As I have said recently, hooking a fish can be very frustrating at times, particularly when the boat 100 metres away is catching and you are not.
I’ve been out three times in the last week and each trip has had mixed results, but there has been one common denominator – the bite. Snapper are now spread out on the muddy sandy bottom and are slowly moving about feeding on small crabs, worms and shell fish, hence why they’re just picking and chewing on their food. No matter what size the snapper is they all feed in the same manor. A mate of mine who used soft-baits didn’t get a decent hit all day, but just felt tiny taps. When he hooked up, however, these taps turned into good size fish with several busting him off. The same thing is happening with bait. I am finding that both fresh baits cut up into chunks and your standard pillies will get the same taps from the snapper. Fresh bait holds on longer so the fish get more aggressive as they chew on it, allowing you to set the hook.
The quality of bait and presentation is the key. If you take a bag of pillies, tip them on the bait board or into water to defrost, they quickly turn soft and mushy so become one hit wonders. However, if you take the same bag of pillies but wrap them tightly in newspaper, they come out firm. I take mullet bonito out of the freezer the night before and wrap them in newspaper so they defrost slowly, leaving the flesh firm. Fresh bait is best but with the lack of rain this summer, baitfish and even kahawai have at times been hard to catch. Mullet and kahawai are best cut into strip baits as snapper tend to suck down the last bit, giving you a chance to set the hook.
There aren’t many work ups around the northern side of Rangitoto and Motutapu yet. The anchovies are moving in but the schools are small, which is why the workups that are there don’t last long. Drift fishing, straylining and soft-baiting are all great options when fishing in Administration Bay directly out from the school camp in 7-12 meters. The reef in the middle of Administration Bay has a rock slightly off it and if you can anchor the boat so the stern is between the rock and the exposed reef, a good berley trail will drag the fish out of the kelp. It’s also worth putting a livebait out here as there are a few kingfish lurking about.
Rakino has been good to me and has produced better size fish but, again, you have to get the boat close to the rocks. Try the headland between Sandy and South Bay or the Three Sisters (all these spots fish best on the incoming tide).
Probably the single most consistent but overlooked snapper spot is close to town. When you sound around the area, you don’t generally see a lot of fish in one spot, so I set a game plan to fish it over the tide or till I have a feed. The main place I go is called “the barges” – a body of water out from Flax Point (south western end of Rangitoto). There are numerous small indentations and rocky patches with a muddy sand bottom holding heaps of crabs and shellfish. Sounding around, you will see more fish on or close to the indentations and bits of foul – then it’s just a matter of anchoring up current and getting your berley trail to flow across the target area. It’s only 7-10 metres deep, so it’s best to chop up chunks of ground bait – the further they go till they sink to the bottom the better, as in time this brings fish from further out. Use the smallest sinker that will get the bait to the bottom on either a running or strayline rig. Cast out from the boat, let the bait slowly sink to the bottom and stay in touch with the bait. When you feel a few taps, let out a little bit of line to encourage them to swim away with the bait in their mouths, giving you a chance to strike and set the hook.
A mate of mine struggled to get a feed out in the Firth so went into Pakatoa and fished on the western side of Pakatoa. Despite a soft bite, he caught his limit of 34-37cm snapper.