Last weekend I was part of the team running a gurnard fishing competition – The 2020 Franklin Hunting & Fishing Grunter Hunter. It’s a popular annual event that can attract over 400 anglers. This year we only had a little over two weeks to put it together and still managed 280 entries. The event gives a pretty good insight into how the harbour is fishing. The fishing area includes the west coast from Waikato North Head to Kaipara South Head. I don’t recall once in the ten years or so that the event has been running that it has ever been won by a fish caught outside the harbour. Actually, I don’t know of any prizewinning fish coming from outside of the harbour.
One of my favourite stories was a year or two ago when a couple of mates were fishing beside us, and things were quiet, so they went snapper fishing in the Papakura Channel. They returned a couple of hours later with a 19lb and 20lb snapper. They resisted the temptation to paint them orange and weigh them as gurnard, which was a relief as one of them was the weighmaster for the event. The deep water of the Manukau Harbour holds some stonking snapper over winter, especially in deep water that has some foul ground that not only provides shelter from the relentless tides but also holds plenty of food to see them out for the winter.
This year the Grunter Hunter was won by a 14-year-old boy who was surfcasting off a harbour beach – an outstanding result, and it was great to be handing over a first prize of $1650. Well done Keegan Wallace with a fish weighing 1.4kg – great work young man!
Other anglers caught snapper up to 3kg, trevally to 2.6kg and kahawai galore – all from the harbour. I’ll take this opportunity to thank our sponsors, Franklin Hunting & Fishing and Shimano Fishing New Zealand for their ongoing support. These are tough times, but they still managed to help us out – legends!
The coast has been fishing remarkably well when the opportunity arises, but sharks can be a problem. It is not unusual to catch spiny dogfish all day long over winter, and they can turn up in the harbour too. It puts me off fishing the coast, but, if you can avoid the sharks, snapper fishing can be very productive. Gurnard are abundant off the coast, and while they are good solid fish, they seldom crack that 1kg mark like they often do in the harbour.
When the swell is small due to an offshore wind, surfcasting and torpedo/kite fishing comes into its own at this time of year. One of our club members had a kite out recently and managed ten snapper and a few gurnard, the biggest snapper hitting the scales at just over 8kg. I’ve heard of other big snapper coming off the beach over the last few weeks – traditionally June, July & August are when the biggest fish are regularly caught, sometimes with fish pulling the scales down to 20lb or more. Don’t even think about longlines in the harbour though; there’s too much current & you will lose your gear.
While I haven’t had a chance to catch up on new regulations aimed at protecting Maui dolphins, I believe there will be netting restrictions which could see netting for mullet a thing of the past at least in some areas which may well include the Waikato River. As I say, I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, but I’ll get something on this for my next report.
My next trip out won’t be for a couple of weeks when we have a fish anywhere in NZ contest. Weather permitting we’ll be targeting snapper, gurnard, trevally and kahawai from the harbour. A few years ago now we got third heaviest snapper with a harbour fish. Not bad considering we were up against guys fishing out wide from Mercs to the Mokes! Gurnard winners have always come from the harbour. Winter certainly has a lot to offer!