The drastically changing weather over the past few weeks has certainly made fishing challenging. In saying that, learning to catch a feed of fish when the fishing is tough is the best way to improve your skills.
When the weather is less than average, I like to think outside the square and fish in places that you would normally never give a second thought to. When the fishing gets tough you have nothing to lose but plenty to gain in the way of greater knowledge, understanding fish movements and habits.
The Furuno TZ touch sounder plotter gives me an edge over everyone else as, with its patented feature called Accufish, it will show the actual size of a fish if it goes directly through the middle of the transducer beam. Very often you will dismiss fish marks, but, with Accufish, I am astounded at the size of the fish I see in areas that I would not normally spend time looking.
When I know the fishing will be tough, I spend more time idling around areas of flat sandy bottom, looking for fish, isolated rocks and patches of low lying foul. Recently I have spent a fair bit of time surveying the area between Browns Island and St Heliers Bay where the mud/sand seafloor is very flat. This type of seafloor is habitat for crabs, snails, worms and the like, so even in winter there will always be a few snapper grazing across the bottom. Taking into account the direction of the tide I simply zig zag at low speed (around 4 knots) across the area looking for fish marks. Being quite shallow you have to bear in mind that the size of the area showing on the sounder (known as the foot print) is only a matter of 2-4 meters wide. With your chartplotter track turned on either mark the fish or keep a mental of what you see to build up an overall picture of the area as current can also have an effect of where the fish be grazing.
When you see that there are a few fish in one area simply drop the anchor ahead of them and drop the wobbly pot of berley three-quarters of the way to the bottom – this way your berley trail will be spread further than if it was close to the bottom.
Everyone I spoken to in the last two week, no matter whether they have been fishing lures in deep water or in close, have all commented that the fish have been very light on the bite. With the snapper having built up their fat reserves over the summer months they tend to eat less in winter. Instead of feeding hard, they simply they snack as they feel the urge, especially when small tides and bad moon phases align.
To feel the very soft bites you will need to have the line over your finger to be able to detect any tiny enquiries – bear in mind the way that the fish are feeding, small “tap-tap” bites may not be small fish. Let the fish take a bit of line so not to spook them then strike hard and wind at the same time to take up any slack line which then ensures a solid hook up. I personally find this type of fishing all be it quite slow to be very rewarding as you have to be on top of your game, on average I have caught 4-6 snapper in the two plus kilo range every trip out.
The northern side of Rangitoto lighthouse is fishing well with reasonable numbers of fish showing between 7-12 meters. Across the front of Administration Bay in 12- 17 meters there are snapper as well as the odd kingfish. If you’re closer to Waiheke, the area in 12 -17 meters off Onetangi Beach is well worth a look.
One area that seldom do I see many boats fishing is in 8-12 meters on the eastern side of Motuihe Island. From Ocean Beach south to Snapper Bay, the bottom is flat sand but looking at a chart you will see some shallow reef structure coming out from the shore – this is an area I where have seen a lot more fish than normal. One of the advantages when in the area is that if there is nothing showing on the sand you can fish Snapper Bay (Area 2, Spot 14) in most wind conditions, you just need to sneak in close to the foul and pull a few fish out of the kelp.
Don’t be put off when it’s cold and things aren’t so flash. It’s the hardest days that make you a better fisherman.