There is an old saying that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. So often we are blind to what we are seeing and it's only when you get a kick up the behind, do you stop to think.
As it's winter, and knowing the snapper are fussy eaters - they can't resist chewing on fresh bait fish - I decided to give the boat a run into Islington Bay to get a supply of bait-fish for a weekend's fishing mission. I took a few squid and pilchards, as well, to cover my bases. What could be nicer than charging along at 18.9 knots on a bright sunny day.
All was well in my little world until I saw the temp gauge needle starting to rise. I slowed down - and so did the needle - until I added a few revs and it then went off the Richter scale! I had no option but to pull it out of gear, drop the anchor and have a look under the hatch. It was not a pretty sight, with red coolant everywhere along with a lot of steam. I quickly worked out that a hose clip had failed – an easy fix - so I closed the hatch to let it cool down before I could attack the problem. It was just as well I took some bait, otherwise I would have gone septic sitting on the boat without a bait out. With a light wind against the tide, the boat was yawning around on the anchor. I tossed a couple of baits well astern, though - to be honest - I thought the chances of catching a fish were next to nil. I needed to get my mind off the issues below my feet.
I was startled back to reality by the sound of nylon being dragged off a reel. Low and behold, that turned out to be a 2 kg snapper! As I wound it in, the other rod went off, but the fish fell off before I could get to it. A much happier Captain Swish re-baited both lines and tossed them well astern, letting them slowly sink to the bottom (this keeps the sinker on top of the bait). Within a few minutes I got two good bites and landed another 1.5 kg snapper.
To cut a long story short - seven nice snapper plus two fat kahawai were now in the bin. With my fishing fix over, I was then able to fix the cooling issues and head back to the marina at 18.9 knots, in my happy place in the sun. Overall, it wasn't a bad effort in less than two hours - including engine repairs. The real mystery was why it was so easy, as I had been on the open sand with only the odd bit of fish sign.
Far too often we head for a given spot without focusing on what is actually around us. How often do we see a few fish marks, but dismiss them as not being worth having a shot. Yet, there I was on the southern side of Rangitoto, to east of the wharf (around ¼ mile off the shoreline) on a flat featureless bottom in only six or seven metres. So why were the snapper there? - it boils down to food.
Thinking back over the years. it was only when I had a small runabout, that I fished this area. Back then I often put out a long line, which always resulted in a few fish. With bigger boats these days, we forget to fish under our feet. What we often don't consider is the actual size of the bottom area showing on the sounder. In other words - the foot print of the bottom. If we are in, for example, 7 metres of water - how big an area of the bottom is actually showing on the screen? With the average beam angle, this is hardly anything! If you have read any of my works, I always talk about "zig zagging" into the current. As you may only be seeing a few square metres of bottom, the chance of there being more than one or two fish at the most is very slim. By doing the zigs and zags, you are able to build up a picture in your mind as to the amount of fish and where they are laying in the tide. This gives a far better idea of where best to anchor so you can target the fish.
A huge advantage I have is with my Furuno sounder/ chart plotter. This will clearly show fish sign on the outer edges of the beam, along with blue dots (true sign of snapper) just off the centre. It will also show the actual size of any fish that goes directly through the centre of the beam and they will show up on the chart plotter. With all this information, along with those fish marks on the chart plotter, I can build up a very good idea of fish numbers in the area. I can also determine where best to anchor, allowing for the wind and tide to target them.
The following day I repeated the exercise a bit closer to shore, with a mate alongside in his boat. Again we caught some nice fish. Lessons learnt this week - you can never forget the past, but the best electronics and fish your feet.