Being out of the country for the last month may not have been a bad thing as I had consistently heard that the weather had been terrible almost every day. Less than twelve hours after landing, I was on the good ship Miss B Haven with the diesel warmed up and ready to go. Despite a bad back, lack of sleep and jet lag, I was desperate for a fishing fix and the taste of fresh snapper.
Being out of touch of what had been going on and not wanting a big day, it was a matter of “find the foul, and you will find the fish”. But with the moon phase wind and big tides, it’s critical to get the boat to lay right so one can stay focused on the baits. No matter what you think you know, no two days will be the same. Every so often you have a day where despite it being a big tide, which should hold the stern of the boat directly towards the foul, there is no current, or it is running the wrong way. Once at anchor, I quickly realised that this would be the case, with the boat lying sideways to where it should have been. Having experienced this before my gut said I ought to shift, but a lazy, tired old brain said ‘wait it out’. Having wasted an hour without even a sniff at the bait, I moved to the southern end of Rangitoto only to find some bugger who was anchored within a meter of where I wanted to be. With a solid berley trail getting dragged through the rough foul we started to get a few small bites and soon had the first snapper on board, but it was going to be one of those days when you had to stay focused to get a solid hook up. Long story short, it was only when we caught a kahawai to be used as fresh bait did we have any fish take a bait with aggression and we ended up with just five snapper for the day.
This last weekend I had a job as a fishing guide on a 70ft launch. It all sounds well and good until I realised it was blowing 25-35kt winds and I only had four hours to deliver! To make things worse, it was wind against tide. This gave me just two options of where I could safely anchor with a reasonable chance of success, and to make it work; I had to begin preparing well before we left the dock. Firstly, an hour before we left the pier into a bucket of water went a big salmon berley bomb to thaw out, so the moment it hit the water we had a big berley trail instantly flowing – the second salmon berley was taken out of the wrapping and again left to thaw. Two kilos of pilchards and a kilo of squid were then cut up into ground bait, so I could get a trail of ground bait into the berley trail the second the anchor took hold so the current would quickly take it well astern, back into and across the reef structure.
Of my two options, I chose option A which was to anchor in Snapper Bay at Motuihe, as with the wind screaming down the valley and across the bay it will get sucked in along the cliffs so along with the current should hold the stern slightly towards the reef structure that extends out from the headland. As the anchor was being dropped, I was tossing out handfuls of ground bait, and the moment the anchor set over went the wobbly pot with one full and one semi-thawed salmon berley creating a pink cloud in the water.
With six very novice people fishing and the boat swinging around the only way to fish these conditions was to cast a pattern of baits astern but stagger the distance that they sat in the water. With a boat swinging and fishing down the edge of a reef structure with numerous bits of broken foul on the outside, there is always going to be people getting snagged, so my preferred rig is simply having the small ¼ oz sinker sitting directly on top of the hook. Sure a few fish will bust you off, but think of how many thousands of meters of mono are lost on the bottom every year – with this rig, if you get snagged and busted off you’ll only lose a sinker and hook.
Not more than ten minutes after the first bait was tossed into the berley trail it was nailed and from then on in it was manic fishing for an hour.
Once the current started to ease and the wind picked up the stern of the boat swung out and away from the reef structure, so the bites dropped off as you would expect. Often just before the end of the tide is when the biggest fish of the day is caught. Rigging up a big butterflied jack mack, I cast it well astern and told a small boy if he holds the rod right and focuses on the bait striking the fish, he could be the hero of the day. What a buzz to see the kid listen, take it on board and do precisely what he was told. When a fish inevitably hit the big bait, he nearly got dragged over the side by the power of the strike! The kid nearly exploded when I netted his snapper, and stood there fizzing and shaking, unable to get any words out. His parents bloody near went aerial with joy and that, team, is for me, what fishing and boating are all about – great memories.