Bruce Duncan reports easy pickings around small patches of foul, for those using bait and berley. It never fails to amaze when I think just how good the Hauraki Gulf is, just nowhere I have ever been comes within a bulls roar of it.
Needing to update some photos for my new book due out before Christmas, I was under an enormous weight of proofing and getting all my ducks lined up with only a few hours to spare – so how good is it when you can leave the marina at the OBC and literally be only ten minutes before you drop the anchor.
Again I sound like a broken record, but this winter the fishing has been phenomenal. You don't need to spend the whole day out there to get a feed if you do it right. Given the fact it was a lousy moon phase tide and all those things you don't want when under pressure to perform, it was 'Straylining 101'.
Finding a bit of foul or reef structure that you can line the stern of the boat to is number one, with the wind and tide all going in the same direction this minimises the swing of the boat, so the lines are going directly astern which allows you to focus on the bait. Being winter, the snapper are not competing for food; they are only picking a bait and mouthing it, sucking off the good bits and spitting out the rest. What most people get wrong is they think the small taps and line movement are just small fish playing with the bait. To get the fish that are spread out over the structure in the one spot where they then become competitive and eat more aggressively is with berley and ground bait, best of all in shallow water is salmon burly as it has a high oil content that comes back up to the surface creating an oil slick. This oil slick is perfect as it firstly shows you the angle and direction of the current hence where you need to cast a bait but also brings in the baitfish from far and wide. Ground bait, particularly in shallow water, must be tossed as far astern of the boat as possible to allow the current to take it back into wards the structure as once the fish have a sniff of the burly it brings them out looking for food and being scavengers the more they pick up, the more hungry and aggressive they get.
Tiny sinkers are the key. They provide just enough weight to get the bait to the bottom – too much weight, the bait-shy fish pick it up, feel resistance and then drop it.
Small cut baits are best to start with and only if the berley really kicks in and there are a lot of fish getting fired up, will I rig a whole bait. With half-size baits, they pick up them up and mouth them, so when you strike chances are you will get a hook-up, which is not the case with bigger baits.
Cast your baits as far back into the oil slick as possible. As the current drops off and, particularly at the end of the tide, try a few baits in closer. Over the course of the tide, many of the bigger fish move out from the structure as the berley trail is not going so far back, and pick up the scraps of bait that get tossed over. This is why so often the biggest fish of the day is caught on the last few scrappy bits of bait left on the bait board.
Long story short my mate of mine and I nailed eight nice snapper lost a few big buggers and were back on the dock in less than four hours. At the moment there is no single spot to target - it's all about where the boat will lay best for the wind and tide on the day, but what is surprising and bloody good to see is that even small bits of structure such as Rough Rock in the Rangitoto Channel are still holding snapper.