes as often claimed and if they did, how did they stand up to it all. It all came down to a percentage game. If the lighter line weights did produce more strikes and this was arguable what wasn't quite as arguable was the higher percentage of bust offs. Although using 4 and 6 kilo gear I expected a few problems, some of the skunkings were still pretty monumental. But if you want a rough guide to go on have a look at the maximum size of the snapper you realistically expect to encounter and use this as a minimum line weight guide. Caught in nasty territory and shallow water, line weight snapper aren't a bad achievement and can
test more than a few anglers skill.
When it comes to bottom fishing and despite fiddling about spending many a fruitless
hour trying to think of refinements over the last eight years or so, l have been using the
same unchanged type of rig. It has been successful on a large variety of fish, big and
small, as well as proving itself over and over in all sorts of depths of water. The simple
idea behind it all is to give you maximum strength where it's most needed around the
fish, while still trying to retain a high degree of sensitivity or "feel". Briefly it comprises of
a heavy (27-54 kg) nylon trace about 3 to 5 ft long with two hooks tied using a longline
knot. approximately 12 to 15cm apart. Any weight needed sits directly above the second
or top hook. I like to think of this not as a trace. but as an extension of my main line.
Although I have used all sorts in the past, today I will only use a purpose designed
trace nylon for this extension. I have found using normal nylon not specifically designed
for the type these traces did not stand the test of time and only resulted in bite offs and
bust offs.
For a number of reasons. including the relatively small diameter for its breaking strain its
lack of memory and its ability to withstand a power of punishment. Jinkai is my
favourite. Hooks. being your primary contact with the fish are also an important piece to
the whole puzzle. The recent arrival on the New Zealand market of the new ultra
sharp, ultra strong hooks from overseas has given us another opportunity to remove
what may have been a weak link in the system. I was fortunate enough to have been
given an opportunity to field test three of the major brands of these hooks as they came
on the market, the VMCs, the Gamakatsu's, and the Black Magics. For this type of
fishing, the only hooks I use today are the KS range of Black Magics. It's hard not to use
superlatives but I'll just requote what I have already said about them they are a bloody
impressive hook. When using any sort of a two hook rig, 90% of the time it will be the top
or second hook that will hook the fish even when both hooks are "fixed" and spaced aleast 12- 15 cm apart. With this in mind I am not a big fan of using a sprat or other small

hook as what many refer to as a "keeper"' or second hook. With my fixed two hook rig I
don't have keepers, just a bottom and top hook both capable of bringing home the
bacon. But just to confuse the matter a little bit more. I have been experimenting with
using a KS24 Black Magic bottom hook and a KS26 top hook with a lot of success.
Having confused a few of you and sorted out most of the terminal stuff now is the time to
have a look at the art of straylining itself. In my mind straylining is as much an art as any
other form of fishing. It requires an ability to present a bait in water from as little as two
metres deep to over 45 in such a manner that it can deceive a fish who has been
swimming around avoiding nets. trawlers, longliners and god knows how many other
baits for upwards of fifty years. To achieve this straylining needs to be looked on as an
active, not passive form of fishing. Firing a bait out, putting the rod in the holder and
putting your feet up while you open a can or light a smoke may result in a fish every now
and then but it is not the way to consistently beat a snapper. If you want the best
results once your bait has hit the water let it work and keep it working. To get your bait
working properly you need just the right amount of a couple of vital ingredients, weight
and current. Snapper are suckers for moving baits and these have been the downfall of
many a fish.


August 1992 - Terry Beale
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited