I really like this time of year for several reasons. Snapper can be caught in close, they are hard on the bite and in prime condition as they prepare for wintertime when their metabolism slows down. As the water cools, snapper do slow down. While they can still be caught all year round, winter often requires a different approach, but that is a story for a few months' time. I also like April and May because of the settled weather. Well that hasn't really happened this year so the only thing to do is to look ahead and plan your trips around the weather.
May is also the time when gurnard start to enter the harbour in numbers and set to feed hard out in preparation for winter spawning. That part has certainly happened and it's finally possible to head out and get a good catch of quality gurnard in the harbour. Snapper are also making a strong showing, with fish to 10lb turning up, especially in the evenings in shallow water. Big baits straylined in the shallows can really work a treat. Kingfish are still smooching about, so don't give up on setting a live Jack mackerel down on the sea bed, especially on the edges of the channels.
A mixed bag is definitely the name of the game in the harbour right now, with kahawai also around in good numbers. If you aren't keeping them as a food fish, you are missing out on a tasty raw fish treat - but they are also one of the better snapper baits going. A fillet split in half is one of our favourite big snapper baits, especially cast out the back on a lightly weighted stray line. I also rate frozen kahawai as a gurnard bait. It is as good as the more popular skipjack tuna, which is marketed as bonito.
The coast is also fishing well. While I haven't heard of any recent marlin catches, I was surprised to hear mahimahi were still caught as recently as 2 weeks ago. Kingfish can be caught and although there are a few who set out to target them, I get the impression most are caught as a welcome by-catch while snapper fishing. Speaking of snapper, they are where you find them and can be in pretty much any depth right now. Kahawai can be very frustrating as they tangle lines and hook up either before you get your baits on the bottom or within seconds of that occurring. If you encounter that, there's only one solution and that is to move.
For the more adventurous, broadbill swordfish, hapuku and bass are also a valid target species out wide, with an Auckland Manukau expert catching some nice specimens recently. You can read his report on the fishing.net.nz forums.
While that is an impressive catch indeed, I'll be sticking to snapper and gurnard in the harbour for the next couple of months. In particular, I'll be getting ready for the Franklin Hunting & Fishing Grunter Hunter - gurnard only - fishing competition on June 10. I will have details of how to enter in my next report in two weeks.
Meanwhile here are a few tips on how to catch big gurnard in the harbour:
Fish at least two rigs, a strayline with a single hook and only enough weight to keep a small streamlined bait on the bottom. Your other rig should be a two hook dropper rig. My favourite hook is the Mustad Demon in 4/0. Don't strike the bites, wait for the characteristic nodding of the rod tip and after four or 5 nods simply lift the rod and crank the fish in! Too easy.
Take care, Smudge