I must admit that I love the challenge of winter fishing, but the weather this year is enough to make a man turn to the drink!
The constant strong winds from the east to the north have only let up for a few days in the last two weeks, and on both occasions, I have gone out for a quick fish.
In my last report, I gave the heads up on an isolated rock (Area 2 Spot 20) and, as it happened, it was one of those few days where both wind and tide were in my favour to fish it – even if it was only for a few hours before the wind kicked back in. This isolated rock described in my book is just a tiny area of foul, but fishing three rods (one on either side and the third down the middle) I was all hooked up within a few minutes of the baits getting to the bottom.
With enough table fish in the bin, I made the most of the bait schools in the area to catch fresh kahawai and jack mackerel for use at the next spot.
Fresh bait makes all the difference in the winter months when snapper are not competing for food, just grazing and mouthing baits. For that reason, I moved to Spot 4, not having fished it for over a year. Slowly sounding around the spot, I found the snapper spread out, with just a few around the base of the foul. With the wind and tide holding the stern towards the foul again, I set a pattern of very lightly weighted baits cast well astern, keeping the rods low out of the wind so I could detect small bites and line movement. Tiny bites, more often than not, are small ‘pickers’. Bigger fish pick up a bait, chew on it and then slowly move off. Having butterflied fresh jack macs for bait, I knew the bait was being chewed by the way the line was moving. But the $64,000 question – when do I strike?
I always wait until the line straightens out, allowing a direct pull from the rod tip to the hook. As I now had all the fish I needed, I re-rigged two of the rods with softer pilchard baits. Being less firm, I knew they wouldn’t last long, and I could tell by the line movement they were being chewed on. But I couldn’t get a hook into them. By comparison, the other jack mac bait I left out hooked up on two fish that busted me off. After years of fishing and trying different things, you learn what to look for in how fish feed, and why, at other times of the year.
A couple of mates who skived-off work to take advantage of the small weather window fished the northern side of Rangitoto (Area 3 Spots 6 & 8). With the wind starting to freshen from the east on the incoming tide, both caught half a dozen good snapper before they had to bail.
When a storm is on its way in and about to hit the coast, I like to head out to target some bigger fish to put in the smoker. Last Saturday was a perfect example. With the wind due to pick up to 35+ knots, I knew we would get just a few hours fishing before we had to bail. At times it’s hard to believe what the sounder is telling you; my Furuno TZ Touch accurately shows the size of the fish we go over – all the snapper showing were over 42cm and up to 67cm. Anchored with a slight bit of shelter from a headland, we fished back onto small lumps of foul that these fish were holding on and again. The pilchards got nailed but failed to hook up, whereas strip baits of kahawai and jack macs all got solid hook-ups. Inside two hours, the wind had gotten up, and so had the seas. As we had 11 fish on board, it was time to head home.
• Fresh, firm bait is a must. You are more likely to get a hook up, with winter snapper tending to mouth a bait and suck in the last scraps.
• Look for clean water. After lots of rain fish deeper foul, but if an estuary or river is running out to sea, target the area where the dirty water is mixing with the clean. When in flood, snails, worms, wetas and the like get washed out to sea; the snapper know this and will hold on the edge of the dirty water.
• Be patient. Target one spot rather than moving around. Getting to know an area takes a while, and only by spending time on the water will you learn and get the knowledge to draw on.
• Check your weather. At the time of writing, the isobar map looks ugly for this weekend. Remember, no fish is worth putting your boat or lives at risk. The positive out of this negative is that once the storm passes, the bottom will be stirred up, and the snapper will go hard on the bite for a couple of days.
Bruce with a couple of nice fish destined for the smoker.