Apart from a few days at the start of the holiday when it blew 25-35 knots, this would have to be the best boating weather window I can recall for the last twenty years.
It is pretty normal for a lot of people to struggle a bit over the Xmas period as some snapper are in the final phase of spawning (I was surprised at how many fish from both deep and shallow had a bit of roe left) and you then add all the excuses you can think of. To be honest, we never failed to feed the team each day but at times, even I struggled and fired myself a couple of times as a fishing guide.
Having spent a fair bit of time on the northern side of Waiheke and Great Barrier, one thing that is even more evident this year and is very concerning is the lack of bird life from plain old seagulls to gannets.
I know I can sound like a pom when you think of how calm it’s been, yet that has not helped the fishing. There’s been slow drifts, and then toss in a crappy moon phase, so if you have struggled you are not on your own.
To maximise your chances in such conditions, fish the change of light and cover your bases with fresh livebaits. Out in 30-45 metres off the Barrier, we used both ledger rigs and sliders. Bait caught the biggest fish but sliders the most. Due to a lot of small snapper being caught, we mostly fished shallower water with slabs of kahawai or butterflied jack macs.
Back in town for the last week, I have been out a number of times to check out the local water. There are good numbers of small to average snapper spread from the Harbour Bridge to the Firth of Thames.
The Rakino, Rangitoto, Motuihe and Crusoe channels are having the normal runs of snapper sneaking through as they head up into the shallower flat muddy sandy bottom areas to feed on shellfish and crabs. Look at the chart from the southern side of Rangitoto and Waiheke back to the land – note the vast area is mostly flat, sandy, muddy bottom. This is like a massive paddock where the snapper will move about and just constantly graze on crabs and shellfish and this is what fools people to thinking there are only small fish.
The deal way to target areas like this is to drift tossing soft-baits out in all directions. I find smaller 3-4 inch jerk shads are best – either white or darkish blue. With bait fishing, it’s best to set a game plan. Look for any contour lines which might increase the current flow, then sound around. Don’t expect to see a heap of fish in any one spot but get an idea of where and how far they are spread. Once anchored, drop the berley pot till its 1-2 metres off the bottom. This allows the current to take it further from the boat than if it was on the bottom. Cover your bases with fresh and frozen bait and try to catch baitfish in the berley trail as fresh baits stay on longer, are stronger and always catch the biggest fish.
The key to this type of fishing is to remember how and what the fish are feeding on. Don’t think small tap taps are small fish. Feed out a bit of line so there is no resistance and strike fast and hard when the line comes up tight.
My target area this weekend if the wind and tide direction is right will be on the eastern side of Browns Island but I would bet my last bottle of Captain Morgan that if you head to the upper harbour on the inside of Waiheke or even off Mission Bay beach as I did on Wednesday, you will get a feed.