Land Based Fishing Can Be So Easy – Great Barrier Island

Last week I took my enthusiastic German visitor/woofer fishing off the rocks in Tryphena. Marius, who has just finished school, is also a keen fisherman and of course he has come to the right place and person to experience first hand how we fish here in New Zealand.

It wasn’t necessarily the best day for it, low tide was in the middle of the day, the wind was not favourable either but I decided that we’ll have a good chance of arresting some fish for dinner at one of my regular spots.

Deciding where to go was fairly straight-forward. The spot we headed out to had been ‘hammered’ by strong south-westerlies and resulting waves during previous days. The wind had turned on the day we wanted to go out, which meant two things:

  • it was more comfortable to fish that area
  • the stirring up of the coastline by the wind and swell enabled better access to (different) food sources for bigger fish

For bait we had frozen pilchards and squid, plus a small bag of burley. This was deployed on arrival, while we got our gear set up. The next thing I did, before casting the first bait, was to throw cut pieces of a pilchard into the water.

Small kahawai were around and it didn’t take long until I had secured a couple in a bucket; to be used as bait and food.

The snapper took about half an hour to make their first appearance. I landed a handful of them that were smaller than 30 cm, and they were released carefully. Marius wasn’t doing too well, but it takes a while to get accustomed to fishing a new spot and of course also targeting salt-water fish.

After arresting two pan-sized snapper (about 40 cm) and more kahawai – dinner was sorted – I gave Marius some tips on where to cast and what to do next. The usual mistakes are:

  • believing that the further you cast, the bigger your catch will be
  • not carefully observing what is happening in the water and burley trail
  • using baits that are too big for the fish that are in the burley trail
  • retrieving the bait too early; that is casting out, then closing the bail arm of the reel immediately and slowly retrieving, hence not allowing the bait to sink properly nor naturally
  • not checking the drag setting on the reel often enough
  • keep repeating what you are doing
  • and the biggest mistake, not having a bait in the water when it counts

I’ve heard that I am too hectic when fishing and I should slow down, however that is one of my ‘secrets’. I don’t waste time rigging and cutting bait etc., I do that quickly and focus on having the right bait (plus presentation) in the water. When I get snagged and the line breaks, it takes me less than 30 seconds to be back fishing, while others can take easily 5 or so minutes until they are back in action. Moreover, I don’t turn my back to the water while I prepare; always keep an eye on the water and burley trail.

Once Marius took the time to ‘follow’ his un-weighted bait, that is watching how slowly or quickly it sinks, how the current and wind affect it, keep releasing line out after casting so that the bait sinks vertically, and doing all this simultaneously in such a fashion that there is not too much slack line (it is important to feel what is nibbling on your bait), he caught snapper effortlessly.

mariusSo yeah, things were going according to plan. We had plenty food for us, my dog and cat and for a friend who lives nearby.

About an hour before low tide, I hooked into what felt like a solid snapper. It fought very hard and aggressively, enough that I anticipated a 10 poundish fish. It turned out to be much smaller, but it was amazing nonetheless. It had quite a wide tail for its size and its colours were amazing. I don’t recall ever seeing such a ‘red’ snapper. Have a look at it again.

snapper2benisland8Half an hour before low tide, I stopped fishing and started cleaning our catch, while Marius was really hooked into rockfishing and kept going at it avidly. He didn’t know that the fishing would slow down for at least an hour, but then again, you never know when fishing a spot with a strong current and deep waters. Sometimes a big one cruises by and you won’t catch him unless there is a bait in the water.

We gave a snapper and a kahawai to my mate on the way home and enjoyed ‘the fillets’ of our labour.

We’ve got plans to go fishing on the east coast early tomorrow morning. Things going well, I send out a live bait…

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