Catching tarakihi can sometimes be a real challenge, but there are ways to up your catch-rate, explains young Bay of Plenty contributor Hayden Speed.
Tarakihi can be found throughout New Zealand and are one of our most sought-after table fish.
When searching for them, look for low lying rubble, worm beds, or the edges of reefs where they meet the sand. Tarakihi can be found anywhere from 15m to 200m+. When trying to locate tarakihi on the sounder, we will often look for a dense school of fish hard on the bottom.
Tarakihi can be frustrating to catch as they are often very attached to the structure they’re holding on and won’t venture too far from this to investigate your bait. Getting your anchoring position perfect is therefore important. Sometimes it may take several attempts to get the boat sitting right as 10 metres to the right or left can make a huge difference. If you’re lucky enough to have the luxury of a Minn Kota, the ‘Spot Lock’ feature is an ideal solution.
Drifting over the school can also be an effective way of targeting these fish, particularly when fishing a bit deeper. You can also increase your chances by sending a berley bomb down to a few metres above the bottom in a wobbly pot. This helps get the fish into a feeding mode and it may also attract a few other fish into the area, which is always a bonus.
I like to use a light 6kg rod when targeting tarakihi as it helps detect their subtle bites. The reel ideally should hold a couple hundred metres of line, but you don’t have to go crazy. A small baitcaster reel is sufficient, particularly if you plan to fish shallow. Don’t be afraid to use lighter lines as tarakihi are a great sport fish. On a recent trip I was fishing with 1kg line, which took a bit of getting used to, but was great fun as tarakihi scrap hard for their size!
Bigger tarakihi like this one can be a lot of fun on light gear.
Braided lines are better when targeting tarakihi, especially if in deeper water. They have a very subtle bite, and it can go unnoticed if using mono or a heavy rod. Their bite will often look and feel like a very small ‘bounce’ on the end of the rod, rather than a sudden jerk like those given by a cod or snapper. If fishing in under 50m, mono and a circle hook will work okay, but braid is still ideal.
When fishing shallow with braid, it can be very effective to fish with J hooks and strike on the bite. However, when fishing deeper with braid (100m+), it pays to fish with a circle or recurve hook as there’s more line in the water and it is harder to strike effectively.
In the North Island, tarakihi will tend to move further inshore in winter as the colder water pushes in. During summer, they then tend to move out deeper, staying with the cooler water. Good all year-round depths for tarakihi are 50 metres and deeper.
One of my biggest tips for targeting tarakihi is to make sure you are patient when winding the tarakihi up. Winching them in will dramatically increase the chances of pulling the hook. It is also crucial to ‘keep the bend’ in your rod as this keeps the pressure on the fish and decreases the chance of the fish shaking the hook free.
The next two most important tips are to use hooks no bigger than 3/0, as tarakihi have very small mouths, and to not overfill the gape of the hook with bait. A small bait is key when targeting tarakihi – an offering about the size of a twenty-cent coin is plenty big enough!
Tarakihi have very small mouths, so small hooks are essential for targeting them.
The best baits that we’ve found for targeting tarakihi are tuatua or pipis, squid and small pieces of skipjack. If your local beach happens to have a tuatua bed, it can be worth taking the time to pick up a few for bait, but don’t throw away your shells as these make excellent berley, too. Just hang them in the wobbly pot just above the bottom or throw a handful in every couple of minutes and let them land in the area you’re fishing.
A two-hook ledger rig is the most common method used to target them. Store bought flasher rigs are great too, so long as the hooks are small enough. I tie my own flasher rigs and I personally have found the colour green to be the most effective.
If you’re not having success, don’t be afraid to change up your flasher rig colour (if using) and your bait choice. Changing to a lighter leader can also entice a bite.
To keep your catch in its best condition, ice it down with salt ice straight after capture. A few hours in salt ice will make tarakihi a pleasure to fillet. The flesh of the tarakihi will start to set and harden making them, in my opinion, one of the best fish to fillet – and eat!
June 2021 - Hayden Speed
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
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