Sunday is the start of the scallop season and is also the first day of spring and it just so happens that it’s going to be an enjoyable day. By Tuesday it will have all changed again with horrendous conditions. There’s nothing unusual in that, we will get more opportunities for fishing over the next two months but as soon as we think the weather is on the improve things will change, and it will seem like we’re back in the dark days of winter. Welcome to spring.
The important thing for me is to make sure that the conditions are good enough to venture over the coast. If in doubt, I stay home. While spring is a great time filled with promise, it’s also notoriously unpredictable, and we need to be patient and wait until the conditions are favourable for a bar crossing if that’s what we choose to do.
In the next month, there will be favourable conditions; some will hopefully fall when we are available, mostly it will be while we have other plans – such as work. Never mind, the time will come, so look ahead a week or so and have a plan just in case everything falls into line. I use SwellMap as my go-to, but, like all forecasts, it is just a prediction as no one can read the future – not even those guys on Sensing Murder! I only look at the boating forecast for the Manukau Shelf Break and hope for tides of 1.5m or less and a chop of 0.8m or smaller. I look to see if the swell is rising or falling, I look at the size of the swell and tide also. I prefer to cross the harbour bar as I don’t always trust the river bar and you need better conditions for that one. I try to cross on top and bottom of the tide unless conditions are particularly good. My boat is a 5.5m open boat with 90HP, which I regard as the minimum size for crossing the harbour bar. In perfect conditions, you may well wonder what all the fuss is about but remember you still have to come back, so you need to be very sure of your weather window.
When you get the chance, between now and December, the magic place to be is between 50 and 65m. There will mostly be large schools of big snapper wanting to chomp on everything in their path so they will have plenty of energy for those forces of nature that are the source of all living things. Keep it to a family show please Smudge!
Baits dropped to the depths on dropper rigs with two 8/0 or bigger hooks are standard fare and will generally see you right. As spring moves on you will see fewer toothy critters such as spiny dogs, tope and barracoutta but regardless, you will have some good times! Jigs such as Catch Boss, Squid Wings, inchiku and slider lures will also work very well and help keep the bycatch down. Green and red, or orange work particularly well. I use 6 to 10kg braid, a 20lb trace and jigs from 60 to 100g in 60m. The heavier the line you use, the heavier jig you will need for you to sense when you hit the seabed.
The harbour has plenty of opportunities also and seems to be getting better every year – especially for snapper. It can be challenging trying to avoid the little ones but moving to new spots, keeping your baits trimmed so they don’t spin in the current and targeting areas of foul or guts leading up on to the banks on incoming tides – especially during the low light times - can be very rewarding. And of course, it is scallop time from Sunday! Remember to stick to the rules so there are plenty to go round. If you get caught out you’ll get no sympathy from me.
It is also whitebait season, and those in the know are managing catches of up to 5kg per day, which is certainly worthwhile.
Good luck out there and stay safe,