It is interesting looking back over the last six months at the changes that have taken place, and all of it is a hell of a lot better than in years past – long may it last. The increase in particular to the number of snapper and kingfish in the Inner Gulf has been quite phenomenal with the only exception being scallops and kahawai.
In the last two weeks, I have been out a few times to catch a few fish for myself and have also had a number of guiding jobs which have seen me fishing a variety of areas from the worm beds both the Rakino and Rangitoto Channels and out around the Noises. It would appear that the spawning is nearly over, with ninety-five per cent of the fish caught now being spent.
This is somewhat earlier than most years, and the upside is the snapper will now be more aggressive in the way they feed as they will be needing to put on condition and build up their body fat.
If you are targeting the worm beds, you will find that there are more snapper holding out on the sand approximately 1 to 1 1/2 miles north of the Rangitoto light. There is very little bird life out there which is a bit unusual, but if you slow right down to around 3-4 knots, you will find the snapper are spread out grazing, with the odd small school. As the fish are well spread out the options are to cover more ground drift fishing with soft baits jigs. If the drift rate is very slow to cover your bases try tossing out a lightly weighted stray line. If bait fishing at anchor you really need to get a good burley trail going – drop the wobbly pot till it is around 1-2 meters and don't forget to toss a handful or two of ground bait over every so often. You need to set a game plan and fish the one spot for at least two hours to allow the ground bait and burley to spread out, and over time the snapper will start to come on.
You will find the bite to be slow and light, but that is just the way they feed on the open sand till the burley kicks in – the more fish in the burley trail the more aggressive the will feed. It is well worth dropping a flasher rig down and picking up a few live baits and running a live bait just behind the wobbly pot as this where the bait fish will be as well as any john dory or kingfish.
There is a hell of a lot of small snapper out on the sand which rips the hell out of softer baits, so I have been using fresh butterflied jack mackerel which have been catching the bigger fish as they hold on longer.
I have found that in the last couple of weeks the size of the snapper in the channels are a lot smaller than further out around Rakino and the Noise. Again, fresh butterflied baits are doing the damage. Have a wee look between Takapu Rock and Otarta Island and on the drop off closer to the island where it drops off from 7-14 meters around 1-2 hours after the tide has changed, and there is a stronger current running.
Zeno rock has also been firing on the outgoing tide, slowly work your way towards the rock from around 18 meters as the snapper can often at this time of the year be holding just where the bottom starts to come up towards the rock.
If you want to target a kingfish we had a number up around the boat which all busted us off as we were snapper fishing with 6 kg line just inside the headland and on the southern side of Matiatia Bay. Come into the bay and anchor reasonably close to the shore in around 6-8 meters and get a good burley trail going. Catch a few live baits and set one under a balloon then toss out a couple of stray lines (unweighted) towards the rocks. This setup is perfect for the kingfish that we've noticed following our pannie snapper up.
I do warn you that there are also some bronze whaler sharks lurking about in the bay – we had two of the biggest bronze's I have ever seen in my life coming within a meter of the boat. Amazingly they seemed just to want to say hello and were not interested in the hooked snapper – scared the hell out of my clients but such a beautiful sight.
Well, troops, you all play it safe out there over the Xmas holidays. When you're on holiday is the best time to think outside the square, try new things and places, but please take only what you need for a feed and look after the catch as the heat of the day will quickly spoil fish if they are not iced down.