Destination: Surfcasting at Muriwai

Fishing the West Coast is in his blood, writes Jason Neute. 

I have had many nights where I slept in the car, in the long grass behind a sand dune and even on the rocks out at Whatipu. Almost nothing is too uncomfortable to endure in order to fish this coastline during those magic hours.

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Most of my surfcasting has been out at Whatipu, Piha, Anawhata and Flat Rock out at Muriwai. However, these days my surfcasting on the west coast is mainly done along Muriwai beach. I love driving along its dark sand, seeing it’s awesomely rugged coastline and trying different spots, which often allows me to have my own special place without others around.

This magical place is my favourite and must be seen not just with the eyes, but with the soul to appreciate its intense and often unseen beauty. Muriwai never disappoints even when I go home without a fish, as its awesome ruggedness (which can feel isolating and even apocalyptic at times) is always exhilarating.

I usually like to fish the low tides up near the far end as there are a few nice little channels which run parallel to the beach. It is easier to cast to these channels at low tide but I sometimes wade out on a calm day at mid-tide. I have learned this beach well and know which holes and gutters hold the fish.

Driving and fishing this beach at low tide has allowed me to learn how to safely and successfully fish its shores at all phases of the tide. Although most of the gutters and holes are hidden on the high, the beach gives up its secrets on the low and lining up landmarks or looking for calm spots at high tide can yield good results.

Empty shells are another sign I look out for because it usually means there are shellfish in the channel which often attract feeding snapper.

There is a nice little channel near the end of the beach. I fish this channel on the low and find that fish patrol it, mooching around for food. The channel runs between a bank and sandbar. At low tide it can be anywhere between 2-4m deep in places, but you can fish it from the bank with relative ease.

I fish and even beach-comb Muriwai as much as I can, sometimes with mates or family and sometimes solo. Here, I recount a few of those fun days up at Muriwai.

An epic big fish day at Muriwai

Some people may call us crazy, forgoing a great day’s fishing in the boat on the east coast, catching lots of snapper, to spend a day surfcasting Muriwai and maybe catching nothing. But this is exactly what my mate Pea and I decided to do even though the tides and times were not quite right for best results at our spot.

We didn’t get onto the beach until about noon. It was the right tide but the wrong time of day, so we did not expect to catch much – the water was shallow and the sun was high in the sky.

Our spot is best fished at low tide when a nice deep channel is exposed and you can see where it runs along the beach in places. There was already enough beach exposed to allow us to make our way along it, trying a few places, to our low-tide spot.

The first stop saw not much action, so after a few bites, landing a few kahawai and a stingray, we moved on. That’s the great thing about Muriwai – its length means plenty of places to stop and have a fish.

Fishing as you head up the coast is a great way to become familiar with the many secrets this beautiful beach hides. Exploring different areas lets you gather more good fishing spots.

At three o’clock we were able to fish our spot. Normally we like to line up low tide with dusk, that magic time of day most surfcasters like to fish, which usually brings good success. But at Muriwai, waiting for the swell conditions, wind, tide and time to perfectly align could take a week, a month or longer.

I had been amping for hours to get to our spot, as we know the kind of fish it can hold. It’s also very exciting fishing off the beach, as there’s always a chance of catching something good.

Muriwai, just like other west coast beaches, sometimes has a rip that plays havoc with your line. It pulls it around and often your rod will bend like a horseshoe from the water drag on the line. My reel is always spooled with braid, as I get better casting distance and experience less water drag. Breakaway sinkers are another must on the west coast, as they anchor in the sand to stop the terminal tackle being swept back to shore by the rip.

After casting from the lip of the bank we stand on, I got bites straight away and was first to hook up. I could tell it was a kahawai and Pea also hooked up to kahawai. We decided to keep one for bait and one for Pea’s lunch. He enjoys eating them raw.

With some fresh big kahawai baits on, we were back out on the lip of the ledge. After casting my line, I secured the rod in my beach spike and headed back to the car, which was 50-odd metres back from the shoreline. All of sudden I could hear Pea yelling, “You’re on! You’re on!”.

As I glanced back he was pointing at my rod, which was waving up and down. There was a final pull and it stayed completely bent.

I ran back to my rod and struggled to get it out of the sand spike – it seemed to take minutes, but I had it in my hands in a few seconds. I tightened up the drag, struck and it was all on!

I was a little disappointed as it felt like a stingray, which are very common off the beach, but after a couple of minutes the line was still straight (stingray normally run parallel to the beach, side to side) and with more noticeable head shakes, I knew it was a solid west-coast snapper.

