Hauraki Gulf Fishing Report - June 17th, 2022

Winter snapper feeding on open sand

As murphy’s law has it, you do someone a favour by taking out the family to spread the ashes of a loved one, and all I could see were masses of snapper on the edge of the foul and contour line on the eastern side of the Rangitoto channel.

This would be the first time in many a year when there was no bait on board, and to have a quick flick with a soft-bait even for me, would be a bit rude.

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The next day I shot out to the same area only to find the snapper had moved and were now in small schools spread out on the muddy sand rather than the foul. As these fish are on open sand [area 1 spot 9], anchoring accurately, so the stern of the boat is in line with the fish is critical. Winter snapper feeding on the open sand lightly crunch crabs and shellfish so they will quickly tear up softer baits like pilchards. Ideally, I needed firmer bait such as mullet of kahawai.

The good Lord who looks after drunks and small children (for which I qualify on both counts!) rewarded me with the first bait being taken before it hit the bottom by a kahawai. Scaled, cut into thin strips and rigged on a lightly weighted 7 0/0 hook cast it well astern before slowly letting line out until it hits the bottom. With no slack line, you are in direct contact with the bait, allowing you to see and feel every tiny bite.

The advantage of long, firm strip baits on open sandy bottom type is the snapper tend to pick it up, chew on it, then move off with it in their mouths, allowing you to feed out line till they stop and take it down. From the subtle tack, you are often inclined to think these are small fish, but when hooked, they turn out to be in the 35-42 cm range – great for the table.

I cannot get over the price of diesel. The cost of topping up the tanks is similar to an airfare to Rarotonga. With the launch needing the diesel tanks topped up and wanting to make the most of one of the few windless and warm winter days, I slowly idled over to Rangitoto for a quick fish before fuelling up.

Faced with expensive fuel costs, I tend to fish closer to Auckland than ever before. With the amount of snapper habitat around Rangitoto, Motutapu, and Browns Island, no matter which way the wind and tide run, there is always a spot to target without breaking the bank.

With sixty years fishing the inner gulf, I know where to and how to target even the slightest bit of foul or disseminate what snapper marks look like on a flat sandy bottom. In my book Hauraki Gulf Fishing Hot Spots, I have shared my knowledge and experience via screenshots of the bottom and chart plotter, along with GPS coordinates and all the info you need to know about how and when to fish each spot.

You will be surprised as to how many spots are so close to Auckland; not only will this help you to be able to have a better chance of catching fish, but it will also pay for itself in fuel savings. There are only two spots I occasionally fish that I will not reveal: tiny areas of shoreline that would be quickly overfished if I went public with them.

You cannot often go fishing within a 15-minute run from the Oraki breakwater when the moon phase is all bad, toss out a bait and be hooked up on a 42 cm snapper within minutes. Within 20 minutes, I had a limit of snapper and was on the way home. If you have a slight nor-west wind and an incoming tide, check out  Area 1 Spot 10, where the bottom is relatively flat, but a few little bumps and hollows hold fish year-round. Being close to the Rangitoto shoreline, snapper tend to come out from the foul to feed on the shellfish in the area; over the years I have worked out that before you anchor, think about the strength of the tide so you will lay towards the bits of structure.

The talk on the ramps and marinas is that everyone has struggled for a decent feed. I have said it many times before, but over the winter months, you need to have everything possible in your favour - good bait, patience,  a change of light if possible, and a well-made and followed game plan. Stick to the one spot and fish it well.

Bruce Duncan

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