Don't you just love those quiet, flat-calm, glassy winter days - sadly for most they turn up during the working week! Free to call me whatever you want, but I will admit that I get a kick out of watching rush hour traffic from the cockpit of the launch, as often I fish the odd bit of rock structure close to Tamaki Drive.
Often early in the morning on these windless, still days, fog can be a bit of an issue. In saying that, I do have to admit I did sneak out in the dense fog last week and to be honest, I couldn't see ten meters in any direction let alone the traffic.
Now before you start banging on about safety and how you shouldn't be going out in those conditions, there are a few things you must do: I actively monitor my 14-inch Furuno TZ, so I know exactly where I am going; I always have the VHF on channel 16 (the ferries and ships give regular updates as their position on this channel) and stay the hell away from shipping channels and fast ferry lanes; and most important of all anchor behind a reef so if some silly bugger is lost he is going to hit the reef before he hits you!
I have to admit that it is kind of spooky driving through the fog like that, and even with a flash Harry Furuno plotter I am standing up on the bridge continually looking around and listening, then I glance down to check my course to find I could be off by 30 degrees! I still remember my pilot mate saying "when in fog or cloud always believe your instruments, not your gut" and he was dead right.
Again with the Furuno chart plotter being so accurate, I had total faith when I dropped the anchor that I was in the right place. Even though I couldn't see the reef, I knew it was only twenty meters off my stern. Casting out the first baits I couldn't even see where they landed due to the thick fog but was stunned when the rod was nearly ripped from my hand as a snapper around the 6kg mark took off with the bait. The key thing to always remember when fishing in shallow water that is strewn with bits of foul is to always play the fish with the rod tip just off the vertical. What this does is it lifts the head of the fish, preventing it from taking you into the rocks. What is strange is that after a couple of runs back into the reef they invariably then change course and run back out into clearer deeper water. Long story short, the fish went ballistic but went off the bite once the fog lifted for some reason.
While proofing some fishing spots for my new book (due out next year) I was going over a spot I have on the western side of Browns Island. Needing a fishing fix, I checked the forecast, as it can only be fished on an incoming tide with north to north-east winds, and that was exactly what was forecast for the following day. Purely for research purposes, my mate and I shot down to Browns just on the turn of the tide, as then I could clearly see where the reef rocks and gutters were so I could line it all up. Getting the boat to lay right is critical when stray lining into the foul and you need to spend a bit of time getting it right even if it means re-anchoring a couple of times. Remember to allow for the wind direction and a slight change in current direction once the tide starts to increase.
With the reef structure just visible and the depth of water around it only being around a meter in depth, you only need to lower the wobbly pot of burley just below the surface. This then allows the current to take it a lot further back into the reef structure than if it was close to the bottom. Being the start of the tide, no sinker is needed (only once the current increases will you need a ¼ oz sinker), as the weight of the bait will take it down and the local fish are always a bit bait shy until the burley takes effect. Once the first bait was out and rigging up the next rod, bugger me, it bloody near got ripped out of the rod holder. Again playing the fish with the rod tip high, I thought the snapper had morphed into a big kahawai as it ran out to one side and then up till nearly abeam of the boat. I continued playing the fish until it was again astern of the boat and it re-morphed itself back into a 6kg snapper. Constant pumping of the burley and tossing over chunks of ground bait saw a dozen nice snapper and a few kahawai in the bin inside of two hours fishing. That was enough to feed our families, so we left the spot with the snapper still on the bite.
The great thing about fishing the shallows in the winter months is you don't need to travel far, just look for an area where you can anchor with the wind and tide taking your baits and burley back into the foul, and you're set.