Five minutes in I could hear some moaning and puffing behind me and then a “yahoo!”. Looking back, Pea’s rod was bent over, and he was also hooked up.

Eventually the surge of the waves helped push my big red onto the sand. I couldn’t believe it – it was a solid speciman and my PB off a beach. It was roughly 75cm long and with the tide already pushing us back and nothing in the bin, we made the decision to keep it.

Jason's snapper caught at Muriwai beach.

Jason's snapper caught at Muriwai beach.

All the while, Pea was still struggling. I told him to calm down as he was probably hooked up to another big snap. Sure enough, with another surge came another solid fish sliding across the sand in ankle-deep water. It was a similar size to mine and we both let out a few hoots and yahoos!

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Pea's solid snapper.

Pea's solid snapper.

With the rise of the tide and our two-hour fishing window closing fast, we called it a day. We also had to make our way back down the beach, which I like to do at roughly around the half tide and no later.

It was an exciting day fishing off the beach with a mate, even though the tides and times were not properly aligned. And while not a lot of fish were caught it was pure magic just being there.

A magic day on the West Coast with my sister

With a SSW wind at 15 knots forecast, I got hold of my sister to see if she was keen to head up Muriwai beach for the day. She was, and with low around 6.00am, we planned to head off before it was light, travel to the end of the beach and fish through the tide. It was going to be a long day, but we were just stoked about getting a line wet.

I’ve been driving this beach for over 25 years but I have travelled its shores much longer. As a kid in the late 70’s I would often be there with the old man and his friends setting our kontiki and doing a bit of surfcasting. We also spent many nights in the dunes in our sleeping bags – the west coast really is a part of me.

We normally fish the main beach, as we have a couple of nice low-tide spots, but with a 2.5m swell, the spot we were heading for was going to be what is known as The Hook. Crossing over the dune, we headed north as the sun was just coming up. As is usual at this time of the day, it was pure magic.

We reached our spot around 7.00am and set in for a long day of fishing. We would be here until the other side of the tide when we could make our way back down the beach.

We wanted to fish this area from low tide to low tide. I don’t fish it often, but I know it holds some nice fish of different species at times. Those special times of the day before and after light are the best times for snapper, but with kahawai, trevally, gurnard and who knows what else cruising the area looking for food, we were excited to be there for the entire time.

On an isolated piece of the coast with no other people in sight, we had our first baits in just after 7:00am. I just love being the only person on the beach and the anticipation of what could be mooching around…

As usual there were plenty of kahawai to start with, some of them of pretty good size. All went back except one we kept for bait.

The bites were few and far between to start with, but as the tide rose the bites came on and soon every bait was nailed within minutes by big sea-going kahawai. I didn’t really expect much in the way of snapper as it was pretty shallow and also very bright, but at least we weren’t just sitting around.

We had a couple of stingies turn up, which is the norm for here, and while sorting out a kahawai my rod loaded up, buckled over and stayed buckled. I yelled to my sister to grab it and with a struggle she held on, with line stripping out non-stop.

It looked like it was a big stingray after a few more solid runs, a couple around 20-30m. Ten minutes in and with not much sideways movement or the locking onto the bottom that is typical of stingrays, it started to look like it might be something different. I thought maybe a small shark, but the longer it held on the less likely that seemed.

I started wondering if it could possibly be a good kingfish. We do get them sometimes on baits, especially a little cube of pillie. As it got closer the tell-tale signs on the rod told me it was a king and a good one at that! My sister was knackered – it had been an epic battle for nearly 20 minutes.

I could see a big yellow tail as it came in through the turbulent whitewash. As it hit the shallows, we could see it was a solid fish – an epic catch from the beach. This was my sister’s first ever king ­ I estimated it at around 17-18 kilos, but it may have even hit that magic 20-kilo mark.

After a couple of quick pics she was keen to send it on its way and it was just as epic to watch it slowly disappear into the surf. What an epic catch! She was stoked. This is what my fishing is all about – seeing the excitement and smiles these little adventures can bring.

After a couple of quick pics, the kingfish was sent on its way.

After a couple of quick pics, the kingfish was sent on its way. 

A few more kahawai were caught before I hooked up to something solid. It looked like maybe we were going to have kingfish number two! There were a few gannets working just offshore where the water was full of baitfish. That’s why these guys were there.

I beached another solid king around that 20 kilos. It was pretty unreal catching them on a surfcaster from the beach!

Will be back again to try for some snapper – maybe an overnighter is needed to be there for those magic hours.

   This article is reproduced with permission of   
New Zealand Fishing News

February 2019 - Jason Neute
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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