To be fair, I doubt the big guy in the red suit exists. Last year I was good for at least three days, yet did he front up with my new seventy-foot game boat and the three weeks of good weather I asked for?
Like most of you, apart from a few days, it has been plain unsafe to head out in a small boat around here, and for those of us away on big boats, it was a case of finding shelter and watching the boat being spun around at anchor for days on end.
What I did find very concerning, both on the way to and from the Barrier and down the western side of the Coromandel, was the lack of bird life and fish showing on the sounder.
Even in and around Te Kouma and the numerous islands close by, there were only small patches of fish on the outer-lying foul. With the wind at 25-35 knots, I was limited to where we could safely fish. Straylining back onto a rocky shoreline was the only option, catching a decent size snapper (over 40 cm) was more good luck than good management. Normally I would expect to catch a few small snapper but not the numbers we hooked. Fresh bait like piper and jack macs always catch the biggest fish, but even finding bait fish was a bit of a mission. Sure, the conditions didn’t help, but I am concerned as I have never experienced anything like this.
How we handle our released fish has a big bearing on future numbers. Photo, Alistair Arkell, Hauraki Gulf Media
Having covered many miles over the gulf this Xmas, never before have I seen so many dead under-sized snapper floating on the surface, especially around Anchorite Rock. We all need to rethink hook size and the speed we bring fish to the surface, especially from depths over 20 metres. It’s obvious when you are hooked up on a small fish, so please just slowly bring these fish to the surface.
The way we handle our catch is going to determine the future of our fishery. Take a hundred boats out fishing with two people on board, each catching and releasing one fish that dies, is two hundred fish a day wasted. Yet we blame the commercial fleet for the decline. Get real. We all have a part to play so please, for the sake of future generations, think about your methods and handling of fish, otherwise we will lose a great fishery.
Over my lifetime, I have seen a significant decline in the size and number of snapper in the inner gulf. I put a lot of it down to pollution and the increase in population and the development of new fishing methods. What young people see today and think is normal is far from it – the future is in our hands.
Once the weather comes right, I will be back out to retrace my steps and see if the lack of fish and bird life was due to weather conditions.