Big Snapper Off The Rocks V – Rockfishing in Tryphena

The other day, my mate and I decided to go hiking and scouting for new, potential land based fishing spots. It was a hot day but I thought it would be a good idea to take the small rod and reel, a few pre-tied rigs and a pack of pilchard bait, and cast them targeting snapper. Finding new fishing spots is a big part of land based fishing, and this part gets often neglected. I’m probably no different to you, once about a dozen of fishing spots have been found, I tend to fish them depending on tides, wind and other conditions. Thus, utterly neglecting the fact that finding new fishing spots can be just as exciting as landing fish.

Think about the distances you cover by car and on foot to catch fish, there are in too many cases great fishing spots much closer to your home, spots that hardly get fished. An example could be trying fishing close to a boat ramp, somewhere out of the way and noise on the rocks. I mean all boat anglers will launch their boat and head away, none of them will fish close in, but they might clean their fish on their way back to the ramp, might dump the rest of their bait and thus create a nice burley trail.

On another note, this is towards all boat anglers, do the right thing, be more considerate to land based anglers. You probably think you aren’t doing anything wrong by cruising to your destination close to the shore line even after you have seen a land based angler close to you. You might think that no one owns the coast and waters and there is therefore nothing wrong with motoring right close to a land based angler and fish next to him. Well, I doubt that there are laws against that, but DON’T BE A DICK! You can fish wherever you want, you’ve got most likely a sounder and chart-plotter on your boat. Leave the guy alone who has travelled a fair bit, carrying in lots of gear, bait and burley, and is not mobile like you. The land based angler might have gotten to the spot early in the morning and has burleyed up, waiting for that predator fish or shy snapper to take his bait, your close approach disturbs the fishing and scares the fish off.

I’m saying this because we just experienced it again. Most boats that came around the point I was fishing, had a good look at me, then they stopped to see whether I was landing fish (none of them waived hello. No, they wait for me to waive first…). One boat kept coming closer and I had to tell him to bugger off, the skipper went 60 m further away and dropped the anchor. I wasn’t burleying actively, but he strategically (there is also the chance that he didn’t know what he was doing) anchored in my bait trail. Boaties often think they are invincible due to their mobility, but bear in mind that a land based angler will recognize your boat when it is parked on the trailer. You piss him off, he might piss you off!

Just because there is no law for me to hit on someone’s wife or to cut the line in the supermarket, doesn’t mean that I have a right to do so! Fishing is the same. Respect and acknowledge the fact that someone has been there before you, unless you are invited to fish alongside (be it by boat or rockfishing), go and find your own spot.

While I’m at it, what’s the story with these crayfish pots all over the shore lines? You’ve got shore lines that stretch thousands of meters and someone drops two pots right by the only land-accessible ledge. You will catch the same crayfish 50 or 100 m up or down the shore, but by blocking a nice ledge (24/7) you restrict any land based angler. There is no question that land based fishing is the most eco-friendly and sustainable type of fishing, so stop blocking and disturbing fishing access. How would you feel if I parked my tractor on the boat ramp?

The title says ‘Big Snapper off the Rocks V’ and I better start writing about that. I was standing on this ledge, partly sheltered from the strong south-easterly wind and swell, and was casting half pilchards out at this spot for the first time. The sun was high up, it was hot, I had no clue about bite times, but knew that the water in front of me was up to 24 m deep according to the chart. I had three pre-tied rigs and no other spare hooks, and was not amused when getting snagged and losing two rigs within 5 minutes. Well, I suppose these things happen when you fish a spot for the first time.

It took about 20 minutes to feel the first bite and slowly, but surely I was hooking into small snapper. Their size increased with every cast. One bait got taken immediately when it hit the water; there was a small kahawai at the end of the line. I bled the kahawai and kept it in the shade, the way things were going, this was going to be dinner.

Deep water in front. A nice ledge to fish off.
Deep water in front. A nice ledge to fish off.

I had cast half the pilchards and still didn’t have a legal-sized snapper. Moreover, I didn’t plan to stick around for too long, perhaps an hour worth of fishing, the sun was just too intense. Looking at that dead kahawai, I remembered what John L. told me once: ‘Cast big, juicy, fresh baits. A snapper can’t resist a fresh kahawai head.’ Well, I landed big snapper before on a kahawai head, so, out went the head with two hooks in it.

Less than a minute later and the free spool went crazy. Something had taken the head and was heading deep, I flicked the reel into strike mode and struck, immediately feeling the weight of the fish via the rod. I wasn’t fishing a strong drag – I rather increase it during the fight than risking to ripping the hook out of a fish’s mouth – and kept the rod tip high and the rod butt at shoulder height. The fish felt like a snapper and took 3-4 meters of line on the drag before I could stop it for the first time and regain the line, it did the same thing two more times, but, as snapper do, gave up early. Once it pulled less strongly, I decreased the drag by half a notch, and kept pulling the fish up with the rod. Soon, I saw the beautiful colours of the fish, reflecting the sun light as it was being pulled to the surface.

It wasn’t the best place to land a fish without a net or gaff, but I kept calm, not rushing things, watching the swell and my line. I noticed the fish being hooked on the keeper hook – a 3/0 sized hook (quite small) – but it was well in the jaw bone, so I immediately grabbed the leader when it was approachable and pulled the snapper onto the rocks. The next thing I did is just as important. If you intend to keep a fish, put two or more fingers into the gills and drag the fish onto the rocks to a spot where it just cannot flip-flap back into the water! Too many fish have been lost after being landed.

You don’t only risk losing your nice catch and kai, but the fish will most likely die because it scraped down the rocks before hitting the water.

Secure the fish first, then start being joyful!

A nice 5 pound-ish snapper caught off the rocks.
A nice 5 pound-ish snapper caught off the rocks.
A happy angler.
A happy angler.

 

Estimated at about 5 pound. Gutted and scaled.
Estimated at about 5 pound. Gutted and scaled.

 

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