Dropping deep is always exciting as you never know what you’re going to catch, although it can be hard work without electric reels!
This style of fishing isn’t for everyone – I know my little brother and sister couldn’t handle it, and I doubt Mum would enjoy it either! But regardless, for those able, and willing, the rewards can be worth the effort.
The best way to find a spot is to look on a sea chart and find some contour lines that bunch up indicating either a pin, knoll, shelf or trench. These types of structures typically hold the fish we’re looking for. The best depth for hapuku that we have found in the Bay of Plenty is between 150-250m, while getting deeper tends to get better for bluenose (ie 300-400m) – which is one of our favourites to target.
I suggest at least a 30-wide reel, spooled with 24kg braid. Mono can work, but the braid makes a massive difference when trying to feel a fish biting. It is also a thinner diameter, which reduces the drag through the water, meaning your line angles will improve, too. For the rig, just a standard ledger rig made out of 200lb trace, with two 10/0 circle hooks and maybe a small hook which may pick up a tarakihi, spotted gurnard, rays bream or ruby fish, all of which can be a tasty bycatch. Attach a big ‘puka sinker using 30lb trace so if you get snagged it will break away, and you won’t lose your whole rig. We also like to include a light stick clipped onto the swivel at the top of the trace which really helps attract the fish to your bait. A quality sounder is also highly recommended as you will be able to pick up the bottom and see if there are any fish there, so you’re not just drifting blind.
The best bait combo we have found is a whole squid and a small live bait. Almost any bait will work though, as long as it’s durable as you don’t want to be checking your bait every five minutes! If you’re lucky enough to have something fresh like barracouta, blue mackerel or jack mackerel, then definitely try these.
The technique is fairly simple – lower your bait to the bottom and take a few winds up, or wind up to where the sign is holding. Then just wait until your rod loads up – it’s really important not to strike as you may pull the circle hook out of the fish’s mouth. If you see a bite and feel the rod starting to load up, then just start winding to put some gradual pressure onto the fish to set the hook in the corner of its mouth. The other reason not to strike is you may pop the sinker off and these sinkers are not cheap!
It’s important to go on a nice calm day because not only does it make it more comfortable, it is also easier to fish as your drift will be slower, and it will also be easier to keep your bait closer to the bottom. Another way to slow your drift is to use a sea anchor, or even more effective is having someone (i.e. Dad) on the wheel backing up every so often. We also usually do a ‘dummy’ drift while we’re rigging to see our drift pattern on the chart plotter, so we can then drop baits knowing our target area is ahead of our drift direction. Another tip is to try and drift in a direction that gets deeper so you can keep letting line out to keep in touch with the bottom – whereas when drifting into shallower water you run the risk of getting snagged a lot more.
Now that you know the basics there’s nothing stopping you getting out there and having a go at targeting some of the tastiest fish in the ocean!