Long-time reporter, Smudge, shares his "sure-fire" spots on Auckland's West Coast. Let's start with something positive – it's spring and the ever-reliable west coast spring time snapper fishing experience continues.
While nothing is guaranteed when it comes to fishing, in my opinion Auckland's west coast comes close to it at this time of year. One feature of spring time snapper fishing out west is the congregation of big fish in deep water, find them and it's pretty hard to go wrong. It's pretty hard not to find them too. Most of us believe that depth is the key at this time of year and I go straight to 60m. We will work in from there if the first stop doesn't provide. We choose to go deep first as it is the most likely area to provide good catches with fewer sharks. This maximises your time on the water. By all means start shallow if you wish but more often than not you will end up moving deeper and deeper until it's time to head back in.
While our last trip didn't see any big fish come on board, with an average size of 2kg it's hard to find a reason to grizzle. Our biggest fish were around 3kg or a touch more but I expect to see larger fish over the next few months. Best of all we only caught one shark and apart from two small gurnard every other fish was a snapper!
While baits are always reliable, jigs such as Catch Squid Wings work very well and are a lot more fun. Fish them from an anchored boat on light braid and you'll have a ball. We use jigs between 60 and 100g tied to a 20lb leader on 6 to 10lb braid. If you use heavier line you will probably need heavier lures to feel when they hit the bottom.
The harbour is starting to turn up some good snapper too, but finding a way through the small ones can be tiresome. Now is a good time to catch trevally, but gurnard and kahawai should still be worth fishing for. Low light conditions such as early morning and late evenings can work very well in shallow water for all species.
Scallops are possibly in the best condition I have ever seen from the Manukau, but they can be hard to find. In saying that, they are well worth the effort but please remember to keep within the rules.
The Kaipara harbour has recently been closed to all scallop harvesting to allow stocks to rebuild, best we manage this one ourselves or we will face closures too.
One last thought, if you are considering crossing either the river bar or the harbour bar please make sure you understand the dynamics of bar crossings before you go. My advice is to cross with an experienced skipper before you attempt taking your own boat across. If you don't know anyone else get in contact with a local club - I've guided a few people cross the harbour bar for their first trip. River bars require a different approach to a harbour bar and what works on one may not work so well on another.
I use SwellMap, choosing the 'Auckland West Coast Shelf Break' option. If the swell is 2m plus or the chop is over 0.9m I stay home. At those figures, I would expect a bumpy and unpleasant ride especially on a big tide or with a long period between waves. There is a huge difference between that and a 1.5m swell with a 0.7m chop which I wouldn't take lightly, but I also would be confident in having a smooth crossing. I wouldn't cross the river bar in my boat unless the swell was even smaller than that. There are certainly better and braver skippers than me, but those are my thoughts.
Stay safe on the water,