Big Snapper Off The Rocks IV – Rockfishing in Tryphena

I had to go fishing off the rocks yesterday, mainly because I was listening to the forecast, looking at the chart and the tides for a few days in a row. The weather was stunning, sunshine, low wind, high tides in the mornings and late evenings. I over-thought the whole idea of fishing, contemplating whether to go to the east coast or to somewhere else. The best options seemed to get up early or go for an evening fish around the high tide mark. I wanted to get out to an area that is, however, not accessible around high tide. I wasn’t keen on going on an evening fish, getting up really early didn’t seem that enticing either. I also didn’t want to end up fishing off the rocks when the sun is at its zenith and the tide was all out. But yesterday, I just had to go out and decided to head to a bay in Tryphena. Haven’t been there for a while now, it’s close to home and the forecast was for a cloudy day with northerly winds. So I thought, I’ll go all the way to the end of the southern end of the bay – access is tidal – and fish from mid-tide (outgoing) until mid-tide (incoming). Around 6 hours of fishing, including an hour for the return trip. 

The fishing was bad to begin with, I could hardly see any clouds in the sky, the wind was 10-15 knots right into my face, more westerly than northerly, there was a bit of chop out there, it was hot, the water was very clear, there were 2.5 craypots more or less right in the casting area. I wasn’t too impressed, my shoes are a complete mess and walking on the ledge wasn’t easy. But worst of all, there was nothing out there. No bites, I spotted a few freakin’ HiwiHiwis. Man I hate hiwihiwi. 2 hours had passed, I had around 3 hours or I’ll get really wet on the way back. I wasn’t impressed at all. I told myself that it is great to be out here, even if I ended up leaving empty handed. Here some impressions:

At the spot, looking right
Looking left.

I cubed some squid and tossed it into the water and fished with my lighter rod/reel combo. Indeed, after straylining for a few minutes, I had a small kahawai at the end of the line. It had swallowed the hook though, and although the hook came out easy, it was bleeding a lot and I cut the head off and casted out deep with my heavy setup. Suddenly, I hear a voice:”Heya, mate.” There was a dude kayaking calmly back into the bay, I like those things, so quite and yet quick.

A kayak-er. Going home, after a trip to Tryphena, I suppose.

Well, that doesn’t happen every day, I thought and half an hour later I heart yet another sound, it was very close, and I noticed a little school of 5-6 surfacing dolphins. They were very close to the rocks, you’d get a bit of a spook if you’d been diving there. I made a few shots, but they were really close to me the first time I saw them and it was good to feel that, even on a calm day, without any fishing activity so far, I wasn’t alone. There was at least some action here…

Not sure what sort of dolphins they were either. Unusually big and uniform grey/black.
Quite funny, I had a bait casted and moments later they passed me. I reckon the bait must of been right in amongst them. Lucky, I didn’t foul-hook one.

I had now 2 hours left and still nothing. The sun was beating down now and I decided to go hard with the bait. You got to make calls when the fishing is slow, different rigs, hooks, maybe a lure. Lately, my thing is to try all that, okay not the lure, but also cube lots of bait and toss it into the water and then to strayline moments later in that trail. The water was so clear, I could see the pieces of squid descending slowly into the deep and suddenly – fishing can be like that, you close your eyes for a second and you miss it all – I saw this orange flat log or something coming up, was that a big snapper?, nah, it was too clear. I believe that this is the snappers tactic. It sees the shadows of pieces of bait, suddenly it gets a bit excited. Instead of staying on the ground and carefully and selectively eating the bait I was providing all day, it suddenly sees a window of opportunity. ‘I can eat all of that in one go and go and have a nap’, that’s what it thinks. So it comes up to check it out, and when it sees the angler, it behaves like a log. Straight, no sudden movements, as if it were dead, and then, in a sudden move, goes about disappearing away from danger. When I saw the log or something turn its head, it looked so artificially orange, due to the sun right above me, and hurried away from the rocks, I knew it was a big snapper, and casted a bit of kahawai a few meters out.

I was fishing with the 8kg setup, the 15 kg setup was baited with the kahawai head. Things got interesting. 2 minutes later and I was in, I adjusted the drag a couple of notches and let the fish do it’s thing, me holding the rod up and keeping the pressure on. When I lost line, I lost it, when I gained, I gained quickly. And when I saw the color of the fish I was surprised, it was way bigger than the snapper I saw moments ago and it was also way bigger than the fight it gave me. I grabbed the leader and secured it. Lip hooked with a 5/0 hook, using a small cube of kahawai meat.

Around the 10 pound mark I’d say. I was stoked.
Beautiful colors, 1 minute fight on the 8 kg line.

I was stoked, the fish took the bait half way down, pretty close to the rocks and foul, could have gone either way. It goes to show me – once again – that you can catch big snapper any time, any tide. Just keep straylining, keep throwing an appetizer into the water, keep watching the water. Shortly after, I landed the snapper I had seen previously, or at least on similar sized and I had about an hour to go and good kahawai bait, but decided that I had a great day and should pack in. Rani ate the rest of the kahawai and we started our hike back to the beach, I was looking forward to testing my new homemade smoker.

Two very nice snapper off the rocks. Scaled, gutted and washed.

On the walk back I thought about this fishing day. It was unusual, there was a lot of action, I landed a big snapper; this is why I fish off the rocks. It might not always be like today, at times you might wonder if it wasn’t easier fishing from a dinghey, no carrying, no hiking, no climbing. Indeed lots of big snapper are being caught in Tryphena Harbor from dingheys fishing close to the rocks, but it just isn’t the same. Land based fishing can be much more rewarding than boat fishing, and the land aspect to it makes it also greater sport.

Oh yeah, here’s a picture of what I had yesterday. I filleted the smaller snapper, I’m re-enjoying scaled fish fillets. I deep-fried cabbage, onion, garlic, ginger, carrot in the big pan, added some fish sauce and a can of whole tomatoes. I reduced the sauce for 30 minutes. I cut the fillets in half, covered them with flour and fried them, skin-side first, at high temperature in a different pan. Lots of flavor, quick cooking, no messing around.

Fried snapper in reduced tomato sauce.

2 thoughts on “Big Snapper Off The Rocks IV – Rockfishing in Tryphena”

  1. Well done again Ben. A cracking fish in difficult (if lovely) conditions. I always fancied that spot for producing good fish, and there you are, holding the proof! And now you have the smoker you can make this fish last longer too. Shame about those cray pots in so close, that would make the kingi fishing a little difficult there. Hopefully they won’t be there all summer! Paul…..

    1. Cheers Paul. Indeed, the pots are a bit of a bummer and I’ll have to see them as motivation to find more land based spots. Yeah, that spot is good, there is,
      as you know, a good current and deep water, easy to land snapper at least. That whole coastline going into Puriri Bay with the clusters of rocks in between
      is a bit of a cruising territory for (bigger fish). In a couple of months, the gannets should be diving into the bay. Let’s see, we’ve got strong wind warnings today, but the tides are great for the next 3-4 days. I want to go up to the east coast and go for a kingfish. Early morning low tides and when the swell calms down,
      I should be out there. Cheers.

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