Fishing Spots in Bream Bay

Captain Cook named Bream Bay for a good reason – he found the bream (snapper) population very much to his liking. They provided his crew with fresh fish as an alternative to the salted meats they would have lived on for a long time.

Today, Bream Bay is still a prolific snapper fishery, although what I wouldn’t give to have a few day’s fishing with the stocks in the same virgin state as Capt. Cook found them! It continues to produce trophy snapper in the 20lb plus bracket regularly, along with respectable kingfish up to the 25kg mark at certain times of the year.

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The Century Batteries Reel Legends Fishing Competition, run out of its Marsden Cove base March 24-26, will see many locals mixing with visitors to try and take home the honours – or possibly a new Ford Ranger ute from the no-reserve auction or one of two Ramco trailerboats that are included in the prize pool.

Like a growing number of major ‘bottom fishing’ tournaments, Reel Legends is being run on a measured rather than weighed fish basis, giving anglers the opportunity to return those big breeders while still being eligible for prizes.

While the locals will all have their favourite haunts, the following is my ‘starter for 10’ – 10 Bream Bay possies that have produced respectable if not contest winning fish, which are accessible for most reasonably equipped trailerboats.

X marks the spot – the above ten marked locations are Grant’s ‘go to’ fishing locations in Bream Bay. Chart: Land Information NZ, excerpt from NZ5219.

X marks the spot – the above ten marked locations are Grant’s ‘go to’ fishing locations in Bream Bay.

Chart: Land Information NZ, excerpt from NZ5219.

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Three Mile Reef
(E35° 54.155, S174° 33.034)

This is not just one lump of foul, but a general area of low foul that produces fish. Bait and berley is a popular option here. Anchor on the up-current side of the foul and berley back. If you run around the area with your sounder, you will pick up plenty of interesting territory to fish. Soft-baits fish well, but if you are into ‘drop and drag’ with slow jigs, be prepared to lose a bit of gear.

Five Mile Reef
(E35° 42.149, S174° 34.331)

As the name suggests, this is a smaller patch of foul located approximately five miles from the entrance. It can be fished the same way as Three Mile reef where the sounder is your friend – spend a little time locating those smaller lumps of low-lying foul. The area to the east of both Three- and Five-Mile Reefs has been holding good snapper in recent times over the sand. This is where your sliders, inchiku jigs and micro-jigs will come into their own.

Bream Head
(E35° 50.993, S174° 37.139)

Slightly to the north-east of Bream Head are a series of small but high pins that are best fished on the drift. As they’re quite deep, it’s hard to set up an effective berley trail. The pins will quite often have a cloud of red snapper directly above them, with snapper near the bottom or on the surrounding sand. Over the years we have pulled the occasional kingfish off these marks, but nothing that is likely to be a winner. Jigs and soft-baits are the go here. I like to fish the big nine-inch tails with a minimum of three-quarters of an ounce 3/0 jighead.

(E35° 51.993, S174° 38.923)

Ace, a name respected angler Lionel Sands gave this spot, is a large reef that is sometimes populated with kingfish, but the surrounding sandy bottom (50m) can produce the goods. There is another finger of foul a hundred metres or so to the north-west that is always worth a drift. Both these areas are clearly marked on the charts. I tend not to fish the main rock but concentrate on the sand and low-lying pins that are around it. Once again, a decent sounder is your friend! This is a spot that is best fished on the drift. Cover the ground with both bait and lures. My favourite soft-bait tail for here is the brightly coloured Atomic Sunrise, fished on a one-ounce 3/0 jighead.

When travelling out to Ace, keep an eye on your sounder. There are little patches of foul between Bream Head and the rock that are always worth investigating. Try setting up a long drift through this area – you might just be surprised what turns up.

Uretiti Foul
(E35° 56.989 S174° 29.416)

For the bait and berley aficionados, this is a spot for you. Get the wind and the tide going in the right direction and set your berley to waft through this area. As well as the main rocks, there are little pockets of foul which will hold fish.

This foul is part of a papa reef system that runs all the way southeast from Uretiti in patches, past the Waipu rivermouth down as far as Langs Beach, roughly along the 14-metre contour line.

Keep a sabiki at the ready because this area normally holds good schools of jack mackerel – great as both live and butterflied baits. At this time of the year, run a livebait back out under a balloon for a kingfish, but drop a small sinker on the nose of the bait to keep it down and away from the diving gannets – the latter are most definitely not on the tournament species list, and besides, they can be exceedingly difficult to unhook, let alone measure! Some big kingfish have come off this reef structure over the years and if you are looking for a feed of john dory, this is a good place to start. This, and the next spot, have produced a couple of cover shots for this magazine.

Waipu Rivermouth
(E35° 59.202 S174° 30.005)

This mark is just one of a number of prominent pins in this area and is special to me as it was where I caught my first decent snapper on a soft-bait – and I have been hooked on this style of targeting snapper ever since.

