I had a remarkable land based fishing session on Easter Friday. After finishing off some chores yesterday and successfully realizing the beginning of a new project (more to come in due time), I started thinking of planing a fish off the rocks. I listened to the marine forecast, looked at the tides, climbed up a tree and had a good look at Tryphena harbor. Well, things looked quite promising and I decided to go to a spot close by (5 km from BENIsLAND) for a quick snapper fish. Also decided to only take one rod and reel and to pack light, leaving most of my gear at home. Pre-tied 5 rigs and took only the bare essentials. In the Stonewall shop, I contemplated about buying 1 kg of squid and 1 kg of pilchards, or just 2 kg of pilchards, or perhaps only 1 kg of pillies. I was keen on burleying up, but the shop didn’t have any and eventually took two packets of pilchards. One for casting, the other for cubing and attracting the big snapper. While purchasing the bait, the lady at the shop asked whether I actually catch (lots of) fish. I try to buy all my bait and groceries from Stonewall shop – the staff is always happy and nice – and couldn’t help laughing at her query. Seriously, I’ve been so often to Stonewall, getting just bait, and I don’t know what other anglers do, but I wouldn’t go fishing if I wasn’t going to catch anything. Okay, there is the odd fishing day when I come home empty-handed, but that is usually because of bad timing, difficult fishing conditions, or plainly because I mucked it up. After all, this is Great Barrier Island. It shouldn’t be difficult to catch a feed from the rocks.
Anyway, I was at the spot, ready to fish by 1330, low tide was around 1500.
I cubed a few pilchards and chucked them into the water. Man it was all so quiet and calm, there wasn’t even a single sea gull around. First cast, a few nibbles and the still quite frozen pilchard head was off the hook. Second cast, same thing. Third cast, the current took the bait to the right, I allowed it to sink for a long time. Bam, I was snagged in some foul, couldn’t retrieve my line and lost the rig. ‘Hmmm, I don’t like that.’ I decided to attach a rig with a single, circle hook (5/0 or 6/0). Fourth cast, half a pilchard, hooked sideways through the mouth, cast far out, some 40+ meters on my 8kg set-up. (Light line makes such a difference in casting and especially when conditions aren’t calm, I would recommend putting the 15 kg set-up aside and using lighter line.)
10 seconds later and kaaa-booom. A massive take, I counted calmly to three and flicked the bait-feeder into strike mode, whilst lifting the rod tip up. Wow, there was a lot of weight on the line, I had a good hook-up. The fish started pulling line. Too much line and I increased the drag by half a notch. Still, the fish was pulling and it was pulling hard, whilst keeping the rod butt at shoulder height and keeping the rod tip high, I managed to retrieve a few meters of line before the fish went for another run.
Everything went really quiet around me, there was a solid fish at the end of the line, do one little mistake and it will be gone! I went and stood on the highest rock on the ledge and kept fighting the fish and, yes, it was a fight. The good thing was that I hooked the fish far away from the ledge in very deep water, so chances of getting busted off were not that high, but too much pressure and I could rip the hook out of the mouth, if it had swallowed the hook (very rare with a circle hook and a sudden and strong take), the fish could bite through the leader. Further, I fish without a swivel, meaning that the main line is looped at the end and the leader (here 40 lbs, not really enough for big snapper) is tied to said loop with a uni-knot. I’m always a bit afraid that this connecting point between main line and leader might come undone or break (so far, so good!).
Well, 2 minutes later and I was still fighting the fish, man was I keen to see some colour. ‘Oooh, don’t lose it now, keep working it.’ When I felt that I had retrieved most of the line the fish had taken, I loosened the drag again. I think doing so reduces the chance of losing the fish. If you’re half-way through with fighting the fish and don’t need to put much pressure on it, you should reduce the drag.
Then I saw the beautiful snapper colours as I was lifting the fish to the surface, still some 15 meters away from me. The snapper was tired out and since there was no swell and almost low tide, I was able to pull her right up to the kelp and onto the rocks. She was well hooked in the jawbone but I didn’t want to carry it up higher onto the rocks by holding only the leader. A net or gaff would have made things easier…
Securing the fish with my foot, I put a hand into the gill plate and carried her high onto the rocks.
I decided to keep the fish and put it in the only available rock pool which is unfortunately too shallow. Well, that was 30 minutes of fishing, I had used 4-5 pilchards, had more than half a pack and an untouched pack of pilchards left. ‘Hmm, what should I do? Pack in and salt the bait down at home? Hmm, there is no salt at home. Well, let’s do what any angler without a freezer would do. Just cube and chuck it all into the water and see what else I can raise…’
Suddenly, there were 2 kg+ kahawai swimming right in front of me, a few birds stopped on their flight through and dove into the water after the cubed pilchards. A few boats noticed me as well (I keep very quiet and calm when I see boats now. It is Easter after all and there are many visitors to the Barrier, I don’t want every boat in close vicinity to come over and check me out.). 5th cast, boom another solid snapper. It was about 5 lbs and I released it without lifting it out of the water. 6th cast, another snapper, also very decent and also released. 7th cast, only 5 meters out, booom, a solid take at the surface line, lots of pressure on the line, very strong fighter. ‘Must be one of those kahawai.’ Then it started zig-zagging and jumping. ‘Yes, a solid kahawai’.
The beauty of fishing a rig with a single hook, for me preferably a circle hook, is that chances of snagging into foul or the bottom are significantly reduced and that fish are usually hooked in the corner of the mouth. Makes releasing and landing them easy.
The fishing frenzy kept going on, I fought and played 3 more big kahawai, and another decent snapper before I saw the first boat approach me. The boat kept a fair distance, but paced into the bay fast, making lots of noise and, I don’t know, it was probably more due to the fact that it was about dead-low tide, but the fish had gone off the bite. I quickly gutted the big snapper, secured it via rope and chucked it into the water (keeps it fresh) and started packing in.
Another boat came real close and checked one of the near-by cray-pots. “How’s the fishing? Caught anything?” “Nah mate, just little nibbles, nothing going on here…”, I replied.
Well, it had been 2 weeks since my last fishing adventure at the Cape, where I landed a few snapper and gaffed a kingfish that my mate Paul caught. Today was superb, the way it should be here on the Barrier when you time things up rightly; a bag of pilchards, a good spot, a few decent casts and boom, enough fish and fishing excitement within an hour. I’d rather catch something quickly and go home, than fish half a day on the rocks, baking in the sun. After all, for me, the fishing is only over, once the fish have been filleted, the gear stored where it belongs and I had a shower.
Rani happily munched on the snapper head and I’ve got enough cooked fish for almost 3 days.
While preparing my rigs at home, I noticed movement in the tackle box, not sure how it got in there but it must have been there for two weeks and, thus was very glad to be back on the grass.