Hawkes Bay Moki

Moki are a great sport fish, and those anglers who have managed to land one will know they make a nice addition to the table too. Gary Kemsley shares some of his tips for targeting this species, from his experiences in his home turf of Hawkes Bay.

Moki are one of those species that you catch, or you don’t. Those who make an effort to get to know moki will catch good numbers throughout the year, despite others struggling even when the fishing is hot. Those anglers who are successful in catching moki are often meticulous about their fishing. They will probably keep a diary of their catches. They will note the date, the weather, the spot, baits and perceived fish numbers. This will allow them to repeat their successful days a year on.

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Moki return to the same spots year after year. Finding a new moki spot can be as simple as fluking one fish while after other species. Even a singular catch on a sandy, surf beach could indicate the presence of an offshore rock where moki will congregate. You just have to mark it and return over and over again to be sure.

Some of the moki you catch “out of the blue” will be travellers, moving from one rock pile to another as they migrate to and from their spawning grounds around East Cape.

Moki can be difficult to catch for many anglers initially, but keeping a log of your catches and finding trends can help you more effectively target this species.

Moki can be difficult to catch for many anglers initially, but keeping a log of your catches and finding trends can help you more effectively target this species.

Where are they?

Looking at the Hawkes Bay moki hangouts south to north is easiest. Starting at Porangahau Beach, there are rocks worth fishing in the sandy wastelands near the southern end of the beach itself. Just south of the village is a small reef that extends to the shore at low tide. To the north of the rivermouth are the bold rocks of Tairakau. They do not extend to the shore, but I bet the fish do at times and this will include moki.

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The next stop is a beauty – Blackhead Point. This is a complex reef and will take a bit of working out, but visiting on a very low tide is the best way to get a look at the terrain. There is a lot of rock, some sand and steep dropoffs to deep water. The tide rules there, so watch out for it when accessing the reef and when fishing. For the hiker, there are a wealth of moki-friendly rock spots from Blackhead Point to Blackhead Beach and the start of the Te Angiangi Reserve where no fishing is allowed.

North of the northern boundary of the reserve you can access the beach at several spots such as Pourerere, Kairakau and other remote road ends. This coast is mostly rocky and difficult to fish effectively, yet can be exciting with all its nuances. Learn it though, and you will have a wealth of moki fishing spots to choose from. Once back up to Waimarama we are confronted by sandy beaches with odd rocky reefs like the one between there and Ocean Beach, and the “Middle Rocks” at Ocean Beach.

From there through to Clifton around the corner of Cape Kidnappers there are kilometres of water for a hiking angler to explore. Watch out for patches of big rays and crumbling cliff tops. Any isolated rock pile should be targeted. If you catch hiwihiwi, banded wrasse or spotty you are probably in the right spot for a moki.

From Clifton heading north, the types of spots which produce moki change. Shallow mussel reefs like Te Awanga and Clifton can produce at times but are often washed away by the southerly swells which thrill the surfers at Te Awanga, one of New Zealand’s best right-hand surf breaks, but disappoint the moki hunters.

Moving on, the old pipeline at the end of Richmond Road can provide a moki or two. The broken pipes and concrete make good moki structure, and they certainly use it on their travels for a rest and feeding area. But be aware, local seals reside here, which you need to be wary of.

Head north again, and you might get lucky and intercept a travelling moki, but the next spot where they hold consistently is the “Town Reef” just before the Port of Napier. It’s a popular moki spot and if the word is out, it can be busy with other anglers. Past the port access is difficult until you get to the southern end of Westshore Beach. You might catch a moki there at “The Boiler” by casting well out into the broken ground of the inner reef. The next moki spot heading north is at “The Beacons”. Here they are known to gather around the remains of the wreck of the Northumberland. A plaque on the walkway will tell you where it is. At low tide, it is visible from the beach. Further north is Tangoio and Flat Rock which are great areas for an agile surfcaster to explore.

You will need dedication or need to be dead lucky to be consistent with moki. That dedication means giving spots a second try, even if they don’t produce the first time. To give you an idea, I caught 14 moki one night, and my companion caught six. The next night at the same spot, I caught three, and he caught none. The following two nights neither of us caught any. As they often do, they had disappeared without a trace. Fortunately, if you maintain a record of your spots, catches, locations and baits, a pattern may emerge that will help you be more successful chasing this tasty sportfish that many anglers never catch.


Moki are selective feeders, and 99% of their food is crabs, crayfish, limpets and chitons, kina, probably some seaweeds, shrimp, pipis, mussels and other shallow-water invertebrates. I like to use mussels, crayfish, or when I can get some, crabs and prawns. While fish baits aren’t commonly used, the biggest Hawkes Bay moki I have seen taken on a rod was at Te Awanga by a chap using a pilchard for bait – can’t argue about a moki over six-kilo!

The kit

Rigs can be simple with a sinker at the bottom and one or two hooks on droppers above. I like circle hooks about 4/0 size. They let me offer a biggish bait which moki seem to like. J hooks work as well but do tend to get swallowed, which is no good for smaller fish you may want to release.

J hooks (above) are effective on moki, but the writer prefers circle hooks (below) as they give smaller fish a better chance of survival after release.

J hooks (above) are effective on moki, but the writer prefers circle hooks (below) as they give smaller fish a better chance of survival after release.

The end game

If you want to eat a moki, fillet and skin it, remove any bones, then just dust it in flour and shallow fry it – a lot simpler than actually catching one!

   This article is reproduced with permission of   
New Zealand Fishing News

April 2020 - Gary Kemsely
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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