With the cold, wet and windy weather we have been experiencing for the last few weeks, you have to take the positive out of the negative as there have been the odd few days when it’s been perfect fishing conditions.
These weather windows may be few and far between and not lasting long, so you must put a line in the sand and get out there and do it. The more time on the water, the more you learn.
The inner gulf has been producing nice numbers of snapper without having to go too far and spend a heap of dollars on fuel. Heading down the Rangitoto channel, there is not a lot of fish showing on the sounder, but that doesn’t surprise me with all the runoff from the recent rain. Once you get past the lighthouse, run up past the dumping ground (marked on the chart) and look at the low foul between 7-12 metres. The fish marks are small red clumps just on or slightly above the bottom. Head into the wind and tide, then anchor up current, so the burley and baits will be taken back into the target zone.
As the current drops off, I remove any sinkers, change to a recurve hook and cast the unweighted bait ahead of the boat to allow the bait to float down naturally into the burley trail slowly. This most often results in the biggest fish being caught. Being scavengers, the bigger snapper are used to feeding on scraps and come up off the bottom above the smaller fish. Being unweighted, they pick up the bait moving back down the trail, allowing the recurve hook to roll into the fish’s jaw.
To catch fish, first, there must be a suitable habitat for the fish to lurk in over the winter months. It’s a bit of a gamble heading out wide looking for work up, and most of my mates have had too many bad days to justify the effort and expense. Putting up the challenge, I fished the shallows where I knew the habitat would hold fish while a couple of boats headed out to the 30-metre mark. The team that went wide caught 11 just over legal snapper, whereas on my own, I caught a limit of snapper in the 35-45 cm range.
Unweighted baits drifted back down the berley trail tend to catch the bigger snapper.
With so few fish in the channels, straylining into rocky kelpy areas is the way to go over the winter months to consistently catch a feed. In Area 3, there are a couple of spots I have never missed, but you have to have the right conditions on the day. Spots 15 and 16 fished well last weekend, and again unweighted fresh jack mackerel baits cast up-current on the slack water nailed a couple of snapper in the 6-8 kg range. Spot 10 is in Boulder Bay and often fishes best at the change of light, but it produced well on the incoming tide last Sunday.
By all accounts, the Noises and Ahaahas have been fishing well. Again it’s a matter of setting a game plan, sticking to the one spot with plenty of burley and ground bait. Further to the east in the Firth of Thames, there have been some big workups of kahawai feeding on whitebait and snapper feeding anywhere from mid-water right down hard on the bottom.
Having had a couple of trips out from Omaha, the rocky area from Pink Beach to the south has been producing snapper in the 4-8 kg range. I have found it best to anchor just on the edge of the sand, casting lightly weighted baits back to the isolated rocks better than close in on the shore. At this time of the year, I find the gurnard starting to move into the bay on the flat sand, feeding in 8-12 meters. A slow drift with a ledger rig and a strayline has resulted in a few fat gurnard each time.
Like I said in my last report, fresh bait such as kahawai, piper or jack macs will make all the difference to your hook-up rate as the fish are still just mouthing and slowly chewing on the bait.