I was feeling energetic walking along the coast with the fishing pack on the back, the rods in one hand and the bucket with bait and burley in the other. It was Sunday morning, about 10 o’clock, and the
plan was to arrest a few fish for dinner. I was so eager about this rockfishing mission that I even took the live-bait rod. The plan was to burley hard, catch a decent snapper and send a live bait out under a balloon before low tide at 12 o’clock.
Conditions seemed great, the sky was overcast, the wind variable and the sea slight. As I was walking up and down those big boulders, telling Rani for the x-th time to either go ahead or behind me, I was thinking of the last times I fished this spot. Mateo and I hooked into big snapper effortlessly, and I was wondering what this day might bring.
When fishing on my own, the first thing I do after arriving at the designated fishing spot is to burley up. While the burley trail is being sucked out by the outgoing tide, I prepare all my rods and rigs. Usually, a big rod (30 pound main, 50 pound trace, 6/0 hooks), a medium rod (15 pound main, 30 pound trace, 3/0 hooks) and sometimes the live-bait rod (50 poun main, 120 trace, 6/0-8/0 live bait hook).
This takes no more than 5 minutes, as I have the rigs pre-tied, and believe me it just pays off to be prepared; that is having all your gear ready for fishing and user-friendly. Often, there is a big snapper or kahawai already around when you have arrived and the first casts can be so important.
Before casting a bait out, I dice a pilchard and throw the pieces into the water whilst observing the burley trail and watching the pieces sink. Sometimes, like today, I see a big fish munching casually away right up close, or a quick swimmer like the kahawai cleaning all the pieces up in one go.
The first time I looked into the water, I saw many blue maomao, sweep and small snapper attacking the pieces coming off the burley bomb, but there was also a massive snapper amongst them. Not even half a meter from the ledge.
I presented half a squid, this time on a two-hooked rig, and the snapper went for it. Boom, the rod bent down, I struck, the fish was on, a little fight began. I gave it a few meters, but no more, it was all over in a minute. A beautiful moocher, 60 cm, 9 pound.
This snapper turned out to be the fish off the day and I could be writing about the one that got away, had I not stuck to my routine. A few clumsy, aimless casts at the beginning could have spooked this fish away. However, those 5 minutes it had on its own with the burley and the handful of bite-sized pilchards were not only great appetizers but also reassured the snapper to be in an apparently safe environment.
After landing the snapper, I momentarily thought of packing in. It was about 1045, but I had brought my live-bait rod along… To my surprise, I foulhooked a perfect-sized kahawai and sent it out under a balloon. The wind picked up dramatically, as it always does when I send a live-bait out, the sky turned grey and I was feeling cold. It took about 30 minutes to get the kahawai to swim agains the wind and into the direction I wanted.
The wind increased to about 15 knots and blew alongside the ledge. Nothing is worse than side on wind. The live-bait was struggling, I had no feeling at all straylining without a weight and I landed small snapper, hiwihiwi and a few more kahawai.
I tried landing another big snapper using a kahawai head as bait, but didn’t get any solid takes. By 1300, I was in a squat position feeling so cold in the ever-increasing wind, the kahawai was swimming really well and had positioned itself in a great spot to be attacked by a kingfish.
I waited another ten or so minutes and then packed in. After cleaning the fish, the sun came out, the wind died off a little and it seemed like a totally different day.