For those who have never land-based fished before, the thought of venturing out to find a ledge or kayaking to an isolated rock at sea can be intimidating. I have grown up with a highly experienced land-based fisherman as a father, so the knowledge has come relatively easily to me.
I am a firm believer that you do not need a boat to encounter great fish, so when I hear people saying that boat fishing is the only way to go, I usually insist they come along with me for a much-needed experience on the bricks!
However, upon feeling ready to venture into the unknown, you should know a few things.
If there is one aspect I cannot stress enough, it is the importance of berley. Use plenty of it and be patient. The aim is to entice fish into your area and get them feeding. Snapper like to hang out with baitfish, so the more you can see the better! Snapper go wild for kina; if you have access to any, crush them up and throw them in.
There are a few ways to distribute your berley. Tasman Tackle supplies a top quality bag that will not rip on the rocks, unlike the well-known onion sack. Or, if you have an old bucket lying around, drill a few holes in it, including two in the top and lid of the bucket so the latter can be secured.
Regardless of how you go about it, make sure you have secured your rope well – the last thing you want to see is your fish magnet floating out to sea!
You will not know a spot’s potential until you give it a go. We are lucky when it comes to land-based fishing in New Zealand: we are surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of rocky ledges and islands, so the options are considerable.
Keep an eye out for kelp beds, kina and mussels, because snapper tend not to stray far from a reliable food source, and these are among their favourites.
When selecting your fishing location, the more isolated your spot is the better – accessible locations tend to be overfished. People who have not land-based fished before may underestimate shallow waters and focus solely on locating deep drop-offs. There is nothing wrong with this, but be aware that a lot of trophy fish have been landed from the shallows.
Winter is my favourite time of year and an ideal time to target snapper, kahawai, trevally and, occasionally, if you are lucky, a roaming kingfish.
Some snapper remain resident around the rocky ledges and kelp beds over the winter while the rest head out to the deep in search of warmer waters. (If you’re keen to try your luck on a kingfish, then the summer months are better.)
Preparation is key. There is no point walking to your remote fishing spot for an hour, only to be walking home again 30 minutes later because you have run out of tackle or bait. Always ask yourself: am I properly prepared?
Make sure your tackle selection includes a good stock of various hooks and sinkers. You never know when you may need a smaller hook to catch fresh baits.
Ensure you have plenty of bait – I would much rather walk home with bait than run out while the fish are on the chew. A decent knife is a must, and it doesn’t hurt to have a rag handy either.
Invest in a decent pack. A well-designed pack with comfortably padded straps and a frame will spare you from unnecessary discomfort when hiking. Remember, you will be carrying in rods, a gaff and a net – you do not want to be handling multiple loose items, so secure them with a strap or cord.
When you think of land-based fishing, it’s unlikely one of your first thoughts will be a lifejacket – unless kayaking to your ledge. Believe it or not, the risk of drowning as a land-based fisherman is about the same as those who use a boat. Be aware of your surroundings – you only need to slip off your ledge to end up in the water. Also, rogue waves are not uncommon, so in addition to storing your gear in an elevated position, well away from the water’s edge, have a mental escape route noted in case of big swells.
If unlucky enough to find yourself in the water near the rocks, you may well be grateful to be wearing a PFD – it can be like an oceanic washing-machine! These days there are a wide variety of PFDs available that allow you to move freely.
Cuts, grazes, sprains and fish spikes are all part of the land-based package. If you have the room, it pays to carry a small first-aid kit. Always let someone know where you are going and when you will be back. This is extremely important if heading off the grid and phone reception is unobtainable.
Fresh baits are fantastic, but you have to start somewhere. Buy your bait to begin with, and try using fresh baits when the opportunities arise (if you want to).
Kahawai is a favourite for snapper: scaling your kahawai before cutting it into strip baits allows the hook to pierce the skin more easily. Piper or yellowtail mackerel are also great baits. They sometimes appear in the berley trail, but are generally more easily caught in local estuaries and from wharves beforehand.
You will need to invest in some very small hooks, although it’s often easier to use a set of sabikis. I have caught plenty of solid fish on both half and whole mackies, and have never seen a piper go untouched.
Don’t be afraid to try big baits – you might be surprised how easily even the smaller fish can suck up a large offering!
Before heading out, check the tides, wind and swell forecasts. One metre or more of swell and you will really struggle to get a kayak onto the rocks. For those walking in, keep in mind that swell can create a lot of surge on a platform.
Five-knot variables are a dream come true for any fisherman, so make the most of them when they arise if you can. A lot of fishers prefer to fish on certain tides. However, I have personally never had an issue fishing on both the incoming and the outgoing tides.
Winds can be a tricky one: once you understand the effects of different directions and strengths, you will be able to pick sheltered bays and ideal locations for your trip.
Like all things new, trial and error enables you to accumulate knowledge. If you can take in the basics, you are good to go. So keep safe, be prepared, remember to secure that berley firmly, and in a few months’ time you will have many stories to share!
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