With an outstanding week of winter weather comes some outstanding fishing despite a couple of factors that can have a major effect on the fishing, especially in the colder winter months. These are poor moon phases; small tides; and bitterly south-easterly winds.
When you look at what life throws at you, and you think that’s a bit harsh seldom do you stop and think of others that may be worse off than you. Often it takes a bit of a kick in the butt to remember just how blessed we are to have the Hauraki Gulf on our doorstep. This was brought home to me last week when I had one of the best fishing experiences of my life. A mate of mine is now confined to a wheelchair, and that’s the least of his problems. I never hear him complain or get grumpy, so when he said he wanted to go fishing in his mates' new boat, I wanted to help. With wind tide and moon phase against us, I was now faced with where the hell we could fish where it was calm so he wouldn’t fall out of his wheelchair. Four 350 hp Yamaha outboards had us doing just under 50 knots, and the smile on his face was a sight to see, his grin went past his ears.
We dropped the anchor in three meters of water close in on the Rangitoto shore to the south of Coast Guard Bay. The salmon berley was dropped just a meter below the surface so the current would carry it back into the shallow foul astern of the boat. Being so shallow and with a small tide, I sent four un-weighted baits back into the shallow water close to the kelp. With the oil slick and berley being taken back I could see a heap of bait fish coming up the berley trail. Soon, we had the first snapper on board. Long story short within two hours we were heading back to the marina with 12 good snapper and one big mother of a john dory. What a buzz! Where else in the world can you shoot out for a couple of hours and come home with enough fish to feed four families, and best of all, to see him and his mates having a great time.
The following Friday I took an old geriatric mate out in pretty much the same conditions with a wee challenge and a side bet as to who was going to kick who’s ass. A small incoming tide, south-east wind and crappy moon phase meant I had to look for a bit of current. Off the entrance to Islington Bay, there is a fair bit of low structure that holds fish year round. Anchored just off the outer edge of the foul where the bottom starts to drop off was where the current would be strongest as it pushes up over the low foul. The berley bomb was dropped halfway to the bottom to allow the current to take it over a wider area of the bottom, whereas if I had dropped it lower the coverage would have been far less. It was only after an hour of the incoming tide did we need to put any weight on and then it was only a ¼ of an ounce. At the start, you would swear that there were only very small fish mouthing the baits, but past history told me it was not the case. This is what I love about winter fishing is that you have to focus totally on the bait feeling for the smallest of movement and time your strike perfectly. Again, long story short, we got (or should I say “I” got), a very good feed of fat winter snapper as my mate could not focus and get the strike right.
Saturday was just too good of a day not to get out on the water, so again, I took a couple of mates out to fish the same area of foul. Despite it being just one day apart, the whole feeling of the place felt wrong with the fish sitting on the wrong side of the reef. A mate anchored further out (basically where I had been the day before) was having some trouble, with the fish only mouthing the baits, not taking a proper hit at them, making the strike even harder than the day before. In saying that, if you focused on your strike, you hooked up. When you did manage to get the hookup, you often got busted off by some big fish. Yet again, long story short, we nailed just enough fish for three families.
Winter is the time, especially when all the factors are against you, when you have to really focus and remember small taps or bites are not just small fish, it is simply the way they are feeding. Berley and ground bait are a must to get them stimulated – this, alongside small half-cut pilchards and squid, or, best of all, fresh bait fish or kahawai, will be sure to get you a feed.