This is the time of year when the anchovy schools are thick up and down the coast, and Bream Bay is no exception.
Everything loves anchovies, including me on my pizza! But from a fishing perspective, the schools of these tasty morsels draw in the predators anglers seek – snapper, kahawai, kingfish, john dory, and unfortunately, sharks!
Probably more so than at any other time of the year, matching your lures to the bait is important. Fishing the pilchard schools, you can just about get away with deploying a range of options from baits through to big jigs, but when targeting the anchovy schools you need a more refined approach.
For me, that means very small softbaits (four inch and smaller) on light 3/8 and 1/4-ounce jigheads. The more natural the colour of the tails, so much the better. Unlike fishing the workups where often the best action is found in the ‘exhaust’ of the action, I have found when fishing the anchovy schools that casting the lure or microjig right into the middle of the melee delivers the best results. Note I said ‘cast’ into the school, not drive through it with your boat as I witnessed recently.
Light tackle is the go. The lighter the trace you are confident to fish, the better your results will be. Six-kilo leader (and lighter) is my preferred option with a similarly rated braid, enabling you to cast further, thus staying wide of the action with the boat. Several tungsten microjig options allow you to use a smaller lure as the heavier construction material will aid the casting distance.
Alistair Arkell with one fish caught in the shallows at the Chicks that didn’t get away.
The anchovy schools are currently spread far and wide, up and down the coast. I have encountered them off Te Arai in the south and in the Whangarei harbour in the north. Find the white terns dipping and diving; they will often point you to the bait schools. Top and bottom of the tides seem to be the best time to target the schools. This is when the terns seem to be most active. At other times you will find the birds sitting on the water in rest mode. Scan around with the sounder, the bait will not be far away.
A couple of years ago I heard of a Hauraki Gulf angler who fished near the anchovy schools at last light, drawing them to his boat with lights where he scooped them up. He would use the bigger ones as fresh bait around the schools, the others he froze and later deployed as chum to give some substance to his conventional berley trail when winter snapper fishing. If doing this, make sure none wriggle into the bilges. I can tell you from experience that after a few days, you will know where to find any that had missed the container!
With some good weather forecasts for the next few days, I plan to head out a little deeper. There have been good reports of bait and snapper schools in 55-60 metres SE of Sail Rock.
Tony Orton from Offshore Adventures mentioned he has run across this activity when heading back and forth to the Mokohinaus. These islands have been fishing well. Tony says the kingfish action has been the best he has seen for a long time as these predators follow the schools of bigger jack mackerel into the offshore pins. Unfortunately, the bronzies have cottoned on to the action and his anglers have been struggling to get their fish aboard in one piece. This week all that remained of one XXOS kingfish was the head which weighed 10kg – you can only imagine how big the fish was whole!
I fished the wash and shallows around the Hen and Chicks one fine day this last week while doing a review of Alistair Arkell’s Haines Signature centre console, set up specifically for this style of lure fishing. I would like to report that we landed some big fish, but the truth was we had our backsides handed to us on a platter as several good snapper took us into the bricks and weeds and, despite our best boat work and tactics, we couldn’t dislodge them.
One double-figure fish played ball, only to flick the lure a few metres from the net. Seeing big fish smash the baits on the surface in five metres or so of water was exciting, even if the strike ultimately ended in tears.
You can check out the review and report of the day in the May edition of NZ Fishing News.
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