We are finally getting to the end of a very difficult year and it is time to sit back, relax and spend quality time with friends and family.
I have to say I have my suspicions that the big, fat, jolly old man in the red suit may just be a figment of my imagination as I have yet to see the new 70ft game boat the old bloke in the big red chair at the mall told me I would get if I was a good boy.
With time on our hands, we can get out on the water at a more leisurely pace and try things we have not had the time to try before, such as catching fresh bait. At times, fishing over the Xmas break can be frustrating as it is post spawning and the snapper can be a bit lethargic in the way they feed. Fresh bait can make all the difference as it stays on the hook longer than softer frozen baits.
Sabiki flasher rigs are a simple, effective way to catch all manner of bait fish but they will also catch a lot of baby snapper which will most likely die soon after being released. The best way to avoid a bycatch of snapper is to always keep the flasher rig in the middle of the water column or at least a metre off the bottom.
Dragging a bait net at the beach is great family fun. After pre-soaking some bread or, best of all, bran, wade out to waist deep water and toss a handful all around you and wait on the shore till you see the ripples of baitfish on the surface. A tip I learnt many years ago if there are a lot of seagulls around is to mix a handful of sand in with the bread as this will make it sink before the birds can nail it. Sometimes I get too many baitfish in the net, so I take out the baitfish I need for the day then walk out with the net reversed to allow the rest to swim away.
When I’m away on the launch over Xmas, my favourite way of fishing is straylining as I’m basically a lazy slob who just wants to blob out and catch a couple of fish for a feed. The old saying “fish your feet first” comes into play. Ideally, the best time to target shallow, sandy bays or shorelines that have plenty of kelp is at dawn or dusk. Like with humans, the change of light triggers the urge to eat. Every morning I have a coffee in the cockpit as the sun comes up. I catch a few fresh baits with the idea of taking the dinghy over to the rocks or out into deeper water for a soft-bait session. While I sip my brew, I usually toss an unweighted fresh bait off the boat. More often than not, even in a crowded bay, I will not need to hop in the dinghy as I will catch breakfast before my second cup. Yet once the sun comes up, the fish move out into deeper water.
My best advice to those of you who now have a bit of time on your hands is to slowly cruise around the shoreline at dead low tide looking for bits of foul or even in shallow ankle deep water on a sandy beach. You may see a number of things, such as kelp, snails, crabs and baitfish – all of which are the natural food for snapper, john dory and kingfish. Now look at what wind and tide direction you need to be able to target that spot. Knowledge is everything, which can take you from zero to hero on those hard days when the wind, tide and moon phase are all bad.
With a lifetime of fishing the Hauraki Gulf, I can confirm there is no one area better than another. It is simply a matter of understanding the habitat and conditions needed to maximise your chances. Through this website, you can get my latest book which has 150 spots from the Harbour Bridge to the Firth of Thames. Each spot has the GPS coordinates, a photo of the area, plus a screenshot from my Furuno TZ touch chart plotter sounder showing the bottom fish, as well as where the boat is on the chart plotter. Every spot has a full description of how to target it, including what rigs, baits and conditions are best. I have written this book so others can get out on the water, maximise their chances of catching a few fish and enjoy their time with the family as I have had the privilege of doing over my lifetime. Believe me, you don’t make any money from books as it took me four years of work and over twenty thousand dollars in fuel to get all the screenshots!