I still prefer lure fishing this area, both across the pins as well as the intervening sand and low-lying clumps of kelp. Like Uretiti, this is a great place for jack mackerel which can be turned into something bigger. The foul in the rivermouth area tends be larger ‘lumps’ that are low-lying and spread out, so lends itself to a well-place berley trail. The current is generally running NW-SE in the bay, so suits wind out of the west-north-west quarter.

Bream Tail
(E36° 01.840, S174° 36.641)

The whole of the Bream Tail area is awash with foul territory that suits both the bait and berley merchants as well as the lure fishers. From this mark all the way back to Langs Beach and off Bombora Reef, the bottom is littered with areas of foul ground that fish particularly well at the change of light. The coastline between Langs and the Tail, some of which is accessible for walk-in landbased anglers, has produced many big fish, including a former Beach and Boat event winning snapper. A pre-dawn effort is required here, with lots of berley, and fishing inside eight metres of water.

The Anchorage
(E35° 56.132, S174° 36.107)

On the chart you will see the area in the middle of Bream Bay is designated as a ship’s anchorage for the vessels waiting to unload at the port. It is in this general area you will find the work-ups if there are any. The area also holds snapper, gurnard, trevally and kahawai. It is not somewhere I would go to find the winning fish, but if you are into ‘Mr Average,’ or simply looking for a feed for the camp or family, this is a good area to kick off a decent drift using inchiku and slider lures – or baits fished on a running rig. If you have a bathymetric overlay on your chart plotter, look for areas where the lines come closer together, indicating a more rapid change of depth. While there might not be any foul ground present, it is a place snapper and other popular species like to hang out.

(E35° 49.166. S174° 29.769)

This is not so much a specific location as a general area to fish. You will see on the chart a large ‘apron’ of shallow water emanating from the harbour entrance – no more than 6-8 metres deep, sometimes less – that runs all the way down past the Ruakaka river mouth. While the area is featureless, the exception being the edges of the sand apron, it has produced some nicer fish over the years. The locals fish it early and late in the day, progressively drifting out to the 20-metre mark plus as the sun gets higher in the sky.

Ocean Beach
(E35° 56.132, S174° 36.107)

While this is not strictly in Bream Bay, if you turn to port as you head pass Bream Head, you will see a long, white-sand beach open up. There is a finger of foul that runs from inside the Bream Islands in a westerly direction towards this mark. This is a location I like to drift with soft-baits especially and it does hold both snapper and kingfish. The latter are more loners, and thus bigger, than the school fish you find at the likes of Ace.

Angling and boating etiquette

The following are a few handy tips for getting along with your fellow anglers out on the water. Events like the Century Batteries Reel legends contest attract a concentration of anglers and boaties, many of whom are not familiar with the area or the ‘local rules.’

At the ramp

Be prepared well before it is your turn to launch or retrieve. Have those tiedowns and prop flags off, all gear loaded, fenders and ropes ready and crew briefed. On retrieval, the reverse happens. Have the winch rope extended out and go well clear of the ramp approaches before unloading, and getting prepared for the road.

If you are launching in the hours of darkness, turn your lights onto park so you don’t blind others. The angle of the ramp will shine your even low beam headlights into their eyes and make backing down the ramp difficult and dangerous.

Marsden Cove marina is a no-wake zone (three knots) and then five knots from the marina entrance to the end of the channel markers.

Be patient. There will be people to assist and direct you. Be willing to use the ‘third ramp’ – the one that doesn’t have a marina finger alongside it. Hell, the water is 23 degrees plus – it doesn’t matter if you have to get your feet wet.

Driving your boat onto the trailer is not a great idea at a crowded ramp. Think what effect your wash will have on the vessel immediately behind you.

The Marsden Cove Marina has a spacious three lane boat ramp.

The Marsden Cove Marina has a spacious three lane boat ramp.

On the water

You cannot travel more than five knots within 50 metres of another vessel and make that 200m from a vessel showing a dive flag or where there is a swimmer in the water. Remember, not everyone out there will necessarily be participating in the contest.

If another crew has risen from their bunks earlier than yours and has claimed ‘your spot’, do the decent thing and leave them to it. Don’t go and park in their berley trail – this only invites sinkers through your front windows!

Similarly, if you see someone happily fishing a spot, whether they be drifting or anchored up, don’t be that person who circles them on the half-plane with your head down watching the sounder while creating a personalised rock and roll occasion for the other boat.

Don’t anchor in the main shipping channel, especially in darkness. Even if you are lit up, there will be lots of boats around early in the morning whose skippers may not be as sharp as you. The flicker of your cigarette lighter will not be a good enough warning signal to avoid a collision.

Save your serious drinking session for the land and the tent afterwards. Okay, that might not be going to happen, but at least have a sober skipper for both on the water and the road.

Marsden Cove is the gateway to Bream Bay and its surrounding fishing areas.

Marsden Cove is the gateway to Bream Bay and its surrounding fishing areas.

February 2022 - Grant Dixon
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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