Having been out for a few day trips and overnighters lately, it is interesting to be able to see the changes that take place during the course of a day.
At this time of the year, snapper, in particular, can be a bit hard to find if you are only going to your tried and true spots. I have had many people are telling me that they have struggled like hell to catch a couple of just legal fish, yet others have loaded up in a couple of hours.
A number of factors come into play such as the strength of the tide and wind, and the depth of water you're fishing in. For example, I fish a fair bit around Awash rock, and it's an area I seldom ever fail to find and catch snapper year round. Having overnighted in Mullet Bay I spent a few hours catching fresh piper and jack mackerel while grazing on a big feed of bacon and eggs – it was around 9:30 when I started to have a look around, and it was roughly half tide. It was bizarre – there was nothing to be found. I could not find anything but a few 11-22 cm snapper, and even the baitfish were nowhere to be seen. If this has been the case in the past, I will always find a few fish lurking on the sand in around 7-12 meters outside Home Bay, nearby. Again, I experienced the same thing. I would have bet my last bottle of rum that they'd be in the current on the drop off close to Little Sandy Point a few hundred meters away, bugger me it would have cost me a bottle of my best as the place was, entirely devoid of fish.
So where to from here? I made my way up the eastern side of Rakino with my sounder showing a reasonable amount of snapper, some up in the 45-57 cm range, but well spread out.
In the shelter of Rakino, the Furuno showed a heap of fish in the shallows. I thought I could catch a few fish, but yet again I was wrong. With the tide on the turn, I went back to Awash rock to find a truckload of fish in the spot where three hours before it was a desert.
So often you just have to go hunting and understand that the tide plays a significant role as to where the fish will be. When there's a small tide, they spread out, but on the turn of the tide they bunch up for an hour or so then again spread out. This is particularly evident in the Rakino, Motuihe and Rangitoto channels, where the fish are moving through the area quite quickly. If no fish are showing have a look in an hour or so. The one area that is consistent is out on the worm beds. Now, post-spawning the fish are reasonably well spread out, but with a burley trail and plenty of ground bait you can't but help catch a feed.
The key to catching snapper on the sand is to use the smallest sinker, just to get the bait to the bottom as the fish are feeding on crabs and worms etc. They will be slowly picking up and mouthing the bait, so if they feel too much resistance, they will often just drop it. Your best fish will almost always be caught on fresh bait – catch some jack mackerel in the burley trail, butterfly it and toss it out as far as you can to allow it to sink back down into the burley trail slowly.
All you will see and feel on the line is small taps and the line starting to straighten out. Give the fish a bit more slack line till it comes up tight then strike hard and wind at the same time to take out the line stretch to set the hook. On slack water, when the fish in the channels go off the bite, try a drift out on the sand but using a small oily bait like pilchard or mullet. This is ideal as, for one, you cover more ground and, two, it's a lot better to be trying something different than sitting in the one spot being bored.